Difference between NPM and NPX

Gunjeev Singh
Last Updated: May 13, 2022

Introduction

Despite being two very different tools, there exists a lot of confusion between NPM and NPX. Often, users do not even know why they are using one of these at a particular instance. Understanding the difference between these two tools is imperative to make our development environment more efficient and productive. 

 

NPM and NPX are both associated with the Node environment and make our work with Javascript packages easier. While NPM is used as a package manager, NPX, on the other hand, is used to execute Javascript packages. 

 

You can read more about the two most prominent package managers, NPM and YARN, here.

What is NPM?

NPM stands for Node Package Manager. It is a Javascript package manager and the default package manager for Node projects. NPM is installed when NodeJS is installed on a machine. It comes with a command-line interface (CLI) 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. 

 

Isaac Z. Schlueter developed NPM purely in Javascript. It was first released in November 2010. Ever since, NPM has had a lot of updates and has improved in terms of efficiency, speed and security. 

 

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

What is NPX?

NPX stands for Node Package eXecute. It is simply an NPM package runner. It allows developers to execute any Javascript Package available on the NPM registry without even installing it. NPX is installed automatically with NPM version 5.2.0 and above.

 

To check whether or not NPX is installed on your machine, you can run the following command on the terminal:

// This command checks for the version of NPX installed on your computer.

npx -v 

 

Output

In case this throws an error and does not show the version; you can install NPX using NPM like this:

// This command uses NPM to install npx globally.

npm install -g npx

 

The primary use case of NPX  is when we need to use a particular package just once. In such cases, first installing it and then executing it becomes a very redundant task. This is why NPX is a powerful tool. 

Execution via NPM and NPX

This section will look into how we can execute the various Javascript packages using both NPM and NPX. 

 

  1. Using NPM:

If we need to execute a package using NPM, we first need to install it, and then we can execute it. 

Installing a Package:

To install a package, we run the following command:

npm install package_name

          We then type out the local path of that package:

./node_modules/.bin/package_name

          Another way of executing the packages would be to enlist them as a script in the package.json file and then execute them.

Enlisting as a script: Your package.json file should look like this:

{
    "name": "Project-Name",
    "version":  "x.y.z",
    "scripts":  {
            "package-name":  "package-name"
    }
}

 

Then we use the run command to execute this package:

npm run package-name

 

  1. Using NPX:

This is where you will notice how using NPX is a better option to execute packages. We do not need to install the package or manually make scripts for them. All that needs to be done is run the following command: 

npx your-package-name

 

Comparative Analysis of NPM and NPX

 

NPM

NPX

NPM is a package manager used to install, delete, and update Javascript packages on your machine.NPX is a package executer, and it is used to execute javascript packages directly, without installing them. 
NPM installs packages globally, which means that your machine may be polluted by packages that are not required anymore in the long run. NPX does not install packages, so package pollution on the machine is not a concern.
To use create-react-app using NPM, we would first have to install it globally, and then run it, which makes using NPM in such cases redundant.The most common application of NPX is the create-react-app command. Since we only need to use it once, i.e., while initializing the project, we do not install it. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions?

Why is NPX used instead of NPM to initialize a React app?

NPX is used to initialize a react application because we only need to use the "create-react-app" package once. This is why we prefer using it with npx, as it saves us time and memory by directly executing it.

How do we decide whether to use NPM or NPX?

The answer to this question is simple. If the package in question is to be used only once or twice and not every time the project runs, it is better to use NPX because it would execute the package directly, without installing it. NPM is used to install packages, and we should do this in case of dependencies or packages which are crucial to our project.

Key Takeaways

Now you must have gained familiarity with the tools of NPM and NPX. NPM is a package manager used to install, update or remove packages and dependencies your project requires. NPX is an NPM package used to execute any package on the NPM registry directly without installing it. 

 

This is just a starting point in the world of Javascript and NodeJS. You can start your Javascript journey here or MERN stack journey here!

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