Integrating Nx and Lerna

In case you missed it, Nrwl, the company behind Nx, took over stewardship of Lerna. This opens up a range of new opportunities for integrating the two. Continue reading to learn more.

Lerna is a popular JavaScript monorepo management tool and which can be used in combination with Nx. Lerna does three main things:

  1. it runs commands for a single package or multiple packages (lerna run)
  2. it manages dependencies (lerna bootstrap)
  3. it publishes your packages, handles version management, and does changelog generation (lerna publish)

While Lerna is good at managing dependencies and publishing, it can quickly become painful to scale Lerna based monorepos, simply because Lerna is slow. That's where Nx shines and where it can really speed up your monorepo.

If you are about to setup a new monorepo from scratch, you can directly go with Nx. If you have an existing Lerna monorepo, you can easily integrate the two.

For a discussion on #2, see dependency management below. For a discussion on #3, see version management below.

Speed up Lerna with Nx's powerful task scheduler

Nx comes with a powerful task scheduler that intelligenty runs operations and makes sure they are quick. This happens in a variety of ways:

  • Parallelization and task dependencies - Nx automatically knows how your projects relate to each other. As a result, if project-a depends on project-b and you run the build command for project-a, Nx first runs the builds for all of project-a's dependencies and then the invoked project itself. Nx sorts these tasks to maximize parallelism.
  • Only run what changed - Using Nx affected commands you only really execute tasks on the projects that changed, compared to a given baseline (usually the main branch).
  • Caching - You get Nx's computaton caching for free. All operations, including artifacts and terminal output are restored from the cache (if present) in a completely transparent way without disrupting your DX. No configuration needed. Obviously this results in an incredible speed improvement.
  • Distributed Task Execution - This is unique to Nx. In combination with Nx Cloud your tasks are automatically distributed across CI agents, taking into account build order, maximizing parallelization and thus agent utilization. It even learns from previous runs to better distribute tasks! Learn more

Add Nx to an existing Lerna monorepo

Nx can be added to an existing Lerna monorepo by running the following command:

npx add-nx-to-monorepo

This will

  1. Add Nx to your package.json.
  2. Create nx.json, containing all the necessary configuration for Nx.
  3. Set up Nx Cloud (if you chose "yes").

You can then run your package's npm scripts by simply invoking

nx <command> <package-name>

Hence, if package myproj has a build script, you can just run it using nx build myproj. Similarly for running tests use nx test myproj and so on.

Here's an overview of some more Lerna commands and the corresponding Nx version:

2  "private": true,
3  "scripts": {
4-   "build:all": "lerna run build",
5+   "build:all": "nx run-many --target=build --all",
6-   "build:app1": "lerna run build --scope=app1",
7+   "build:app1": "nx build app1",
8-   "build:since": "lerna run build --since=main",
9+   "build:since": "nx affected --target=build",
10-   "test:all": "lerna run test",
11+   "test:all": "nx run-many --target=test --all",
12-   "test:app1": "lerna run test --scope=app1",
13+   "test:app1": "nx test app1",
14-   "test:since": "lerna run test --since=main",
15+   "test:since": "nx affected --target=test",
16-   "dev": "lerna run dev --stream --parallel",
17+   "dev": "nx run-many --target=dev --all",
18-   "dev:app1": "lerna run dev --stream --scope=app1",
19+   "dev:app1": "nx dev app1"
20  },
21  "devDependencies": {
22    "lerna": "3.*",
23+   "nx": "latest"
24  }

Learn more about the Nx CLI.

Dependency Management

Lerna has dependency management already built-in using lerna bootstrap. Running that will install all npm dependencies for all packages and also symlink together all Lerna packages that have dependencies of each other.

Nx does not handle dependency management. As a result, if you already have a Lerna workspace, you can safely keep using lerna bootstrap. Alternatively you can use some of the backed-in solutions that now come with npm/yarn/pnpm workspaces.

Version Management & Publishing

Version management is defined as bumping the version of your changed monorepo packages and automatically creating a changelog. After bumping the version, you will commonly want to publish/upload the new version to NPM (or some other package repository).

If you have an existing Lerna monorepo, feel free to continue using lerna publish.

Right now Nx does not handle version management although you can use the @jscutlery/semver Nx plugin.

You can also leverage a 3rd-party tool such as:

What's more?

Nx comes with a whole range of additional features such as:

  • Interactive workspace visualization - to interactively explore the underlying project graph for understanding dependencies and find paths between nodes.
  • Nx plugins - for adding first-class support for React, Next.js, React Native, Angular, Node, NestJS, Jest, Cypress, Storybook and many more.
  • Dedicated VSCode extension - You can install Nx Console which is a dedicated VSCode extension to provide a visual interface for navigating your monorepo workspace in terms of launching commands as well as for generating code.
  • GitHub integration - Install the Nx Cloud Github App to get inline reporting on your CI jobs.
  • ...

But take your time to explore.