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Publish Diff

View diffs of what you will publish to npm before you really do!

Publishing a package from a local repository runs the risk of last minute human mistakes like:

  • deletions
  • mutations
  • additions

to the files sent to the npm registry.

publish-diff offers the piece of mind that you will publish exactly what you intend to publish with convenient, git-style diffs against the npm registry from your local project.


Install this package as a global dependency.

$ npm install -g publish-diff


The basics:

  Usage: publish-diff [options]

  Preview npm publish changes.


    -V, --version              output the version number
    -o, --old <package>        Old package to diff (default `<package>@latest`)
    -n, --new <package>        New package to diff (default `process.cwd()`)
    -r, --registry <registry>  The npm registry to diff the package against
    -f, --filter <pattern>     File glob patterns to filter to
    --no-colors                Disable colors in the outputted diff
    -h, --help                 output usage information


    # Compare (old) npm registry `latest` version vs. (new) local `process.cwd()`
    $ publish-diff

    # Compare (old) npm version vs. (new) latest npm version
    $ publish-diff -o rowdy@0.4.0 -n rowdy@latest

    # Compare (old) git tag/hash vs. (new) git tag/hash
    $ publish-diff -o FormidableLabs/rowdy#v0.4.0 -n FormidableLabs/rowdy#v0.5.0

    # Filter differences to only lib and src directories
    $ publish-diff -o radium@0.21.1 -n radium@0.21.2 --filter='{lib,src}/**'

    # Filter differences to ignore dist directory
    $ publish-diff -o radium@0.21.1 -n radium@0.21.2 --filter='!dist/**'

Local Diffs

The most common case is to compare the latest published version of a package (old) against the current working directory (new). In this case, publish-diff will infer the package's name from the package.json file.

$ publish-diff

The script takes -o|--old and -n|--new values to determine what to diff.

  • -n|--new: Defaults to current working directory (process.cwd()) in the local filesystem. This assumes the common case of publishing a new version from your machine.
  • -o|--old: Defaults to the package.json:name of the package extracted from the --new argument at its latest version in the npm registry.

For a package <pkg> already published to the npm registry the default case expands to:

$ publish-diff -o <local cwd> -n <latest npm version>

# Diff local version vs latest on npm registry
$ publish-diff
$ publish-diff -n .
$ publish-diff -o <pkg>@latest -n .
$ publish-diff -o <pkg>@latest

# Diff local version vs tag or old version
$ publish-diff -o <pkg>@beta
$ publish-diff -o <pkg>@1.2.3

# Diff local version vs other local version
$ publish-diff -o /path/to/some-version
$ publish-diff -o /path/to/some-version -n .
$ publish-diff -o /path/to/some-version -n /path/to/other-version

Remote Diffs

Under the hood, publish-diff relies on the amazingly flexible npm pack to create the "real deal" version of a package that is already / will be published. This also gives us some extra flexibility in specifying the old and new packages to compare against as publish-diff permits passing the -o and -n arguments with any value that would otherwise be permissible to npm pack.

This means you can view remote differences across already published versions of packages without needing a local checkout:

$ publish-diff -n <npm name + version>
$ publish-diff -o <npm name + version> -n <npm name + version>

# Diff old version vs. latest on npm registry
$ publish-diff -o rowdy@0.4.0   -n rowdy@latest
$ publish-diff -o radium@0.17.2 -n radium

# Diff two old versions on npm registry
$ publish-diff -o rowdy@0.4.0   -n rowdy@0.5.0
$ publish-diff -o radium@0.17.2 -n radium@0.18.0

And you can do the same with git versions:

# Diff git tag/hash vs latest on npm registry
$ publish-diff -o FormidableLabs/rowdy#v0.4.0  -n rowdy
$ publish-diff -o FormidableLabs/rowdy#504735c -n rowdy@latest
$ publish-diff -o FormidableLabs/rowdy#v0.4.0  -n rowdy@latest

# Diff two old versions from git tag/hash
$ publish-diff -o FormidableLabs/rowdy#v0.4.0  -n FormidableLabs/rowdy#v0.5.0
$ publish-diff -o FormidableLabs/rowdy#504735c -n FormidableLabs/rowdy#fe25a22

Note that when doing local / git-based comparisons that portions of the npm publish / version lifecycles may be missing and you may need to manually approximate this (discussed in detail in the next section).

npm Lifecycle Complexities

One complexity that comes up frequently is npm lifecycle events that occur in publishing that need to be simulated to accurately generate a preview diff. Specifically, if the following taks is present in a package.json file, it will occur before actual publishing:

  • prepublish

After publishing, the following tasks run if found:

  • publish
  • postpublish

If a project uses an npm version workflow to control versioning of git source it will invoke the following package.json tasks if found:

  • preversion
  • version

After versioning, the following task is run if found:

  • postversion

Translating this to publish-diff, if you want to simulate what will actually be published, a more accurate command line sequence would be:

$ npm run prepublish && \
  publish-diff && \
  npm run postpublish

The gotcha here is that if there is a package.json:publish script it would not be run and you will need to manually approximate that because running npm run publish would actually publish, defeating the point of previewing your diff.

For a version workflow, an appropriate command line sequence may look something like:

$ npm run preversion && \
  publish-diff && \
  npm run postversion

Similar to publish, you would not want to run npm run version because it has side effects -- in this case, mutating the git state of your project. Projects with an actual package.json:version script would need manual cleanup.


.npmrc Files

publish-diff follows the npm rules for searching for .npmrc files -- https://docs.npmjs.com/files/npmrc#files -- which approximates to:

  • ${process.cwd()}/.npmrc
  • ~/.npmrc
  • $NODE_GLOBAL_PATH/etc/npmrc
  • $SYSTEM_PATH/npm/npmrc

publish-diff shells to npm pack which will out-of-the-box work with all but the first of these rc file locations. The complexity is that for the actual npm pack command, publish-diff creates and switches to a temporary directory. To compensate for this behavior, if a ${process.cwd()}/.npmrc file is found, that is also copied to the temporary directory before initiating any underlying npm commands.

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