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Package Managers

There are two major package managers currently used for JavaScript / TypeScript projects which leverage NodeJS as a build platform.

Our recommendation is to use yarn but both package managers are fine.

When using npm it is important to use a version greater 5.0 as npm 3 has major drawbacks compared to yarn. The following guide assumes that you are using npm >= 5 or yarn.

Before you start reading further, please take a look at the docs:

The following guide will describe best practices for working with yarn / npm.

Semantic Versioning

When working with package managers it is very important to understand the concept of semantic versioning.

Version example 1.2.3
Version 1. 2. 3

Version name when incrementing

Major (2.0.0)

Minor (1.3.0)

Patch (1.2.4)

Has breaking changes




Has features




Has bug fixes




The table gives an overview of the most important parts of semantic versioning. In the header version 1.2.3 is displayed. The first row shows the name and the resulting version when incrementing a part of the version. The next rows show specifics of the resulting version - e.g. a major version can have breaking changes, features and bug fixes.

Packages from npm and yarn leverage semantic versioning and instead of selecting a fixed version one can specify a selector. The most common selectors are:

  • ^1.2.3 At least 1.2.3 - 1.2.4 or 1.3.0 can be used, 2.0.0 can not be used

  • ~1.2.3 At lease 1.2.3 - 1.2.4 can be used, 2.0.0 and 1.3.0 can not be used

  • >=1.2.3 At least 1.2.3 - every version greater can also be used

This achieves a lower number of duplicates. To give an example:

If package A needs version 1.3.0 of package C and package B needs version 1.4.0 of package C one would end up with 4 packages.

If package A needs version ^1.3.0 of package C and package B needs version 1.4.0 of package C one would end up with 3 packages. A would use the same version of C as B - 1.4.0.

Do not modify package.json and lock files by hand

Dependencies are always added using a yarn or npm command. Altering the package.json, package-json.lock or yarn.lock file by hand is not recommended.

Always use a yarn or npm command to add a new dependency.

Adding the package express with yarn to dependencies.

yarn add express

Adding the package express with npm to dependencies.

npm install express

What does the lock file do

The purpose of files yarn.lock and package-json.lock is to freeze versions for a short time.

The following problem is solved:

  • Developer A upgrades the dependency express to fixed version 4.16.3.

  • express has sub-dependency accepts with version selector ~1.3.5

  • His local node_modules folder receives accepts in version 1.3.5

  • On his machine everything is working fine

  • Afterward version 1.3.6 of accepts is published - it contains a major bug

  • Developer B now clones the repo and loads the dependencies.

  • He receives version 1.3.6 of accepts and blames developer A for upgrading to a broken version.

Both yarn.lock and package-json.lock freeze all the dependencies. For example in yarn lock you will find.

yarn.lock example (excerp)
  version "1.3.5"
  resolved "[...URL to registry]"
    mime-types "~2.1.18"
    negotiator "0.6.1"

  version "1.33.0"
  resolved "[...URL to registry]"

  version "2.1.18"
  resolved "[...URL to registry]"
    mime-db "~1.33.0"

  version "0.6.1"
  resolved "[...URL to registry]"

The described problem is solved by the example yarn.lock file.

  • accepts is frozen at version ~1.3.5

  • All of its sub-dependencies are also frozen. It needs mime-types at version ~2.1.18 which is frozen at 2.1.18. mime-types needs mime-db at ~1.33.0 which is frozen at 1.33.0

Every developer will receive the same versions of every dependency.

You have to make sure all your developers are using the same npm/yarn version - this includes the CI build.