Basic nvm (Node Version Manager)

3/12/2021 by Ryan Setiagi

Javascript has been the most favourite programming language since it can be run outside web browsers thanks to NodeJS. Like any other programming language, javascript and NodeJS is also evolving that comes with new features and fixes.

As a programmer, sometimes we usually work on many projects, and we cannot depend on the same NodeJS version, as a best practice, we always have an environment for specific projects that we have been working on. To achieve those requirements, we need tools to manage the NodeJS version called nvm (Node Version Manager).

Installing nvm

nvm can be installed via CLI using curl

curl -o- | bash

or, using wget

wget -qO- | bash

to let nvm start on shell login, put this script to load and setup the nvm on your shell profile (~/.bash_profile~/.zshrc~/.profile, or ~/.bashrc)

export NVM_DIR="$([ -z "${XDG_CONFIG_HOME-}" ] && printf %s "${HOME}/.nvm" || printf %s "${XDG_CONFIG_HOME}/nvm")"
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/" # This loads nvm
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/bash_completion" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/bash_completion"  # This loads nvm bash_completion

After installation success, you can check it by running

command -v nvm

if the installation is correct, it will prompt nvm as a result

Basic commands

Some commands for daily usages. Also, something to keep in mind, on nvm there is a feature called alias to make an alias for a specific nodejs version, for example, node is an alias for the latest NodeJS version, default is an alias for the default NodeJS version and many more. We also can create a custom alias.

Installing NodeJS

To install NodeJS we use the command install

nvm install node  # installing latest nodejs version
nvm install 16.6.1  # installing specific nodedjs version
List NodeJS Versions

To see the list of NodeJS versions that are currently installed on the machine, we can use command ls. But if you want to see a list of NodeJS versions that are currently active on remote, we can use the command ls-remote.

nvm ls
nvm ls-remote
Switch or use specific NodeJS Version

If we don't specify the NodeJS version, nvm will use NodeJS that currently set as the default alias. To switch between specific NodeJS versions we can call the use command.

nvm use node  # using latest nodejs version
nvm use 16.6.1  # using specific nodejs version
nvm use  # using the specific nodejs version provided on .nvmrc file

nvm can detect whether NodeJS version is installed or not, after calling use command, if there is no NodeJS version installed on the machine, nvm will installing the version and switch to it.


We can specify per-project NodeJS version via .nvmrc file, as you can see on the example command above, if we already have .nvmrc we can call use without specify the version, nvm will read the variables inside .nvmrc, specific version and alias can be work on this file. This is an example of .nvmrc.


Auto-use Script

nvm provides the auto-use script by detecting .nvmrc file and performing the use command. If you are using zsh, edit and put this script into your shell profile

# place this after nvm initialization!
autoload -U add-zsh-hook
load-nvmrc() {
  local node_version="$(nvm version)"
  local nvmrc_path="$(nvm_find_nvmrc)"

  if [ -n "$nvmrc_path" ]; then
    local nvmrc_node_version=$(nvm version "$(cat "${nvmrc_path}")")

    if [ "$nvmrc_node_version" = "N/A" ]; then
      nvm install
    elif [ "$nvmrc_node_version" != "$node_version" ]; then
      nvm use
  elif [ "$node_version" != "$(nvm version default)" ]; then
    echo "Reverting to nvm default version"
    nvm use default
add-zsh-hook chpwd load-nvmrc

for another shell, you can see another integration at the official nvm documentation here.

I think that is all for basic nvm, for more information you can always rely on the official documentation. As I mentioned earlier in this post, nvm is the proper way to install and manage NodeJS versions on the same machine, from basic to advance features that it gives should be enough for such a scenario.


If you find any misleading information or grammar issue, feel free to make corrections here.