Erik Hermansen Erik Hermansen - 6 months ago 38
Node.js Question

Should I keep all sub-packages on a single version in package.json?

There is a 3rd-party library my project uses that has split its functionality into multiple imported packages so that a project can install just what it needs. In package.json, several entries are present for the different sub-packages, like...

"dependencies": {
"@lib/dogs": "^1.0.3",
"@lib/cats": "^1.0.3",
"@lib/iguanas": "^1.0.3"
...lots more of the same...

I don't want to spend time thinking about compatibility issues if one of the sub-packages installs a different version# than the others through semver-range-picking or another developer fixing a problem by incrementing the version on just one sub-package. I suspect there is some risk of bugs if the sub-package versions get out of sync, even if the intent of the package maintainers is to respect the meaning of breaking changes in their versioning. It seems simpler to just have all the sub-packages on the same version by default.

Should I try to enforce (or at least promote) that the sub-packages have the same version?

Answer Source

Promote, but don't enforce.

Your current set-up, which uses Caret Ranges is the default used when installing with the --save flag for a reason: it's the most flexible and robust range to use for dependencies that correctly follow the semver conventions. This means that whenever someone update's your module as a dependency to theirs, it will automatically bump their sub-dependencies to the latest version that is backwards-compatible with the one explicitly specified after the ^.

Because of this, and the fact that scoped packages don't have interdependencies since they behave identically to normal dependencies, leaving identical caret ranges for each of them should already be sufficient enough to avoid compatibility issues by default.

Don't protect developers from themselves

A good methodology to follow when considering how to deal with compatibility issues is to avoid the antipattern of "protecting developers from themselves." In this situation, you propose to put a lock in place that prevents 3rd parties from editing the relative versions of your dependencies, to avoid compatibility issues. This is a very vague goal since you haven't actually run into any problems yet, as you've pointed out.

Sometimes, yes, developers might not know what they're doing, in which case they'll probably avoid tampering with your default dependency versions, but sometimes they do know, and it can be frustrating when a developer knows they can resolve a bug and are unnecessarily prevented from doing so. So hold their hand, don't cuff them.

npm already chose to avoid this antipattern, you should too.

If a 3rd-party developer chooses to use your module as a dependency, they should have the default amount of freedom available to manage their sub-dependencies through npm by using features like package-lock.json, which unlocks a very clean pattern for precisely managing sub-dependency versions without editing the source code of their dependencies.

In conclusion, what you have now is a very clean and flexible approach, following common conventions and not going out of the way to constrain 3rd-party developers.

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