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Node.js modules policy

This page describes the policy that packages with Node.js modules should follow.

Policy in brief

  1. the binary and the source package should be called node-foo

  2. must build depends on nodejs

  3. should be installed to /usr/lib/nodejs/ or /usr/lib/nodejs/foo/, depends whether the module is contained in a single file or in multiple files

  4. should have package.json shipped in /usr/lib/nodejs/foo/package.json

  5. should generate a libjs-foo binary package if the script is usable also for web-browser (see Javascript/Policy for more info)

  6. should integrate automatic tests checking require('foo') works correctly

  7. compiled c++ addons should Depend on nodejs-abi-<process.versions.modules>

Policy in details


A module typically has already a source tree layout with directories like "lib", "bin", and a package.json file at its root.

Installing is as simple as:

This usually allows source to be kept unpatched:

Please refer to the upstream documentation (also available in /usr/share/doc/nodejs/api/modules.html#modules_folders_as_modules) to understand how to correctly Node.js looks up for modules.

Excluding auto-generated files from source

Strict application of DFSG requires files generated from source in upstream tarball to be excluded, unless it is possible to regenerate the files and prove they are identical to the ones in the tarball.

Minified files and browserified files are examples of such files that could be excluded for that reason. A convenient way to achieve this is to use the Files-Excluded field in debian/copyright, for more information please see UscanEnhancements.

Declare a build-dependency on nodejs

The nodejs package depends on libv8 and doesn't build on some architectures. Because of that, node-* packages having "Architecture: all" are available on architectures where nodejs isn't available - and so are uninstallable on those architectures. To work around that inconvenience to the users, simply declare an unversioned "Build-Depends: nodejs".

Declaring that build-dependency is also quite natural in the case of a package running its test suite during its build.

Autopkgtest - automatic tests

The package should provide automatic tests to check require(foo); works correctly in Debian. For more information about autopkgtest, please see DEP 8 specification.

This script can help you to add automatically autopkgtest support to your packages:

If you want edit manually your package, you must do the following:

Patching binaries shebang

While the entire world used node as command name for Node.js framework, in Debian the correct name was nodejs, because it conflicted with another package called node as well.

Technical committee decided to fix this by renaming node to nodejs.

To comply to this, node packages required patching, for example:

Now that the original node package has been removed from Debian, the Technical committee has reversed its decision Rename nodejs back to node for buster. Therefore, uploads to unstable shall now drop the old patches which rename node to nodejs.

Declaring a dependency on nodejs-abi-<process.versions.modules> for c++ addons

nodejs (>= 4.1.2~) provides a virtual package called nodejs-abi-<version>, where <version> is obtained with nodejs -e "console.log(process.versions.modules)" (or similar). This allows c++ addons compiled using nodejs-dev or node-gyp to declare a dependency upon a specific nodejs modules ABI.

Many thanks to Jonas Smedegaard for the idea and the essential part of the work.

Why Depend: nodejs-abi-<version>

It makes transitioning compiled Node.js addons to newer Node.js versions less painful. Without that, a bump in the abi means all packaged c++ addons report runtime failures. With that, a systematic binNMU of all concerned packages can be requested, and build failures can be dealt with properly.

See also for an example about how binNMU-ability is important.

How to use it ?

Build-Depends: nodejs-dev (>= 4.1.2~)

For dh-style packages

For cdbs-style packages

  dh_nodejs -p$(cdbs_curpkg)

Is it mandatory ?

Yes, we think this is a realistic release goal for Buster.