Managing a monorepo with Lerna, TypeScript, React, and Jest

March 01, 20197 minutes

Screenshot of the component library
Screenshot of the component library

Recently at my day job I've had the relative luxury of building out our very first iteration of a design system and component library. The components are built with TypeScript, React, and styled-components. We deploy all this using Lerna to a privately hosted NPM registry with Nexus Repository Manager.

Now that the buzzwords are out of the way, let's get started. This post details my findings while laying the groundwork for a small team of frontend specialists to contribute code to a number of products from a single repository.

This post assumes that the reader has read some or all of the documentation on the Lerna website or GitHub repository and has some familiarity with packaging node modules for NPM.


We opted for a monorepo straight out of the gate for a couple reasons. We have a relatively immature frontend codebase with lots of duplication and we wanted a single source of truth for all of our UI code. Lerna allows us to use a single git repository to manage and publish NPM packages to either the official NPM registry or a privately hosted one.


If you're adding a new dependency to a package, use lerna add. This manages both the installation and the symlinking of packages, local or remote. To add a remote dependency like lodash.throttle, use lerna add and specify either a path to your package or a --scope flag.

npx lerna add lodash.throttle ./packages/my-package
# OR
npx lerna add lodash.throttle --scope @myorg/my-package

In our case we also have local dependencies where one managed package depends on another. Using the same command, Lerna is able to install and symlink a local dependency by specifying the package name.

npx lerna add @myorg/my-package ./packages/my-other-package
# OR
npx lerna add @myorg/my-package --scope @myorg/my-other-package

Peer dependencies such as react, react-dom, or styled-components should be added in the relevant package.json using carat notation. They should then be installed as devDependencies at the root of the repository using the traditional npm install react -D. This ensures that during development everything is available to compilation and your editor.

// ./packages/my-package/package.json
  "peerDependencies": {
    "react": "^16.8",
    "react-dom": "^16.8",
    "styled-components": "^4.1"
// ./package.json
  "devDependencies": {
    "react": "^16.8",
    "react-dom": "^16.8",
    "styled-components": "^4.1"

@types packages should also be installed at the root of the repository as a development dependency


Never run npm install in any package, this will (by default) add in a package-lock.json to each package and cause dependency hell when attempting to increment versions or update dependent packages. The only package-lock.json file should be at the root of the repository. Figuring this one out the hard way sucked.


This one really threw me for a loop. In more recent versions of Lerna (3.13.0 at the time of writing), Lerna seems to use the .npmrc file as the first and last place to look for registry and scope settings. We check this file into source control in our products so we don't need to have every developer set up the private registry on their machine more than once.

We're currently using Nexus Repository Manager and we specify the group repository in this .npmrc file for installing our private packages. What this means though, is that we can't publish to it.

It’s important to note that a group doesn’t store components. You cannot publish or deploy components directly to it. – Lesson 3: Creating and Managing Repository Groups

Using the --registry, registry config in lerna.json, or the publishConfig settings in each package.json to set the target registry did not work with a .npmrc file specifying the group repository. Changing this over to the hosted repository URL resolved this.


I started out using the default versioning behaviour where Lerna will ask for a new version for every package on every publish. We quickly found that this was putting a lot of stress on developers (aka. me) to keep the main products package.json files up to date and select correct versions for each package.

Now we're using the from-package positional. Instead of publishing every package on every call to lerna publish, this checks the registry for existing versions and compares those against the versions specified in the local package.json files. If there's a difference, it'll only publish the differing packages.

This means the workflow for publishing a new version now becomes:

  1. Write your code
  2. Increment the version in package.json
  3. git commit
  4. npm run publish


As with any TypeScript project, every package benefits from a tsconfig.json file and some custom configuration. When packaging with Lerna, we need to specify a few things in a tsconfig.json and our package.json file.

Make sure that main, typings, and a prepublishOnly script is defined in all TypeScript package.json files and declaration is set to true in tsconfig.json. These fields tell the consuming codebase where the type definitions are, what the entry point is, and most importantly how to build each pacakge.

  "name": "@myorg/components",
  "version": "1.2.3",
  "main": "lib/index.js",  "typings": "lib/index.d.ts",  "scripts": {
    "prepublishOnly": "tsc"  }

This assumes that the entry point of your packages are named index.ts


As we're building everything in TypeScript, each package defines its own tsconfig.json which all extend a single tsconfig.settings.json file placed inside the ./packages folder. The following is as close to the bare-minimum configuration that our particular project needs.

// ./packages/tsconfig.settings.json
  "compilerOptions": {
    "target": "es5",
    "module": "commonjs",
    "declaration": true,
    "declarationMap": true,
    "sourceMap": true,
    "esModuleInterop": true,
    "jsx": "react"
// ./packages/my-package/tsconfig.json
  "extends": "../tsconfig.settings.json",  "compilerOptions": {
    "outDir": "lib",    "rootDir": "src"  }

Pay attention to the outDir in tsconfig.json. This should be set to the same location defined in the main field in package.json.


To test our code, we're using Jest (v24 with Babel to transpile TypeScript) and Enzyme. Much of the setup was very straightforward after following the relevant documentation.

A big gotcha that doesn't seem to be documented anywhere is that Jest requires the TypeScript packages to be built before running tests even though babel will be working for the test files themselves. I resolved this by implementing a pretest script that runs the build before tests are run, and a convenience test:only script for when developers are only writing tests and not updating component code.

// babel.config.js
module.exports = {
  presets: [
        useBuiltIns: 'entry'

Pay attention to the name of this file, Jest 24 + TypeScript only worked for me when naming it babel.config.js and not .babelrc or .babrlrc.js.

// jest.config.js
module.exports = {
  moduleFileExtensions: ['ts', 'tsx', 'js'],
  testRegex: '(/__tests__/.*|(\\.|/)(test|spec))\\.tsx?$',
  testPathIgnorePatterns: [
  snapshotSerializers: ['enzyme-to-json/serializer'],
  setupFilesAfterEnv: ['<rootDir>packages/setupTests.ts'],
  // ...

Closing thoughts

We're now managing 5 packages and an increasing number of bespoke React components with Lerna. Our small team is able to build out new components as quickly as they're designed with confidence in an isolated environment (Docz). As the team grows I'm looking forward to seeing how this framework helps us improve our code quality and ability to scale our UI over time.


This is a preview of a simpler page design that I'm working on over the next little bit. I've finally added a (click it!) but there's still a few pages left to be converted so don't worry if things don't look quite right just yet 🙏

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