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Absolute Version

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Do you use git tags to mark releases in a semver style? Do you want to be able to reason about the exact version of your application? Absolute Version is for you!

This tool prints out human-readable versions for when you are between versions, useful for reasoning about versions during CI and testing.

Note: Versions prior to 1.0.0 were named @pact-foundation/absolute-version, found here


When testing and releasing software, it is useful to be able to reason about the absolute version of an application. Some tools (eg Pact) require a clear and specific version for each testable instance of your application.

absolute-version relies on the commit history to produce prerelease versions with human-helpful and machine-readable metadata that will help you reason about what exactly is deployed or being tested.

It is a lot like the output of git describe, except it is semver compatible, and includes the branch name.

Example versions

  • If this is a tagged release version (for example, a tag of v1.2.3 or v1.2.3-beta), then the versions look as you would expect: 1.2.3 or 1.2.3-beta
  • If this is not a tagged release version: 1.2.3-master+26.6fe275b (from master, 26 commits after 1.2.3 was released, with the git hash 6fe275b)
  • If this is not a tagged release version, but was based on a a pre-release version (eg 1.2.3-beta), then 1.2.3-beta.master+26.6fe275b
  • If this is from a dirty working tree, you get SNAPSHOT and the hostname, eg 1.2.3-master+26.6fe275b.SNAPSHOT.StevesMachine

Confused about why you would want this? Skip below to why would I want this.

What it does

Absolute version provides a CLI and API for obtaining an absolute version from your git tags and current git state. If you are using semver, then all absolute versions are also semver compliant, using the prerelease and build metadata.

Since every commit is a different version of your software, have a different version with absolute-version.


npm install --save-dev absolute-version


npx absolute-version

Or alternatively:

npm install --save-dev absolute-version


scripts: {
  test: "VERSION=$(absolute-version-from-git-tag) jest" // or whatever

If your tags don't conform to vX.Y.Z, then you can pass an alternate tag glob:

npx absolute-version --tagGlob '[0-9]*'

The default is 'v[0-9]*'. The format for the glob is the same as for --match in git describe.

API Usage

  • versionFromGitTag: (config: AbsoluteVersionConfig) => string

Returns the absolute-version as a string, using the current working directory from process.cwd().

import { versionFromGitTag } from absolute-version'

const version = versionFromGitTag();


AbsoluteVersionConfig {
  tagGlob?: string;

If your tags don't conform to vX.Y.Z, then you can pass an alternate glob in the options:

import { versionFromGitTag } from 'absolute-version'

const version = versionFromGitTag({
  tagGlob: '[0-9]*'

The default is v[0-9]*. The format for the glob is the same as for --match in git describe.

Detailed description

Want to know the exact behaviour in each sitation? Read on!

Release versions

If the most recent commit is tagged with a semver tag, eg v1.2.3 or v10.2.5-beta, then it will output just the version number (1.2.3 or 10.2.5-beta).

Prerelease version

If the most recent commit is not tagged, then it will output a prerelease version, for example.


This is a semver 2.0.0 prerelease version string. Loosely, a prerelease version is:

  • 1.2.3: The most recent tagged version that this version is based on
  • master: The current branch for this version
  • 26: The number of commits on this branch (master) since the last version (1.2.3)
  • 6fe275b: The commit hash for this version, useful for disambiguation

If the previous release was already a prerelease version, eg v.1.2.3-beta, then the branch name is appended to the prerelease metadata:


Dirty working directory

Sometimes, a deploy has been made from a dirty working directory (oh no). To help find and reason about what exactly is deployed, absolute-version appends .SNAPSHOT.<current hostname> to the build info, helping you track down the source of the version:


A dirty working directory is always considered a prerelease, even if on a tagged release:


We don't recommend deploying from a dirty working tree, but absolute-version helps you know who to ask if someone has done that.

Non-semver uses

You can still use absolute-version if you're not using semver or tags (although we recommend using it when you are tagging with semantic versions, using something like the excellent standard-version).

If there are no tags in the current branch, then just the commit hash is used:


If there is a tag, but it's not semver (eg myversiontag), then we use it in place of the base semver:


What about characters that aren't allowed in semver metadata?

The semver spec allows only alphanumeric characters or - in the build and prerelease info. If your branch or hostname contains other characters, we drop them. Since the git hash is included, you shouldn't experience collisions between version numbers. If this decision is causing problems, please open an issue and we'll make it configurable.

Why does absolute-version look for tags prefixed with v?

This is to match the tagging conventions that the excellent tools standard-version and semantic-release use by default. You can configure alternate tag styles, see the config in the API and CLI sections above.

Why doesn't absolute-version's output include the v?

That's because the v is not part of the semver spec. I don't know why the v is included in the defacto git tagging convention, but not in other parts of the semver ecosystem. Maybe it's to make it clear that it's a version number? You decide.

Why would I want this?

Absolute version aims to solve the common pain points when reasoning about versions, using the version control tooling that you already use (assuming you use git).

  • Was this version before or after that version? Build numbers/dates or commit dates aren't accurate for reasoning about whether one application version is before or after another, development history wise. Absolute version's commits-since-release helps you answer this question, without needing to look at git log yourself.

  • What is the source of this version? Build numbers answer this, but they're still a layer of indirection to source code. With absolute version, you can read the version string and immediately check out the code at that version, without needing to go to your build system logs.

  • Was this version built directly from source? The dirty string SNAPSHOT.<HOSTNAME> lets you know if the source was modified before this version was deployed or tested. The inclusion of hostname helps you find out who might know the answer to how it was modified before deployment.

  • Is this a feature branch version? Want to know whether this is a trunk deployment or a feature branch? The branch is right there in the version.

Our experience is that it is better to have the answer to these questions before you need to answer them.

Common patterns like build numbers and appending the commit sha can be used to answer these questions already, but absolute-version has the advantage that it is easier for a human to read without needing to consult another source.


This repository was originally under the pact-foundation organisation. However, since the use cases for absolute-version are wider than just Pact, and since it's not necessary to use absolute-version when using Pact, it was moved out to its own organisation in January 2022.


The best way to get in touch if you have questions about this project is to open an issue.

If you have a question or issue that you don't want to post publicly (eg a security issue), you can contact the lead developer at timothy.l.jones+absolute-version@gmail.com.

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