Introduction to the MEAN Stack, Part One: Setting Up Your Tools

I’ve received several emails asking for instructions on how to set up a basic MEAN stack app. I’m going to take it one step further and give you guys a two-part post that will walk you through creating your first MEAN stack app- from installing the tools to actually writing the code. In Part One we’ll go through the setup and installation process. Next in Part Two we’ll walk through the steps for building a very simple to-do list. Part One consists of seven steps, although only the first two are are strictly necessary.

We’ll start by installing all of our tools. NodeJS and MongoDB are designed to be as close to operating system independent as possible and we will be covering three of the most common operating systems here – OSX, Windows 7/8, and Ubuntu. The one tool that you’ll need to get started is a bash shell (the standard linux command line). This tool takes different names on different operating systems, but they are all effectively the same for the purposes of this tutorial. If I use the term terminal, shell, or command line, I’m referring to a bash shell window. If you’re on a Mac or an Ubuntu machine, you’re looking for the Terminal. Windows doesn’t have one by default, but there are several alternatives. The git installer for Windows comes with “git bash,” which is the tool that I currently prefer.

If you’re on OSX, I highly recommend you install Brew to help with this process. Brew is a phenomenally useful tool for installing programs directly from your command line. For example, if you wanted to install git the hard way, you would have to open up your browser, google “git,” click on a few links, download an installer, and run it. With brew, you would simply open up the Terminal, type brew install git , hit enter, and you’re done. Brew will help a lot with setting up MongoDB and NodeJS.

1) Installing MongoDB-
First, we’re going to install MongoDB.
OSX: Open up your Terminal window and run

sudo brew install mongodb

Ubuntu: Open up your shell and run:

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv 7F0CEB10
echo 'deb dist 10gen' | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/10gen.list
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mongodb-10gen

Windows: Go to and download the latest version of MongoDB for Windows, which should be a plain zip file. Once the download is done, extract the contents of the zip file to a memorable directory, such as ‘c:\mongodb’.

That’s it! After the installation process is done, you should be able to run the command


directly from your command line on Mac and Ubuntu. On Windows, you’ll need to run it as


Think of mongod as your local MongoDB server- you need to have a mongod process running in order to be able to use MongoDB. You can now leave mongod running, open up another terminal, and run

mongo test


/c/mongodb/bin/mongo test

on Windows. This should open up the MongoDB shell. Hit ctrl-c to close the MongoDB shell.

2) Installing NodeJS and npm-
Next we’re going to install NodeJS and npm (node package manager).
Mac: Open your terminal and run

sudo brew install node
curl | sh

(Instructions from


sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install python-software-properties python g++ make
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chris-lea/node.js
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nodejs npm

Windows: Download the installer from I recommend using the installer rather than the binary to save yourself the extra work of adding the binary location to the system path.

Once you have successfully installed NodeJS, you should be able to run the “node” and “npm” commands from your terminal. When you run “node,” you should see a single “>.” This is the node shell, hit ctrl-c to close it.

When you run “npm” with no arguments, you should see a bunch of usage information. Keep in mind that “npm” often requires root permissions to run. If an npm command fails for unclear reasons, try running it through “sudo.”

At this point, you’ve done essentially all you need to do to run a MEAN stack application. You can simply clone/fork , start a “mongod” process, navigate to the git repo, and run

npm install -d

You should then be able to run

node app.js

to start your server. However, I recommend at least reading through the rest of the below steps, as they will explain in a bit more detail some of the tools that you will be using. You can follow along step by step from the mean-stack-skeleton repo commit log, because, conveniently, the commits correspond one-to-one with steps 4-7.

3) Installing ExpressJS-
Now that we have MongoDB and NodeJS, it is time to install ExpressJS- this is pretty trivial now that we already have npm installed from step 2. In Mac, Linux, and Windows, you should open up a terminal and run

npm install express -g

The “-g” flag means that the package will be installed so you can run it from your terminal.

We’re using ExpressJS here because it adds some extremely useful tools for web development that NodeJS lacks. Contrary to what you may have heard, NodeJS is not a fully featured web server. NodeJS is simply a tool for doing I/O in an event-based concurrency framework with Javascript. It may be sufficient for a trivial server that prints “Hello, World” for every HTTP request, but it makes more sophisticated web development more difficult than it has to be. ExpressJS provides a familiar MVC (Model-View-Controller) framework for you to work with.

4) Creating an ExpressJS application-
Now that we have all of our server tools in place, let’s create an ExpressJS application. Start by running the command

express mytestapp
cd mytestapp
npm install

This should create a “mytestapp” folder in your current directory that will contain your application. You should be able to now run

node app.js

from the “mytestapp” folder. If you point your browser to http://localhost:3000, you should see a simple “Welcome to Express” screen.

The “mytestapp” directory will contain a few sub-directories: routes, views, public, and node_modules, as well as app.js and package.json files. Here’s a brief description of what these files and directories do:

  • app.js: The main point of entry into your web server. This file defines the port that your application listens for requests on, includes dependencies via the “require” function, and defines handler functions for different REST-ful paths your clients can access.
  • package.json: Defines internal dependencies for your application. Running “npm install -d” (which we will do shortly when we modify this file) installs all the dependencies listed in the “dependencies” file.
  • routes: The routes directory will contain Javascript handlers for REST-ful paths defined in app.js. For example, if you open index.js, you’ll see the handler for requests to the “/” path, which renders the “index” template that resides in “views/index.jade”.
  • views: The views directory will contain templates defined in the Jade language. Jade is a cleaner and more human-readable version of HTML with several extraordinarily useful features, such as inheritance and partials. Your routes will access these views via the “res.render” function that you saw in routes/index.js.
  • public: The public directory is usually used for images, client-side Javascript, and other static assets. ExpressJS will route requests that correspond to files under the public directory directly to the file. For example, if you run
    node app.js

    and point your browser to http://localhost:3000/stylesheets/style.css, you’ll see that Express returned the contents of the “public/stylesheets/style.css” file.

  • node_modules: The node_modules file contains source code for tools installed via npm. You can feel safe ignoring its contents for now.

5) Installing drivers and MongooseJS-
Now we’re going to install the MongoDB driver for NodeJS, as well as another useful tool called MongooseJS. MongoDB is organized with language-specific drivers that interface with the core database, so in order to use MongoDB with NodeJS, we need the NodeJS driver. MongooseJS is an ORM for NodeJS and MongoDB that is relatively similar to Ruby on Rails’ ActiveRecord. For more discussion of MongooseJS, see my original introductory post about the MEAN Stack, as well as the MongooseJS-specific follow-up Mistakes You’re Probably Making With MongooseJS, And How To Fix Them.

Open up the package.json file in “mytestapp” using your text editor of choice. I prefer SublimeText on Mac and Windows, and gedit or vim on Linux, but anything like Notepad or Textmate should work fine. The package.json file should contain a list of dependencies which looks like this:

"dependencies": {
  "express": "3.0.3",
  "jade": "*"

We’re going to add two more lines

"dependencies": {
  "express": "3.0.3",
  "jade": "*",
  "mongodb": ">= 0.9.6-7",
  "mongoose" : ">= 3.6"

Next run

npm install -d

If you’re on OSX or Ubuntu, you may have to run “sudo npm install -d” to get it working. Now that we have both the NodeJS MongoDB driver and MongoDB, we can create a connection to MongoDB via Mongoose in our app.js file:

var Mongoose = require('mongoose');
var db = Mongoose.createConnection('localhost', 'mytestapp');

You can see the diff for this step on github here. Run “node app.js” now –  your “mongod” process should output a message that looks something like “[initandlisten] connection accepted from,” which indicates that your app has successfully connected to your mongod process.

6) Use Bower for adding AngularJS-
Bower is another npm tool that we will use to add AngularJS to our app. It is essentially an npm for client-side Javascript. For example, if you want to add jQuery to your project, Bower enables you to do so from your terminal with the command “bower install jquery.” Install it with

npm install bower -g

from your terminal.

Bower has one minor quirk that you need to be aware of – it will install components into a “bower_components” directory by default, which unfortunately is not under the public directory. From your “mytestapp” directory, create a directory called “vendor” under “public/javascripts.” You can do this by running the command “mkdir public/javascripts/vendor.” Next, in the “mytestapp” directory, create a plain text file called “.bowerrc” that contains:

{ "directory" : "public/javascripts/vendor" }

This configuration file will tell Bower to install tools into the “public/javascripts/vendor” directory. You can see the diff for this step on github here.

7) Installing AngularJS-
Now lets install AngularJS v1.0.6 using “bower install angular#1.0.6.” You should see a public/javascripts/vendor/angular directory that contains “angular.js,” “angular.min.js,” and “bower.json” once you’re done.

To be continued
Congratulations, you’ve now officially completed Part One and set up the MEAN Stack on your machine! Part Two will be posted in a week, and in it we’ll go step-by-step for building a simple to-do list application using the MEAN Sack. In the MEANtime (pun very much intended), I encourage you to play around with these tools and see if you can build anything cool with them. Could you whip up a sweet little MEAN Stack application before I get a chance to drop the next part of the guide? I certainly think you guys can figure it out. It’s always great to hear about the awesome ways people are using the MEAN Stack, so if you decide to make something please go ahead and share it with everybody in the comments. Maybe it will turn into a real product and you’ll make billions of dollars and commission the construction of a solid gold yacht despite the insistence of your engineers that it will totally sink but you build it anyway because you’re so rich it doesn’t matter if it ends up on the bottom of the ocean, laws of physics be damned. Or maybe the other readers will just say “sweet app bro.” Either way, what are you waiting for?!

Want to learn more in advance of Part Two? has a good tutorial on how to use the NodeJS MongoDB driver and ExpressJS to build a simple blogging platform at In a previous post I described how integrate MongooseJS validation and AngularJS, which will be useful for the next post. Thanks as always to my partner William Kelly (@idostartups) for his help writing this post, and for getting MEAN Stack shared across all of the internets.

63 thoughts on “Introduction to the MEAN Stack, Part One: Setting Up Your Tools

    • Love it. Bitcoins are awesome. Also a huge fan of how you used socket io on the client for connecting to the Mt Gox streaming API. Btw, did you use a charting API?

      • I used highchart for the charts with data backed from mongodb.

        I also used to trigger chart reload when there is new data available in the backend.

  1. Pingback: Introduction to the MEAN Stack, Part Two: Building and Testing a To-do List | The Code Barbarian

      • Yeah Vagrant is solid and makes it so easy to be able to drop consistent environments. Combining that with your tutorial here seemed like a double win as then folks can get up and running in minutes (depending on download speed of course).

  2. Really enjoying this two-part tutorial. Would like to try out it from Windows using WebMatrix3 and wondered what the implications would be in relation to setting up all the environment and tools (addressed in Part 1). If WM3 not suitable would consider trying webstorm – any comment?

  3. I’m just past the installation and I look forward to the rest of the tutorial. I’m fairly new to using OSX as a developer, but I go back to the daze when unix required you log in remotely, so I’m pretty comfortable with a terminal.

    Thanks so much for pointing to the command line tools and brew. I’ve gotten spoiled by ubuntu’s package installer, so this is a welcome addition. And now I feel like I’m out of version/config hell and on to doing what I do best – bringing the machine to its knees.

    I hit a few stumbling blocks. Some google-foo got me through it, but thought you might want to update your text.

    Changing http: to https: helped me and others get past an error. There was a note in the page you reference
    curl | sh

    Please advise people to enter hyphens manually, as they appear to get mangled in copy/paste:
    npm install express –g
    did not work for me. I googled the error and found this helpful post -
    “Manually type “-g”, wherever you copied the command line from used an en dash character rather than a hyphen.”

    And I’m not sure how much this matters, but I installed brew under my user name. You have a lot of references to sudo, which did not work for me and in fact, everything worked fine. So I think the basic premise is missing, which is IF you choose install brew as root, then sudo would apply for subsequent steps.

    I’m one of those people who prefers to be a user and sudo or su only when needed. I suspect I’m going to be fine using brew and the installed packages as a user, but you should definitely clarify the difference at the start.

    • This is the error I got when attempting to follow your instructions to use sudo. Should I have installed brew differently?
      Dans-MacBook-Pro:~ dansevush$ sudo brew install mongodb
      Error: Cowardly refusing to `sudo brew install`
      You can use brew with sudo, but only if the brew executable is owned by root.
      However, this is both not recommended and completely unsupported so do so at
      your own risk.

      • I’ve been running into small problems almost every step of the way. Sudo is definitely not needed, and I’ve got one last error. When I attempt to install angular, I get this error:
        Error: Unable to parse /Users/dansevush/testapp/.bowerrc: Unexpected token “
        I have tried removing all white space, inserting and removing line feeds to no avail.
        It would be really sweet if there was something equivalent to LAMP, WAMP, etc. that handles all package installations in one fell swoop 😉

  4. Ah, another Word-quotification mishap. It’s very subtle, but the quote character is different. I typed the line over by hand and was able to install angular. on to the next part

    My suggestion going forward – just edit (or re-edit) every line using plain text tools. We don’t need no stinkin’ MSOffice apps

    • VERY helpful comment. Thanks! FYI, this happened to me using a Mac too. In my case, it may have been an errant trailing blank space when I did the copy/paste from the post.

  5. I’m running this on an EC2 Ubuntu Server: and not sure what to enter for the mongodb at step 5:

    var Mongoose = require(‘mongoose’);
    var db = Mongoose.createConnection(‘localhost’, ‘mytestapp’);

  6. Strongly recommend a link to this tutorial is added to the github page… had numerous problems with the install due to some issues with my dev environment and this would have helped significantly. Thanks for writing it.

  7. I tried following your tutorial exactly and found after I ran ‘node app.js’ it was missing ‘express’ (and many other things like ‘jade’) — running ‘npm install’ from within the mytestapp directory installed all needed dependencies. I’m on win7 x64 using git bash, cheers!

    • Hmmm I could’ve sworn I put instructions to do npm install a few times in the tutorial. I’ll look through and see if I can make that more clear. Thanks for sharing your troubles.

  8. I think this is a great way to use the express web framework but why would you use that if you ultimately plan to use Angular? Angular has it’s own directory structure and routing methodology. Seems redundant and likely to have people confused.

    • Good comment. AngularJS does have its own methodology for routing, but only if you choose to use the routing functionality, which is not necessarily the right choice for all applications. Furthermore, even if you use AngularJS routing for all your views, you will almost certainly need some sort of RESTful API to your server, and NodeJS and ExpressJS make writing very sophisticated REST APIs very simple.

  9. Pingback: How do I name the .bowerrc file?CopyQuery CopyQuery | Question & Answer Tool for your Technical Queries,CopyQuery, ejjuit, query, copyquery,, android doubt, ios question, sql query, sqlite query, nodejsquery, dns query, update query, ins

    • .bowerrc is a perfectly valid filename, even on Windows. Use git bash or whatever your Windows bash shell of choice is and create it from there if Windows Explorer won’t let you do it.

      • Similar to “-g” issue, I think it is worth mentioning that if you copy paste the contents of the .bowerrc file, it will add the wrong double quote character. Those need to be typed as well.

  10. Pingback: server setup | VolosHack

  11. when getting problems with npm install requiring you to sudo DON’T DO IT!
    just change folder owner
    sudo chown -R $USER /usr/local
    anyone can deploy whatever, don’t make it easy to grant root permissions to malicious scripts

    • That’s a pretty good point. But with or without root privileges, a malicious npm module can do some real damage to your computer (e.g. steal your private key, wipe out your home directory, etc.). I’ve never had this problem, but right now the unfortunate truth of npm is that its up to you to either trust the npm module, scan through it yourself, or make sure you’re running node on a user that can’t access any files you find particularly valuable.

      • true, if you’re not as paranoid as I am maybe the point of not sudoing could be just avoiding to type the password everytime you want to install a package 🙂

  12. Pingback: Nodejs and the MEAN stack for the .NET developer part 3 | The Buttonfactory

  13. Step 4 on windows
    if you run | node app.js
    I got an error: Cannot find module ‘express’
    So you need to run the “npm install” first

  14. I’m running into an issue on step 5. I’ve added
    var Mongoose = require(‘mongoose’);
    var db = Mongoose.createConnection(‘localhost’, ‘mytestapp’);
    and I do get “[initandlisten] connection accepted from,”
    but I also noticed the following:
    Failed to load c++ bson extension, using pure JS version
    Express server listening on port 3000
    Any thoughts on how to get rid of/fix this?

  15. I know I’m late to the party , but shouldn’t we do another “npm install” after doing
    “express mytestapp” and “cd mytestapp”

  16. Just wish to say your article is as surprising. The clarity in your post is simply excellent and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject.
    Fine with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up to
    date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the
    enjoyable work.

  17. Pingback: Installing and Configuring the MEAN Stack, Yeoman, and Associated Tooling on Windows | Programmatic Ponderings

  18. Hi Vkarpov15,

    thanks for introducing this and I want to follow up with a question,

    I was following the steps on my Mac, up until step 5 everything was good.

    And I put mongodb and mongoose into app.js, ran “node app.js” and this happened, any chance you recognize what I may have missed?

    Express server listening on port 3000

    throw er; // Unhandled ‘error’ event
    Error: failed to connect to [localhost:27017]
    at null. (/Users/jimcal/mytestapp/node_modules/mongodb/lib/mongodb/connection/server.js:553:74)
    at EventEmitter.emit (events.js:106:17)
    at null. (/Users/jimcal/mytestapp/node_modules/mongodb/lib/mongodb/connection/connection_pool.js:140:15)
    at EventEmitter.emit (events.js:98:17)
    at Socket. (/Users/jimcal/mytestapp/node_modules/mongodb/lib/mongodb/connection/connection.js:512:10)
    at Socket.EventEmitter.emit (events.js:95:17)
    at net.js:441:14
    at process._tickCallback (node.js:415:13)

  19. FYI, not sure if this is Win7-specific, but at the end of Step 2 where you say you should be able to run “node app.js”, it requires Express to be installed first to work (step 3). Thanks for the tutorial, though!

  20. Trying this on Ubuntu Saucy, I was missing the (very handy!) express binary, which creates your project structure. I didn’t want to use the older express version that can be installed with ‘apt-get install node-express’ (it creates a not so nice and not so current project structure). Reading the from express, I finally learned the newest version can easily be installed with ‘npm install -g express-generator’.

    You also might want to add the apt-repository for newer nodejs (and npm) versions on Ubuntu.

  21. Pingback: MEAN Stack | Evan McCullough

  22. My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.
    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.

    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on several
    websites for about a year and am worried about switching to another platform.

    I have heard good things about Is there a way I can transfer
    all my wordpress posts into it? Any help would be really appreciated!

  23. I seem to be the only one running into problems at step 1. I’m running in Ubuntu 12.04. When running the first command (sudo apt-key adv –keyserver –recv 7F0CEB10) I think it’s working, though part of the response says “no ultimately trusted keys found.” Then, I can’t figure out why there is no closing single quote (‘) in the echo command. I went ahead and ^C out of it and tried the third command (sudo apt-get update) which didn’t give me an error, somehow (considering I didn’t properly follow the second command). So I went ahead and tried the fourth command, at which point I finally got the error, “Unable to locate package mongodb-10gen.”
    So, perhaps I tried to much after the first question… I’m not really sure which part went wrong first.

  24. Great install tutorial! Thanks for walking me through the different steps of setting up the mean stack instead of just having us install the mean-stack-skeleton. It helped me understand the anatomy of the Mean stack and setting up the application

  25. Pingback: "GPG Error: Clearsigned file isnt valid" When Installing Mongodb - Tech Forum Network

  26. Thank you so much for this article, but two small things have changed that break these instructions. As someone completely new to MEAN, I spent several hours banging my head against a wall only to discover it actually wasn’t me!

    1) As a previous commenter mentioned, in addition to the npm install -g express command, you must also run npm install -g express-generator.
    2) To start node, you should run npm start from your app root. When I ran node app.js nothing happened.

  27. when trying to install node.js and npm on linux mint, i got
    nodejs : Conflicts: npm
    E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.
    turns out node.js in chris lea repository comes with npm…

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