Keeping your Javascript project up to date

A few tips and tricks to keeping dependencies in your JS project fresh

Sunny Golovine

Apr 14, 2021

I dread nothing more than running yarn oudated on a React project I haven't touched in a few months and seeing an output that looks something like this:


➜ yarn outdated
yarn outdated v1.22.10
info Color legend :
 "<red>"    : Major Update backward-incompatible updates
 "<yellow>" : Minor Update backward-compatible features
 "<green>"  : Patch Update backward-compatible bug fixes
Package                  Current  Wanted   Latest   Package Type    URL
@babel/core              7.12.13  7.13.15  7.13.15  devDependencies
@babel/preset-react      7.12.13  7.13.13  7.13.13  devDependencies
@babel/preset-typescript 7.12.13  7.13.0   7.13.0   devDependencies
@types/node              14.14.25 14.14.37 14.14.37 devDependencies
@types/react             17.0.1   17.0.3   17.0.3   devDependencies
@types/react-dom         17.0.0   17.0.3   17.0.3   devDependencies
autoprefixer             10.2.4   10.2.5   10.2.5   devDependencies
dompurify                2.2.6    2.2.7    2.2.7    dependencies
jsdom                    16.4.0   16.5.3   16.5.3   dependencies
netlify-cli              3.5.0    3.18.0   3.18.0   devDependencies
next                     10.0.6   10.1.3   10.1.3   dependencies
postcss                  8.2.4    8.2.10   8.2.10   devDependencies
react                    17.0.1   17.0.2   17.0.2   dependencies
react-device-detect      1.15.0   1.17.0   1.17.0   dependencies
react-dom                17.0.1   17.0.2   17.0.2   dependencies
react-query              3.9.8    3.13.8   3.13.8   dependencies
tailwindcss              2.0.2    2.1.1    2.1.1    devDependencies
ts-prune                 0.8.8    0.8.9    0.9.0    devDependencies
typescript               4.1.3    4.2.4    4.2.4    devDependencies
✨  Done in 2.61s.

This is the current state of this website though by the time you are reading this I would have updated the site. Because this project is not one I'm in frequently, a developing pain point is every time I need to make an update to my site, that update always starts with upgrading the dependencies in the project. So today I want to cover a few ways to avoid this issue.

The "Fast" Way

If you are confident upgrading all your packages to the latest version won't break anything, you can run npm upgrade --latest or yarn upgrade --latest to upgrade all the packages in your package.json to the latest version.

One might think that you could upgrade individual packages by running npm/yarn upgrade <package_name> and while that is true, it only updates the version in your Lockfile, which is not a big help.

The "Slow" Way

The slow or manual way is to simply upgrade the packages in your package.json by referencing the output of npm/yarn outdated. This way is good if your project is picky about package versions and you need to test every upgraded package to make sure things work. While slow, it's the best way of making sure you don't break anything.

The "Automatic" Way.

If you looked at the last two ways and though to yourself "well this still sucks" then I agree with you. In fact the best way I found to keep packages up to date is to use a dependency bot like Dependabot or Renovatebot. These bots will automatically keep your project up to date by figuring out which packages are outdated and automatically open PR's for them. So all you have to do it approve and merge the PR.



Both of these bots do largely the same thing and it doesn't really matter which one you get, and for personal projects both are free.

And while these bots are great for ongoing maintenance, I would not recommend using them out of the gate if you have a ton of outdated dependencies. The reason is they will create a PR for every outdated dependency, and if you have CI that needs to run before a PR is merged, this may turn out to be more of a hassle for what it's worth. My suggestion is to use option 1 or option 2 to update all your dependencies then utilize dependency bots for all subsequent updates.

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Copyright 2023, Sunny Golovine

Views expressed in this post are strictly my own.

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