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Setting Up Your Environment ​

Howdy! πŸ‘‹πŸ»

This documentation is available in textual and video forms. Watch the video for your operating system, or continue reading if you prefer. Of course, you can also do both!

Overview ​

This article covers the first steps to get started. We're going to make sure your workstation is ready for development and give an overview of the Apostrophe CLI. While these steps will work directly for Mac OS and many Linux distributions, Windows OS users will need to install WSL 2 first. Importantly, for both WSL2 and other Linux users we recommend checking to make sure that the Linux distribution you are installing or using is supported by the MongoDB Community Edition. Alternatively, you can also elect to install and use Docker for running the MongoDB server, which is OS agnostic.

Requirements ​

Let's get started with what you will need to have installed on your machine to run a project locally:

πŸ“Œ For Windows OS users, we only support development in the WSL 2 environment or another virtual Linux environment. All the additional instructions on this page should be followed from the WSL 2 prompt, not the Windows command or Powershell prompt. If you are having difficulties, there is further guidance in the documentation that contains additional troubleshooting instructions for the entire install including WSL 2, Node.js, npm, and MongoDB.

1. Node.js 18+/ npm

Node.js is a JavaScript runtime and it runs server-side JS, including the Apostrophe app. npm is automatically included with Node. You can download and install these at However, we (and indeed Microsoft) highly encourage the use of NVM to allow you to switch easily between Node and npm versions. You can find the installation instructions here.

⚠️ NVM is only available for Linux / Mac OS / Windows WSL.

Once installed, you can switch between different versions of Node and npm by using

$ nvm install 18
# and
$ nvm use 18

See the nvm page for more options.

2. MongoDB 6.0+

You can make a MongoDB instance available to your project in two main ways:

MongoDB offers a hosted version of the server, MongoDB Atlas, that offers a free tier and doesn't require any local software installation. You can set a connection string for a hosted instance using the APOS_MONGODB_URI environment variable or by setting the options of the @apostrophecms/db module at the project level.

For example:

export APOS_MONGODB_URI="mongodb+srv://"

For offline local development, you can install the MongoDB community edition server. By default, Apostrophe attempts to connect to the database using the connection string mongodb://localhost:27017/<project-shortName> where the shortName is set in the project app.js file. The community edition server uses this port, so no changes are needed.

The following steps are only required if you intend to develop on a locally hosted MongoDB instance.

Installation of the MongoDB Community Edition is slightly different for each OS. We advise that you follow the instructions on the MongoDB website for your OS. Again, Windows users should install from within WSL2 and follow the instructions for their Linux distribution.

πŸ“Œ When using Ubuntu 22.04, the only currently supported self-hosted MongoDB version is 6.04 or newer. If your production environment requires that you use an earlier version of MongoDB for development, we advise you to use Ubuntu 20.04.

In addition to installing MongoDB Community Edition, there are options in the instructions for restarting MongoDB following a system reboot. You can opt to either follow these instructions or manually start mongoDB each time you reboot.

To check for successful installation of these tools, try the following commands:

# This will display your Node.js version and npm version (installed with Node),
# if installed successfully.
node -v && npm -v

# This will display your MongoDB version, if installed successfully.
mongod --version

Installing the Apostrophe CLI ​

There is an official CLI for quickly setting up starter code for your Apostrophe project. Once in a project, the CLI can also help add new module code with a single command so you can focus on the aspects that are unique to your project rather than copying or remembering boilerplate.

The CLI is not required to work with Apostrophe, but it makes developing with Apostrophe faster and takes care of the more repetitive tasks during development. This is especially true when creating a new project.

Install the CLI globally through npm. npm install --location=global @apostrophecms/cli

πŸ“Œ You can review more information about the Apostrophe CLI in the doc here

Creating a project ​

If you are not using Atlas, make sure your local server has been started before creating a project. MongoDB can be configured to run all the time or started as needed, but it must be up and running to provide a storage option for your initial admin user.

The easiest way to get started with Apostrophe is to use one of the official starter kit projects. If you have the CLI installed, go into your normal projects directory and use the command:

apos create apos-app

This will install the "Essentials" starter kit.


πŸ’‘ To install other starter kits, pass the --starter flag, along with the short name of one of our starter kits. For example:

apos create apos-app --starter=ecommerce

If you are using a MongoDB Atlas instance, add the --mongodb-uri flag, along with the URL of your Atlas instance. It is generally a good idea to enclose the entire connection string in quotes and use percent encoding for any special characters. For example:

apos create apos-app --mongodb-uri="mongodb+srv://"

Where the original unescaped connection string is: mongodb+srv://username:pa$$

The CLI will take care of installing dependencies and walk you through creating the first user. You can then skip down to the "Finishing touches" section.

If you don't want to use the CLI, or if you want to see other things it does for you, continue on. ​

To get started quickly without the CLI, clone the starter repository:

git clone apos-app

If you want to change the project directory name, please do so. We will continue referring to apos-app.

Open the app.js file in the root project directory. Find the shortName setting and change it to match your project (only letters, digits, hyphens and/or underscores). This will be used as the name of your database.

// app.js
  shortName: 'apos-app', // πŸ‘ˆ
  modules: {
  // ...

Excellent! Back in your terminal, we'll install dependencies:

npm install

Before starting up you'll need to create an admin-level user, either in your Atlas instance or local database, so that you can log in. After running the following command, Apostrophe will ask you to enter a password for this user.

Atlas Database

APOS_MONGODB_URI="mongodb+srv://" node app @apostrophecms/user:add my-user admin
# Replace `my-user` with the name you want for your first user.


Local Database

node app @apostrophecms/user:add my-user admin
# Replace `my-user` with the name you want for your first user.


  • When using MongoDB Atlas, it's a good practice to enclose your entire connection string in quotes to prevent any issues with special characters. Also, use percent-encoding for special characters in your password.

  • Consider exporting your APOS_MONGODB_URI environment variable to make it available throughout your session. This approach helps in avoiding the repetition of the connection string and reduces the risk of errors.

Finishing touches ​

You should also update the session secret for Express.js to a unique, random string. The starter project has a placeholder for this option already. If you do not update this, you will see a warning each time the app starts up.

// modules/@apostrophecms/express/index.js
module.exports = {
  options: {
    session: {
      // If this still says `undefined`, set a real secret!
      secret: undefined

Starting up the website ​

Start the site with npm run dev. If you are using an Atlas instance you need to pass the connection string through the APOS_MONGODB_URI environment variable or set the uri or other options of the @apostrophecms/db at project level. The app will then watch for changes in client-side code, rebuild the packages, then refresh the browser when it detects any. You can log in with the username and password you created at http://localhost:3000/login.


If you are starting the site in a production environment or do not want the process to watch for changes, start the site with node app.js.

Next steps ​

Now that Apostrophe is installed, you're ready to start building. Check out the guide to learn about essential features with plenty of code examples. To learn about building a site from scratch, jump to our tutorial series. If you are looking to explore Apostrophe's inner workings peruse the reference guide.