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Npm 7 Now Generally Available, Supports Workspaces and Deterministic Builds

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The recently released npm 7 adds several features requested by developers, e.g. support for workspaces, better support for peer-dependency management, or deterministically reproducible builds. npm 7 is a big release that includes several breaking changes aiming at improving the overall developer experience.

npm 7’s CLI now supports workspaces, i.e. supports managing multiple packages from within a singular top-level, root package. The workspaces implemented by npm are similar to Yarn workspaces and pnpm workspaces. The npm workspace RFC explained:

After sourcing feedback from the community, there are two major implementations/changes required in the npm CLI in order to provide the feature set that would enable better management of nested packages.

  • Make the npm CLI workspace-aware.
  • Install: in an npm workspaces setup, users expect to be able to install all nested packages and perform the associated lifecycle scripts from the top-level workspace; it should also be aware of workspaces that have a dependency on one another and symlink them appropriately

The package.json configuration file now supports a workspaces property that lists a set of paths referencing a workspace in the file system:

{
    "name": "workspace-example",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "workspaces": {
        "packages": [
            "packages/*"
        ]
    }
}

The npm CLI will use the new property to look for valid package.json files at the configured locations and create a list of packages that will be treated as workspaces.

npm install now installs dependencies across workspaces. The RFC provides the following example of npm install output:

// Given this package.json structure:
├── package.json { "workspaces": ["dep-a", "dep-b"] }
├── dep-a
│   └── package.json { "dependencies": { "dep-b": "^1.0.0" } }
└── dep-b
    └── package.json { "version": "1.3.1" }

$ npm install

// Results in this symlinking structure:
├── node_modules
│   ├── dep-a -> ./dep-a
│   └── dep-b -> ./dep-b
├── dep-a
└── dep-b

npm 7 also automatically installs peer dependencies along with packages that peer-depend on them. Prior to npm 7, developers needed to manage and install their own peer dependencies. npm 6 simply prompted developers to do so by displaying a warning. The corresponding RFC detailed the rationale behind the new behavior:

That warning is often misinterpreted as a problem and reported to package maintainers, who in response, sometimes omit the peer-dependency, treating it as effectively an optional dependency instead, but with no checks on its version range or validity.

Furthermore, since the npm installer is not peer-dependency aware, it can design a tree that causes problems when peer dependencies are present.

This proposed algorithm addresses these problems, making peerDependencies a first-class concept and a requirement for package tree validity.

npm 7 additionally ships with a new package-lock format that enables deterministically reproducible builds. In npm v7, the package-lock.json file contains everything npm will need to fully build the package tree.

npm 7 includes changes that may break some workflows. Running npm install with npm 7 in a project with an npm-6 lockfile will replace that lockfile with the new format. This default behavior can be avoided with npm install --no-save. npm 7 will now block package installations if an upstream dependency conflict is present that cannot be automatically resolved.

Developers may install npm 7 by running npm install --global npm in a shell terminal. To install npm 6, they should run instead npm install --global npm@6.

For more details on additional features and breaking changes available in npm 7, interested readers can refer to the full release note.

Yarn, open-sourced by Facebook in October 2016, is a package manager compatible with the public npm registry and uses it by default. Yarn strives to provide different client-side experiences, usually focused on performance and determinism compared to the npm client.

pnpm is an npm-compatible package manager for JavaScript that strives to improve performance and disk space usage.

Created in 2010 as an open-source package manager for Node.js, npm grew to host over 1 million packages in the public npm Registry. npm serves over one billion requests for JavaScript packages per day to approximately 11 million developers worldwide.

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