Programmable SMS Quickstart for Node.js
Ahoy there! All messaging transmitted using Twilio’s messaging channels is treated as Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging and subject to Twilio’s Messaging Policy. For detailed information on policy rules to ensure you remain compliant while using Twilio’s services, please see our Acceptable Use Policy.
With just a few lines of code, your Node.js application can send and receive text messages with Twilio Programmable SMS.
This Node.js SMS Quickstart will teach you how to do this using our Communications REST API and the Twilio Node.js helper library.
In this Quickstart, you will learn how to:
- Sign up for Twilio and get your first SMS-enabled Twilio phone number
- Set up your development environment to send and receive messages
- Send your first SMS
- Receive inbound text messages
- Reply to incoming messages with an SMS
Prefer to get started by watching a video? Check out our Node.js SMS Quickstart video on Youtube.
Sign up for Twilio and Get a Twilio Phone Number
If you already have a Twilio account and an SMS-enabled Twilio phone number, you’re all set here! Feel free to jump to the next step.
You can sign up for a free Twilio trial account here.
- When you sign up, you'll be asked to verify your personal phone number. This helps Twilio verify your identity and also allows you to send test messages to your phone from your Twilio account while in trial mode.
- Once you verify your number, you'll be asked a series of questions to customize your experience.
- Once you finish the onboarding flow, you'll arrive at your project dashboard in the Twilio Console. This is where you'll be able to access your Account SID, authentication token, find a Twilio phone number, and more.
If you don't currently own a Twilio phone number with SMS functionality, you'll need to purchase one. After navigating to the Buy a Number page, check the SMS box and click Search.
You’ll then see a list of available phone numbers and their capabilities. Find a number that suits your fancy and click Buy to add it to your account.
If you’ve gone through one of our other Node.js Quickstarts already and have Node.js and the Twilio Node.js helper library installed, you can skip this step and get straight to sending your first text message.
To send your first SMS, you’ll need to have Node.js and the Twilio Node Helper Library installed.
You can check if you already have Node.js version 14 or later installed on your machine by opening up a terminal and running the following command:
You should see something like:
$ node --version v18.1.2
If you don't have Node.js installed, head over to nodejs.org and download the appropriate installer for your system. Once you've installed Node, return to your terminal and run the command above once again. If you don't see the installed node version, you may need to relaunch your terminal.
Install the Twilio Node.js Module
Install the Twilio Node helper library using npm:
npm install twilio
This will install the
twilio module so that Node.js scripts in the current directory can use it.
Send an Outbound SMS Message with Node.js
Now that we have Node.js and the Twilio Node.js library installed, we can send an outbound text message from the Twilio phone number we just purchased with a single API request. Create and open a new file called
send_sms.js and type or paste in this code sample.
You’ll need to edit this file a little more before your message will send:
Replace the placeholder credential values
Swap the placeholder values for
authToken with your personal Twilio credentials. Go to https://www.twilio.com/console and log in. On this page, you’ll find your unique Account SID and Auth Token, which you’ll need any time you send messages through the Twilio client like this.
send_sms.js and replace the values for
authToken with your unique values.
Please note: it's okay to hardcode your credentials when getting started, but you should use environment variables to keep them secret before deploying to production. Check out how to set environment variables for more information.
Replace the "from" phone number
Remember that SMS-enabled phone number you bought just a few minutes ago? Go ahead and replace the existing
from number with that one, making sure to use E.164 formatting:
[+][country code][phone number including area code]
Replace the "to" phone number
to phone number with your mobile phone number. This can be any phone number that can receive text messages, but it’s a good idea to test with your own phone so you can see the magic happen! As above, you should use E.164 formatting for this value.
Save your changes and run this script from your terminal:
That's it! In a few moments, you should receive an SMS from your Twilio number on your phone.
Are your customers in the U.S. or Canada? You can also send them MMS messages by adding just one line of code. Check out this guide to sending MMS to see how it's done.
If you are on a Twilio Trial account, your outgoing SMS messages are limited to phone numbers that you have verified with Twilio. Phone numbers can be verified via your Twilio Console's Verified Caller IDs.
Receive and Reply to Inbound SMS Messages with Express
When your Twilio number receives an incoming message, Twilio will send an HTTP request to a server you control. This callback mechanism is known as a webhook. When Twilio sends your application a request, it expects a response in the TwiML XML format telling it how to respond to the message. Let's see how we would build this in Node.js using Express.
On the command line in your current directory, run the following command:
npm install express
Create a file called
server.js and use the following code to create a server that can handle incoming messages.
Run this server with the following command:
You'll see that the server starts up on port 3000.
Before Twilio can send your application webhook requests, you'll need to make your application accessible over the Internet. While you can do that in any number of ways, we recommend using the Twilio CLI during local development. We'll show you how to set that up next so your app can receive messages.
Install the Twilio CLI
The suggested way to install
twilio-cli on macOS is to use Homebrew. If you don’t already have it installed, visit the Homebrew site for installation instructions and then return here.
Once you have installed Homebrew, run the following command to install
brew tap twilio/brew && brew install twilio
The suggested way to install
twilio-cli is by using Scoop, a command-line installer for Windows. If you don’t already have it installed, visit the Scoop site for installation instructions and then return here.
Note PowerShell will need to be run as an administrator to avoid common permission issues when installing via Scoop.
- Add the
scoop bucket add twilio-scoop https://github.com/twilio/scoop-twilio-cli
- Install the app:
scoop install twilio
twilio-cli can be installed using the Advanced Package Tool (
apt) on most distributions such as Debian, Ubuntu, and Mint.
To do so, run the following commands in your terminal:
wget -qO- https://twilio-cli-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/twilio_pub.asc \ | sudo apt-key add - sudo touch /etc/apt/sources.list.d/twilio.list echo 'deb https://twilio-cli-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/apt/ /' \ | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/twilio.list sudo apt update sudo apt install -y twilio
For other installation methods, see the Twilio CLI Quickstart.
twilio login to get the Twilio CLI connected to your account. Visit https://www.twilio.com/console, and you’ll find your unique Account SID and Auth Token to provide to the CLI.
You can reveal your auth token by clicking on the eyeball icon:
Now, you can use the CLI to connect your phone number to your Node.js app.
Configure Your Webhook URL
Now, you need to configure your Twilio phone number to call your webhook URL whenever a new message comes in. Just run this CLI command, replacing the phone number with your Twilio phone number:
twilio phone-numbers:update "+15017122661" --sms-url="http://localhost:1337/sms"
What's happening here?
We're using the Twilio CLI to set the SMS webhook URL for your phone number. Twilio will make a request to this URL whenever a new SMS message is received. The CLI is also using ngrok to create a tunnel to allow Twilio to reach your local development server (aka "localhost").
You can also use the Twilio console to set a webhook in your web browser, but you will have to start up ngrok yourself.
Test Your Application
Make sure you are running on the command line (in separate tabs) both
node server.js and your
With both of those servers running, we’re ready for the fun part - testing our new Express application!
Send an SMS from your mobile phone to your Twilio phone number that's configured with this webhook. You should see an HTTP request in your ngrok console. Your Express app will process the text message, and you’ll get your response back as an SMS.
Where to next?
Now that you know the basics of sending and receiving SMS and MMS text messages with Node.js, you might want to check out these resources.
- REST API documentation
- TwiML reference docs
- Tutorials with full sample applications in Node.js
- Send a Text in Node in 30 Seconds with Twilio
- How to Receive and Respond to Text Messages with Node.js, Express and Twilio
Need some help?
We all do sometimes; code is hard. Get help now from our support team, or lean on the wisdom of the crowd by visiting Twilio's Stack Overflow Collective or browsing the Twilio tag on Stack Overflow.