npm link command essentially creates a symlink in the
node_modules folder so that any edits you make in one module will immediately be reflected in any project that has been set up to depend on that (local) version of the module.
Create the Dependency to Link to
The first step is to ask npm to make the dependency available via this mechanism. In my case, I'm using a module called
bluemix-helper-config which is a tool for running applications both locally and on Bluemix without making a lot of config changes - very useful! However, I needed to amend it a bit while I was using it, so I exposed it as a link by running
npm link from the directory of this dependency.
Npm shows where it has linked to - basically, it becomes a globally available module.
Use the Linked Version of the Module
In my main project (I was setting up a simple-data-pipe to bring in StackOverflow data), I can then link to this module by doing:
npm link bluemix-helper-config
Npm gives some output showing the actual directory it's linked to, the global location, and where that is in my local
node_modules folder. You can also see the effect of an
npm link setup by listing the contents of the directory - an
ls -la command shows where the link goes to.
Beyond the Development Platform
The link is only used locally; if you're pushing to the cloud, you'll still need to publish your dependencies to somewhere that they can be loaded from, even if you set up your
package.json to track a branch by doing something like:
I found that this approach improves my development workflow a bit when I find that dependencies need some updates as well as whatever I'm doing — and that using the branch notation means I can ship with my fixes immediately, then update back to a proper version number once a new release is available. If there's something you'd add here, I'd love to hear it - I'm relatively new to Node.js so there's probably some other tips I haven't learned yet!