Using packages from npm

Last Updated 23 February 2020
How to use npm packages from a Kotlin/JS Gradle project and how do we interact with them from Kotlin.

In Kotlin/JS projects, all dependencies can be managed through the Gradle plugin. This includes Kotlin/Multiplatform libraries such as kotlinx.coroutines, kotlinx.serialization, or ktor-client.

For depending on JavaScript packages from npm, the Gradle DSL exposes an npm function that allows us to specify packages we want to import from npm. Let us consider the import of an NPM package called is-sorted.

The corresponding part in the Gradle build file looks as follows:

dependencies {
    // ...
    implementation(npm("is-sorted", "1.0.5"))

Because JavaScript modules are usually dynamically typed and Kotlin is a statically typed language, we need to provide a kind of adapter. In Kotlin, such adapters are called external declarations. For the is-sorted package which offers only one function, this declaration is small to write. Inside the source folder, create a new file called is-sorted.kt, and fill it with these contents:

external fun <T> sorted(a: Array<T>): Boolean

Please note that if we are using CommonJS as a target, the @JsModule and @JsNonModule annotations need to be adjusted accordingly.

This JavaScript function can now be used just like a regular Kotlin function. Because we provided type information in the header file (as opposed to simply defining parameter and return type to be dynamic), proper compiler support and type-checking is also available.

console.log("Hello, Kotlin/JS!")

Running these three lines either in the browser or Node.js, the output shows that the call to sorted was properly mapped to the function exported by the is-sorted package:

Hello, Kotlin/JS!

Because the JavaScript ecosystem has multiple ways of exposing functions in a package (for example through named or default exports), other npm packages might need a slightly altered structure for their external declarations.

To learn more about how to write declarations, please refer to the "Calling JavaScript from Kotlin" section of the Kotlin documentation.

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