Angular is closely associated with its command-line interface (CLI). The CLI streamlines generation of the Angular file system. It deals with most of the configuration behind the scenes so developers can start coding. The CLI also has a low learning curve recommendable for any newcomer wanting to jump right in. Heck, even experienced Angular developers rely on the CLI!


The Angular CLI requires Node.js and Node Packet Manager (NPM). You can check for these programs with the terminal command: node -v; npm -v. Once installed, open a terminal and install the Angular CLI with this command: npm install -g @angular/cli. This can executed from anywhere on your system. The CLI is configured for global use with the -g flag.

Verify the CLI is there with the command: ng -v. This outputs several lines of information. One of these lines state the version of the installed CLI.

Recognize that ng is the basic building block of the CLI. All your commands will begin with ng. Time to take a look at four of the most common commands prefixed with ng.

Key Commands

  • ng new
  • ng serve
  • ng generate
  • ng build
  • ng update

The key terms for each of these are quite telling. Together, they comprise what you will need to hit the ground running with Angular. Of course, there are many more. All commands are outlined in the CLI’s GitHub Documentation1. You will likely find that the commands listed above will cover the necessary bases.

ng new

ng new creates a new Angular file system. This is a surreal process. Please navigate to a file location desirable for new application generation. Type this command as follows, replacing [name-of-app] with whatever you want: ng new [name-of-app].

A file system under the folder [name-of-app] should appear. Feel free to explore what lies within. Try to not make any changes yet. All of what you need to run your first Angular application comes packaged together in this generated file system.

ng serve

To get the application running, the ng serve command must execute within the [name-of-app] folder. Anywhere within the folder will do. The Angular CLI must recognize that it is within an environment generated with ng new. It will run provided this one condition. Go ahead and try it: ng serve.

The application runs on port 4200 by default. You can view the Angular application by navigating to localhost:4200 in any web browser. Angular works across all browsers. Unless you are using an old version of Internet Explorer, the application will pop up. It displays the official Angular logo alongside a list of helpful links.

Ok, the application runs. It hopefully functions, but you need to know what is going on under the hood. Refer back to the [name-of-app] file system. Navigate [name-of-app] -> src -> app. Therein lies the files responsible for what you saw on localhost:4200.

ng generate

The .component files define an Angular component including its logic (.ts), style (.css), layout (.html), and testing (.spec.ts). The app.module.ts particularly stands out. Together, these two groups of files work together as component and module. Both component and module are two separate examples of Angular schematics. Schematics classify the different purpose-driven blocks of code generatable with ng generate.

For the sake of this article, understand that a module exports and imports assets to and from an underlying component tree. A component concerns itself with one section of the user interface. That unit’s logic, style, layout, and testing stays encapsulated within the various .component files.

As for ng generate, this command can generate skeletons for each of the available Angular schematics2. Navigate to [name-of-app -> src -> app]. Try generating a new component by executing: ng generate component [name-of-component]. Replace [name-of-component] with whatever you would like. A new file [name-of-component] will pop up along with its necessary component files.

You can see that ng generateexpedites Angular’s boilerplate code. ng generate also wires things up. Schematics created within context of an Angular file system connect with the system’s root module. In this case, that would be app.module.ts file inside [name-of-app -> src -> app].

ng build

Angular is a front end tool. The CLI performs its operations on behalf of the front end. ng serve takes care of the back end server setup. This keeps development entirely focused on the front end. That said, connecting your own back end to the Angular application must also be possible.

ng build fulfills this need. Before trying it out inside of the file system. Navigate to [name-of-app] -> angular.json. Look for this single line of code: "outputPath": "dist/my-app".

This one line of configuration determines where ng build dumps its results. The results being the entire Angular application compiled into one folder dist/my-app. Inside of that folder, there exists index.html. The whole Angular application can run with index.html. No ng serve is necessary from here. With this file, you can easily wire up your back end.

Give it a go: ng build. Again, this must execute within the Angular file system. Based of the key value of “outputPath:” in angular.json. A file will generate wherein the original application is fully compiled. If you kept “outputPath:” the same, the compiled application will be in: [name-of-app] -> dist -> [name-of-app].

ng update

In angular cli ng update do automatic updation on all the angular and npm packages to latest versions.

Here is the syntax and options can be used with ng update.

ng update [package]


  • dry-run --dry-run (alias: -d)
    Run through without making any changes.
  • force --force
    If false, will error out if installed packages are incompatible with the update.
  • all --all
    Whether to update all packages in package.json.
  • next --next
    Use the largest version, including beta and RCs.
  • migrate-only --migrate-only
    Only perform a migration, does not update the installed version.
  • from --from
    Version from which to migrate from. Only available with a single package being updated, and only on migration only.
  • to --to
    Version up to which to apply migrations. Only available with a single package being updated, and only on migrations only. Requires from to be specified. Default to the installed version detected.
  • registry --registry
    The NPM registry to use.

These commands cover the basics. Angular’s CLI is an incredible convenience that expedites application generation, configuration, and expansion. It does all this while maintaining flexibility, allowing the developer to make necessary changes.

Please check out those links on localhost:4200 if you have not already. Do not forget to run ng serve before opening it up. With a better understanding of the CLI, you are now ready to learn more about what is generated by its most essential commands.

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