3. Versions of dependencies

Semantic Versioning

Packages in Yarn follow Semantic Versioning, also known as “semver”. When you install a new package from the registry it will be added to your package.json with a semver version range.

These versions are broken down into major.minor.patch and looks like one of these: 3.14.1, 0.42.0, 2.7.18. Each part of the version gets incremented at various times:

  • Increment major when you make a breaking or incompatible change to the API of a package.
  • Increment minor when you add new functionality while staying backwards-compatible
  • Increment patch when you make bug fixes while staying backwards-compatible

Note: There are also sometimes “labels” or “extensions” to the semver format that mark things like pre-releases or betas (e.g. 2.0.0-beta.3)

When developers talk about two semver versions being “compatible” with one another they are referring to the backwards-compatible changes (minor and patch).

Version ranges

When you want to specify a dependency you specify its name and a version range in your package.json like one of these:

  "dependencies": {
    "package-1": ">=2.0.0 <3.1.4",
    "package-2": "^0.4.2",
    "package-3": "~2.7.1"

You’ll notice that we have a bunch of characters separate from the version. These characters, >=, <, ^, and ~, are operators and they are used to specify version ranges.

The purpose of a version range is to specify which versions of a dependency will work for your code.


Each version range is made up of comparators. These comparators are simply an operator followed by a version. Here are some of the basic operators:

Comparator Description
<2.0.0 Any version that is less than 2.0.0
<=3.1.4 Any version that is less than or equal to 3.1.4
>0.4.2 Any version that is greater than 0.4.2
>=2.7.1 Any version that is greater than or equal to 2.7.1
=4.6.6 Any version that is equal to 4.6.6

Note: If no operator is specified, then = is assumed in the version range. So the = operator is effectively optional.


Comparators can be joined by whitespace to create a comparator set. This creates an intersection of the comparators it includes. For example, the comparator set >=2.0.0 <3.1.4 means “Greater than or equal to 2.0.0 and less than 3.1.4.


A full version range can include a union of multiple comparator sets joined together by ||. If either side of the union is satisfied, then the whole version range is satisfied. For example, the version range <2.0.0 || >3.1.4 means “Less than 2.0.0 or greater than 3.1.4.

Pre-release tags

Versions can also have pre-release tags (e.g. 3.1.4-beta.2). If a comparator includes a version with a pre-release tag it will only match against versions that have the same major.minor.patch version.

For example, the range >=3.1.4-beta.2 would match 3.1.4-beta.2 or 3.1.4-beta.12, but would not match 3.1.5-beta.1 even though it is technically “greater than or equal to” (>=) the 3.1.4-beta.2 version.

Pre-releases tend to contain accidental breaking changes and usually you do not want to match pre-releases outside of the version you have specified so this behavior is useful.

Advanced version ranges

Hyphen Ranges

Hyphen ranges (e.g. 2.0.0 - 3.1.4) specify an inclusive set. If part of the version is left out (e.g. 0.4 or 2) then they are filled in with zeroes.

Version range Expanded version range
2.0.0 - 3.1.4 >=2.0.0 <=3.1.4
0.4 - 2 >=0.4.0 <=2.0.0

Any of X, x, or * can be used to leave part or all of a version unspecified.

Version range Expanded version range
* >=0.0.0 (any version)
2.x >=2.0.0 <3.0.0 (match major version)
3.1.x >=3.1.0 <3.2.0 (match major and minor version)

If part of a version is left out, it is assumed to be an x-range.

Version range Expanded version range
(empty string) * or >=0.0.0
2 2.x.x or >=2.0.0 <3.0.0
3.1 3.1.x or >=3.1.0 <3.2.0
Tilde Ranges

Using ~ with a minor version specified allows patch changes. Using ~ with only major version specified will allow minor changes.

Version range Expanded version range
~3.1.4 >=3.1.4 <3.2.0
~3.1 3.1.x or >=3.1.0 <3.2.0
~3 3.x or >=3.0.0 <4.0.0

Note: Specifying pre-releases in tilde ranges will only match pre-releases in that same full version. For example, the version range ~3.1.4-beta.2 would match against 3.1.4-beta.4 but not 3.1.5-beta.2 because the major.minor.patch version is different.

Caret Ranges

Allow changes that do not modify the first non-zero digit in the version, either the 3 in 3.1.4 or the 4 in 0.4.2.

Version range Expanded version range
^3.1.4 >=3.1.4 <4.0.0
^0.4.2 >=0.4.2 <0.5.0
^0.0.2 >=0.0.2 <0.0.3

Note: By default when you run yarn add [package-name] it will use a caret range.

If part of the version is left out, the missing parts are filled in with zeroes. However, they will still allow for that value to be changed.

Version range Expanded version range
^0.0.x >=0.0.0 <0.1.0
^0.0 >=0.0.0 <0.1.0
^0.x >=0.0.0 <1.0.0
^0 >=0.0.0 <1.0.0

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