0.8.0 • Public • Published

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make-pkg — initialize and maintain npm package projects

make-pkg is a Unix CLI for initializing npm package projects and implementing a release and maintenance workflow.

The projects initialized are backed by a local Git repository with a remote GitHub counterpart.

While the typical use case is to create npm packages, make-pkg can be used to manage GitHub-based OSS projects in general.

make-pkg is opinionated, which allows it to simplify and automate many tasks.
For instance, make-pkg is managed by itself, and this read-me was scaffolded by it and is also kept up-to-date by it on every release.

Package initialization (scaffolding)

  • Initializes the package.json package-description file through a series of prompts, with configurable defaults, similar to, but more fully-featured than npm init.
  • Initializes a local Git repository and the .gitignore file.
  • Creates a corresponding remote repository on GitHub and links the local repository to it.
  • Instantiates templates for various standard files:,,
  • Creates stubs for the main module file and/or CLIs.
  • Creates stubs for tests, plus a few standard tests for CLIs.
  • For packages intended for publication in the npm registry, adds an npm-version badge and license badge, courtesy of
  • Installs a Makefile that implements a set of tasks for releasing and ongoing package maintenance, along with supporting development-dependency packages (which are the same as or a subset of the ones for this utility - see npm dependencies)

Package release and maintenance

Note that make-pkg itself is no longer in the picture after having initialized a package project; instead, ongoing tasks are invoked through the standard make utility. These tasks are defined in file Makefile, which can be customized after the fact, if needed; make list lists all top-level tasks.

  • make version and make verinfo update and list the package's version number, respectively:
    • make verinfo lists the current version number from package.json as well as the most recently assigned Git version tag; the Git tag is assumed to be in sync with the latest version published in the npm registry, if applicable; the package.json version may be ahead, in preparation for a new release.
    • make version [VER=<new-ver>] updates the package version number in package.json and, if present, in source files:
      • If VER is not specified, the new version number is prompted for.
      • The new version number is validated, including to prevent accidental lowering of the version number; however, in exceptional situations you may specify FORCE=1 on the command line to override.
      • Updates the version number in package.json.
      • Updates the version number in source files in the ./bin and ./lib subfolders, using string replacement to update v<major>.<minor>.<patch> instances of the old version number.
      • <new-ver> can either be an explicit <major>.<minor>.<patch> version specifier or specify how to increment the current version number via the component to increment: patch, minor, major, prepatch, preminor, premajor, or prerelease; using a pre-prefixed specifier on a non-pre-release version number appends -0 to it.
  • make update-readme updates file to act as a single source of all relevant, current project information
    • Pulls in the then-current contents of the and files.
    • If needed, updates the calendar year in
    • If applicable, pulls in usage information output by the project's CLI.
    • By default, adds an auto-generated, auto-updating TOC (table of contents) at the top, courtesy of doctoc; see below for how to turn that off.
    • Lists the project's dependencies with links to their respective homepages.
  • make toggle-toc turns inclusion of an auto-generated, auto-updating TOC in on or off.
    • Shows the current TOC inclusion status and prompts to toggle it; by default, inclusion of a TOC is turned on.
    • To change the TOC title, modify property net_same2u.make_pkg.tocTitle in file package.json.
    • To change the TOC settings for future projects, run make-pkg -e and edit the vTOC_* settings.
    • To update the TOC on demand (generally not necessary), run make update-toc.
  • make toggle-man turns generating a man page for a package's CLI on or off.
    • Shows whether the feature is currently on and prompts to toggle it; by default, it is turned off.
    • To turn the feature on or off for future CLI projects, run make-pkg -e and edit the vMAN_ON setting.
    • To update the man page on demand, run make update-man; updating is performed automatically during make release.
    • To update and view the man page locally, run make view-man.
    • Note: For this feature to work, a package's CLI must exhibit very specific behavior: when invoked with --man-source, it must output a Markdown-formatted document that marked-man can process; the Markdown document is extracted as-is to ./doc/, and the man-page-format (ROFF) document created by marked-man is saved to ./man/. A man property in package.json points to the ROFF document, which, in the case of global installation (-g) of the package, causes npm to install the ROFF document as a system-wide man page (except on Windows). make-pkg itself uses the feature, so you can look at its CLI and package.json file to see how it's implemented.
  • make test runs tests:
    • Runs the tests defined in subdirectory ./test; stubs are initially provided, as well as a few standard tests, if the project has a CLI.
    • If the project comprises only a CLI, test library urchin is used; otherwise, it is tap.
  • make release integrates all of the above tasks to publish a release; if any sub-task fails, the overall task is aborted:
    • Ensures that the active branch is master and that there are no untracked files.
    • If the package.json version number is already ahead of the latest Git version tag, that version number is offered as the new release's version number by default, but you can opt to change it. If you do, or if the package version number is not ahead, you're prompted for the new version number as described for make version above.
    • Runs the tests, as described above; NOTEST=1 can be appended to the make release invocation to skip tests.
    • Adds a date-stamped section for the new version at the beginning of and opens it for editing to describe what's changed in the new release.
    • If applicable and turned on, creates or updates the man page for the project's (main) CLI in ./man using marked-man - see make toggle-man above.
    • Updates as described above, opens it in the system's text editor for final review, and prompts for continuing on closing it.
    • Commits, using the new changelog section as the commit message.
    • Creates an annotated Git version tag with the new version number; also (re)creates the lightweight 'stable' tag to mark the most recent stable version, or, analogously, the 'pre' tag for pre-release versions.
    • Pushes the changes and tags to the master branch of the remote origin GitHub repository.
    • Unless the project is marked as private in package.json, offers to publish the new version to the npm registry.
      • Pre-release versions are published with --tag pre, so as to make the latest pre-release version installable on demand with npm install <pgk>@pre, while retaining the most recent release version as the default version.
  • make push pushes changes to the remote origin repository:
    • Initiates a commit, if necessary, but aborts if there are untracked files.
    • On successful commit, pushes changes to the branch of the same name in the remote origin repository - without tags, however.
  • make browse and make browse-npm open the project's GitHub repository and the package's page in the npm registry, respectively, in the default web browser.

Supported platforms

Linux and OS X

In principle, any Unix-like platform with bash and GNU make and otherwise either GNU or BSD utilities.

Additional prerequisites

Note that bash is required both for running make-pkg itself initially and later for running the shell commands in Makefile via make from inside the projects generated.


With Node.js or io.js installed, install from the npm registry:

[sudo] npm install -g make-pkg


  • Whether you need sudo depends on how you installed Node.js / io.js and whether you've changed permissions later; if you get an EACCES error, try again with sudo.
  • The -g ensures global installation and is needed to put make-pkg in your system's $PATH.



The following image shows an example interaction with the series of prompts presented during package initialization:

Example prompts

Initializing a new package

  • Create a directory for the new package project.
  • cd to it.
  • Run make-pkg [<pkg-type>]
    • [Experimental] <pkg-type> allows creating a specific type of package:
      • Specifying a type streamlines the initialization process by skipping certain prompts and assuming appropriate default values.
      • Additionally, type-specific prompts may be presented, and the resulting package may have additional features and/or a different internal structure.
      • Conversely, not specifying a type provides the most flexibility for creating a package that contains a JS library and/or a CLI.
      • Types currently supported are:
        • lib: a regular Node.js library package without a CLI.
        • cli: a CLI-only package, with global installation preferred.
        • awf: an Alfred 2 workflow package
      • Refer to the docs for details.
    • On first use you'll be prompted to specify required global settings and defaults, such as your GitHub username, your website, and your preferred OSS license.
      • To modify settings later, run make-pkg -e from any directory.
    • You'll be guided through a series of prompts to create the package.json file.
    • On confirming the intent to create the package.json file as presented, the remaining tasks - creating the repositories, instantiating templates, creating stubs - run automatically.

To-dos after the project has been initialized:

  • Flesh out the stub module (in ./lib) and/or the CLI stub (in ./bin) with the actual implementation.
    • Note: The specific to-dos may differ for special package types.
  • Flesh out the stub tests in ./test.
  • Flesh out, making sure to replace instances of "???", the missing-information placeholder.
  • Use the make tasks as described above for releasing and ongoing maintenance.

Command-line syntax

Find concise usage information below; for more detailed information, read the manual online, or, once installed, run man make-pkg.

$ make-pkg --help
Initializes an npm-package project in the current directory and  
implements a maintenance and release workflow.
    make-pkg [-l] [-f] [<pkg-type>]
    make-pkg -e
    -l            suppresses creation of remote repo on GitHub
    -f            forces running in a non-empty directory
    -e            opens the settings file for editing
    <pkg-type>    [experimental] creates a specific package type:
                  'lib': JS library (only)
                  'cli': CLI (only), global installation preferred
                  'awf': an Alfred 2 workflow
Standard options: --help, --man, --version, --home


Copyright (c) 2015-2016 Michael Klement (, released under the MIT license.


This project gratefully depends on the following open-source components, according to the terms of their respective licenses.

npm dependencies below have an optional suffix denoting the type of dependency: the absence of a suffix denotes a required run-time dependency; (D) denotes a development-time-only dependency, (O) an optional dependency, and (P) a peer dependency.

npm dependencies


Versioning loosely complies with semantic versioning (semver). Since this utility is applied only once to a given package - in order to initialize it - maintaining compatibility is less important. However, larger changes will be reflected in higher version-number increases.

  • v0.8.0 (2016-04-21):

    • [enhancement, behavioral change] make push no longer tries to push tags to the server, so as to allow quick pushing of changes without running into errors when trying to redefine tags.
  • v0.7.2 (2016-04-21):

    • [fix] Makefile template: npm registry saved-credentials detection code updated to account for how newer npm versions save them (//
  • v0.7.1 (2015-11-08):

    • [doc] Tweaks to the read-me templates.
  • v0.7.0 (2015-11-08):

    • [behavioral change] The package's directory name is now invariably used as the npm package name.
    • [enhancement] A package name is now checked for being a legal npm-registry package name: if not, a warning is given at the first prompt, and, unless a private package is being created, initialization will abort.
    • [enhancement, experimental] Support for package types added, both to streamline regular package initialization and to add support for specialized packages such as Alfred 2 workflows.
  • v0.6.3 (2015-10-28):

    • [enhancement] An attempt to run tests now bows out gracefully with a status messsage (and without error) if the ./test subdir. is empty (save for hidden items), before attempting to invoke tap or urchin.
  • v0.6.2 (2015-10-28):

    • [enhancement] Added custom badge that marks a project initially as not ready for release; to be removed when appropriat later; similarly, for npm-package projects, the npm-version badge is now initially commented out, to be uncommented once the project is published to the npm registry.
      Streamlined the license badges to always use a custom badge with the license's SPDX ID, which also makes it work with npm-package projects not yet published to the registry.
    • [dev] Makefile robustness improved.
  • v0.6.1 (2015-09-15):

    • [enhancement] New Makefile task make view-man updates the man page and views it locally with man.
    • [fix] Outdated status message at the end of package initialization corrected.
    • [doc] Read-me and man-page improvements.
  • v0.6.0 (2015-09-15):

    • [enhancement] New feature: optional, off-by-default support for creating and installing a man page for a package's main CLI - see description of the make toggle-man Makefile task in file
    • [behavioral change] Makefile task toc renamed to toggle-doc; also, toggling no longer attempts to remove an existing TOC on turning off, and no longer automatically adds one on turning on.
    • [fix] make release now once again adds the version-specific changelog entries to the Git commit message.
    • [doc] make-pkg now comes with a man page; make-pkg -h now just outputs concise usage info.
  • v0.5.6 (2015-09-14):

    • [fix] A preconfigured .gitignore file is now copied to a new package folder, as it always should have been.
  • v0.5.5 (2015-08-03):

    • [fix] Read-me template now uses ```nohighlight to fence CLI usage output, which is what the make update-readme and make release tasks expect.
  • v0.5.4 (2015-07-08):

    • [enhancement] Read-me template improved so as to ensure that CLI usage information is printed without syntax highlighting.
  • v0.5.3 (2015-06-29):

    • [enhancement] Test stub improved.
  • v0.5.2 (2015-06-29):

    • [enhancement] CLI and main-module templates improved.
  • v0.5.1 (2015-06-22):

    • [enhancement] CLI test template for unknown options added; existing templates improved.
  • v0.5.0 (2015-06-16):

    • [change] Pre-release npm tag changed to fixed string 'pre' so as to have that track the most recent pre-release.
    • [change] Pre-release Git tag analogously changed to 'pre'.
    • [fix] template is now again correctly expanded in Bash 4.x.
    • [enhancement] New test for test prerequisites added.
    • [dev] Tests improved to detect corrupt of template on expansion.
  • v0.4.0 (2015-06-16):

    • [new] Consistent support for pre-release versions added.
    • [enhancement] New CLI test template added for testing behavior with unknown options.
    • [fix] Minor bug in CLI test templates fixed.
  • v0.3.5 (2015-06-13):

    • [enhancement] When initializing a CLI package, supported-platform information is now added to the installation chapter in the read-me file.
    • [enhancement] make release now also opens for editing, so as to give you a chance for a final review, and prompts for continuing after.
    • [enhancement] make release now aborts if the missing-information placeholder '???' is found in
  • v0.3.4 (2015-06-06):

    • [new] License badge added to template for non-npm packages, based on
  • v0.3.3 (2015-06-03):

    • [doc] Read-me updated to reflect current implementation (badges, make browse-npm).
  • v0.3.2 (2015-06-03):

    • [new] npm-license badge added to template for npm packages, based on
    • [change] npm-version badge in template for npm packages switched from to, because the latter seems like a one-stop source for multiple badges.
    • [enhancement] Small Makefile tweaks.
  • v0.3.1 (2015-06-03):

    • [enhancement] Generated files now have version numbers hyperlinked to GitHub for comparing each release to the previous one.
    • [fix] Removed obsolete check from Makefile.
  • v0.3.0 (2015-06-03):

    • [enhancement] Improvements to the versioning workflow: new make verinfo task only lists version numbers, whereas make version now always updates - either by specifying VER=... on the command line, or by prompting the user.
    • [enhancement] TOC placement in generated files changed to ensure that badges stay at the top.
    • [fix] npm-registry-installation TOC entry in template for fixed, along with corresponding chapter.
  • v0.2.3 (2015-06-02):

    • [fix, enhancement] CLI installation instructions in read-me template fixed & improved.
    • [enhancement] Error-reporting helper function added to CLI test stubs.
    • [doc] Amended this read-me.
  • v0.2.2 (2015-06-01):

    • [new] make browse opens the project's GitHub repository in the default browser.
    • [enhancement] npm-registry installation instructions in generated files improved.
    • [doc] npm-registry installation instructions in improved.
  • v0.2.1 (2015-05-31):

    • [new] For packages intended for publication in the npm registry, adds an npm version badge.
    • [fix] Typo in templates/
  • v0.2.0 (2015-05-31):

    • [new] By default, an auto-generated, auto-updating TOC (table of contents) is now placed at the top of; behavior is configurable.
    • [doc] Tweaked TOC formatting to render as intended on
  • v0.1.0 (2015-05-31):

    • Initial release.

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