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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:

  1. Sign up for Twilio and get your first SMS-enabled Twilio phone number
  2. Set up your development environment to send and receive messages
  3. Send your first SMS
  4. Receive inbound text messages
  5. 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.

Show me how it's done!

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."

Buy a twilio phone number.png

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.

Select an SMS-enabled phone number

Super - let's write some JavaScript!

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.js module installed.

Install Node.js

You can check if you already have Node.js installed on your machine by opening up a terminal and running the following command:

node --version

You should see something like:

$ node --version

If you don't have Node.js installed, head over to 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.

All set! Let's send a text message.

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.

        This code creates a new instance of the Message resource and sends an HTTP POST to the Messages resource URI.

        Send an SMS Using Twilio with Node.js

        This code creates a new instance of the Message resource and sends an HTTP POST to the Messages resource URI.

        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 accountSid and authToken with your personal Twilio credentials. Go to 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.

        auth token reveal

        Open send_sms.js and replace the values for accountSid and 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

        Replace the 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:

        node send_sms.js

        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.

        I sent the message! How do I receive them?

        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.

              When your Twilio phone number receives an incoming message, Twilio will send an HTTP request to your server. This code shows how your server can reply with a text message using the Twilio helper library.

              Respond to an incoming text message

              When your Twilio phone number receives an incoming message, Twilio will send an HTTP request to your server. This code shows how your server can reply with a text message using the Twilio helper library.

              Run this server with the following command:

              node server.js

              You'll see that the server starts up on port 1337.

              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.

              OK, let's install the Twilio CLI.

              Install the Twilio CLI

              To install the Twilio CLI, run the following command:

              npm install -g twilio-cli

              Run twilio login to get the Twilio CLI connected to your account. Visit, 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:

              Reveal Your Auth Token

              Now, you can use the CLI to connect your phone number to your Node.js app.

              Let's set up my app to receive messages.

              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 twilio command.

              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.

              It worked! All done - what's next?

              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.

              Happy hacking!

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              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 Community Forums or browsing the Twilio tag on Stack Overflow.


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