Software development and DevOps

Grand refactoring of SublimeText Nodejs plugin

I’m very happy to announce the second version of Nodejs Sublime Text plugin. This is big release with a big refactorings and new features.


On November 2016 I’ve started to support (this is said very strongly), started to play around with SublimeText Nodejs plugin. The plugin was very small and has several bugs and unknown issue under the hood.

In those days I was playing around with Nodejs and favorite code editor was SublimeText, as always. I installed Nodejs plugin from and found several bugs as I mentioned earlier. I thought… Ohh, this is awful, take in count that Nodejs was a hype, and still the hype, but nowadays with a small pressure of Go. IMHO. 😇

In a such situation I directly go the GitHub repository of the project and looking for recent activity, to be sure that project is not abandoned. I saw that last commit was made to the project was in late 2013. Also, users left issues, but with no answer from the maintainer. Then, I thought… There is a two piece of technology which I love, and I always want to contribute to the Open Source. No sooner said than done.

The plan was simple. Fixing bugs which I will encounter with. Over time, I realized problem in fixing bugs, because of plugin architecture, missing of tests, debugging capabilities etc.

The plans is changing

As I mentioned earlier I was suffering without tests and debug capabilities. One bug fix could fork another bugs and issues. More over, some bugs could be fixed on one platform and still exists on another ones. Then I decided to make my life easier and makes me more happier.

What was done

A lot stuff was refactored and reconsidered. All changes logical could be divided in two groups: for user experience and for developer comfort.

Developer comfort

Lets start with a list of changes and little explanation for what, how and possible why it was done.

  • The whole code of plugin in earlier versions was located at one big file Will make decision to divide and re-locate the whole code to base into logical modules and move into lib folder. Now he have the following logical parts:
    1. - base command classes for the rest of Sublime Text commands
    2. - classes for running underlying OS specific commands
    3. - core classes for the plugin functionality (node_run, node_drun and etc.)
    4. - several constants for PLUGIN_PATH and etc.
    5. - debugging functions
    6. - class for detecting and working with NVM (Nodejs Version Manager)
  • Added debugging capabilities. Throughout of the code you call debug functions to output some of debug data to the Sublime Text console. The data will be printed only if file .debug_plugin exists in the plugin root directory. Simple remove the file to disable debug output.

  • Unit testing was introduced with help of great job done by Randy3k. This is a great module for writing acceptance tests for Sublime Text plugins. You can also use it to write simple plain unit tests for core parts of your plugin using plain old Python.

  • The Randy3k unit testing plugin also allow you to run tests in CI (continuous integration) services such as Travis Ci and Appveyor. Bang! I used it as well as tests. Now we can test plugin functionality on different platforms with a different versions of Nodejs.

  • Plugin now requires dependencies to be installed: sheellenv and newterm, which means after installing the plugin the Sublime Text will be restarted.

With the help of all the stuff listed above, we can develop new or bug fixing old functionality by enjoying.🕺

User experience

Ok. We got to the most interest part - user interaction with plugin. As in previous part I will list of changes and reasons for it.

  • It sad to say, but from now we only support Sublime Text 3. Sublime Text 2 support is deprecated, because of long waited Sublime Text 3 official release. It’s not beta now.

  • The most annoying (I think there was around 3-4 bugs related with it) incorrect auto complete. Sometimes it had replaced the part before dot: os.chdir(), chdir() replaced the os. part. Sometimes it had duplicated the part after a dot: http.createServer() duplicated the http part. The issue was solved by rewrite tools/doc_builder.js by adding Nodejs standard library modules names to the Nodejs.sublime-completions as a separate auto complete items.

  • Now, on the plugin loading, it detects if a Node Version Manager is installed and if it is, it gets current Node version from the NVM and use it by default instead of globally installed one, if any.

  • Also, on the plugin loading, it build completions list for a current version of Nodejs

  • On the plugin loading, it install all Nodejs dependencies need for plugin tools, located under tools folder: doc_builder.js and uglify_js.js. Before, you will need to install it manually.

  • At the core plugin, now, detects different versions of Nodejs. At the moment of release it is a Nodejs 6 branch and 8 branch aka LTS and current stable.

  • Plugin settings now opens in style of Sublime Text 3, by edit_settings command, default settings on the left side and user custom settings on the right side

  • From now, commands (‘node_drun’, ‘node_npm_install’ and etc.) could be run only when type or the buffer/file is type of source.js

  • OK. What is the most important tool of every developer? You, right! It’s a debugger.


In previous versions of the plugin, Nodejs Debug (+ arguments) command would run only the current file with a debug argument passed to node executable. It was a useless. Since version 6.3.0 of Nodejs it support debugging using Chrome DevTools debugger. Read more at Paul Irish Medium blog.

Now, when you run Nodejs Debug (+ arguments) the node executable will run current file with flags --inspect=localhost:60123 --debug-brk for version 6 of Nodejs and --inspect-brk=localhost:60123 for version 8. As you can see, debugger would run on a separate port 60123 which is not correlate with the default Nodejs - 9229.

Then, you can connect to the debugger using steps instructed by the plugin:

    Debugger is successfully started at localhost:60123.
    1. Now you can open Google Chrome and navigate to chrome://inspect.
    2. Then click Open dedicated DevTools for Node. 
    3. After click Add connection and add connection to localhost:60123

What need to be done

  • Recreate functionality of Nodejs cli debugger using Sublime Text 3 dependency - sublime-pexpect, which I contributed to recently.

  • Track Nodejs processes ran by the plugin and kill only that processes in _kill_node_processes(). For that, need to be done work by contributing another Python package to the Sublime package control - sublime-psutil.

  • Run current JS file in new terminal, instead of output to the Sublime Text output panel.