NPM Notes, Tips & Tricks

Just a fun trivia to begin with!

NPM downloads yesterday (23 Mar, 2017): 369 million.
NuGet downloads in the last week: 55 million.

Don't we love the Node Package Manager - NPM & Open Source Software in general?

Open Source Rocks

This article focuses on some of the cool tips and tricks related to NPM and I hope you find it helpful.

Package vs. Module

A Package is a just a directory with one more files in it along with a package.json file that contains metadata about the package. A Module on the other hand... is just a simple file. Every file is treated as a separate module and in Node.js file:module is a 1:1 proposition.

Initialize > Install > Start

A typical flow for a Node.js application when you start from scratch is:
- Initialize using npm init which in turn creates a package.json file.
- Install dependencies using npm install or npm install --save or npm install --save-dev. --save switch will save the information about the package in dependencies section, whereas --save-dev switch saves it under devDependencies section.

Can you guess which switches have been used below?

[npm-demo] $ cat package.json 
  "name": "npm-demo",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "description": "",
  "main": "index.js",
  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
  "author": "",
  "license": "ISC",
  "dependencies": {
    "express": "^4.15.2",
    "lodash": "^4.17.4"
  "devDependencies": {
    "underscore": "^1.8.3"

Clone > Install > Start

Usually, you would clone a repository, install the dependencies and do an npm start like so:

  • Step 1: git clone (switch to the folder which has package.json)
  • Step 2: npm install to install dependencies.
  • Step 3: npm start to start the application.

This is pretty cool, no?

start, test, init

npm start: Starts your application based on scripts section in the package.json file.
npm test: Execute your tests.
npm init: Execute your initialization code.

Notice the presence of start, test and init in package.json for Ghost.

  "scripts": {
    "start": "node index",
    "test": "grunt validate --verbose",
    "init": "npm install -g knex-migrator ember-cli grunt-cli && npm install && grunt init"

Getting Help

  • npm -h or npm -help: Shows brief help.
  • npm -h install: Shows brief help about a switch.
  • npm help install: Shows detailed help about a switch.
  • npm help-search remove: Searches for a keyword, in this case: remove, assuming you want to know which commands help you remove.
[Ghost] $ npm help-search remove
Top hits for "remove"  
npm help config                                                         remove:6  
npm help unpublish                                                      remove:5  
npm help uninstall                                                      remove:5  
npm help index                                                          remove:4  
npm help prune                                                          remove:4  
npm help removing-npm                                                   remove:2  
npm help bundle                                                         remove:2  
npm help publish                                                        remove:1  
npm help team                                                           remove:1  
npm help owner                                                          remove:1  
npm help package.json                                                   remove:1  
npm help coding-style                                                   remove:1  
npm help install                                                        remove:1  
npm help disputes                                                       remove:1  
npm help dist-tag                                                       remove:1  
npm help access                                                         remove:1  
(run with -l or --long to see more context)

Now you can check the different commands like prune, unpublish, removing-npm, etc.

NPM Default Configuration

  • npm config list: List all configuration defaults.
  • npm config edit --global: View all the NPM configuration defaults.
; npm userconfig file
; this is a simple ini-formatted file
; lines that start with semi-colons are comments.
; read `npm help config` for help on the various options


; all options with default values
; access=null
; always-auth=false
; also=null
; auth-type=legacy
; bin-links=true
; browser=null
; ca=null
; cafile=undefined
; cache=/Users/rahulsoni/.npm
; cache-lock-stale=60000
; cache-lock-retries=10
; cache-lock-wait=10000
; cache-max=null
; cache-min=10
; cert=null
; color=true
; depth=null
; description=true
; dev=false
; dry-run=false
; editor=vi
; engine-strict=false
; force=false
; fetch-retries=2
; fetch-retry-factor=10
; fetch-retry-mintimeout=10000
; fetch-retry-maxtimeout=60000
; git=git
; git-tag-version=true
; global=false
; globalconfig=/usr/local/etc/npmrc
; global-style=false
; group=20
; heading=npm
; if-present=false
; ignore-scripts=false
; init-module=/Users/rahulsoni/.npm-init.js
; init-author-name=
; init-author-email=
; init-author-url=
; init-version=1.0.0
; init-license=ISC
; json=false
; key=null
; legacy-bundling=false
; link=false
; local-address=undefined
; loglevel=warn
; logs-max=10
; long=false
; maxsockets=50
; message=%s
; metrics-registry=null
; node-version=4.2.3
; onload-script=null
; only=null
; optional=true
; parseable=false
; prefix=/usr/local
; production=false
; progress=true
; proprietary-attribs=true
; proxy=null
; https-proxy=null
; user-agent=npm/{npm-version} node/{node-version} {platform} {arch}
; rebuild-bundle=true
; registry=
; rollback=true
; save=false
; save-bundle=false
; save-dev=false
; save-exact=false
; save-optional=false
; save-prefix=^
; scope=
; scripts-prepend-node-path=warn-only
; searchopts=
; searchexclude=null
; searchlimit=20
; searchstaleness=900
; send-metrics=false
; shell=/bin/bash
; shrinkwrap=true
; sign-git-tag=false
; sso-poll-frequency=500
; sso-type=oauth
; strict-ssl=true
; tag=latest
; tag-version-prefix=v
; tmp=/var/folders/w7/rcgmhk4j2sv1sxq5_dv1tr1c000ddd/T
; unicode=true
; unsafe-perm=true
; usage=false
; user=0
; userconfig=/Users/rahulsoni/.npmrc
; umask=18
; version=false
; versions=false
; viewer=man
; _exit=true
; globalignorefile=/usr/local/etc/npmignore
  • npm config get userconfig: Gives you the path of the .npmrc file which contains all the configuration information.
  • npm config get maxsockets: Gives you details about maxsockets configuration inside of the .npmrc file. You can similarly get any key, or set it using npm config set command.

NPM Install

  • npm install lodash: Install the package called lodash.
  • npm install lodash -g: Install the package globally.
  • npm list: List the entire dependency tree of all the installed packages.
  • npm list -depth 1: Shows only the list of dependencies till depth 1.
  • npm list -depth 0 -dev: Shows only root level development dependencies.
  • npm list -g -depth 0: Shows the global dependencies.
  • npm list -g -depth 0 -long: Shows a lot more details about the installed dependencies.

- You might need to use sudo to install with a -g switch.
- You can use -D instead of --save-dev switch and -S for --save.

NPM Update

  • npm update: Updates all the dependencies.
  • npm update --dev -S: Updates all the dev dependencies.
  • npm update --prod -S: Updates all the prod dependencies.
  • npm update -g: Updates all the global dependencies.
  • npm install package@x.x.x - Install a specific version.

NPM Uninstall

  • npm uninstall package --save and npm uninstall package --save-dev uninstalls the package from your folder and updates the package.json file.
  • npm uninstall package -g uninstalls a global package.
  • npm cache clean: Cleans the npm cache.

I hope this helps. Do you know of a command that you use often or other tips that can help? Please post it in the comments section.

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Rahul Soni

⌘⌘ Entrepreneur. Author. Geek. ⌘⌘

Kolkata, India

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