Package name specifier

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Commands like npm install and the dependency sections in the package.json use a package name specifier. This can be many different things that all refer to a "package". Examples include a package name, git url, tarball, or local directory. These will generally be referred to as <package-spec> in the help output for the npm commands that use this package name specifier.

Package name

  • [<@scope>/]<pkg>
  • [<@scope>/]<pkg>@<tag>
  • [<@scope>/]<pkg>@<version>
  • [<@scope>/]<pkg>@<version range>

Refers to a package by name, with or without a scope, and optionally tag, version, or version range. This is typically used in combination with the registry config to refer to a package in a registry.


  • npm
  • @npmcli/arborist
  • @npmcli/arborist@latest
  • npm@6.13.1
  • npm@^4.0.0


  • <alias>@npm:<name>

Primarily used by commands like npm install and in the dependency sections in the package.json, this refers to a package by an alias. The <alias> is the name of the package as it is reified in the node_modules folder, and the <name> refers to a package name as found in the configured registry.

See Package name above for more info on referring to a package by name, and registry for configuring which registry is used when referring to a package by name.


  • semver:@npm:@npmcli/semver-with-patch
  • semver:@npm:semver@7.2.2
  • semver:@npm:semver@legacy


  • <folder>

This refers to a package on the local filesystem. Specifically this is a folder with a package.json file in it. This should always be prefixed with a / or ./ (or your OS equivalent) to reduce confusion. npm currently will parse a string with more than one / in it as a folder, but this is legacy behavior that may be removed in a future version.


  • ./my-package
  • /opt/npm/my-package


  • <tarball file>
  • <tarball url>


  • ./my-package.tgz

Refers to a package in a tarball format, either on the local filesystem or remotely via url. This is the format that packages exist in when uploaded to a registry.

git urls

  • <git:// url>
  • <github username>/<github project>

Refers to a package in a git repo. This can be a full git url, git shorthand, or a username/package on GitHub. You can specify a git tag, branch, or other git ref by appending #ref.


  • git+ssh://
  • github:npm/cli#HEAD
  • npm/cli#c12ea07

See also

npm-package-arg scope config