Explore npm vs. npx for JavaScript development. Learn efficient package management and command execution. Master npm vs. npx for streamlined workflows.byHasanul Haque Banna

Npm vs. Npx - Choose the Right Tool for Your Project

When you're knee-deep in the world of JavaScript and Node.js development, you encounter various tools that promise to make your coding experience smoother and more efficient. Two such tools that often create confusion are npm (Node Package Manager) and npx (Node Package Execute). Both are crucial in the JavaScript ecosystem, but they serve different purposes. Understanding when and how to use each can significantly impact your project's structure and development workflow. This blog will delve into the differences between npm and npx, providing you with the knowledge to choose the right tool for your project.

What is npm?

npm is a package manager for JavaScript, introduced in 2010, and is the default package manager for the Node.js JavaScript runtime environment. It is used to manage dependencies (libraries and packages) for your projects, allowing you to install, update, and manage reusable code packages from the npm registry.

Key Features of npm:

  • Package Management: Install, update, and manage libraries and dependencies.
  • Scripts and Automation: Run scripts defined in package.json to automate various development tasks.
  • Version Control: Specify package versions to ensure compatibility and functionality across environments.
  • Global vs. Local Installation: Install packages globally (accessible from anywhere on your system) or locally within your project.

Example of installing a package using npm:

npm install lodash

This command installs the lodash library into your project, adding it to the node_modules directory and updating the package.json file with the dependency.

What is npx?

npx is a package runner tool that comes with npm 5.2+ and higher, introduced in 2017. It's designed to simplify the execution of binaries from npm packages and manage temporary installations of packages.

Key Features of npx:

  • Run Packages Without Installing Globally: Execute any package available on the npm registry without having to install it globally.
  • Temporary Installation: Temporarily install and run a package in a single line of command, which is especially useful for packages used occasionally or for trying out packages.
  • Avoid Global Installation Mess: Helps keep your system clean by avoiding unnecessary global installations.
  • Execute Code Directly from URLs: Run scripts or commands hosted on remote locations directly.

Example of using npx to run a package:

npx cowsay Hello, World!

This command will temporarily download and execute the cowsay package, outputting "Hello, World!" in a terminal-based cow illustration.

When to Use npm and npx

Using npm:

  • Project Setup: When setting up a new project, use npm to install all your dependencies locally. This makes sure that anyone who clones the repository will have the right dependencies installed.
  • Routine Development: Use npm to run scripts defined in your package.json, such as start, test, and build. These are crucial for daily development activities.
  • Package Management: Regular maintenance of a project, including updating or removing dependencies, should be managed through npm.

Using npx:

  • One-Off Commands: When you need to run a command or script from an npm package without installing it globally, npx is your tool of choice.
  • Testing New Tools: Before adding a new tool or library permanently to your project, you can use npx to test it out.
  • Running Code Directly from a Gist or Repository: If you want to execute scripts hosted on a repository or a Gist without cloning or setting up, npx can execute them directly.

Best Practices for npm and npx


  • Use Semantic Versioning: Specify package versions using semantic versioning to avoid breaking changes and ensure compatibility.
  • Optimize Package.json: Regularly audit your package.json file for outdated or unused packages to keep your project clean and efficient.
  • Use npm ci for Consistent Installs: In continuous integration environments, use npm ci instead of npm install to ensure that the installation process respects the exact state of the package-lock.json file.


  • Check Package Sources: Before running a package using npx, ensure it's safe and secure, as executing code directly from the internet can pose security risks.
  • Use for CLI Tools: Leverage npx for running CLI tools that you don’t need permanently in your development environment, like creating new projects with create-react-app.


Understanding the distinct roles of npm and npx in JavaScript development is crucial. While npm manages dependencies and runs scripts, npx allows for the execution of npm package binaries with ease and flexibility, especially useful for one-off or trial tasks. By mastering when and how to use each tool, you can streamline your development process, maintain a clean work environment, and ensure that your projects are efficient and up-to-date.