Automation: Improve Workflow With Package Managers

Package managers help boost software development

Friday Feb 12, 2016

Author

Mike Mukul

Mike Mukul

Tech Lead

Speed. It’s a goal you have for your business. How can you deliver a project faster, streamline the process, and ensure a quality product? There are countless options, but one is most effective: Automation. Automating your process, development and quality assurance will definitely increase your delivery iteration.

If you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume you know that software development includes things like development tools, programming languages, third-party APIs, and cloud services. Package management is a means to connect all of these aspects of project collaboration. This is where streamlining your process becomes not just a vision for the future, but a potential, present reality. Read more to learn seven ways package managers speed up work and how to use package managers to install and update libraries for projects.

What is a Package Manager?
A package manager is a collection of libraries and software tools that facilitate the process automation and track the installed items on your computer. This includes features that install, remove, configure, and upgrade different packages for an operating system. Package managers help you configure and setup your development environment by installing and updating settings. These settings are versatile for many projects. Most of the programming languages have respective package managers that help in distributing libraries and tools for that specific platform.

Package Managers

What is a Dependency Manager?
A dependency manager is specific to each project and saves all the dependencies within the project folder. This makes it different from project to project and allows you to work on different projects with each individual folder’s settings.

Package Manager & Dependency Manager: What’s the Difference?
In short, package managers help you setup your development environment, install the package globally. Dependency managers install the packages locally for a project.

For example, in PHP, PEAR is a package manager and Composer is a dependency manager. Both package and dependency managers make web development more reliable and fast. Web developers are now following the practice of using dependency management, which helps to separate your dependencies code from the actual application code. When your application goes live you do not need to push the dependency code to your server, the dependency manager installs it directly on the server for you.

7 Ways Package Managers Streamline Workflow

  • Package manager installation is fast and easy.
  • Package managers stabilize the system, making it robust.
  • Repositories automatically download and install packages.
  • Removing a package also removes its dependent packages.
  • Package managers take care of upgrades and protect from overwriting modified configuration files.
  • Downgrading packages using the package manager is simple.
  • Package managers make sure that no package overwrites another package file.

How to Install and Update Libraries Using Package Manager

I’ll use Bower as an example. Bower is a package manager for frontend programming. You can install Bower by using the Node Package Manager (NPM). Bower helps install frontend javascript libraries like jQuery, Angularjs and CSS frameworks like Bootstrap. By using Bower you do not have to manually maintain the project libraries.

Installing Bower is very simple and fast. You first need to install Node and NPM, along with Git. You can install Node and NPM on the node.js site here. NPM and Node will download together, since they are part of the same package. After you install these, you can install Bower. Open the terminal and follow the commands:

npm install bower -g
This command installs the Bower globally into your system. Then you can run Bower from any specific project directory.

After installing Bower, run the following command to see the list of installed items.

bower help list
There won’t be much to see when you run this command just after installing Bower. You don’t have much in your system at this point. Next, install one of the libraries using Bower.

bower install bootstrap
This installs the latest version of Bootstrap. If you want to install any specific version with Bower, then use the following commands:

bower install bootstrap#2.2
The –save flag will tell Bower to create a Bower.json file. If this does not exist, include the details of installed packages in this file.

bower install bootstrap#2.2 –save
You can also install multiple packages with the same command, just separate the libraries with spaces.

bower install jquery bootstrap
Using Bower makes checking and updating packages a simple, streamlined process.

bower info jquery
bower update jquery
To uninstall the component use the following commands. If you accidentally uninstall, don’t panic, Bower will notify you.

bower uninstall bootstrap
All the components you install will be inside the component folder. Make sure that this folder is added to your .gitignore, so that it will not be pushed to the repository.

It’s Worth It
Package managers and dependency managers simplify the workflow in computer programming. You’ve seen the seven ways they streamline the process. The example of the Bower package manager is just one example of how you can use automation to speed up your team’s development. Contact us with further questions about using package managers at solutions@ithands.com.

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