Building Real-time Applications with Node.js, Express.js, and
7 mins read

By: vishwesh

Building Real-time Applications with Node.js, Express.js, and

In the world of web development, real-time applications are becoming increasingly popular. They allow users to experience the instant gratification of interacting with applications that respond in real-time. Node.js, Express.js, and are three technologies that are essential for building real-time applications. In this article, we'll discuss how to use these technologies together to create real-time applications.

What are Node.js, Express.js, and

Before we dive into how to use these technologies together, let's first discuss what they are.


Node.js is a JavaScript runtime built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine. It allows developers to run JavaScript on the server-side, as opposed to only on the client-side in a web browser. Node.js is known for its fast performance and ability to handle a large number of simultaneous connections.


Express.js is a web application framework for Node.js. It provides a set of features for building web applications, including routing, middleware, and templating. Express.js is known for its simplicity and flexibility, making it a popular choice for building web applications. is a JavaScript library that enables real-time, bidirectional, and event-based communication between the browser and the server. It allows developers to create applications that respond in real-time to user actions, without the need for the user to refresh the page.

Why use Node.js, Express.js, and together?

Node.js, Express.js, and are powerful technologies on their own, but they are even more powerful when used together. Here are some of the benefits of using these technologies together:

  • Real-time capabilities: enables real-time communication between the server and client, allowing for real-time updates to the application.
  • Scalability: Node.js is known for its ability to handle a large number of simultaneous connections, making it a great choice for building real-time applications that may have a high volume of traffic.
  • Flexibility: Express.js provides a lot of flexibility in terms of how web applications are built. This makes it easy to customize the application to fit specific needs.

Now that we've covered the basics of these technologies, let's dive into how to use them together to build real-time applications.

Building a Real-Time Chat Application

To demonstrate how to use Node.js, Express.js, and together, we'll build a real-time chat application. This application will allow users to chat with each other in real-time, without the need to refresh the page.

Step 1: Setting up the Environment

Before we can start building the application, we need to set up our development environment. Here's what you'll need:

  • Node.js installed on your machine
  • A text editor (such as Visual Studio Code)
  • A browser

Once you have these installed, create a new directory for your project and open it in your text editor.

Step 2: Setting up the Server

The first thing we need to do is set up the server using Node.js and Express.js. Here's how:

  1. Open a terminal window and navigate to your project directory.
  2. Run the following command to create a new Node.js project:

npm init

  1. Follow the prompts to create a new package.json file.
  2. Install Express.js by running the following command:

cssCopy code

npm install express --save
  1. Create a new file called server.js in your project directory.
  2. Add the following code to server.js:
const express = require('express');
const app = express();

const server = app.listen(3000, () => {
  console.log('Server listening on port 3000');


app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  res.sendFile(__dirname + '/index.html');

In this code, we first import the express module and create a new instance of the express application. We then create a new server instance by calling the listen method and passing it a port number. In this case, we're using port 3000.

We then tell our application to serve static files by calling the express.static middleware function and passing it the directory where our static files will be stored. In this case, we're storing them in a directory called public.

Finally, we define a route for our application's homepage. This route sends an HTML file called index.html to the client.

Step 3: Setting up

Now that we have our server set up, we can start setting up Here's how:

  1. Install by running the following command:
npm install --save
  1. Add the following code to server.js, below the code we added in Step 2:
const io = require('')(server);

io.on('connection', (socket) => {
  console.log('A user has connected');

  socket.on('disconnect', () => {
    console.log('A user has disconnected');

In this code, we first import the module and pass our server instance to it. This creates a new server instance that is attached to our HTTP server.

We then listen for the connection event, which is fired whenever a new client connects to the server. When a new connection is established, we log a message to the console.

We also listen for the disconnect event, which is fired when a client disconnects from the server. When a client disconnects, we log a message to the console.

Step 4: Creating the Chat Interface

Now that we have our server and set up, we can create the chat interface. Here's how:

  1. Create a new directory called public in your project directory.
  2. Create a new file called index.html in the public directory.
  3. Add the following code to index.html:
<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>Real-Time Chat</title>
    <div id="chat">
      <ul id="messages"></ul>
      <form id="message-form">
        <input type="text" id="message-input" autocomplete="off" />

    <script src="/"></script>
    <script src="/js/chat.js"></script>

In this code, we create a basic HTML structure for our chat interface. We have a div element with an id of chat, which contains an unordered list (ul) with an id of messages, as well as a form with an id of message-form. The form has an input field with an id of message-input and a submit button.

We also include two JavaScript files:, which is served by and handles the WebSocket connection, and chat.js, which we'll create in the next step.

Step 5: Implementing the Chat Logic

Now we can create the chat.js file and implement the logic for sending and receiving messages. Here's how:

  1. Create a new directory called js in your project directory.
  2. Create a new file called chat.js in the js directory.
  3. Add the following code to chat.js:
const socket = io();

const messageForm = document.getElementById('message-form');
const messageInput = document.getElementById('message-input');
const messagesList = document.getElementById('messages');

messageForm.addEventListener('submit', (event) => {
  const message = messageInput.value.trim();
  if (message !== '') {
    socket.emit('message', message);
    messageInput.value = '';

socket.on('message', (message) => {
  const li = document.createElement('li');
  li.textContent = message;

In this code, we first create a new client instance by calling the io() function. This connects the client to the server and establishes a WebSocket connection.

We then select the HTML elements we need using document.getElementById. We select the message-form element, the message-input element, and the messages element.

We then listen for the submit event on the message-form element. When the form is submitted, we prevent the default behavior (which would cause the page to reload) and get the value of the message-input field. We trim the message to remove any leading or trailing whitespace, and if the message is not empty, we emit a message event to the server using socket.emit. We then clear the input field.

We also listen for the message event on the client using socket.on. When a message event is received, we create a new li element, set its textContent to the message, and append it to the messagesList element.

Step 6: Testing the Application

Now that we've implemented the chat logic, we can test our application. Here's how:

  1. Start the server by running the following command in your project directory:
node server.js
  1. Open a web browser and navigate to http://localhost:3000.
  2. Open another web browser window and navigate to the same URL.
  3. Enter a message in one of the windows and click "Send". The message should appear in both windows.

Congratulations, you've built a real-time chat application using Node.js, Express.js, and!


In this tutorial, we've covered the basics of building real-time applications with Node.js, Express.js, and We started by setting up the server using Express.js, then added to handle real-time communication between clients and the server. Finally, we created a simple chat interface and implemented the logic for sending and receiving messages.

There's a lot more you can do with Node.js, Express.js, and You can add authentication, create real-time games, build real-time collaboration tools, and much more. The possibilities are endless!

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