Upgrade all dependency versions in package.json with yarn

yarnnpm

Updating dependencies in an npm project is pretty straight forward and easy to do with the command yarn upgrade. It updates all packages to their latest backwards-compatible version. Something that those coming from using npm update finds out is that the yarn equivalent doesn't update the package.json with the new versions. This is usually not a big problem because you have a file called yarn.lock in your root directory that keeps track of all your installed versions but if you are a perfectionist like me, you also want the package.json file to reflect what versions used in the project. Before presenting a solution let's explain a bit why it works like this.

As default when you install an npm package with yarn add the version of that package in package.json is prepended with a caret, like ^7.2.0. This means that we can upgrade to all upcoming versions of that package as long as it is not a MAJOR update. Npm packages are using Semantic Versioning (semver) so a MAJOR version is a bump that is changing the first number of the version. So in this case version ^7.2.0 can be upgraded to 7.3.1 but not to 8.0.0 for example. If you want to dig deeper into the prepending you can read more here.

Listing all outdated dependencies

As you see in the above image eslint is currently on 7.2.0 and the wanted version is 7.3.1. On the other hand eslint-plugin-react-hooks is multiple versions behind the latest but the wanted version is still the current one. There are no higher versions for 2.X.

The yarn.lock is a huge file that contains the complete dependency tree of all currently installed packages in your project. This means that yarn.lock can actually have a version of 7.3.1 of a package while package.json has it set to ^7.2.0. As mentioned above this is all by design and okay because it's not a MAJOR version bump, and they are both equivalent. It's actually what is set in the yarn.lock that is the "truth" because the project should be locked to these exact versions.

This is where yarn upgrade and npm update differ, the first only updates the lock file while the latter updates both the lock file and package.json. Because the lock file is the only one that matters it doesn't make any difference in practice. So next time you install this project you will get version 7.3.1 because that is the "locked" one even though it has a lower version in the package.json.

There is a simple command to also update the package.json when upgrading packages through the terminal with yarn. I can run an interactive upgrade tool that is bundled with yarn that gives me the option to pick all versions I want to bump to latest.

yarn upgrade-interactive --latest

This will list all upgradeable versions, and you can select all those you want upgraded with space. When done you just press enter and all checked packages will be upgraded and also bumped in package.json.

Select what dependencies to be updated

The trick here is that we are using the --latest flag which bypasses the default upgrade rule about MAJOR versions. Because this can bump versions way above the standard backwards-compatibility the package.json is also updated to reflect that we really make some hardcore updates here 👊🏻

Just be aware bumping a MAJOR version usually has breaking changes so read the CHANGELOG for that specific package before continuing.