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pkgx aims to provide packaging primitives. This library is a route to that goal. libpkgx can create sandboxed environments for packages that have no effect on the wider system without you or your user needing to install pkgx.

Getting Started

$ npm install libpkgx
# ^^

Or with Deno:

import * as pkgx from ""


import { porcelain } from "libpkgx";
const { run } = porcelain;

await run(`python -c 'print("Hello, World!")'`);
// ^^ installs python and its deps (into ~/.pkgx/
// ^^ runs the command
// ^^ output goes to the terminal
// ^^ throws on execution error or non-zero exit code
// ^^ executes via `/bin/sh` (so quoting and that work as expected)

Capture stdout easily:

const { stdout } = await run(`ruby -e 'puts ", World!"'`, { stdout: true });
console.log("Hello,", stdout);

{ stderr: true } also works.

If there’s a non-zero exit code, we throw. However, when you need to, you can capture it instead:

const { status } = await run(`perl -e 'exit(7)'`, { status: true });
assert(status == 7);  // ^^ didn’t throw!

The run function’s options also takes env if you need to supplement or replace the inherited environment (which is passed by default).

Need a specific version of something? pkgx can install any version of any package:

await run(["node^16", "-e", "console.log(process.version)"]);
// => v16.18.1

Notice we passed args as string[]. This is also supported and is often preferable since shell quoting rules can be tricky. If you pass string[] we execute the command directly rather than via /bin/sh.

All of pkgx’s packages are relocatable so you can configure pkgx to install wherever you want:

import { hooks, Path, porcelain } from "libpkgx";
const { install } = porcelain;
const { useConfig } = hooks;

useConfig({ prefix: Path.home().join(".local/share/my-app") });
// ^^ must be done **before** any other pkgx calls

const go = await install("");
// ^^ go.path = /home/you/.local/share/my-app/

Designed for Composibility

The library is split into plumbing and porcelain (copying git’s lead). The porcelain is what most people need, but if you need more control, dive into the porcelain sources to see how to use the plumbing primitives to get precisely what you need.

For example if you want to run a command with node’s spawn instead it is simple enough to first use our porcelain install function then grab the env you’ll need to pass to spawn using our useShellEnv hook.

Perhaps what you create should go into the porcelain? If so, please open a PR.


Most functions take an optional logger parameter so you can output logging information if you so choose. pkgx (cli) has a fairly sophisticated logger, so go check that out if you want. For our porcelain functions we provide a simple debug-friendly logger (ConsoleLogger) that will output everything via console.error:

import { porcelain, plumbing, utils } from "libpkgx"
const { ConsoleLogger } = utils
const { run } = porcelain

const logger = ConsoleLogger()
await run("youtube-dl", { logger }).exec()


We have our own implementation of semver because open source has existed for decades and Semantic Versioning is much newer than that. Our implementation is quite compatible but not completely so. Use our semver with libpkgx. Our implementation is 100% compatible with strings output from node’s own semver.

Setting useConfig() is not thread safe. Thus if you are using web workers you must ensure the initial call to useConfig() is called on the main thread before any other calls might happen. We call it explicitly in our code so you will need to call it yourself in such a case. This is not ideal and we’d appreciate your help in fixing it.

The plumbing has no magic. Libraries need well defined behavior. You’ll need to read the docs to use them effectively.

libpkgx almost certainly will not work in a browser. Potentially it’s possible. The first step would be compiling our bottles to WASM. We could use your help with that…

We use a hook-like pattern because it is great. This library is not itself designed for React.

We support the same platforms as pkgx.

What Packages are Available?

We can install anything in the pantry.

If something you need is not there, adding to the pantry has been designed to be an easy and enjoyable process. Your contribution is both welcome and desired!

To see what is available refer to the pantry docs or you can run: pkgx pkg search foo.


Interesting Uses

  • You can grab cURL’s CA certificates which we pkg and keep up to date ( These are commonly needed across ecosystems but not always easily accessible.
  • grab libraries that wrappers need like openssl or sqlite
  • run a real database (like postgres) easily
  • load local AI models and their engines
  • load libraries and then use ffi to load symbols



We would be thrilled to hear your ideas† or receive your pull requests.



The code is written with Deno (just like pkgx) but is compiled to a node package for wider accessibility (and ∵ pkgx is node/electron).

The library is architected into hooks, plumbing and porcelain. Where the hooks represent the low level primitives of pkging, the plumbing glues those primitives together into useful components and the porcelain is a user friendly façade pattern for the plumbing.

Supporting Other Languages

We would love to port this code to every language. We are deliberately keeping the scope tight. Probably we would prefer to have one repo per language.

pkgx has sensible rules for how packages are defined and installed so writing a port should be simple.

We would love to explore how possible writing this in rust and then compiling to WASM for all other languages would be. Can you help?

Open a discussion to start.