13.6.0 • Public • Published

Getting started with appmap-agent-js

appmap-agent-js is a JavaScript recording agent for the AppMap framework.


appmap-agent-js records AppMaps from Node.js processes when they run. There are several strategies for recording AppMaps:

  1. Record test cases. At the moment, we support jest and mocha.
  2. Record Node.js processes using start/stop controls via http calls to web endpoints. These are implemented by the AppMap agent to let users control the recording remotely.
  3. Record Node.js processes from start to finish.

Installation and setup


Supported platforms:

  • Mainstream os: Linux distros, macOS, and Windows.
  • Node.js: any up-to-date major versions that is not in end-of-life -- ie: 14, 16, 18, and 19.
  • Express.js: 4.
  • git is highly recommended.
  • mocha >= 8.0.0 is required for recording AppMaps from test cases (earlier versions do not support required root hooks).
  • jest >= 25, older version might also work but have not been tested.

Please open a new GitHub ticket if your application does not satisfy the criteria or if you experience any problems with the agent.


Run this command in your Node.js project folder (where package.json is located):

npx @appland/appmap install

You will be guided through a series of steps for installing and configuring the agent.

Alternatively, the agent can be directly installed as a normal npm package:

npm install --save-dev @appland/appmap-agent-js

To use remote recording, and view and interact with recorded AppMaps, we recommend installing the AppMap extension for popular code editors:


The agent will read configuration options from a file named appmap.yml. If this file does not exist a default one will be created. Note that the install command creates a suitable appmap.yml file by scanning the project directories. We recommend that you review any generated appmap.yml file and confirm your application name and a list of directories that will be recorded.

For projects with JavaScript source maps: add paths to sources to be recorded. For example:

name: MyApp
  - path: src/server/controllers
  - path: src/server/data
  - path: src/server/lib
  - path: src/server/models
  - path: src/server/routes

For projects without JavaScript source maps: include build folders. For example:

name: MyApp
  - path: dist/controllers
  - path: dist/data
  - path: dist/lib
  - path: dist/models
  - path: dist/routes

If you aren't sure which option to take, start with both source and build folders and optimize the appmap.yml file later.

Recording AppMaps

Once appmap.yml is configured for your project, you're ready to record AppMaps.

Recording test cases:

  1. Validate that the tests run prior to recording AppMaps.
  2. Prefix your test command with npx appmap-agent-js -- For example:
npx appmap-agent-js -- mocha 'test/**/*.ts'

npm run test does not work, only direct invocation of testing frameworks are currently supported 3. appmap-agent-js will run the tests. When the tests are complete, the AppMaps will be stored in the default output directory tmp/appmap/(mocha|jest).

Recording Node.js processes with remote recording:

  1. Prefix your node command with npx appmap-agent-js --recorder=remote --. For example:
npx appmap-agent-js --recorder=remote -- node app/main.js --param1 hello --param2=world
  1. appmap-agent-js will start the app and inject itself in its http stack. It will listen for remote recording requests on all http ports of the application.
  2. Start the remote recording:
  3. Interact with your application or service to exercise code included in appmap.yml
  4. Stop the recording and save the new AppMap to disk.

Recording Node.js processes from start to finish

  1. Prefix your node command with npx appmap-agent-js --recorder=process --. For example:
npx appmap-agent-js --recorder=process -- node app/main.js --arg1 val1 --arg2=val2
  1. When the node process exits, a single AppMap will be stored in tmp/appmap/process.

Viewing AppMaps

Recorded AppMap are saved as .appmap.json files in the project folders (default location: tmp/appmap).

Follow the documentation for your IDE to open the recorded .appmap.json files:

Frequently used parameters

The most frequently used appmap-agent-js parameters are:

  • --recorder=[mocha|jest|remote|process]: process recorder
    • default recorder is inferred from the starting command:
      • mocha if the the command contains mocha
      • jest if the command contains jest
      • process in all other cases
    • mocha and jest recorders record AppMaps from test cases automatically
    • remote recorder has to be started and stopped manually with http requests
    • process recorder records entire processes automatically, from start to finish
      • Warning: AppMaps recorded with the process recorder can be excessively large and noisy.
  • --command="_start command_": alternate method of specifying the app- or tests-starting command, wrapped in quotes
  • --log-level=[debug|info|warning|error]: defaults to info
  • --log-file=_file_: location of log file, defaults to stderr
  • --appmap-dir=_directory_: location of recorded AppMap files, default is tmp/appmap.


npx appmap-agent-js --recorder=mocha --command='mocha "test/**/*.ts"' --log-level=error

Next steps


npm i @appland/appmap-agent-js

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