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What is N-API and How to use it in nodejs

N-API (Node.js API) is an API for building native addons in Node.js. Native addons are compiled code that is written in languages like C or C++ and can be loaded into Node.js applications to provide additional functionality, typically for performance-critical operations or to access system-level resources that are not available in JavaScript. e.g. Sharp library uses N-API to process images.

Key Features of N-API

  1. ABI Stability: N-API provides a stable Application Binary Interface (ABI) that ensures addons built with one version of Node.js will run with future versions without recompilation.
  2. Ease of Use: It abstracts the complexities of interfacing with V8 (the JavaScript engine that powers Node.js), making it easier to write native code that interacts with JavaScript.
  3. Cross-Version Compatibility: Addons developed with N-API work across different versions of Node.js, reducing the need to maintain multiple versions of the same addon.
  4. Better Integration with Node.js: N-API provides a set of functions for handling data types, managing the lifecycle of objects, and working with the event loop, timers, and other core Node.js features.

How N-API Works

N-API functions are included in the node_api.h header file. To use N-API, you need to include this header in your C or C++ source code. The basic workflow involves:

  1. Initializing the Module: Define the initialization function for your module. This function is called when the module is loaded into the Node.js runtime.
  2. Defining Functions and Objects: Define the functions and objects that will be exposed to the JavaScript environment.
  3. Building the Addon: Compile the C or C++ code into a binary that can be loaded by Node.js.


Here's a simple example of a Node.js addon using N-API:

1. Install Dependencies

First, install the necessary dependencies:

npm install node-addon-api

2. Create the C++ Addon

Create a file called addon.cc:

#include <napi.h>

// Function to add two numbers
Napi::Value Add(const Napi::CallbackInfo& info) {
  Napi::Env env = info.Env();

  // Check if arguments are numbers
  if (!info[0].IsNumber() || !info[1].IsNumber()) {
    Napi::TypeError::New(env, "Number expected").ThrowAsJavaScriptException();
    return env.Null();

  // Get the arguments as numbers
  double arg0 = info[0].As<Napi::Number>().DoubleValue();
  double arg1 = info[1].As<Napi::Number>().DoubleValue();

  // Return the sum
  Napi::Number returnValue = Napi::Number::New(env, arg0 + arg1);
  return returnValue;

// Initialize the module
Napi::Object Init(Napi::Env env, Napi::Object exports) {
  exports.Set(Napi::String::New(env, "add"), Napi::Function::New(env, Add));
  return exports;

// Register the module
NODE_API_MODULE(addon, Init)

3. Create the binding.gyp File

This file tells the build tool how to build your addon:

  "targets": [
      "target_name": "addon",
      "sources": ["addon.cc"],
      "include_dirs": ["<!@(node -p \"require('node-addon-api').include\")"],
      "dependencies": ["<!(node -p \"require('node-addon-api').gyp\")"],
      "cflags!": ["-fno-exceptions"],
      "cflags_cc!": ["-fno-exceptions"],
      "defines": ["NAPI_DISABLE_CPP_EXCEPTIONS"]

4. Build the Addon

Run the following command to build the addon:

npm install

This will generate a build/Release/addon.node file.

5. Use the Addon in Node.js

Create a test.js file to use the addon:

const addon = require('./build/Release/addon');

console.log('1 + 2 =', addon.add(1, 2));

Run the test.js file:

node test.js

You should see the output:

1 + 2 = 3
Published on: Jul 10, 2024, 11:04 AM  


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