Linking to third party code

In the Getting Started section, we saw Deno could execute scripts from URLs. Like browser JavaScript, Deno can import libraries directly from URLs. This example uses a URL to import an assertion library:


import { assertEquals } from "https://deno.land/std@0.130.0/testing/asserts.ts";

assertEquals("hello", "hello");
assertEquals("world", "world");

console.log("Asserted! ✓");

Try running this:

$ deno run test.ts
Compile file:///mnt/f9/Projects/github.com/denoland/deno/docs/test.ts
Download https://deno.land/std@0.130.0/testing/asserts.ts
Download https://deno.land/std@0.130.0/fmt/colors.ts
Download https://deno.land/std@0.130.0/testing/diff.ts

Note that we did not have to provide the --allow-net flag for this program, and yet it accessed the network. The runtime has special access to download imports and cache them to disk.

Deno caches remote imports in a special directory specified by the DENO_DIR environment variable. It defaults to the system’s cache directory if DENO_DIR is not specified. The next time you run the program, no downloads will be made. If the program hasn’t changed, it won’t be recompiled either. The default directory is:

  • On Linux/Redox: $XDG_CACHE_HOME/deno or $HOME/.cache/deno
  • On Windows: %LOCALAPPDATA%/deno (%LOCALAPPDATA% = FOLDERID_LocalAppData)
  • On macOS: $HOME/Library/Caches/deno
  • If something fails, it falls back to $HOME/.deno


How do I import a specific version of a module?

Specify the version in the URL. For example, this URL fully specifies the code being run: https://unpkg.com/liltest@0.0.5/dist/liltest.js.

It seems unwieldy to import URLs everywhere.

What if one of the URLs links to a subtly different version of a library?

Isn’t it error prone to maintain URLs everywhere in a large project?

The solution is to import and re-export your external libraries in a central deps.ts file (which serves the same purpose as Node’s package.json file). For example, let’s say you were using the above assertion library across a large project. Rather than importing "https://deno.land/std@0.130.0/testing/asserts.ts" everywhere, you could create a deps.ts file that exports the third-party code:


export {
} from "https://deno.land/std@0.130.0/testing/asserts.ts";

And throughout the same project, you can import from the deps.ts and avoid having many references to the same URL:

import { assertEquals, runTests, test } from "./deps.ts";

This design circumvents a plethora of complexity spawned by package management software, centralized code repositories, and superfluous file formats.

How can I trust a URL that may change?

By using a lock file (with the --lock command line flag), you can ensure that the code pulled from a URL is the same as it was during initial development. You can learn more about this here.

But what if the host of the URL goes down? The source won’t be available.

This, like the above, is a problem faced by any remote dependency system. Relying on external servers is convenient for development but brittle in production. Production software should always vendor its dependencies. In Node this is done by checking node_modules into source control. In Deno this is done by using the deno vendor subcommand.