Grunt task for running an Express Server that works great with LiveReload + Watch/Regarde


Simple grunt task for running an Express server that works great with LiveReload + Watch/Regarde

This plugin requires Grunt ~0.4.0

If you haven't used Grunt before, be sure to check out the Getting Started guide, as it explains how to create a Gruntfile as well as install and use Grunt plugins. Once you're familiar with that process, you may install this plugin with this command:

npm install grunt-express-server --save-dev

One the plugin has been installed, it may be enabled inside your Gruntfile with this line of JavaScript:


In your project's Gruntfile, you can create one or multiple servers:

  express: {
    options: {
      // Override defaults here 
    dev: {
      options: {
        script: 'path/to/dev/server.js'
    prod: {
      options: {
        script: 'path/to/prod/server.js',
        node_env: 'production'
    test: {
      options: {
        script: 'path/to/test/server.js'

You can override the default options either in the root of the express config or within each individual server task.

  express: {
    options: {
      // Override the command used to start the server. 
      // (do not use 'coffee' here, the server will not be able to restart 
      //  see below at opts for coffee-script support) 
      cmd: process.argv[0],
      // Will turn into: `node OPT1 OPT2 ... OPTN path/to/server.js ARG1 ARG2 ... ARGN` 
      // (e.g. opts: ['node_modules/coffee-script/bin/coffee'] will correctly parse coffee-script) 
      opts: [ ],
      args: [ ],
      // Setting to `false` will effectively just run `node path/to/server.js` 
      background: true,
      // Called when the spawned server throws errors 
      fallbackfunction() {},
      // Override node env's PORT 
      port: 3000,
      // Override node env's NODE_ENV 
      node_env: undefined,
      // Consider the server to be "running" after an explicit delay (in milliseconds) 
      // (e.g. when server has no initial output) 
      delay: 0,
      // Regular expression that matches server output to indicate it is "running" 
      output: ".+",
      // Set --debug 
      debug: false

By default, unless delay or output has been customized, the server is considered "running" once any output is logged to the console, upon which control is passed back to grunt.

Typically, this is normally:

Express server listening on port 3000

If you log output before the server is running, either set delay or output to indicate when the server has officially started.

If you have a server defined named dev, you can start the server by running express:dev. The server only runs as long as grunt is running. Once grunt's tasks have completed, the web server stops.

Similarly, if you start the dev server with express:dev, you can stop the server with express:dev:stop.

With grunt-contrib-watch

  watch: {
    express: {
      files:  [ '**/*.js' ],
      tasks:  [ 'express:dev' ],
      options: {
        spawn: false // for grunt-contrib-watch v0.5.0+, "nospawn: true" for lower versions. Without this option specified express won't be reloaded 
grunt.registerTask('server', [ 'express:dev', 'watch' ])

In lieu of a formal styleguide, take care to maintain the existing coding style. Add unit tests for any new or changed functionality. Lint and test your code using Grunt.

  • v0.4.19 – Use process.env.PORT before 3000 (#59)
  • v0.4.18 – Fix for when running the node debugger (#57)
  • v0.4.17 – Update devDependencies...again
  • v0.4.16 – Update devDependencies
  • v0.4.15 – Recommend using local coffee with additional arguments (#50)
  • v0.4.14 – Attempt to fix issues running Coffeescript (#54)
  • v0.4.13 – Add --nodejs for Coffeescript users (#37)
  • v0.4.12 – Only remove this task's listeners (#39)
  • v0.4.11 – Revert v0.4.10 until Travis can reproduce it
  • v0.4.10 – Another attempt to fix #28 & #30's server restarting issue (#31)
  • v0.4.9 – Revert v0.4.8 until #30 is resolved
  • v0.4.8 – Fix issue with start/restarting multiple instances (#29)
  • v0.4.7 – Remove broken error option (#27)
  • v0.4.6 – Store running servers on process._servers[target] (#22)
  • v0.4.5 – Support multiple servers running at once (#23)
  • v0.4.4 - Fix for using grunt-env to change environments, thanks to @FredrikAppelros (#20)
  • v0.4.3 - Add cmd option that defaults to Node, but can be set to coffee for Coffeescript support, thanks to @JonET (#15)
  • v0.4.2 - Add debug option that gets enables Node's debugger, ideally for use with node-inspector
  • v0.4.1 - Add node_env option that sets NODE_ENV when running the server & restores original env upon closing, thanks to @jgable!
  • v0.4.0
    • Add delay option that, when set, passes control back to grunt after timeout
    • Add output regular expression option that, when set, waits for matching message before passing control back to grunt
  • v0.3.1 - Try to force notification that express task has finished as much as possible
  • v0.3.0 - express is now a multitask with customizable options, better error handling and :stop task
  • v0.2.0
    • Change express-server task to express
    • Config is set via express: '...' instead of server: { script: '...' }
  • v0.1.0 - Initial import from Genesis Skeleton & release