Node.js CLI Tutorial


In this tutorial, you will use Node.js to create a task tracker command line interface (CLI) that allows users to:

  • Register themselves with email and password.
  • Sign in to their account with their email and password.
  • View, create, modify, and delete tasks.
  • Watch for changes to the Task collection and get notified in the terminal window when a change occurs.

This tutorial should take around 30 minutes to complete.

Check Out the Quick Start

If you prefer to explore on your own rather than follow a guided tutorial, check out the Quick Start. It includes copyable code examples and the essential information that you need to set up a MongoDB Realm application.

Download the Complete Source Code

We host this tutorial application’s complete and ready-to-compile source code on GitHub. You will need to update the config.js file with your App ID, which you can find in the Realm UI.


Before you begin, ensure you have:

Once you’re set up with these prerequisites, you’re ready to start the tutorial.

A. Define Data Access Permissions and Enable Sync

The backend app is set up with an email/password authentication provider that we can use to let users sign up and log in. Now, we need to define sync rules and enable sync so that sync clients can read and write objects.


Configure Sync

Follow the instructions in the Realm UI to configure sync for your cluster.

  1. Select a Cluster to Sync: Realm Sync applies to the entire cluster. Specify which cluster you want to sync in the dropdown.
  2. Choose a Partition Key: Enter _partition for the partition key. The partition key specifies which realm each object belongs to.
  3. Define Permissions: Select “No template” and leave the default, empty Read and Write rules. In a future tutorial, we will explore more complex permissions patterns.

Save the Configuration and Enable Sync

Click Enable Sync to enable sync.

B. Clone the Client App Repository

We’ve already put together a task tracker CLI application that has most of the code you’ll need. You can clone the client application repository directly from GitHub:

git clone


The main branch is a finished version of the app as it should look after you complete this tutorial. To walk through this tutorial, please check out the todo branch:

git checkout todo

In your terminal, run the following commands to navigate to the task tracker client application and install its dependencies:

cd realm-tutorial/node-cli
npm install

C. Explore the App Structure & Components

The realm-tutorial repo contains task tracker client applications for multiple platforms. The project root for this tutorial is located in the node-cli subdirectory. Open a text editor to explore the directory and files.

This application has a flat project structure: all of the files are in the root directory. In this tutorial, we’ll be focusing on 4 files: config.js, users.js, tasks.js, and watch.js. The other files provide the underlying structure for the CLI. The following table describes the role of each file in this project:

File Purpose
config.js Provides a single location for configuration data. You will put your Realm app ID here.
index.js The entry point for the app. Creates the Realm App that you app will use throughout its lifecycle and displays the initial logon screen.
main.js Displays the main menu of choices.
output.js Responsible for displaying text in the terminal window.
tasks.js Handles all task-related communication between the CLI and Realm. The methods for listing, creating, editing, and deleting tasks live here.
schemas.js Contains the schema definitions for the collections used in this project.
users.js Handles Realm user authentication, including logging in, registering a new user, and logging out.
watch.js Adds a listener to a Realm collection to notify the user when a change occurs.

D. Connect to Your MongoDB Realm App

To get the app working with your backend, you first need to add your Realm App ID to the config.js file. The config.js module exports a single property, realmAppId, which is currently set to “TODO”:

exports.realmAppId = "TODO";

Change this value to your Realm App ID.


To learn how to find your MongoDB Realm appId, read the Find Your App Id doc.

Once you have made that change, you now need to complete the code needed to open a realm. In index.js, find the openRealm function. It will look like this:

async function openRealm() {
   const config = {
      schema: [schemas.TaskSchema, schemas.UserSchema, schemas.ProjectSchema],
      sync: {
         user: users.getAuthedUser(),
         partitionValue: "My Project",
   // TODO: open a realm with these configuration settings.

Replace the TODO line with a line of code that opens a realm and assigns it to the realm property:

realm =;

At this point, your app is pointing to your backend and opens a connection to it when you start the app. However, users cannot yet log in, so let’s update that code next.

E. Enable authentication

In the users.js file, we have a logIn function that prompts the user for an email address and password, and then, within a try-catch block, creates an emailPassword credential and passes it to the Realm logIn() method.

Find the following comment:

// TODO: create new emailPassword credentials and call app.logIn(...)

And add the following code to create a emailPassword credential:

const credentials = Realm.Credentials.emailPassword(,

Immediately below this, add the following code to call the logIn() method:

const user = await app.logIn(credentials);

F. Implement the CRUD methods

In the tasks.js file, there are a number of functions to handle typical CRUD functionality: getTasks, getTask, createTask, deleteTask, editTask, and changeStatus. Each of these functions (except getTasks) prompts the user for input and then makes the appropriate call to Realm. Your job is to implement the calls to Realm. The following list provides guidance on how to complete this task for each function:

  • getTasks

    To get all objects, call the objects() method and pass in the name of the collection:

    const tasks = realm.objects("Task");
  • getTask

    In the Tasks collection, a task’s id field is the primary key, so we call the objectForPrimaryKey() function to get a task by its Id.

    let result = realm.objectForPrimaryKey(
      new bson.ObjectID(
  • createTask

    Whenever we modify an object in realm, we must do so within a transaction. The write() method takes care of transaction handling for us. So, within the write function, we call the create() function, passing in all of the required properties:

    realm.write(() => {
       result = realm.create("Task", {
         _id: new bson.ObjectID(),
         _partition: "My Project",
         status: task.status,


    The write function replaces the need to call the beginTransaction(), commitTransaction(), and cancelTransaction() methods.

  • deleteTask

    Deleting objects must also take place within a transaction. As with modifying an object, we’ll use the write() function to handle the transaction for us, and then call the the delete() function within it:

    realm.write(() => {
      output.result("Task deleted.");
  • modifyTask

    This function is called by both the editTask and changeStatus functions. Like the createTask and deleteTask methods, when you change an object, you do so within a transaction. Other than that, though, there is no specific call to a Realm API to change an object. Rather, you change the local object and Sync ensures the object is updated on the server.

    realm.write(() => {
      task = realm.objectForPrimaryKey("Task", new bson.ObjectID(;
      task[answers.key] = answers.value;


    To learn more about Realm Sync, see Sync Overview.

G. Run and Test

Once you have completed the code, you should run the app and check functionality.

  1. Open a terminal window and change to your app’s directory.

  2. Run the following commands to install all of the dependencies and start the app:

    npm install
    node index.js
  3. Your terminal window will clear and you will see the initial menu prompting you to log in or register as a new user:

    Initial menu
  4. If you do not yet have a user account, enter an email and password, and the system will create a new account and log you in. At this point, you should see the main “menu” of choices. All of the options should now work for you except the “watch” functionality, which we’ll enable in the next section.


If something isn’t working for you, you can check out the main branch of this repo to compare your code with our finished solution.

H. Implement the Collection Listener

A very handy feature in Realm is the ability to add a listener to a collection. The listener notifies your app when a change occurs in the collection. For our CLI, we want to listen for changes on the Tasks collection, and when one occurs, display a notification in the console window. To do this:

  1. In your text editor, open the watch.js file.
  2. Our internal listener function is a callback function that takes two parameters: the collection of tasks and a changes object that is sent from Realm. The changes object has the following properties:
    • changes.deletions returns the index of the deleted item before the deletion.
    • changes.insertions returns the index of the new object.
    • changes.modifications returns the index of the modified object.
  3. In the watchForChanges function, you will get all of the objects in the Tasks collection (just as we did in the getTasks function), and then call the addListener() method. Under the TODO comment, add the following code:
const tasks = realm.objects("Task");

With this code update, you can now re-run the app and watch for changes.

  1. In the main menu, choose “Watch for changes”. You will see that the UI stays in a “waiting” state.
  2. Open a second terminal window and run the app again. In this second window, try creating, modifying, and deleting tasks. Each time you perform an action, the first terminal window will update with a notification.


If you want to continue to work in the same process and have the change notifications appear inline, you can modify the code in main.js, within the case Choices.WatchForChanges handler. The inline code comment explains the change you can make.

What’s Next?