Node.js native addon binary install tool

native, addon, module, c, c++, bindings, binary, cpp, nodejs
npm install @discordjs/node-pre-gyp@0.4.2


@discordjs/node-pre-gyp Test

node-pre-gyp makes it easy to publish and install Node.js C++ addons from binaries

@discordjs/node-pre-gyp stands between npm and node-gyp and offers a cross-platform method of binary deployment.


  • A command line tool called node-pre-gyp that can install your package's C++ module from a binary.
  • A variety of developer targeted commands for packaging, testing, and publishing binaries.
  • A JavaScript module that can dynamically require your installed binary: require('@discordjs/node-pre-gyp').find

For a hello world example of a module packaged with node-pre-gyp see https://github.com/springmeyer/node-addon-example and the wiki for real world examples.



See the Frequently Ask Questions.



View all possible commands:

node-pre-gyp --help
  • clean - Remove the entire folder containing the compiled .node module
  • install - Install pre-built binary for module
  • reinstall - Run "clean" and "install" at once
  • build - Compile the module by dispatching to node-gyp or nw-gyp
  • rebuild - Run "clean" and "build" at once
  • package - Pack binary into tarball
  • testpackage - Test that the staged package is valid

You can also chain commands:

node-pre-gyp clean build package


Options include:

  • -C/--directory: run the command in this directory
  • --build-from-source: build from source instead of using pre-built binary
  • --update-binary: reinstall by replacing previously installed local binary with remote binary
  • --runtime=electron: customize the runtime: node and electron are the valid options
  • --fallback-to-build: fallback to building from source if pre-built binary is not available
  • --target=0.4.0: Pass the target node version to compile against
  • --target_arch=ia32: Pass the target arch and override the host arch. Valid values are 'ia32','x64', or arm.
  • --target_platform=win32: Pass the target platform and override the host platform. Valid values are linux, darwin, win32, sunos, freebsd, openbsd, and aix.

Both --build-from-source and --fallback-to-build can be passed alone or they can provide values. You can pass --fallback-to-build=false to override the option as declared in package.json. In addition to being able to pass --build-from-source you can also pass --build-from-source=myapp where myapp is the name of your module.

For example: npm install --build-from-source=myapp. This is useful if:

  • myapp is referenced in the package.json of a larger app and therefore myapp is being installed as a dependency with npm install.
  • The larger app also depends on other modules installed with node-pre-gyp
  • You only want to trigger a source compile for myapp and the other modules.


This is a guide to configuring your module to use node-pre-gyp.

1) Add new entries to your package.json

  • Add node-pre-gyp to dependencies
  • Add a custom install script
  • Declare a binary object

This looks like:

"dependencies"  : {
  "@discordjs/node-pre-gyp": "0.1.x"
"scripts": {
  "install": "node-pre-gyp install --fallback-to-build"
"binary": {
  "module_name": "your_module",
  "module_path": "./lib/binding/",
  "host": "https://your_module.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com"

For a full example see node-addon-examples's package.json.

Let's break this down:

  • Dependencies need to list node-pre-gyp
  • Your scripts section should override the install target with "install": "node-pre-gyp install --fallback-to-build". This allows node-pre-gyp to be used instead of the default npm behavior of always source compiling with node-gyp directly.
  • Your package.json should contain a binary section describing key properties you provide to allow node-pre-gyp to package optimally. They are detailed below.

The binary object has three required properties


The name of your native node module. This value must:

  • Match the name passed to the NODE_MODULE macro
  • Must be a valid C variable name (e.g. it cannot contain -)
  • Should not include the .node extension.


The location your native module is placed after a build. This should be an empty directory without other Javascript files. This entire directory will be packaged in the binary tarball. When installing from a remote package this directory will be overwritten with the contents of the tarball.

Note: This property supports variables based on Versioning.


A url to the remote location where you've published tarball binaries (must be https not http).


It is recommended that you customize this property. This is an extra path to use for publishing and finding remote tarballs. The default value for remote_path is "" meaning that if you do not provide it then all packages will be published at the base of the host. It is recommended to provide a value like ./{name}/v{version} to help organize remote packages in the case that you choose to publish multiple node addons to the same host.

Note: This property supports variables based on Versioning.


It is not recommended to override this property unless you are also overriding the remote_path. This is the versioned name of the remote tarball containing the binary .node module and any supporting files you've placed inside the module_path directory. Unless you specify package_name in your package.json then it defaults to {module_name}-v{version}-{node_abi}-{platform}-{arch}.tar.gz which allows your binary to work across node versions, platforms, and architectures. If you are using remote_path that is also versioned by ./{module_name}/v{version} then you could remove these variables from the package_name and just use: {node_abi}-{platform}-{arch}.tar.gz. Then your remote tarball will be looked up at, for example, https://example.com/your-module/v0.1.0/node-v11-linux-x64.tar.gz.

Avoiding the version of your module in the package_name and instead only embedding in a directory name can be useful when you want to make a quick tag of your module that does not change any C++ code.

Note: This property supports variables based on Versioning.

2) Add a new target to binding.gyp

node-pre-gyp calls out to node-gyp to compile the module and passes variables along like module_name and module_path.

A new target must be added to binding.gyp that moves the compiled .node module from ./build/Release/module_name.node into the directory specified by module_path.

Add a target like this at the end of your targets list:

  "target_name": "action_after_build",
  "type": "none",
  "dependencies": [ "<(module_name)" ],
  "copies": [
      "files": [ "<(PRODUCT_DIR)/<(module_name).node" ],
      "destination": "<(module_path)"

For a full example see node-addon-example's binding.gyp.

3) Dynamically require your .node

Inside the main js file that requires your addon module you are likely currently doing:

const binding = require('../build/Release/binding.node');


const bindings = require('./bindings')

Change those lines to:

const binary = require('@discordjs/node-pre-gyp');
const path = require('path');
const binding_path = binary.find(path.resolve(path.join(__dirname,'./package.json')));
const binding = require(binding_path);

For a full example see node-addon-example's index.js

4) Build and package your app

Now build your module from source:

npm install --build-from-source

The --build-from-source tells node-pre-gyp to not look for a remote package and instead dispatch to node-gyp to build.

Now node-pre-gyp should now also be installed as a local dependency so the command line tool it offers can be found at ./node_modules/.bin/node-pre-gyp.

5) Test

Now npm test should work just as it did before.

6) Publish the tarball

Then package your app:

./node_modules/.bin/node-pre-gyp package

Once packaged you can also host your binaries. To do this requires:

  • You manually publish the binary created by the package command to an https endpoint
  • Ensure that the host value points to your custom https endpoint.

7) You're done!

Now publish your module to the npm registry. Users will now be able to install your module from a binary.

What will happen is this:

  1. npm install <your package> will pull from the npm registry
  2. npm will run the install script which will call out to node-pre-gyp
  3. node-pre-gyp will fetch the binary .node module and unpack in the right place
  4. Assuming that all worked, you are done

If a a binary was not available for a given platform and --fallback-to-build was used then node-gyp rebuild will be called to try to source compile the module.

N-API Considerations

Node-API, which was previously known as N-API, is an ABI-stable alternative to previous technologies such as nan which are tied to a specific Node runtime engine. Node-API is Node runtime engine agnostic and guarantees modules created today will continue to run, without changes, into the future.

Using node-pre-gyp with Node-API projects requires a handful of additional configuration values and imposes some additional requirements.

The most significant difference is that an Node-API module can be coded to target multiple Node-API versions. Therefore, an Node-API module must declare in its package.json file which Node-API versions the module is designed to run against. In addition, since multiple builds may be required for a single module, path and file names must be specified in way that avoids naming conflicts.

The napi_versions array property

A Node-API module must declare in its package.json file, the Node-API versions the module is intended to support. This is accomplished by including an napi-versions array property in the binary object. For example:

"binary": {
  "module_name": "your_module",
  "module_path": "your_module_path",
  "host": "https://your_bucket.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com",
  "napi_versions": [1,3]

If the napi_versions array property is not present, node-pre-gyp operates as it always has. Including the napi_versions array property instructs node-pre-gyp that this is a Node-API module build.

When the napi_versions array property is present, node-pre-gyp fires off multiple operations, one for each of the Node-API versions in the array. In the example above, two operations are initiated, one for Node-API version 1 and second for Node-API version 3. How this version number is communicated is described next.

The napi_build_version value

For each of the Node-API module operations node-pre-gyp initiates, it ensures that the napi_build_version is set appropriately.

This value is of importance in two areas:

  1. The C/C++ code which needs to know against which Node-API version it should compile.
  2. node-pre-gyp itself which must assign appropriate path and file names to avoid collisions.

Defining NAPI_VERSION for the C/C++ code

The napi_build_version value is communicated to the C/C++ code by adding this code to the binding.gyp file:

"defines": [

This ensures that NAPI_VERSION, an integer value, is declared appropriately to the C/C++ code for each build.

Note that earlier versions of this document recommended defining the symbol NAPI_BUILD_VERSION. NAPI_VERSION is preferred because it used by the Node-API C/C++ headers to configure the specific Node-API versions being requested.

Path and file naming requirements in package.json

Since node-pre-gyp fires off multiple operations for each request, it is essential that path and file names be created in such a way as to avoid collisions. This is accomplished by imposing additional path and file naming requirements.

Specifically, when performing Node-API builds, the {napi_build_version} text configuration value must be present in the module_path property. In addition, the {napi_build_version} text configuration value must be present in either the remote_path or package_name property. (No problem if it's in both.)

Here's an example:

"binary": {
  "module_name": "your_module",
  "module_path": "./lib/binding/napi-v{napi_build_version}",
  "remote_path": "./{module_name}/v{version}/{configuration}/",
  "package_name": "{platform}-{arch}-napi-v{napi_build_version}.tar.gz",
  "host": "https://your_bucket.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com",
  "napi_versions": [1,3]

Supporting both N-API and NAN builds

You may have a legacy native add-on that you wish to continue supporting for those versions of Node that do not support Node-API, as you add Node-API support for later Node versions. This can be accomplished by specifying the node_napi_label configuration value in the package.json binary.package_name property.

Placing the configuration value node_napi_label in the package.json binary.package_name property instructs node-pre-gyp to build all viable Node-API binaries supported by the current Node instance. If the current Node instance does not support Node-API, node-pre-gyp will request a traditional, non-Node-API build.

The configuration value node_napi_label is set by node-pre-gyp to the type of build created, napi or node, and the version number. For Node-API builds, the string contains the Node-API version nad has values like napi-v3. For traditional, non-Node-API builds, the string contains the ABI version with values like node-v46.

Here's how the binary configuration above might be changed to support both Node-API and NAN builds:

"binary": {
  "module_name": "your_module",
  "module_path": "./lib/binding/{node_napi_label}",
  "remote_path": "./{module_name}/v{version}/{configuration}/",
  "package_name": "{platform}-{arch}-{node_napi_label}.tar.gz",
  "host": "https://your_bucket.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com",
  "napi_versions": [1,3]

The C/C++ symbol NAPI_VERSION can be used to distinguish Node-API and non-Node-API builds. The value of NAPI_VERSION is set to the integer Node-API version for Node-API builds and is set to 0 for non-Node-API builds.

For example:

// Node-API code goes here
// NAN code goes here

Two additional configuration values

The following two configuration values, which were implemented in previous versions of node-pre-gyp, continue to exist, but have been replaced by the node_napi_label configuration value described above.

  1. napi_version If Node-API is supported by the currently executing Node instance, this value is the Node-API version number supported by Node. If Node-API is not supported, this value is an empty string.

  2. node_abi_napi If the value returned for napi_version is non empty, this value is 'napi'. If the value returned for napi_version is empty, this value is the value returned for node_abi.

These values are present for use in the binding.gyp file and may be used as {napi_version} and {node_abi_napi} for text substituion in the binary properties of the package.json file.


The binary properties of module_path, remote_path, and package_name support variable substitution. The strings are evaluated by node-pre-gyp depending on your system and any custom build flags you passed.

  • node_abi: The node C++ ABI number. This value is available in Javascript as process.versions.modules as of >= v0.10.4 >= v0.11.7 and in C++ as the NODE_MODULE_VERSION define much earlier. For versions of Node before this was available we fallback to the V8 major and minor version.
  • platform matches node's process.platform like linux, darwin, and win32 unless the user passed the --target_platform option to override.
  • arch matches node's process.arch like x64 or ia32 unless the user passes the --target_arch option to override.
  • libc matches require('detect-libc').family like glibc or musl unless the user passes the --target_libc option to override.
  • libc_version matches require('detect-libc').version
  • configuration - Either 'Release' or 'Debug' depending on if --debug is passed during the build.
  • module_name - the binary.module_name attribute from package.json.
  • version - the semver version value for your module from package.json (NOTE: ignores the semver.build property).
  • major, minor, patch, and prelease match the individual semver values for your module's version
  • build - the sevmer build value. For example it would be this.that if your package.json version was v1.0.0+this.that
  • prerelease - the semver prerelease value. For example it would be alpha.beta if your package.json version was v1.0.0-alpha.beta

The options are visible in the code at https://github.com/mapbox/node-pre-gyp/blob/612b7bca2604508d881e1187614870ba19a7f0c5/lib/util/versioning.js#L114-L127

Download binary files from a mirror

S3 is broken in China for the well known reason.

Using the npm config argument: --{module_name}_binary_host_mirror can download binary files through a mirror, - in module_name will be replaced with _.

e.g.: Install v8-profiler from npm.

$ npm install v8-profiler --profiler_binary_host_mirror=https://npm.taobao.org/mirrors/node-inspector/

e.g.: Install canvas-prebuilt from npm.

$ npm install canvas-prebuilt --canvas_prebuilt_binary_host_mirror=https://npm.taobao.org/mirrors/canvas-prebuilt/