Steve Stone

Developer. Designer. Youth Worker. Nerd.

Local npm packages
July 11, 2017

There are a few scenarios when you may want to “publish” npm packages locally.

  1. Let’s say you’re working on a little module that you don’t really want up on the world-wide-web (at least yet).
  2. You may want to keep a package private but don’t yet have the mulah to fork over to to buy a private package subscription.

Well it turns out it’s pretty easy to “host” a package locally while you’re developing it. Once you have the module made, including a package.json and all of it’s working features, you can add it to another project by doing this little number:

npm i --save ./../packages/my-package -D

This will, in turn, add this to your package.json:

// package.json
  "dependencies": {
    "my-package": "file:../packages/my-package",

Pretty sweat, huh?!

Major drawbacks

Now, this isn’t a perfect solution. But you can use it by yourself in development until you’re ready for the big time! Here are some of the drawbacks that I have found:

Updating is a bit of a pain

npm looks for semver version numbers. If you look above, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have them like a normal package. Therefore local packages don’t update automatically. If you make a change to your local dependency then you have to force update it. That’s okay. The file reference is saved in your package.json, so npm know where to find it. You’ll need to manually delete your node_modules folder and recreate it, ensuring that everything is up-to-date (including the local package you added).

rm -rf node_modules
npm install
npm start

Doesn’t work for teams

You can’t “host” this on a server like this to share. I mean, you probably can, but it would be super inefficient and hacky. If you’re trying to do that then you should look into either paying $7/mo/user over at npm or setting up your own Sinatra server.

It is private though! Ain’t nobody checking this code out.

There you go. It turns out you can “publish” npm packages locally.