node package manager
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Process management for development.

  • Start up processes in order
  • Configurable wait time to allow dependencies to start up properly
  • Colorized output (stdout & stderr)
  • If child exits, terminate everything
  • If dictator exits, terminate everything
  • Looks for dictator.json in current dir (or specify filename in first arg)


npm install -g dictator


Create a dictator.json in the root of your project

  "redis": {
    "cmd": "redis-server",
    "args": ["--port", 1337],
    "color": "red",
  "elasticsearch": {
    "cmd": "elasticsearch",
    "args": ["-f"],
    "color": "green",
    "wait": 3000
  "some-node-server": {
    "cmd": "some-node-server",
    "deps": ["elasticsearch", "redis"],
    "color": "blue"
  "some-rails-app": {
    "cwd": "rails-root",
    "cmd": "rails",
    "args": ["s"],
    "color": "yellow"
  "env-var-app": {
    "cmd": "my-app",
    "env": {
      "SOME_VAR": "some-value"

Then run the dictator:

dictator [/path/to/dictator.json]

Will do the following:

  1. Start some-rails-app by changing the cwd to rails-root and runinng rails s and logging its output in yellow
  2. Start elasticsearch, log its output in green, wait 3000 to let it initialize
  3. Start redis-server, log its output in red
  4. Start some-node-server, log its output in blue

If any of the processes quit the others will receive a SIGKILL and dictator will exit.

exclude some services

dictator -e nope

run only some services

dictator -o yes -o indeed

pro tips

  • Set up a config directory next to your dictator.json and put all configuration in there
  • Set up a state directroy next to your dictator.json and configure your services to put all their state (DBs, logs, etc) in there
  • For a nice reset of the environment, simply: rm -rf state/* before running the dictator. Remove the current state and run the dictator. You get it? A coup. Ok, I'm stopping it.