Skip to content

Writing Plugins for NodeBB

So you want to write a plugin for NodeBB, that's fantastic! There are a couple of things you need to know before starting that will help you out.

Like WordPress, NodeBB's plugins are built on top of a hook system in NodeBB. This system exposes parts of NodeBB to plugin creators in a controlled way, and allows them to alter content while it passes through, or execute certain behaviours when triggered.

See the full list of hooks for more information.

Plugin Hooks

There are four types of hooks: filters, actions, static, and response hooks.

  • Filters take an input (provided as a single argument), parse it in some way, and return the changed value.
  • Actions take multiple inputs, and execute actions based on the inputs received. Actions do not return anything.
  • Static hooks are similar to action hooks, except NodeBB will wait for the hook to complete (by calling its passed-in callback) before continuing.
  • Response hooks are similar to action hooks, except that listeners are called one at a time, and ends prematurely if a response is sent to the client.

When you are writing your plugin, make sure a hook exists where you'd like something to happen. If a hook isn't present, file an issue and we'll include it in the next version of NodeBB.

For more information on hooks, please consult the hooks page.

Writing the plugin library

The core of your plugin is your library file, which gets automatically included by NodeBB if your plugin is activated.

Each method you write into your library takes a certain number of arguments, depending on how it is called:

  • Filters send a single argument through to your method, while asynchronous methods can also accept a callback.
  • Actions send a number of arguments (the exact number depends how the hook is implemented). These arguments are listed in the list of hooks <hooks>.

Example library method

If we were to write method that listened for the hook, we'd add the following line to the hooks portion of our plugin.json file:

{ "hook": "", "method": "myMethod" }

Our library would be written like so:

var MyPlugin = {
        myMethod: function(postData) {
            // do something with postData here

module.exports = MyPlugin;

Using NodeBB libraries to enhance your plugin

Occasionally, you may need to use NodeBB's libraries. For example, to verify that a user exists, you would need to call the exists method in the User class. To allow your plugin to access these NodeBB classes, use require.main.require:

var User = require.main.require('./src/user');
User.exists('foobar', function(err, exists) {
    // ...

Installing the plugin

In almost all cases, your plugin should be published in npm, and your package's name should be prefixed "nodebb-plugin-". This will allow users to install plugins directly into their instances by running npm install.

When installed via npm, your plugin must be prefixed with "nodebb-plugin-", or else it will not be found by NodeBB.

Listing your plugin in the NodeBB Package Manager (nbbpm)

All NodeBB's grab a list of downloadable plugins from the NodeBB Package Manager, or nbbpm for short.

When you create your plugin and publish it to npm, it will be picked up by nbbpm, although it will not show up in installs until you specify a compatibility string in your plugin's package.json.

To add this data to package.json, create an object called nbbpm, with a property called compatibility. This property's value is a semver range of NodeBB versions that your plugin is compatible with.

You may not know which versions your plugin is compatible with, so it is best to stick with the version range that your NodeBB is using. For example, if you are developing a plugin against NodeBB v0.8.0, the simplest compatibility string would be:

    "nbbpm": {
        "compatibility": "^0.8.0"

To allow your plugin to be installed in multiple versions of NodeBB, use this type of string:

    "nbbpm": {
        "compatibility": "^0.7.0 || ^0.8.0"

Any valid semver string will work. You can confirm the validity of your semver string at this website:

Linking the plugin

To test the plugin before going through the process of publishing, try linking the plugin into the node_module folder of your instance.

Using the terminal in the folder were you created your plugin, /plugins/my-plugin.

npm link

Then in the source folder were nodebb is installed.

npm link my-plugin

You will then need to build nodebb:

./nodebb build

Your plugin should now be available in admin to be activated.

Adding Custom Hooks

You can use the same hooks sytem that NodeBB uses for plugins to create your own hooks that other plugins can hook into require the plugin library in your code const plugins = require.main.require('./src/plugins'); and then use the command where ever you want them to be.

With this code any plugins can do things to the postData variable by hooking into the filter:myplugin.mymethod as they would a normal function. Once the plugins are done you can continue to work on the variable just as you normally would.

var Plugins = require.main.require('./src/plugins');
var MyPlugin = {
        myMethod: async function(postData) {
            // do something with postData here
            const result = await'filter:myplugin.mymethod', { postData : postData });
            // do more things with postData here


You can run NodeBB in development mode by executing ./nodebb dev or ./nodebb start -dl (the -l just tells NodeBB to immediately show you the live server logs, the -d signifies "development mode").

This will expose the plugin debug logs, allowing you to see if your plugin is loaded, and its hooks registered. Activate your plugin from the administration panel, and test it out.

Attaching a debugger

If supported, breakpoints can be added to plugin files, and investigated using your IDE's built-in debugger. This is useful for seeing the information and variables currently being defined.

The appropriate entry point for a debugger is the app.js file at the root level of the NodeBB installation folder.

Disabling Plugins

You can disable plugins from the ACP, but if your forum is crashing due to a broken plugin you can reset all plugins by executing

./nodebb reset -p

Alternatively, you can disable a single plugin by running

./nodebb reset -p nodebb-plugin-im-broken


./nodebb reset -p broken-plugin