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Migration tutorial

The objective of this tutorial is to give you a good idea of the steps necessary and the tools available to migrate an existing NAN Node native add-on module to N-API using the node-addon-api package.

This tutorial uses the conversion tool supplied with N-API to give you a head start on the migration. However, the conversion tool will only get you so far. Further manual cleanup is still required as described below.

To keep things somewhat constrained, this tutorial uses node-microtime which is a simple NAN-based native add-on. This add-on makes system calls to determine the current time to microsecond resolution if supported by the operating system.

Before you start, make sure you’ve got all the necessary prerequisites and tools installed.

N-API has been in public release and active development starting with Node 8.0.0. Since then, it’s undergone a number of refinements. This tutorial has been tested with Node 10.1.0 and is known to fail with older versions of Node. You can determine the version of Node you’re running with the command node -v.

Clone node-microtime

As a first step, clone the node-microtime GitHub repository to your system:

git clone

Before we make our modifications, it’s a good idea to first build and test node-microtime to help verify that the necessary development tools have been correctly installed and configured.

Since node-microtime has already migrated to node-addon-api, you have to move to tag v2.1.9 in order to follow the tutorial.

cd node-microtime
git checkout tags/v2.1.9
npm install
npm test

The npm install command invokes the build process and npm test runs the code. You may see compiler warnings that do not affect the ability to run the code. When successfully built and run, you should see output that looks something like this: = 1526334357974754
microtime.nowDouble() = 1526334357.976626
microtime.nowStruct() = [ 1526334357, 976748 ]

Guessing clock resolution...
Clock resolution observed: 1us

Run the conversion tool

Once the basic operation of the code has been verified, the next step is to run the N-API Conversion Tool. Be aware that the conversion tool replaces files in place. Never run the conversion tool on the only copy of your project. And obviously, you want to run it only once.

npm install --save node-addon-api
node ./node_modules/node-addon-api/tools/conversion.js ./

For this small project, the conversion tool runs very quickly. At this point, the conversion tool has modified the following project files:

  • binding.gyp
  • package.json
  • src/

Go ahead and rebuild the converted code:

npm install

As you’ll see, there are one or more compile errors that need to be addressed. There can be quite a few at times, but nothing insurmountable.


The conversion tool cannot anticipate every coding situation. So there will typically be issues that need to be addressed manually. Below are the issues you’re likely to encounter with this project. The best approach is to address each issue, one at a time, and attempt the npm install after addressing each issue until there are no more errors.

Cannot find module ‘nan’

This error, and its counterpart where napi.h cannot be found, is due to code missing in the bind.gyp file. For this project, you’ll see this code in the binding.gyp:

'include_dirs' : [ '<!(node -e "require(\'nan\')")' ]

The C/C++ include directories are still pointing to NAN. They need to point to N-API instead. The line above should be replaced with this line:

'include_dirs' : [ "<!@(node -p \"require('node-addon-api').include\")" ]

On other projects you may receive an error where napi.h cannot be found. The cause is the same as this one. The include_dirs property of each target must include the reference to node-addon-api as shown above.

Use of undeclared identifier ‘env’

The three C++ functions—Now, NowDouble, and NowStruct—each make a reference to the env variable which is not defined. env is meant to hold the N-API Environment variable which is essential to nearly all N-API calls. The value for env can be easily obtained from the Napi::CallbackInfo argument passed to each C++ function. One technique to correct this error is to add the following code as the first line in the body of each function:

  Napi::Env env = info.Env();

An alternative would be to replace each instance of env in the three functions with info.Env(). The choice is yours.

Use of void as the return value

Each of the three C++ functions—Now, NowDouble, and NowStruct are defined to return a void value. In fact, they should each be returning a JavaScript value. The best way to accomplish this is by replacing the void with Napi::Value. This permits each of the functions to return a JavaScript value of undetermined type. It could be any JavaScript value including String, Number, Boolean, Array, etc. Here’s what they should look like:

Napi::Value Now(const Napi::CallbackInfo&info) {
Napi::Value NowDouble(const Napi::CallbackInfo&info) {
Napi::Value NowStruct(const Napi::CallbackInfo&info) {

A new way to define exports

N-API uses a different technique for defining the exports object.

The code:

Napi::Export(target, "now", Now);
Napi::Export(target, "nowDouble", NowDouble);
Napi::Export(target, "nowStruct", NowStruct);

Needs to be replaced with:

exports.Set(Napi::String::New(env,"now"), Napi::Function::New(env, Now));
exports.Set(Napi::String::New(env,"nowDouble"), Napi::Function::New(env, NowDouble));
exports.Set(Napi::String::New(env,"nowStruct"), Napi::Function::New(env, NowStruct));

exports is a Napi::Object which represents a JavaScript object. The Set method sets the value of properties on the object and takes two arguments, the name of the property and its value. These two arguments must both be JavaScript values.

One more change is critical to the operation of N-API. The InitAll function must return the exports variable. This line must appear as the last line in the body of the function:

return exports;

Failure to add this line will likely result in a segfault error at runtime.

Replacement for ErrnoException

The NAN ErrnoException object does not exist in N-API. The existing code looks like:

Napi::Error::New(env, Napi::ErrnoException(errno, "gettimeofday")).ThrowAsJavaScriptException();

But it can easily be replaced with code that looks like this:

std::string msg =  "gettimeofday: " + std::string(strerror(errno));
Napi::Error::New(env, msg).ThrowAsJavaScriptException();

Final check

Once the code compiles without error, test the changes you’ve made:

npm test

You should see results similar to those from before the migration.

Congratulations! You’ve just converted your first NAN module to N-API.


Admittedly, this tutorial just scratches the surface on migrating NAN modules to N-API. However, the basic approach is the same. Run the conversion, attempt a compile, address the errors, compile again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


There are number of good resources to help you better understand N-API as you migrate your own modules:

The node-addon-api Home Page

node-addon-api Documentation

node-addon-api Examples

node-addon-api Test Code

Each of these resources is maintained by the N-API Team.