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5 Steps to publish my first npm package

dawntraoz profile image Alba Silvente πŸ’ƒπŸΌ ・7 min read

I come to tell my experience and list what I have seen that is needed to publish a package like a boss.

Before we start

If you are reading this post you should already know nodejs & npm and have them installed. If not, I recommend you to read its about section before continuing, it will help you understand what it is about. To start using it you just need to follow its installation guide.

Now we're ready to continue!


STEP 1 - Create your package

The first thing we need is to be clear about what name we're going to give our little package. We need to check that no one has used it before, look for it in the search and pray it's not taken yet.

Once you’ve decided the name, we are ready to create the package. You can choose between creating it directly by naming a folder as you chose and run npm init on it, or using the tools of your favorite framework.

In my case, I created a package in Vue.js using Vue CLI. Here's how I did it:

  • First I install the CLI:
  npm install -g @vue/cli
  • Then I create the project and run it to see everything is working fine:
  vue create chosen-name
  npm run serve
  • Finally, I create the component and I register it globally

To do it, I create a file ChosenName.vue in the src/components folder and started adding the code.

In order to register it globally, I needed to create an index.js file in the same folder and add the following lines:

  import Vue from "vue";
  import ChosenName from "./ChosenName.vue";

  const Components = {
      ChosenName
  };

  Object.keys(Components).forEach(name => {
    Vue.component(name, Components [name]);
  });

  export default Components;

This way, the day we want to extend our package with a new component and make it a library, we will only need to import it into this file.


STEP 2 - Test it locally

Like you, since it was my first time I had no idea how to test my package without publishing it.

Then I discovered npm link, thanks to this post, where it explains how to use this wonderful command and gives you other options in case symlinks don't suit you. I recommend you to take a look and follow the option that best suits your case.

Remember not to publish your package before you have tried it out in the local environment. Keep in mind that if you publish it, you aren’t convinced and you want to unpublish it, you will not be able to publish it again under the same name.


STEP 3 - Upload it to GitHub

We need to have our code visible to people who want to look at it, so we're going to host it on the most popular platform, GitHub.

If you like BitBucket or another platform, you're free to choose the one you like best, but keep in mind that GitHub provides an issues url, which will be useful for reporting possible bugs they might find in your package.

Create your repository on GitHub and run the following commands, changing the repo url by yours.

git init
git add .
git commit -m "My first npm package version"
git remote add origin https://github.com/<user>/<chosen-name>
git push origin master

Now we have what we need to complete the files I mention in the next step. Let's see it!


STEP 4 - Prepare package.json, README.md, License and a demo

Now let's see how I had to prepare the package.json file so that npm could get all the data it is interested in. Most of the fields will already be filled in, having created our app with vue create, but let's check it.

Also, I'll tell you the most important thing when publishing your package, which is to have a good README and a demo ready, where people can be able to understand what your package is about and how to use it in their projects.

  • How to fill the package.json

Let's divide the file by parts to see in detail what we are interested in.

First we will have to fill in the information about the package. We need to add the name we have chosen, the version (we will talk about this in STEP 5), a brief description of what our package does, the keywords by which people will be able to find our package in the npm search engine, and the author, adding our name, email and website, so that they can contact us.

  {
    "name": "chosen-name",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "description": "My first package on npm.",
    "keywords": [
      "first",
      "package",
      "npm"
    ],
    "author": "Your Name <youremail@domain.com> (<yourwebsite.com>)",
    ...
  }

Once we have the basic information, we have to create a script to create the bundle of our package and specify to npm which files we'll publish and which of them will be the main one.

In our case, once we run npm run build-bundle, it generates a dist/ folder with several files, being **.common.js* the one we will load as main.

  {
    ...
    "main": "./dist/chosen-name.common.js",
    "scripts": {
      "build-bundle": "vue-cli-service build --target lib --name chosen-name ./src/components/index.js",
    },
    "files": [
      "dist/*",
      "src/*",
      "public/*",
      "*.json",
      "*.js"
    ],
    ...
  }

Since we've already created a repository we can now use it so people can report bugs, or simply view our code on GitHub. Just add the urls below to your package.json and change them by your repo.

Also, as we want to have a public package we need to set private to false and add the type of License we choose.

  {
    ...
    "homepage": "https://github.com/<user>/<chosen-name>",
    "bugs": {
      "url": "https://github.com/<user>/<chosen-name>/issues",
      "email": "<youremail@domain.com>"
    },
    "repository": {
      "type": "git",
      "url": "git+https://github.com/<user>/<chosen-name>.git"
    },
    "license": "MIT",
    "private": false
  }
  • README & LICENSE

Although it is a very important part of our package, fortunately both files are very easy to create.

To generate our own license, GitHub itself has an option to generate the LICENSE file with the type we choose, in my case I have chosen to use the MIT license, here you can see the generated file.

In the case of the README you can be guided by the one I created for my package, where the important parts are:

  • Title, description and demo

    Simply add the name and basic description of your package, as in the case of package.json and provide a link to the demo we have created, if applicable.

  • Installation and use

    Here you can add the commands that must be run to get your package and a use case or several, depending on what type of project it will be used on.

    In my case it was necessary to explain how to use it in Nuxt as well.

  • Options and slots

    Here it's interesting to create tables that exemplify what type of data can be entered in our component, as the properties/options are called and what default value they usually have. This is a very simple way to expose the possibilities they have when using your package.

  • Author and license

    Mention the license used and the creators of the package.

I added a Set up section too, in case someone wanted to set up my project in their local environment.

  • How I made my demo

If your package has many use cases, you may want to create a website as a demo. In it, you can show the code needed to generate each use case.
A clear example of this type of demos is Slick, by Ken Wheeler, a great job that saves you hours in your developments!

But, if, as in my case, your package has a unique or lesser functionality, I recommend you to create a project in Codepen or CodeSandbox, you will be able to see how to implement it and the result at a glance. They make our lives easier!

Here is my example if you want to check it:


STEP 5 - Publish your package

We are now ready to publish our first package 😍

Generate your bundles with:

npm run build-bundle

Then, create an account or log in on npmjs. If you prefer to run commands instead, type:

npm adduser /* Sign up */
npm login /* Log in */

Verify your npm user credentials:

npm whoami

For our package we will need a version control, as we see on package.json, what better than using the one recommended by npm. We just need to use the npm version command each time we need to update our package, using the following options:

  • First release

When we uploaded the first version, package.json need to have the field version as a 1.0.0.

  • Bug fixes (Patch release)

Increment the third digit: 1.0.1, 1.0.2, …

  npm version patch
  • New features (Minor release)

Increment the middle digit and reset last digit to zero: 1.1.0, 1.2.0, …

  npm version minor
  • Changes that break backward compatibility (Major release)

Increment the first digit and reset middle and last digits to zero: 2.0.0 (v2)

  npm version major

And finally, we're ready to run the magic command:

npm publish --access public

Voilà! Our package is already part of npm and now with the command npm install chosen-name we can add our package to all our projects 😍

Posted on May 3 by:

dawntraoz profile

Alba Silvente πŸ’ƒπŸΌ

@dawntraoz

Frontend Team Lead at Square1 πŸ’œ blogger & open source contributor starter. Vue, Nuxt, Tailwindcss & Storyblok

Discussion

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Wow thanks a lot, this will help me a lot in the time that is coming. Thanks once again!

 

I'm so happy to read that!! Good luck in your proyects πŸ€—