Operations: Development Mode & REPL


To enable development mode simply set developmentMode: true in your config/api.js.

ActionHero's development mode is a little different than tools like nodemon in that it tries hard not to restart the server process. Changes to routes, tasks, and actions can simply replace those in memory when they are updated on disk. Other changes, like changes to api.config or initializers are more severe, and will restart the whole application (much like nodemon).

Note that api.config.general.developmentMode is different from NODE_ENV, which by default is "development" (and is logged out when ActionHero boots). NODE_ENV is used to determine which config settings to use, and has no effect on developmentMode.

Effects of Development Mode

Development mode, when enabled, will poll for changes in your actions, tasks and initializers, and reload them on the fly.

Changes to Actions and Tasks will override the existing version in memory. Changes to an initializer or config will reboot your server automatically.

  • Development Mode uses fs.watchFile() and may not work on all OSs / file systems.
  • New files won't be loaded in, only existing files when the app was booted will be monitored
  • As deleting a file might crash your application, we will not attempt to re-load deleted files
  • If you have changed the task.frequency of a periodic task, you will continue to use the old value until the task fires at least once after the change
  • Changing api.config, initializers, or servers, will attempt to do a "full" reboot the server rather than just reload that component.

Watching custom files

api.watchFileAndAct(path_to_file, function(){
  api.log('rebooting due to config change: ' + path_to_file, 'info');

You can use ActionHero's api.watchFileAndAct() method to watch additional files your application may have:


You can use the awesome node-inspector project to help you debug your ActionHero application within the familiar Chrome Browser's developer tools.

Be sure to run ActionHero with node's --debug flag, ie: node ./node_modules/.bin/actionhero start --debug

// in package.json
"dependencies": {
  "actionhero": "x",
  "node-inspector": "x"

Start up node-inspector (both node-inspector and ActionHero have the same default port, so you will need to change one of them) ./node_modules/.bin/node-inspector --web-port=1234

That's it! Now you can visit and start debugging. Remember that the way node-debugger works has you first set a breakpoint in the file view, and then you can use the console to inspect various objects. IE: I put a breakpoint in the default status action in the run method:


actionhero console

Running "console" task
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - notice: *** starting actionhero ***
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - warning: running with fakeredis
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - info: actionhero member has joined the cluster
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - notice: pid: 38464
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - notice: server ID:
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - info: ensuring the existence of the chatRoom: defaultRoom
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - info: ensuring the existence of the chatRoom: anotherRoom
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - notice: environment: development
2015-11-14 17:48:01 - notice: *** Server Started @ 2015-11-14 17:48:01 ***
[ AH::development ] > api.id

[ AH::development ] > Object.keys(api.actions.actions)
[ ‘cacheTest',
‘status' ]

ActionHero now has a REPL (v9.0.0+)! This means you can spin up a new instance of ActionHero and manually call all the methods on the api namespace. This combined with the new RPC tools make this a powerful debugging and development tool. Running ActionHero console will load up a version of action hero in your terminal where you have access to the api object. This version of the server will boot, initialize, and start, but will skip booting any servers.

The REPL will:

  • source NODE_ENV properly to load the config
  • will connect to redis and load any user-defined initializers
  • will load any plugins
  • will not boot any servers

If you are familiar with rails, this is very similar to rails console