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Should You Use npm or Yarn?

3 min read
Published on 20th July 2023
Should You Use npm or Yarn?

In the realm of JavaScript development, two package managers reign supreme: npm (Node Package Manager) and Yarn (Yet Another Resource Negotiator). Both tools are used for managing dependencies in a JavaScript project, and while they largely accomplish the same tasks, there are differences between the two that could influence your decision on which one to use.

Introduction to npm and Yarn

npm is the default package manager for Node.js and it was introduced in 2010. Since then, it has become a foundational tool for modern web development and has paved the way for server-side JavaScript development.

Yarn is a more recent arrival, developed by Facebook and introduced in 2016. Yarn was created to address the shortcomings of npm at the time, with a focus on speed, security, and reliability.

Speed and Performance

When Yarn was first released, one of its main advantages over npm was its speed. Yarn introduced an offline cache and parallel downloads, resulting in noticeably faster installation times.

However, npm has significantly improved since then and has introduced similar features. With the release of npm v5, package installations have become almost as fast as with Yarn. It’s worth noting though that Yarn still maintains a slight edge, especially in larger projects.

Security

When it comes to security, both npm and Yarn provide mechanisms to help ensure the safety of the packages you install.

Yarn introduced the yarn.lock file to lock dependencies to specific versions, preventing unexpected changes in production due to differing package versions. Npm later introduced a similar feature with package-lock.json.

In recent versions, npm also introduced npm audit, a tool that automatically scans your project for vulnerabilities in your dependencies and even tries to fix them automatically. Yarn has a similar command, yarn audit.

Ease of Use

For developers who are already familiar with npm, transitioning to Yarn is straightforward because many Yarn commands are similar to npm commands. However, Yarn has some additional features such as yarn why that provides information on why a package is installed, which can be helpful in managing dependencies.

One of the main differences between the two is how they install packages. While npm installs packages one at a time, Yarn can install multiple packages at once, leading to faster installation times.

Compatibility

Both npm and Yarn are compatible with all packages available in the npm registry. However, Yarn provides an additional benefit: compatibility with the Bower registry. Therefore, if you're working on a project that still relies on Bower packages, Yarn would be a better choice.

So, which is it?

In summary, both npm and Yarn are excellent tools with their own strengths. Npm has made significant strides in performance and security to match the advantages initially offered by Yarn. Yarn, on the other hand, continues to innovate with features like Plug'n'Play (PnP) and Zero-Installs.

The choice between npm and Yarn often comes down to personal preference or specific project requirements. It's recommended to try both and decide which one suits your workflow better.

Keep in mind that these tools are continually updated and improved, so it's a good idea to stay up-to-date with their latest versions and features.

For the record; at Accreditly uses npm exclusively.