Nx and the Angular CLI

Nx and AngularCLI commands are interchangeable

If you add Nx to an Angular CLI project, ng and nx are interchangeable (they invoke the same command, which is nx). So anywhere you see "nx build" or "nx affected", you can also use "ng build" or "ng affected".

Nx integrates well with the Angular CLI:

  • It decorates the Angular CLI. After adding Nx to your workspace, running ng will run the wrapped Angular CLI that goes through Nx. Almost everything will work the same way but a lot faster. There are some differences and they are explained below.
  • It supports all Angular Devkit builders and schematics.
  • It supports using angular.json to configure projects and their targets.
  • Nx Console works with Angular CLI projects.

This works so well that often folks don't even know they use Nx.

Angular CLI has some limitations, and Nx addresses them.


Nx supports using angular.json to configure projects and their targets, but it comes with a few limitations. For instance, angular.json can be many thousands of lines long for large workspaces.

What we recommend instead is to split angular.json into multiple project.json files (one for each project). This is how you do it:

  • Change the version number in angular.json to 2
  • Run nx format
  • Run nx generate @nx/workspace:convert-to-nx-project --all=true
Nx and AngularCLI are compatible

But regardless of whether you use angular.json or project.json, the configuration remains the same. So anything written about project.json applies to angular.json in the same way. For instance, everything in project.json and nx.json applies to angular.json in the same way.

Note that even though the configuration is split, everything works the same way. All migrations and schematics that expect a single angular.json file, will receive a single file. Nx is smart, so it merges all the files in memory to make those migrations and schematics work.

'ng update' and 'nx migrate'

If you haven't used Nx before and used the Angular CLI, you probably ran ng update. What is the difference?

nx migrate is a much improved version of ng update. It runs the same migrations, but allows you to:

  • Rerun the same migration multiple times.
  • Reorder migrations.
  • Skip migrations.
  • Fix migrations that "almost work".
  • Commit a partially migrated state.
  • Change versions of packages to match org requirements.

And, in general, it is a lot more reliable for non-trivial workspaces. Why?

ng update tries to perform migration in a single go, automatically. This doesn't work for most non-trivial workspaces.

  • ng update doesn't separate updating package.json from updating the source code of the repo. It all happens in a single go. This often fails for non-trivial workspaces or for organizations that have a custom npm registry, where you might want to use a different version of a package.
  • ng update relies on peerDependencies to figure out what needs to be updated. Many third-party plugin don't have peerDependencies set correctly.
  • When using ng update it is difficult to execute one migration at a time. Sometimes you want to patch things up after executing a migration.
  • When using ng update it's not possible to fix almost-working migrations. We do our best but sometimes we don't account for the specifics of a particular workspace.
  • When using ng update it's not possible to commit a partially-migrated repo. Migration can take days for a large repo.
  • When using ng update it's not possible to rerun some of the migrations multiple times. This is required because you can rebase the branch multiple times while migrating.

The Nx core team have gained a lot of experience migrating large workspaces over the last 5 years, and nx migrate has been consistently a lot more reliable and easier to use. It has also been a lot easier to implement migrations that work with nx migrate comparing to ng update. As a result, folks building React and Node applications with Nx have had better experience migrating because Angular folks use ng update out of habit, instead of using the command that works better.

Starting with Nx 11, you can migrate workspaces only using nx migrate. To reiterate: nx migrate runs the migrations written by the Angular CLI team the same way ng update runs them. So everything should still work. You just get more control over how it works.

If you still want to run ng update, you can do it as follows: FORCE_NG_UPDATE=true nx update mypackage.

'ng add'

ng add is not natively supported by Nx. We want to have a consistent package install experience for developers who are working with Angular or non-Angular packages.

Instead, we recommend running:

npm install [package] && nx g [package]:ng-add

Replace [package] with the name of the package you're trying to add.

More Info

If you'd like a better understanding of the similarities, differences and trade-offs, we have a detailed comparison of the two tools here: Angular CLI and Nx - Why?