DEV Community

Alahira Jeffrey Calvin
Alahira Jeffrey Calvin

Posted on

A NodeJS newbie's guide to understanding NPM and NPX

Understanding the difference between npm and npx and the way they are used is very important for any software engineer working with Node.js. This is because these tools play crucial roles in the development workflow of anyone working with Node.js, allowing developers to manage dependencies and execute packages efficiently.

In this short and coincise article, we'll delve into and shed more light on the diffrence between both npm and npx. Permit me to start with a short and personal story which took place not too long ago. On that fateful day, I was interviewing for the role of a software engineering intern. During the course of the interview, I was asked the difference between npm and npx and even though my answer was not entirely wrong, it wasn't quite right either. The major reason for this was that the interviewer more or less guided me to an answer that could be considered slightly correct.

Anyways, immediately after the interview, I decided to do my own research and figure out the actual differences between npm and npx was and write a little about it, just in case it would be of use to someone else. Before I start, I must say that this article is in no way comprehensive and it would not be far fetched to say there are a plethora of articles out there that do more justice to the topic. However, I think this article could provide a sort of gentle introduction for newbies like me.

So for starters, npm stands for node package manager and is used to download and install node packages locally while npx stands for node package execute and is used to execute node packages.

Npm in itself is a powerful tool and serves as the default package manager for Node.js. I like to think that npm is to nodejs what pip is to python. Its primary function is to help developers install, manage, and distribute JavaScript packages and libraries with other developers. With npm, a developer can easily download and incorporate an external packages made by other developers into his projects without having to reinvent the wheel. This saves a lot of time and effort as well as encourages cooperation among the developer community. By specifying dependencies in a package.json file, npm can fetch and install the required packages locally within a project.

An example of using npm would be to install the create-react-package which is used to setup react locally using npm install create-react-app command.

On the other hand, npx is a command-line tool that comes bundled with npm starting from version 5.2.0. While npm excels at package installation and management, npx shines in package execution. With npx, you can run packages without explicitly installing them first. This is particularly useful when you need to execute one-off or infrequently used packages, as it eliminates the need for a separate installation step

An example would be running the npx create-react-app which automatically checks to see if you have the package installed and then exexutes it or goes online, downloads the package, executes the package, and removes the package.

In summary, the key difference between npm and npx is the fact that npm is primarily used for package installation and management while npx on the other hand is used to execute packages even without installing them.

In conclusion, understanding the diffrences between npm and npx is vital for software engineers working with Node.js. By grasping the differences between npm and npx, developers can streamline their development workflow and optimize their productivity.

Top comments (0)