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How to build and run the latest NativeScript CLI version from GitHub

July 27, 2016 — by Alexander Ziskind


Since NativeScript is an open source project, you may have been wondering how you can get the repository to your local machine and start contributing. Or perhaps you just want to try out the latest features that are scheduled to come out in the next release. Either way, I’m going to show you how you can grab the latest and greatest bits from the nativescript-cli repository on GitHub and be able to run multiple versions of the CLI on your machine.


Do you have your SSH key generated and saved in your GitHub account? If you don’t know what I’m asking here, then definitely read on.

Do you have Grunt installed? Grunt is required to build the TypeScript code and is really easy to install. If you don’t have it installed, start at Step 1. Otherwise, you can go to Step 2.


  1. Install Grunt
  2. Clone the nativescript-cli repository
  3. Generate SSH key and register it with GitHub
  4. Update Git submodule
  5. Install NPM packages and build

Step 1: Install Grunt

If you already have Grunt installed, then you can skip this step. For those of you that don’t have Grunt installed, you can run the following command. If you’re on a Mac or Linux machine, then you should install as root using the sudo command. If you’re on Windows, then you don’t have to use sudo.

sudo npm install grunt -g


Step 2: Clone the NativeScript CLI Repository

You want to get the latest available code from the code repository hosted on GitHub so you can run the CLI. Go to the directory where you keep your precious code and run the following

This creates the nativescript-cli directory for you and downloads all the code from GitHub

Change to this new directory

cd nativescript-cli


Step 3: Generate SSH key and register it with GitHub

Are you already a GitHub ninja and have SSH keys stored in your GitHub account? If so, then review this step and go to the next one. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, we need to use the smart Git protocol which requires your account to be signed with a key. Here’s what you have to do.

Generate a key using your GitHub account email address

ssh-keygen –t rsa –b 4096 –C [email protected]


When you’re asked to enter the file in which to save the key, the default will be ../.ssh/id_rsa. Go ahead and use the default. You’ll also be asked to enter a passphrase. Please remember what you type here as you’ll definitely need it.

Verify that the SSH Agent is running

eval “$(ssh-agent -s)”


If the agent is running, the process ID will be output to the console.

Add the SSH key to the SSH Agent

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa


This step will ask you for your password that you remembered in the last step. You did remember the password didn’t you?

Add the new SSH public key to your GitHub account

Copy the contents of the public key file to your clipboard

pbcopy < ~/.ssh/


Go to your GitHub account, then find “Settings” in the dropdown that has your picture


On the settings page, click on the “SSH and GPG keys” menu item in the left pane.

Click on the “New SSH key” button

Give your key a title, I usually go with my machine name, so “Alex Mac”

Paste your clipboard contents into the “Key” field. It should look something like this, but with your own public key information, of course.

Click on the “Add SSH key” button to save the key


Step 4: Update Git submodule

We need to add the submodule via the smart git protocol in order to finish building our NativeScript CLI.

git submodule update –init


Now that we’ve added the SSH key to our GitHub account, this command should execute without a permissions error and download all the right objects. If you get a permissions error here, please review Step 3.

Step 5: Install NPM packages and build

Run the following command to get the missing packages listed as dependencies in the package.json file from NPM

npm install


Finally, build everything using the preconfigured Grunt command. You have to have Grunt installed before you can do this, of course. If you don’t, the command line will give you an error. 



You’re all set with the setup.

To check the version of the CLI you’ve just built, run the tns command from the bin directory

bin/tns --version


You should see that the version is the latest one available in the master branch.

Now, if you want to use this newest version to run your NativeScript project in an iOS emulator, for example, you can simply call the tns command from the project directory like this

PATH_TO_CLI_FOLDER/bin/tns run ios --emulator


Video Tutorial

If you want to watch how to do these steps in a video tutorial, you can see it here.