If there’s one great thing in Node.js packages, is that all agreed on using Semantic Versioning for their version numbering.

The Semantic Versioning concept is simple: all versions have 3 digits: x.y.z.

  • the first digit is the major version
  • the second digit is the minor version
  • the third digit is the patch version

When you make a new release, you don’t just up a number as you please, but you have rules:

  • you up the major version when you make incompatible API changes
  • you up the minor version when you add functionality in a backward-compatible manner
  • you up the patch version when you make backward-compatible bug fixes

The convention is adopted all across programming languages, and it is very important that every npm package adheres to it, because the whole system depends on that.

Why is that so important?

Because npm set some rules we can use in the package.json file to choose which versions it can update our packages to, when we run npm update.

The rules use those symbols:

  • ^
  • ~
  • >
  • >=
  • <
  • <=
  • =
  • -
  • ||

Let’s see those rules in detail:

  • ^: if you write ^0.13.0 when running npm update it can update to patch and minor releases: 0.13.1, 0.14.0 and so on.
  • ~: if you write ~0.13.0, when running npm update it can update to patch releases: 0.13.1 is ok, but 0.14.0 is not.
  • >: you accept any version higher than the one you specify
  • >=: you accept any version equal to or higher than the one you specify
  • <=: you accept any version equal or lower to the one you specify
  • <: you accept any version lower to the one you specify
  • =: you accept that exact version
  • -: you accept a range of versions. Example: 2.1.0 - 2.6.2
  • ||: you combine sets. Example: < 2.1 || > 2.6

You can combine some of those notations, for example use 1.0.0 || >=1.1.0 <1.2.0 to either use 1.0.0 or one release from 1.1.0 up, but lower than 1.2.0.

There are other rules, too:

  • no symbol: you accept only that specific version you specify (1.2.1)
  • latest: you want to use the latest version available