Question:

I want to run a very simple HTTP server. Every GET request to example.com should get index.html served to it but as a regular HTML page (i.e., same experience as when you read normal web pages).

Using the code below, I can read the content of index.html. How do I serve index.html as a regular web page?

var http = require('http');
var fs = require('fs');
var index = fs.readFileSync('index.html');

http.createServer(function (req, res) {
  res.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'text/plain'});
  res.end(index);
}).listen(9615);

Solution:

Simplest Node.js server is just:

$ npm install http-server -g

Now you can run a server via the following commands:

$ cd MyApp

$ http-server

If you’re using NPM 5.2.0 or newer, you can use http-server without installing it with npx. This isn’t recommended for use in production but is a great way to quickly get a server running on localhost.

$ npx http-server

Or, you can try this, which opens your web browser and enables CORS requests:

$ http-server -o --cors

For more options, check out the documentation for http-server on GitHub, or run:

$ http-server --help

Lots of other nice features and brain-dead-simple deployment to NodeJitsu.

Feature Forks

Of course, you can easily top up the features with your own fork. You might find it’s already been done in one of the existing 800+ forks of this project:

Light Server: An Auto Refreshing Alternative

A nice alternative to http-server is light-server. It supports file watching and auto-refreshing and many other features.

$ npm install -g light-server 
$ light-server

Add to your directory context menu in Windows Explorer

 reg.exe add HKCR\Directory\shell\LightServer\command /ve /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /f /d "\"C:\nodejs\light-server.cmd\" \"-o\" \"-s\" \"%V\""

Simple JSON REST server

If you need to create a simple REST server for a prototype project then json-server might be what you’re looking for.

Auto Refreshing Editors

Most web page editors and IDE tools now include a web server that will watch your source files and auto refresh your web page when they change.

I use Live Server with Visual Studio Code.

The open source text editor Brackets also includes a NodeJS static web server. Just open any HTML file in Brackets, press “Live Preview” and it starts a static server and opens your browser at the page. The browser will auto refresh whenever you edit and save the HTML file. This especially useful when testing adaptive web sites. Open your HTML page on multiple browsers/window sizes/devices. Save your HTML page and instantly see if your adaptive stuff is working as they all auto refresh.

Web / SPA / PWA / Mobile / Desktop / Browser Ext Web Developers

Some SPA frameworks include a built in version of the Webpack DevServer that can detect source file changes and trigger an incremental rebuild and patch (called hot reloading) of your SPA or PWA web app. Here’s a few popular SPA frameworks that can do this.

VueJS Developers

For VueJS developers, a favorite is Quasar Framework that includes the Webpack DevServer out of the box with switches to support server-side rendering (SSR) and proxy rules to cure your CORS issues. It includes a large number of optimized components designed to adapt for both Mobile and Desktop. These allows you to build one app for ALL platforms (SPA, SPA+SSR, PWA, PWA+SSR, Cordova and Capacitor Mobile AppStore apps, Electron Desktop Node+VueJS apps and even Browser extensions).

Another popular one is NuxtJS that also supports static HTML/CSS code generation as well as SSR or no-SSR build modes with plugins for other UI component suites.

React Framework Developers

ReactJS developers can also setup hot reloading.

Cordova/Capacitor + Ionic Framework Developers

Iconic is a mobile only hybrid component framework that now supports VueJS, React and Angular development. A local server with auto refresh features is baked into the ionic tool. Just run ionic serve from your app folder. Even better … ionic serve --lab to view auto-refreshing side by side views of both iOS and Android.