Tool for managing JavaScript projects with multiple packages

Usage no npm install needed!

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A tool for managing JavaScript projects with multiple packages.

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Splitting up large codebases into separate independently versioned packages is extremely useful for code sharing. However, making changes across many repositories is messy and difficult to track, and testing across repositories gets complicated really fast.

To solve these (and many other) problems, some projects will organize their codebases into multi-package repositories (sometimes called monorepos). Projects like Babel, React, Angular, Ember, Meteor, Jest, and many others develop all of their packages within a single repository.

Lerna is a tool that optimizes the workflow around managing multi-package repositories with git and npm.

What does a Lerna repo look like?

There's actually very little to it. You have a file system that looks like this:


What can Lerna do?

The two primary commands in Lerna are lerna bootstrap and lerna publish.

bootstrap will link dependencies in the repo together. publish will help publish any updated packages.

Getting Started

The instructions below are for Lerna 2.x which is currently in beta. We recommend using it instead of 1.x for a new Lerna project. Check the wiki if you need to see the 1.x README.

Let's start by installing Lerna globally with npm.

# install the latest 2.x version using the `prerelease` dist-tag
$ npm install --global lerna@prerelease
# install version directly
$ npm install --global lerna@^2.0.0-beta

Next we'll create a new git repository:

$ git init lerna-repo
$ cd lerna-repo

And now let's turn it into a Lerna repo:

$ lerna init

Your repository should now look like this:


This will create a lerna.json configuration file as well as a packages folder.

How it works

Lerna allows you to manage your project using one of two modes: Fixed or Independent.

Fixed/Locked mode (default)

Fixed mode Lerna projects operate on a single version line. The version is kept in the lerna.json file at the root of your project under the version key. When you run lerna publish, if a module has been updated since the last time a release was made, it will be updated to the new version you're releasing. This means that you only publish a new version of a package when you need to.

This is the mode that Babel is currently using. Use this if you want to automatically tie all package versions together. One issue with this approach is that a major change in any package will result in all packages having a new major version.

Independent mode (--independent)

Independent mode Lerna projects allows maintainers to increment package versions independently of each other. Each time you publish, you will get a prompt for each package that has changed to specify if it's a patch, minor, major or custom change.

Independent mode allows you to more specifically update versions for each package and makes sense for a group of components. Combining this mode with something like semantic-release would make it less painful. (There is work on this already at atlassian/lerna-semantic-release).

The version key in lerna.json is ignored in independent mode.



$ lerna init

Create a new Lerna repo or upgrade an existing repo to the current version of Lerna.

Lerna assumes the repo has already been initialized with git init.

When run, this command will:

  1. Add lerna as a devDependency in package.json if it doesn't already exist.
  2. Create a lerna.json config file to store the version number.
  3. Create a packages directory if it hasn't been created already.

Example output on a new git repo:

> lerna init
$ Lerna v2.0.0-beta.18
$ Creating packages directory.
$ Updating package.json.
$ Creating lerna.json.
$ Successfully created Lerna files

--independent, -i

$ lerna publish --independent

This flag tells Lerna to use independent versioning mode.


$ lerna bootstrap

Bootstrap the packages in the current Lerna repo. Installs all of their dependencies and links any cross-dependencies.

When run, this command will:

  1. npm install all external dependencies of each package.
  2. Symlink together all Lerna packages that are dependencies of each other.
  3. npm prepublish all bootstrapped packages.

lerna bootstrap respects the --ignore flag (see Flags).

How bootstrap works

Let's use babel as an example.

  • babel-generator and source-map (among others) are dependencies of babel-core.
  • babel-core's package.json lists both these packages as keys in dependencies, as shown below.
// babel-core package.json
  "name": "babel-core",
  "dependencies": {
    "babel-generator": "^6.9.0",
    "source-map": "^0.5.0"
  • Lerna checks if each dependency is also part of the Lerna repo.
    • In this example, babel-generator is a dependency, while source-map is not.
    • source-map is npm installed like normal.
  • packages/babel-core/node_modules/babel-generator symlinks to packages/babel-generator
  • This allows nested directory imports

Note: Circular dependencies result in circular symlinks which may impact your editor/IDE.

Webstorm locks up when circular symlinks are present. To prevent this, add node_modules to the list of ignored files and folders in Preferences | Editor | File Types | Ignored files and folders.


$ lerna publish

Publish packages in the current Lerna project. When run, this command does the following:

Creates a new release of the packages that have been updated. Prompts for a new version. Creates a new git commit/tag in the process of publishing to npm.

More specifically, this command will:

  1. Publish each module in packages that has been updated since the last version to npm with the dist-tag lerna-temp.
  2. Run the equivalent of lerna updated to determine which packages need to be published.
  3. If necessary, increment the version key in lerna.json.
  4. Update the package.json of all updated packages to their new versions.
  5. Update all dependencies of the updated packages with the new versions.
  6. Create a new git commit and tag for the new version.
  7. Publish updated packages to npm.
  8. Once all packages have been published, remove the lerna-temp tags and add the tags to latest.

A temporary dist-tag is used at the start to prevent the case where only some of the packages are published; this can cause issues for users installing a package that only has some updated packages.

Lerna won't publish packages which are marked as private ("private": true in the package.json).

--npm-tag [tagname]

$ lerna publish --npm-tag=next

When run with this flag, publish will publish to npm with the given npm dist-tag (defaults to latest).

This option can be used to publish a prerelease or beta version.

Note: the latest tag is the one that is used when a user runs npm install my-package. To install a different tag, a user can run npm install my-package@prerelease.

--canary, -c

$ lerna publish --canary

When run with this flag, publish publishes packages in a more granular way (per commit). Before publishing to npm, it creates the new version tag by taking the current version and appending the current git sha (ex: 1.0.0-alpha.81e3b443).

The intended use case for this flag is a per commit level release or nightly release.


$ lerna publish --skip-git

When run with this flag, publish will publish to npm without running any of the git commands.

Only publish to npm; skip committing, tagging, and pushing git changes (this only affects publish).


$ lerna publish --skip-npm

When run with this flag, publish will update all package.json package versions and dependency versions, but it will not actually publish the packages to npm.

This is useful as a workaround for an npm issue which prevents README updates from appearing on when published via Lerna. When publishing with README changes, use --skip-npm and do the final npm publish by hand for each package.

This flag can be combined with --skip-git to just update versions and dependencies, without committing, tagging, pushing or publishing.

Only update versions and dependencies; don't actually publish (this only affects publish).

--force-publish [packages]

$ lerna publish --force-publish=package-2,package-4
# force publish all packages
$ lerna publish --force-publish=*

When run with this flag, publish will force publish the specified packages (comma-separated) or all packages using *.

This will skip the lerna updated check for changed packages and forces a package that didn't have a git diff change to be updated.


$ lerna publish --canary --yes
# skips `Are you sure you want to publish the above changes?`

When run with this flag, publish will skip all confirmation prompts. Useful in Continuous integration (CI) to automatically answer the publish confirmation prompt.


$ lerna publish --repo-version 1.0.1
# applies version and skips `Select a new version for...` prompt

When run with this flag, publish will skip the version selection prompt and use the specified version. Useful for bypassing the user input prompt if you already know which version to publish.


$ lerna updated

Check which packages have changed since the last release (the last git tag).

Lerna determines the last git tag created and runs git diff --name-only v6.8.1 to get all files changed since that tag. It then returns an array of packages that have an updated file.


$ lerna clean

Remove the node_modules directory from all packages.


$ lerna diff [package?]

$ lerna diff
# diff a specific package
$ lerna diff package-name

Diff all packages or a single package since the last release.

Similar to lerna updated. This command runs git diff.


$ lerna ls

List all of the public packages in the current Lerna repo.


$ lerna run [script] # runs npm run my-script in all packages that have it
$ lerna run test
$ lerna run build

Run an npm script in each package that contains that script.

lerna run respects the --concurrency flag (see Flags).

lerna run respects the --scope flag (see Flags).

$ lerna run --scope my-component test


$ lerna exec -- [command] # runs the command in all packages
$ lerna exec -- rm -rf ./node_modules
$ lerna exec -- protractor conf.js

Run an arbitrary command in each package.

lerna exec respects the --concurrency flag (see Flags).

lerna exec respects the --scope flag (see Flags).

$ lerna exec --scope my-component -- ls -la

Hint: The commands are spawned in parallel, using the concurrency given. The output is piped through, so not deterministic. If you want to run the command in one package after another, use it like this:

$ lerna exec --concurrency 1 -- ls -la


$ lerna import <path-to-external-repository>

Import the package at <path-to-external-repository>, with commit history, into packages/<directory-name>. Original commit authors, dates and messages are preserved. Commits are applied to the current branch.

This is useful for gathering pre-existing standalone packages into a Lerna repo. Each commit is modified to make changes relative to the package directory. So, for example, the commit that added package.json will instead add packages/<directory-name>/package.json.


Lerna will log to a lerna-debug.log file (same as npm-debug.log) when it encounters an error running a command.

Lerna also has support for scoped packages.

Running lerna without arguments will show all commands/options.


  "lerna": "2.0.0-beta.18",
  "version": "1.1.3",
  "publishConfig": {
    "ignore": [
  "linkedFiles": {
    "prefix": "/**\n * @flow\n */"
  • lerna: the current version of Lerna being used.
  • version: the current version of the repository.
  • publishConfig.ignore: an array of globs that won't be included in lerna updated/publish. Use this to prevent publishing a new version unnecessarily for changes, such as fixing a typo.
  • linkedFiles.prefix: a prefix added to linked dependency files.

Common devDependencies

Most devDependencies can be pulled up to the root of a Lerna repo.

This has a few benefits:

  • All packages use the same version of a given dependency
  • Can keep dependencies at the root up-to-date with an automated tool such as GreenKeeper
  • Dependency installation time is reduced
  • Less storage is needed

Note that devDependencies providing "binary" executables that are used by npm scripts still need to be installed directly in each package where they're used.

For example the nsp dependency is necessary in this case for lerna run nsp (and npm run nsp within the package's directory) to work correctly:

  "scripts": {
    "nsp": "nsp"
  "devDependencies": {
    "nsp": "^2.3.3"



How many threads to use when Lerna parallelizes the tasks (defaults to 4)

$ lerna publish --concurrency 1

--scope [glob]

Scopes a command to a subset of packages.

$ lerna exec --scope my-component -- ls -la
$ lerna run --scope toolbar-* test

--ignore [glob]

Excludes a subset of packages when running the bootstrap command.

$ lerna bootstrap --ignore component-*

The ignore flag, when used with the bootstrap command, can also be set in lerna.json under the bootstrapConfig key. The command-line flag will take precendence over this option. This flag is supported in bootstrap and exec commands.

Note: If both scope and ignore are provided to exec command, scope takes precedence.


  "lerna": "2.0.0-beta.16",
  "version": "0.0.0",
  "bootstrapConfig": {
    "ignore": "component-*"

Hint: The glob is matched against the package name defined in package.json, not the directory name the package lives in.


Only will bump versions for packages that have been updated explicitly rather than cross-dependencies.

This may not make sense for a major version bump since other packages that depend on the updated packages wouldn't be updated.

$ lerna updated --only-explicit-updates
$ lerna publish --only-explicit-updates

Ex: in Babel, babel-types is depended upon by all packages in the monorepo (over 100). However, Babel uses ^ for most of it's dependencies so it isn't necessary to bump the versions of all packages if only babel-types is updated. This option allows only the packages that have been explicitly updated to make a new version.

--loglevel [silent|error|warn|success|info|verbose|silly]

What level of logs to report. On failure, all logs are written to lerna-debug.log in the current working directory.

Any logs of a higher level than the setting are shown. The default is "info".