How to install NAVE, an alternative Node.js version manager to nvm

; Date: Thu Jul 25 2019

Tags: Node.JS

Those of us wanting to keep up with the latest Node.js version, or to test our code on alternative Node.js versions, probably have installed nvm. It is an easy-to-use tool for quickly installing the latest Node.js version, or to easily switch between Node.js versions to test our code. But nvm doesn't fit all use cases, and that's where nave comes in. Its purpose is extremely similar to nvm, but it satisfies a slightly different set of use cases that one may find interesting.

NAVE project: (

There are two documented methods to install NAVE:

  1. npm install -g nave
  2. basher install isaacs/nave

Since I have the heebie-jeebies about installing npm packages globally, I went the second route. And, I knew nothing about Basher and installed it: How to install Basher, the shell script package manager for Linux, Mac OS X, etc -- Bottom like is that Basher is a package management system for BASH scripts.

With Basher installed:

$ basher install isaacs/nave
Cloning into '/Users/david/.basher/cellar/packages/isaacs/nave'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 135, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (135/135), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (109/109), done.
remote: Total 135 (delta 2), reused 89 (delta 0), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (135/135), 127.93 MiB | 1.36 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (2/2), done.
Checking out files: 100% (115/115), done.

But the instructions does not result in an an executable thing.

$ nave ls
-bash: nave: command not found

What we find is that the command is here:

$ ls /Users/david/.basher/cellar/packages/isaacs/nave/bin

One way to proceed is to add $HOME/.basher/cellar/packages/isaacs/nave/bin to your PATH variable. However I have the directory ~/bin already present in my PATH variable, and did this instead:

$ ln -s /Users/david/.basher/cellar/packages/isaacs/nave/bin/nave ~/bin/nave

After that the help text prints as expected:

$ nave

Usage: nave <cmd>


install <version>     Install the version passed (ex: 0.1.103)
use <version>         Enter a subshell where <version> is being used
use <ver> <program>   Enter a subshell, and run "<program>", then exit
use <name> <ver>      Create a named env, using the specified version.
                      If the name already exists, but the version differs,
                      then it will update the link.
usemain <version>     Install in /usr/local/bin (ie, use as your main nodejs)
clean <version>       Delete the source code for <version>
uninstall <version>   Delete the install for <version>
ls                    List versions currently installed
ls-remote             List remote node versions
ls-all                List remote and local node versions
latest                Show the most recent dist version
cache                 Clear or view the cache
help                  Output help information
auto                  Find a .naverc and then be in that env
auto <dir>            cd into <dir>, then find a .naverc, and be in that env
auto <dir> <cmd>      cd into <dir>, then find a .naverc, and run a command
                      in that env
exit                  Unset all the NAVE environs (use with 'exec')

Version Strings:
Any command that calls for a version can be provided any of the
following "version-ish" identifies:

- x.y.z       A specific SemVer tuple
- x.y         Major and minor version number
- x           Just a major version number
- lts         The most recent LTS (long-term support) node version
- lts/<name>  The latest in a named LTS set. (argon, boron, etc.)
- lts/*       Same as just "lts"
- latest      The most recent (non-LTS) version
- stable      Backwards-compatible alias for "lts".

To exit a nave subshell, type 'exit' or press ^D.
To run nave *without* a subshell, do 'exec nave use <version>'.
To clear the settings from a nave env, use 'exec nave exit'

Kicking the tires of NAVE as an experienced NVM user

With this command we can see the total list of Node.js versions that can be installed using NAVE:

$ nave ls-remote

It's a long list which I didn't want to put here. To install the latest:

$ nave install 12
############################################ 100.0%
$ nave ls



This doesn't make that Node.js version immediately available. Instead you do this:

$ node --version
$ nave use 12
bash-3.2$ node --version
bash-3.2$ which node
bash-3.2$ exit
$ which node

What's happening is that - first, NAVE recognizes "12" as a shortcut for the latest version of 12.x, just as NVM does. Second, when you say use Node.js release X.Y it starts a sub-shell with the PATH setup for that release.

This is unlike NVM which modifies the variables in the current shell to point to the desired Node.js release.

As the NAVE help text explains, to exit from the subshell use Control-D or the exit command in the shell.

Creating a named version

Wo you like using version numbers? It's possible to avoid that as so:

$ nave use foo
What version of node?
lts, lts/<name>, latest, x.y, or x.y.z > lts/argon
Creating new env named 'foo' using node 4.9.1
bash-3.2$ node --version
$ nave ls

4.9.1	12.7.0	

foo: 4.9.1

For some reason lts/argon mapped to Node.js v4.9.1. To completely uninstall both foo and 4.9.1 I had to do this:

$ nave uninstall foo
$ nave ls

4.9.1	12.7.0	

$ nave uninstall 4.9.1
$ nave ls



Will I use NAVE over NVM?

I don't think so. After a few minutes of kicking the tires, I am not groking the value.

About the Author(s)

( David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.

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