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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is NPM?
2.1.
Features of NPM
3.
What is Yarn?
3.1.
Features of Yarn
4.
Differences Between Yarn and NPM
4.1.
Packages and Dependencies
4.2.
Installation 
4.3.
Locking Mechanism
4.4.
Fetching Packages
4.5.
Security and Licencing 
4.6.
Output Log
4.7.
Table of Commands
4.8.
Common Commands
5.
Similarities Between Yarn and NPM
6.
NPM vs Yarn - Which One is Better?
7.
NPM vs Yarn - Which one to choose?
8.
Frequently Asked Questions
8.1.
What's the difference between yarn and npm?
8.2.
What is the difference between yarn and brew and npm?
8.3.
Is yarn better than npm?
8.4.
Can I replace npm with yarn?
8.5.
Which is better Yarn or PNPM?
9.
Conclusion
Last Updated: May 4, 2024
Medium

Difference between NPM and YARN

Author Nikunj Goel
3 upvotes
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23 Jul, 2024 @ 01:30 PM

Introduction

Whether you have just started developing React or Node projects or have been building them for quite some time, it is almost certain that you have used NPM or YARN to maintain the packages and dependencies your project uses. Do not panic if you do not know what packages or dependencies are; we will look at these aspects as this blog progresses.

Difference between npm and yarn

Before diving right into learning more about NPM and YARN, and their differences, let us look at some terms that we need to be familiar with first. 

What is NPM?

NPM stands for Node Package Manager. It is a Javascript package manager and the default for the runtime environment NodeJS. NPM is installed when NodeJS is installed on a machine. It comes with a command line interface (CLI) which is used to interact with the online database of NPM. This database is called the NPM Registry, and it hosts public and private 'packages'. To add or update packages, we use the NPM CLI to interact with this database. 

Features of NPM

  • Package Management: NPM provides a vast repository of packages for JavaScript development, making it easy to discover, install, and manage dependencies.
  • Version Control: NPM allows developers to specify package versions and manage dependencies effectively, ensuring consistent and reliable builds.
  • Scripts: NPM supports the execution of custom scripts defined in the package.json file, enabling automation of common tasks such as testing, building, and deployment.
  • Global Installation: NPM allows packages to be installed globally, making them accessible from any project on the system.
  • Security: NPM provides tools for auditing packages and detecting vulnerabilities, helping developers ensure the security of their projects.
  • Scalability: NPM is designed to scale effortlessly, accommodating projects of all sizes, from small personal projects to large enterprise applications.
  • Community Support: NPM has a vibrant community of developers who contribute packages, share knowledge, and provide support through forums, documentation, and other resources.
  • Integration: NPM integrates seamlessly with other development tools and workflows, including version control systems, build tools, and continuous integration/delivery pipelines.

To know more about NodeJs, check out the blog What is Node.js? Where, When & How To Use It?

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What is Yarn?

YARN stands for Yet Another Resource Negotiator. Just like NPM, YARN is also a package manager for public or private packages hosted on online databases. YARNwas initially developed by developers at Facebook but now is open source (YARN repository). 

Essentially, both these package managers do the same job for you, i.e., help you manage your project dependencies. 

 

This raises a very basic question, if we already had NPM, why would we need YARN?

YARN was developed to overcome the performance and security issues that NPM had at that time. Since then, even NPM developers have raised the game and both the package managers have almost reached feature parity. Even then, there are some core differences between them in terms of installation, locking, and usage. We will now look at all of them.

Features of Yarn

  • Fast: Yarn is known for its speed, with parallel package installations and caching mechanisms to minimize download times.
  • Deterministic: Yarn generates a lockfile (yarn.lock) to ensure deterministic installations, guaranteeing consistent dependency resolution across different environments.
  • Offline Mode: Yarn supports offline mode, allowing developers to install dependencies without an internet connection by using locally cached packages.
  • Workspaces: Yarn offers a workspace feature, enabling monorepo-style development where multiple packages can be managed within the same repository.
  • Plug'n'Play: Yarn 2 introduces a Plug'n'Play (PnP) mode, which eliminates the need for a node_modules directory and reduces disk usage.
  • Interactive CLI: Yarn provides an interactive command-line interface (CLI) with helpful prompts and suggestions to streamline package management tasks.
  • License Checking: Yarn can analyze project dependencies and detect incompatible licenses, helping developers ensure compliance with licensing requirements.
  • Community Driven: Yarn is backed by a vibrant community of developers and contributors who actively maintain and enhance the tool, ensuring its reliability and effectiveness.

Differences Between Yarn and NPM

Let’s discuss the difference between yarn and npm in detail below:

FeatureYarnNPM
Package ManagementYarn provides robust package management with features such as parallel installation, caching, and lockfile support.NPM also offers package management capabilities, including installation, version control, and dependency resolution.
Version ControlYarn supports version control through a lockfile (yarn.lock), ensuring deterministic builds and consistent dependencies across environments.NPM also supports version control with the package-lock.json file, although it may not always guarantee deterministic installations.
SpeedYarn is generally faster than NPM due to parallel installation and caching mechanisms.NPM is often slower than Yarn, especially in large projects with many dependencies.
Deterministic BuildsYarn ensures deterministic builds with the lockfile, which specifies exact versions of dependencies.NPM provides partial support for deterministic builds through the package-lock.json file, but it may not always resolve versions correctly.
Offline ModeYarn supports offline mode, allowing users to install packages without an internet connection.NPM does not have built-in support for offline mode, requiring an internet connection for package installation.
WorkspacesYarn offers workspaces, allowing developers to manage multiple related packages within the same repository.NPM does not have built-in support for workspaces, making it less suitable for managing monorepos or projects with multiple packages.
Plug'n'Play

Yarn 2 introduces Plug'n'Play, a feature that eliminates the need for a node_modules directory, resulting in faster installations and

reduced disk usage.

NPM does not support Plug'n'Play.
Interactive CLIYarn provides an interactive command-line interface with helpful prompts and suggestions.NPM does not offer an interactive CLI, requiring users to rely on command-line options and documentation.
License CheckingYarn can analyze project dependencies and detect incompatible licenses, ensuring compliance with licensing requirements.NPM does not have built-in support for license checking, requiring developers to use external tools or manual methods to check licenses.
Community SupportYarn has a strong community of developers and contributors who actively maintain and enhance the tool.NPM also benefits from a large community of developers and contributors, with extensive support resources, documentation, and third-party integrations.

Packages and Dependencies

Learning about package managers is only productive if, first, we establish what packages and dependencies mean. 

Packages and Dependencies are, as the name suggests, files or bundles of files that your project needs to run. For example, if you start a new react-app, you would find a folder called node_modules. This folder contains all the node modules that are required for your project to run.

 

The file structure of a new “create-react-app” project showing node_modules

 

If you look inside this folder, there are many files that are just the ones that are included when the project is set up for the first time. As you continue working on the project, the number of package dependencies will increase. Hence, managing them gets exceedingly complicated. This is why we need package managers. By managing dependencies, we mean installing, deleting, or updating them.

Installation 

While NPM is installed when you install NodeJS, we need to manually install YARN.

 

Installing YARN:

// The --global flag ensures that yarn is installed globally so that we can use it in all projects.
npm install yarn --global 

 

YARN can be installed using the npm CLI as shown above. 

Locking Mechanism

Before discussing how these package managers are different regarding their file locking mechanism, let us first understand what locking is. Locking in this context refers to making a file with entries of all packages and dependencies installed in the project and their versions. This is important because when multiple people work on the same project, complications may arise if different people use different versions of the dependencies. 

NPM makes a package-lock.json file. This file contains entries of all dependencies used along with their versions. This file ensures that the directory and file structure in the node_modules folder are the same across all project versions.

 

An example of a package-lock.json file

 

YARN has a yarn.lock file, which is auto-generated when the project is initialized. This file also, just like the package-lock.json file, keeps track of the dependencies and “locks” their versions to a project. The yarn.lock file helps in the easy merge of packages and dependencies in the required folders.

 

An example of a yarn.lock file 

 

If you notice carefully, you will notice how the architecture of both the files differs from each other. While the package-lock file has a stricter architecture, the yarn.lock file uses the easy merge approach to increase simplicity, speed, and ease of access.

Fetching Packages

Whenever we use the CLI to add new packages to our project, there is a difference between how NPM and YARN act on it. While NPM fetches packages from the online npm registry for every ‘install’ command, YARN stores dependencies locally in most cases and fetches packages from a local disk, given that dependency has been installed earlier. This makes YARN considerably faster than NPM when it comes to fetching packages.

Security and Licencing 

Security becomes an important parameter when we compare YARN and NPM. Initially, Facebook introduced YARN because it covered the security lapses in NPM, but since then, NPM has had strong security updates.

If we add or install packages with security vulnerabilities in both the package managers, we are automatically given warnings for the same.

YARN does have some extra edge, though. This comes with the feature of licensing. We can use YARN to check the licenses of the various packages installed as:

yarn licenses list

This produces a neat output listing all licenses like:

Output log for “yarn licenses list”

 

Output Log

Another important factor that differentiates NPM from YARN is the output log. NPM has a very raw output log, while on the other hand, YARN's output log is extremely neat and readable. While NPM's logs are nothing but stacks of NPM commands, YARN's output logs are brief and given out tree form. Given below are examples of the output logs of both the package managers for the same command.

NPM

 

YARN

Table of Commands

The following table enlists some commonly used commands syntax in both NPM and YARN.

Purpose

yarn

npm

To add/install new packagesyarn add package_namenpm install package_name
To install dependenciesyarnnpm install
To uninstall packagesyarn remove package_namenpm uninstall package_name
Globally Install a packageyarn global add package_namenpm install -g package_name
To view a packageyarn info namenpm view name
To install a dev packageyarn add name -devnpm install name -save-dev
To Update a dev package

yarn upgrade name

yarn upgrade name@version

npm update name

npm update name@version

 

Common Commands

The following table enlists the commands which are common to both NPM and YARN.

Purpose

yarn

npm

To initialize a projectyarn initnpm init
To run a scriptyarn run {script name}npm run {script name}
To test the dependenciesyarn testnpm test
To Publish the projectyarn publishnpm publish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also see, Difference Between Controller and Restcontroller

Similarities Between Yarn and NPM

Package Management: Both Yarn and npm serve as package managers for JavaScript and Node.js projects, allowing developers to handle dependencies efficiently.

Registry Access: They can access the npm registry, offering a wide selection of open-source packages for use in projects.

Lock Files: Yarn and npm create lock files (yarn.lock and package-lock.json, respectively) to ensure consistent and deterministic package installations.

Security Audits: Both tools provide built-in security audit features to identify and address vulnerabilities in project dependencies.

Configuration: Yarn and npm allow developers to configure project settings and package manager behavior through configuration files.

NPM vs Yarn - Which One is Better?

The choice between NPM and Yarn depends on your project's needs. NPM, as the default package manager for Node.js, has a vast ecosystem and improved performance in npm 7. Yarn, known for its speed and deterministic installs, suits projects demanding performance and consistency. Its workspaces support monorepos, making it attractive for large-scale applications. Yarn offers a more user-friendly experience, including interactive CLI and strong security auditing. While Yarn excels in performance and determinism, NPM's larger community and default status make it a solid choice for many projects.

NPM vs Yarn - Which one to choose?

Choosing between NPM and Yarn depends on your specific project needs. NPM, the default package manager for Node.js, offers a massive package ecosystem, improved parallelism in npm 7, and seamless integration with Node. Yarn is preferred for its speed, deterministic installs, and support for monorepos using workspaces. Its user-friendly CLI and robust security auditing are appealing. If speed, determinism, and monorepo support are crucial, Yarn is a solid choice. However, NPM's larger community, default status, and frequent updates make it a dependable choice for many projects. Consider your project's requirements, team familiarity, and priorities when making a decision.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between yarn and npm?

Yarn and npm are package managers for JavaScript. Yarn is known for faster installs, deterministic lock files, and workspaces. npm has a vast ecosystem and improved parallelism in npm 7.

What is the difference between yarn and brew and npm?

  • Yarn: A JavaScript package manager known for speed and deterministic installs.
  • Homebrew (Brew): A package manager for macOS for installing Unix-like software.
  • npm: The default Node.js package manager for JavaScript.

Is yarn better than npm?

The choice between Yarn and npm depends on project requirements. Yarn offers faster installs and determinism, while npm has a larger ecosystem and default status. Choose based on your specific needs.

Can I replace npm with yarn?

Yes, you can replace npm with Yarn for managing JavaScript dependencies. Yarn is compatible with the npm registry and can be used as a drop-in replacement.

Which is better Yarn or PNPM?

Choosing between Yarn and PNPM depends on specific project requirements. Yarn offers robust package management and speed, while PNPM focuses on disk space efficiency and faster installations through shared dependencies, making it preferable for certain scenarios.

Conclusion

Both NPM and YARN are useful package managers with powerful CLIs and great functionalities. While NPM was initially the only option and dominated the swarm of Javascript developers, YARN has quickly gained popularity among developers of today.

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the two best package managers out there, you are on your way to becoming great Javascript developers. You can start your Javascript journey here or MERN stack journey here!

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NPX vs NPM

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