Use this package to link your projects together for local development.
Last updated 2 years ago by oresoftware .
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$ cnpm install @oresoftware/nlu 
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NPM-Link-Up / NLU

Caveats + Disclaimer

This will not work with MS Windows. Only MacOS and *nix. If you are interested in getting to work on Windows, pls file a ticket.


Use the CLI interface to link your local projects together for rapid and pain-free local development. This tool links your local projects together using symlinks, using declarative config files. This project is decidedly anti-monorepo, and is part of the resistance movement. In the modest opinion of Olegzandr Von Denman, NPM packages should remain 1:1 wrt to package.json/node_modules/.git, etc. This keeps things simple.

NLU uses an .nlu.json file, which is a like a smaller package.json file in the root of your project, which tells NLU about other local dependencies, and how to link your project up.

NLU should be quite a bit leaner and simpler than Lerna and Rush.

Mono-repos are crap. Be lean and mean and use npm-link-up.


$ npm i -g npm-link-up

=> If you use NVM and switch Node.js versions frequently, then add the following to to ~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile:

. "$HOME/.oresoftware/shell.sh"

=> You will also get bash completion for NLU, if you source the above.

Quick reference

Note, command line options override the settings in .nlu.json files, as is typical. Also note that the primary project, or root project, is known as primary/main/root, but the docs will strive to refer to it as "primary" most often. Using NLU, we can link the primary project to other projects too, in the linking process, as nlu handles circular dependencies easily.

The basic command:

$ nlu run
  • will link up the current project with the packages defined by "list" in the local .nlu.json file (1)
  • this is the most common command you will run

$ nlu run --dry      # alias: --dry-run
  • will do all the reads but none of the writes from (1)...will generate a tree and display it in the console so you can see what the linked projects will look like.

$ nlu run --install
  • will re-install the primary project, and then do (1)

$ nlu run --install:all
  • will re-install all projects, including the primary project, and then do (1)

$ nlu run --link
  • will re-link (npm link) the primary project, and then do (1)
  • this is only useful if you have new commands to put on the $PATH in the global space

$ nlu run --link:all
  • will re-link all projects (npm link will be run from the root of every project), including the primary project, and then do (1)
  • this is only useful if you have new commands to put on the $PATH in the global space, for multiple projects.

$ nlu init
  • will generate an .nlu.json file for your working project.
  • Use nlu init -f to skip the interactive part, and use dirname of the working directory as the searchRoot.

Complete real-world usage example:

See: https://github.com/sumanjs

The majority of the projects in the sumanjs org are linked together using npm-link-up. Just look for the .nlu.json file in the root of each project. Note that https://github.com/sumanjs/suman is the "root/main/primary" project.


"Locally developed packages" are packages that may already be published to NPM, but are nevertheless still in active development on your local machine. These packages can be selectively linked together on your local machine using NLU.

Getting Started

Create a config file called .nlu.json in the root of your project (we will call it "project X").

For newcomers, you can use the following command to generate a proper .nlu.json file:

 $ nlu init   # run this from within project x

Follow the instructions in nlu init. After you get better with NLU, you can just run nlu init -f to skip the interactive bit, or just create .nlu.json files by hand.

The reason you are using this CLI tool, of course, is because there are other local projects that
are dependencies of project X. Your other local projects might have their own .nlu.json files, which in turn,
declare their own local dependencies. That is expected of course, and this tool is designed to link up
all dependencies for every project in the hierarchy.

The following is a simple .nlu.json file:

  "npm-link-up": true,
  "linkable": true,
  "searchRoots": [   
    "$HOME/WebstormProjects",  // the tool will search for npm packages within these dirs
  "ignore": [                // paths to skip; these will be converted to regex, using new RegExp(x)
  "list": [               // list the local packages that you want to symlink to this project, here. NPM package name only, no paths needed.
    "socket.io",          // (these are just examples using well-known NPM packages, you will be using packages that you develop locally.)
  "install": "yarn",     // we give specific instructions (a bash script) on how to install, ("npm install" is default)
  "linkToItself": true   // if true, we link this project to itself; true is the default. Linking a project to itself is useful for testing.

After creating an .nlu.json file in the root of your project that's all you need to do, and then run:

$ nlu run   # run this from within project x

How it works in detail

See: docs/in-detail.md

Tips and tricks:

  • If you want to use a particular yarn or npm version to link your project, you can install npm or yarn as a local dependency of your primary project, and NLU will pick that up.
  • The above is the case, because by default NLU adds local node_modules/.bin items to the $PATH.


NLU cli in action

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