Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the package.json’s version not updated in my repository?

It is not needed for semantic-release to do its job

@semantic-release/npm takes care of updating the package.json’s version before publishing to npm based on the previous version that was tracked as a git tag. By default, only the published package will contain the version, which is the only place where it is really required, but the updated package.json will not be pushed to the Git repository. A git tag is added to track the new version, so committing the version is not necessary for semantic-release to pick up from there for the next release.

It can lead to confusion

Some teams find value in being able to reference the repository to determine the current latest version available for the published package. Unfortunately, there are some failure scenarios where semantic-release might leave the committed version in the repository out of sync with the version that exists in the registry. The best way to determine available versions is to consult the registry that your package is published to, since it is the actual source of truth. The npm CLI can be used to consult the registry with the following command:

npm dist-tags ls <package-name>

When not committing updates to the version, a value that follows the semver guidelines is still required for the version property within the package.json. To make it clear to contributors that the version is not kept up to date, we recommend using a value like 0.0.0-development or 0.0.0-semantically-released.

Making commits during the release process adds significant complexity

While the @semantic-release/git enables committing such changes and pushing them back to the repository as part of a release, we strongly recommend against this practice.

Making commits and pushing them back to the repository adds significant additional complexity to your release process that can be avoided:

  • Branch protection configuration must account for allowing the release user account to bypass restrictions enforced for human contributors, which might require elevating the access level of the release user beyond what would otherwise be desired/considered secure.

  • Pre-commit hooks configured for a project, which is a popular practice when enabling commitlint through husky, for example, must be accounted for in the release process. (We recommend disabling tools like this for automated commits, but you need to decide what is appropriate for your project)

There are valid reasons to commit during a release

If you make your npm package available directly via a GitHub repository rather than publishing to a registry, for example, making a commit and pushing to the repository is a necessary step. In such a case you will want to use @semantic-release/git to coordinate the commit and push. You can set the project to "private": true, within your package.json to prevent publishing to the registry.

However, if you are choosing to follow this path because you can't use the official npm registry and don't want to manage your own registry, consider publishing to GitHub packages instead.

Should release notes be committed to a CHANGELOG.md in my repository during a release?

@semantic-release/changelog can be used to add release notes to a CHANGELOG.md file within your repository as part of each release. Committing changes to a CHANGELOG.md or similar file introduces the same complexities as committing an updated version within a package.json file. In addition, the release notes that would be added to a changelog file are likely redundant with the release notes added as GitHub releases, if that is also configured for your project (enabled by default).

Before deciding that a changelog file is necessary for your project, please consider whether the added complexity is worth it when GitHub releases (or similar for your host, if not GitHub) might accomplish the same goal. It could also be worth considering whether having a CHANGELOG.md in your repository that only contains a link to the project's GitHub releases could be an acceptable middle ground.

How can I use a npm build script that requires the package.json’s version ?

The package.json’s version will be updated by the semantic-release command just before publishing to npm, therefore it won't be available for scripts ran before the semantic-release command.

As the @semantic-release/npm plugin uses the npm CLI to update the package.json version and publish the package, all npm hook scripts will be executed.

You can run your build script in:

  • the prepublishOnly or prepack hook so it will be executed during the publish step of @semantic-release/npm

  • the postversion hook so it will be executed during the prepare step of @semantic-release/npm, which allow for example to update files before committing them with the @semantic-release/git plugin

If using npm hook scripts is not possible, and alternative solution is to @semantic-release/exec plugin to run your script in the prepare step:

{
  "plugins": [
    "@semantic-release/commit-analyzer",
    "@semantic-release/release-notes-generator",
    "@semantic-release/npm",
    [
      "@semantic-release/exec",
      {
        "prepareCmd": "./my-build-script.sh ${nextRelease.version}"
      }
    ]
  ]
}

Is there a way to preview which version would currently get published?

Yes with the dry-run options which prints to the console the next version to be published and the release notes.

Can I use semantic-release to publish non-JavaScript packages?

Yes, semantic-release is a Node CLI application, but it can be used to publish any type of packages.

To publish a non-Node package (without a package.json) you would need to:

See the CI configuration recipes for more details on specific CI environments.

In addition, you will need to configure the semantic-release plugins to disable the @semantic-release/npm plugin which is used by default and use a plugin for your project type.

If there is no specific plugin for your project type you can use the @semantic-release/exec plugin to publish the release with a shell command.

Here is a basic example to create GitHub releases and use a shell command to publish:

{
  "plugins": [
    "@semantic-release/commit-analyzer",
    "@semantic-release/release-notes-generator",
    "@semantic-release/github",
    [
      "@semantic-release/exec",
      {
        "prepareCmd": "set-version ${nextRelease.version}",
        "publishCmd": "publish-package"
      }
    ]
  ]
}

Note: This is a theoretical example where the command set-version update the project version with the value passed as its first argument and publish-package publishes the package to a registry.

See the package managers and languages recipes for more details on specific project types.

Can I use semantic-release with any CI service?

Yes, semantic-release can be used with any CI service, as long as it provides:

See the CI configuration recipes for more details on specific CI environments.

Can I run semantic-release on my local machine rather than on a CI server?

Yes, you can by explicitly setting the --no-ci CLI option option. You will also have to set the required authentication via environment variables on your local machine, for example:

$ NPM_TOKEN=<your_npm_token> GH_TOKEN=<your_github_token> npx semantic-release --no-ci

However this is not the recommended approach, as running unit and integration tests on an independent machine before publishing software is a crucial part of the release workflow.

Can I use semantic-release with GitLab?

Yes, with the @semantic-release/gitlab-config shareable configuration.

See the GitLab CI recipes for the CI configuration.

Can I use semantic-release with any Git hosted environment?

By default semantic-release uses the @semantic-release/github plugin to publish a GitHub release. For other Git hosted environment the @semantic-release/git and @semantic-release/changelog plugins can be used via plugins configuration.

See the @semantic-release/git @semantic-release/changelog plugins documentation for more details.

Can I skip the release to the npm registry?

Yes, the publishing to the npm registry can be disabled with the npmPublish option of the @semantic-release/npm plugin. In addition the tarballDir option allow to generate the package tarball in order to publish it to your repository with the @semantic-release/git or to a GitHub release with the @semantic-release/github plugin.

See the @semantic-release/npm plugin documentation for more details.

How can I revert a release?

If you have introduced a breaking bug in a release you have 2 options:

  • If you have a fix immediately ready, commit and push it (or merge it via a pull request) to the release branch

  • Otherwise, revert the commit that introduced the bug and push the revert commit (or merge it via a pull request) to the release branch

In both cases semantic-release will publish a new release, so your package users will get the fixed/reverted version.

Depending on the package manager you are using, you might be able to un-publish or deprecate a release, in order to prevent users from downloading it by accident. For example, npm allows you to un-publish within 72 hours after release. You may also deprecate a release if you would rather avoid un-publishing.

In any case do not remove the Git tag associated with the buggy version, otherwise semantic-release will later try to republish that version. Publishing a version after un-publishing is not supported by most package managers.

Note: If you are using the default Angular Commit Message Conventions be aware that it uses a different revert commit format than the standard one created by git revert, contrary to what is claimed in the convention. Therefore, if you revert a commit with git revert, use the --edit option to format the message according to the Angular revert commit message format. See conventional-changelog/conventional-changelog#348 for more details.

Can I use .npmrc options?

Yes, all the npm configuration options are supported via the .npmrc file at the root of your repository.

See the @semantic-release/npm plugin documentation for more details.

How can I set the access level of the published npm package?

The npm access option can be set in the .npmrc file at the root of your repository:

access=public

Or with the publishConfig.access key in your project's package.json:

{
  "publishConfig": {
    "access": "public"
  }
}

Can I manually trigger the release of a specific version?

You can trigger a release by pushing to your Git repository. You deliberately cannot trigger a specific version release, because this is the whole point of semantic-release.

Can I exclude commits from the analysis?

Yes, every commits that contains [skip release] or [release skip] in their message will be excluded from the commit analysis and won't participate in the release type determination.

How can I change the type of commits that trigger a release?

By default semantic-release uses the Angular Commit Message Conventions and triggers releases based on the following rules:

CommitRelease type

Commit with breaking change

Major Breaking release

Commit with type feat

Minor Feature release

Commit with type fix

Patch release

Commit with type perf

Patch release

See the @semantic-release/npm plugin documentation for more details.

This is fully customizable with the @semantic-release/commit-analyzer plugin's release-rules option.

Is it really a good idea to release on every push?

It is indeed a great idea because it forces you to follow best practices. If you don’t feel comfortable releasing every feature or fix on your master/main you might not treat your master/main branch as intended.

From Understanding the GitHub Flow:

Branching is a core concept in Git, and the entire GitHub Flow is based upon it. There's only one rule: anything in the master/main branch is always deployable.

If you need more control over the timing of releases, see Triggering a release for different options.

Note: Only the codebase changes altering the published package will trigger a release (for example new features, bug fixes or performance improvements would trigger a release while refactoring or changing code style would not). See How can I change the type of commits that trigger a release? for more details.

Can I set the initial release version of my package to 0.0.1?

This is not supported by semantic-release. Semantic Versioning rules apply differently to major version zero and supporting those differences is out of scope and not one of the goals of the semantic-release project.

If your project is under heavy development, with frequent breaking changes, and is not production ready yet we recommend publishing pre-releases.

See “Introduction to SemVer” - Irina Gebauer for more details on Semantic Versioning and the recommendation to start at version 1.0.0.

Can I trust semantic-release with my releases?

semantic-release has a full unit and integration test suite that tests npm publishes against the verdaccio.

In addition, the verify conditions step verifies that all necessary conditions for proceeding with a release are met, and a new release will be performed only if all your tests pass.

What is npx?

npx – short for "npm exec" – is a CLI to find and execute npm binaries within the local node_modules folder or in the $PATH. If a binary can't be located npx will download the required package and execute it from its cache location. The tool is bundled with npm >= 5.2, or can be installed via npm install -g npx. For more details and motivation read the introductory blog post by @zkat.

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