nvm is my favorite tool for installing and working with Nodejs. I can install several Nodejs versions on one machine for different projects without affecting each other because nvm can install Node locally (without root privilege) for each project user. However, since nvm is a collection of shell functions, it can cause problems for using it with non-interactive environments (for example in automation tools like Ansible).

I found some work around for it which I will present in this post. Some of them are a bit ugly but at least they solve the problem. I’m still trying to find the best solution and will post here when available.

Install Node with nvm

As I mentioned before, nvm is a collection of shell functions, so if you call nvm directly, you will receive the error saying that it cannot find the nvm executable file. I tried sourcing it in .profile and use the Ansible’s shell module but still got the error. Finally, I came up with the solution that is to source the nvm script directly everytime I need to run nvm using one specified shell (bash in this case). The Ansible tasks for installing Nodejs using nvm will look like this

# nvm_user: the user with .nvm install

- name: install nodejs using nvm
  sudo: yes
  sudo_user: ""
  command: bash -c '. ~/.nvm/nvm.sh; nvm install '

- name: set default node version
  sudo: yes
  sudo_user: ""
  command: bash -c '. ~/.nvm/nvm.sh; nvm alias default '

Here is an example Ansible role I made before for checking and installing nvm and NodeJS to a specific user in the system. This is tested on Ubuntu already.

Install npm tools with Node in nvm

Ansible is shipped with npm module by default, so what you need is to specify the search path for it to find the right npm executable file, either by environment variables or by direct path

  • Environment variables (you cannot use relative path ~)
- name: install node tools
  sudo: yes
  sudo_user: "{{nvm_user}}"
  npm: >-
    name=gulp
    global=yes
  environment:
    # can be different depending on nvm version
    PATH: "/home/{{nvm_user}}/.nvm/v{{nvm_node_version}}/bin:{{ ansible_env.PATH }}"
  • Direct path
- name: install node tools
  sudo: yes
  sudo_user: "{{nvm_user}}"
  npm: >-
    name=gulp
    executable=~/.nvm/v{{nvm_node_version}}/bin/npm
    global=yes

Running npm tools with Node in nvm

Similary, for running executable installed by Node in nvm, we can also set the environment variables (but you cannot use relative path in this case) or use the direct path. You can also source nvm script to run the command directly

  • Source nvm before running
- name: run gulp build
  sudo: yes
  sudo_user: "{{nvm_user}}"
  command: bash -c '. ~/.nvm/nvm.sh; gulp compile'
  args:
    chdir: "{{project_dir}}"
  changed_when: false
  • Environment variables (you cannot use relative path ~)
- name: run gulp build
  sudo: yes
  sudo_user: "{{nvm_user}}"
  command: gulp compile
  args:
    chdir: "{{project_dir}}"
  changed_when: false
  environment:
    # can be different depending on nvm version
    PATH: "/home/{{nvm_user}}/.nvm/v{{nvm_node_version}}/bin:{{ ansible_env.PATH }}"
  • Direct path
- name: run gulp build
  sudo: yes
  sudo_user: "{{nvm_user}}"
  command: /home/{{nvm_user}}/.nvm/v{{nvm_node_version}}/bin/gulp compile
  args:
    chdir: "{{project_dir}}"
  changed_when: false

Final…

These solution are a bit ugly. I prefer the set environment variables because it’s the general solution for other tool, not just nvm. However, the problem with it is that I cannot set the relative path in PATH, which makes it not flexible when when detecting the nvm executable files.