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npm-package-locks - An explanation of npm lockfiles

Conceptually, the "input" to npm help install is a npm help 5 package.json, while its "output" is a fully-formed node_modules tree: a representation of the dependencies you declared. In an ideal world, npm would work like a pure function: the same package.json should produce the exact same node_modules tree, any time. In some cases, this is indeed true. But in many others, npm is unable to do this. There are multiple reasons for this:
different versions of npm (or other package managers) may have been used to install a package, each using slightly different installation algorithms.
a new version of a direct semver-range package may have been published since the last time your packages were installed, and thus a newer version will be used.
A dependency of one of your dependencies may have published a new version, which will update even if you used pinned dependency specifiers ( 1.2.3 instead of ^1.2.3)
The registry you installed from is no longer available, or allows mutation of versions (unlike the primary npm registry), and a different version of a package exists under the same version number now.
As an example, consider package A:
  "name": "A",
  "version": "0.1.0",
  "dependencies": {
    "B": "<0.1.0"
package B:
  "name": "B",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "dependencies": {
    "C": "<0.1.0"
and package C:
  "name": "C",
  "version": "0.0.1"
If these are the only versions of A, B, and C available in the registry, then a normal npm install A will install:
`-- B@0.0.1
    `-- C@0.0.1
However, if is published, then a fresh npm install A will install:
`-- B@0.0.2
    `-- C@0.0.1
assuming the new version did not modify B's dependencies. Of course, the new version of B could include a new version of C and any number of new dependencies. If such changes are undesirable, the author of A could specify a dependency on . However, if A's author and B's author are not the same person, there's no way for A's author to say that he or she does not want to pull in newly published versions of C when B hasn't changed at all.
To prevent this potential issue, npm uses npm help 5 package-lock.json or, if present, npm help 5 shrinkwrap.json. These files are called package locks, or lockfiles.
Whenever you run npm install, npm generates or updates your package lock, which will look something like this:
  "name": "A",
  "version": "0.1.0",
  ...metadata fields...
  "dependencies": {
    "B": {
      "version": "0.0.1",
      "resolved": "",
      "integrity": "sha512-DeAdb33F+"
      "dependencies": {
        "C": {
          "version": "git://"
This file describes an exact, and more importantly reproducible node_modules tree. Once it's present, any future installation will base its work off this file, instead of recalculating dependency versions off npm help 5 package.json.
The presence of a package lock changes the installation behavior such that:
The module tree described by the package lock is reproduced. This means reproducing the structure described in the file, using the specific files referenced in "resolved" if available, falling back to normal package resolution using "version" if one isn't.
The tree is walked and any missing dependencies are installed in the usual fashion.
If preshrinkwrap, shrinkwrap or postshrinkwrap are in the scripts property of the package.json, they will be executed in order. preshrinkwrap and shrinkwrap are executed before the shrinkwrap, postshrinkwrap is executed afterwards. These scripts run for both package-lock.json and npm-shrinkwrap.json. For example to run some postprocessing on the generated file:
"scripts": {
  "postshrinkwrap": "json -I -e \"this.myMetadata = $MY_APP_METADATA\""

Using a locked package is no different than using any package without a package lock: any commands that update node_modules and/or package.json's dependencies will automatically sync the existing lockfile. This includes npm install, npm rm, npm update, etc. To prevent this update from happening, you can use the --no-save option to prevent saving altogether, or --no-shrinkwrap to allow package.json to be updated while leaving package-lock.json or npm-shrinkwrap.json intact.
It is highly recommended you commit the generated package lock to source control: this will allow anyone else on your team, your deployments, your CI/continuous integration, and anyone else who runs npm install in your package source to get the exact same dependency tree that you were developing on. Additionally, the diffs from these changes are human-readable and will inform you of any changes npm has made to your node_modules, so you can notice if any transitive dependencies were updated, hoisted, etc.

Occasionally, two separate npm install will create package locks that cause merge conflicts in source control systems. As of , these conflicts can be resolved by manually fixing anypackage.json conflicts, and then runningnpm install [--package-lock-only]again. npm will automatically resolve any conflicts for you and write a merged package lock that includes all the dependencies from both branches in a reasonable tree. If--package-lock-only is provided, it will do this without also modifying your localnode_modules/`.
To make this process seamless on git, consider installing npm-merge-driver, which will teach git how to do this itself without any user interaction. In short: $ npx npm-merge-driver install -g will let you do this, and even works with versions of npm 5, albeit a bit more noisily. Note that ifpackage.json itself conflicts, you will have to resolve that by hand and runnpm install` manually, even with the merge driver.

npm help 5 package.json
npm help 5 package-lock.json
npm help 5 shrinkwrap.json
npm help shrinkwrap
August 2018

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