Synchronize Node.JS Install Version with Visual Studio 2015

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Visual Studio 2015 is out for download now (and free for individual use)!  It’s been so great to have integrated Grunt and Gulp support, and ES6+ features.  In addition, Visual Studio 2015’s installer has an option to install Node.JS as part of its regular install in order to support the Gulp and Grunt task runners that are built in.  However I ran into an issue today in which I updated Node.JS outside of Visual Studio, but since VS uses its own install that is separate from any outside installation, you can potentially run into a node_modules package dependency issue where one version of npm installs a package (which makes it rely on that version of Node/npm), and then you can’t run commands in the other version (they break).  Specifically, I had an issue with node-sass and windows bindings.  The solution was to point Visual Studio to the version of Node.JS that I had already set up externally to Visual Studio.  Here’s how to synchronize them:

  1. First, find the Node.js installation you already have and use at the command line.  By default, Node.js 0.12.7 installs to “C:\Program Files\nodejs”, as an FYI.
  2. Once you’ve got that all copied out to your clipboard, got to Tools > Options in Visual Studio 2015.
  3. In this dialog, go to Projects and Solutions > External Web Tools to open the dialog that manages all of the 3rd party tools used within VS.  This is where Node.js is pointed to.
  4. Add an entry at the top to the path to the node.js directory to force Visual Studio to use that version instead.

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And that’s it!  Now you’re all synced up!  Having two separate installs is really confusing.  If you’re starting out with JUST the VS Node.js version, you’ll eventually come to a point where you may update node.js by installing it outside VS, causing it to get out of sync anyway.  If you’re a veteran Node.js person, then you’re already using Node outside VS and will need to do this anyway. It seems like there should be better documentation or indicators to show what version VS is using so this is more apparent.

Hope that helped.  Did this fix it for you?  Do you have a better way of keeping this in sync or a plugin/tool to help out?  Let us know in the comments!

Ryan Hayes

Ryan is a Microsoft MVP award winner with over eight years of software experience, working with big-name clients such as Discovery Channel, AOL, Toyota, and the National Academy of Sciences. Ryan has helped teams deliver award-winning applications that drive business processes, site traffic, and profit, putting his experience and creativity to work to build amazing solutions for the enterprise web, desktop and mobile platforms.