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The Little Things, Tutorials Comments

This is not a step-by-step guide, but more of an overview that can help you stitch together the detailed step-by-step guides out there.


  • Install nodejs and npm packages from your distribution’s package manager. I’ll call this “System nodejs”. You’ll need sudo to interact with it.
  • Install n, a node version manager, into System nodejs.
  • Use n to install nodejs versions into your user space. For these versions, you don’t need sudo.


I’m running Pop!_OS 21.04, which is essentially a flavor of Ubuntu, so this will look very Ubuntu-ish. If you don’t use apt to install packages, then simply use your package manager.

First, install Node with npm.

$ sudo apt-get install nodejs npm
$ node --version    # check that it's installed

Next, update your login scripts. I put this in my .zshrc (well, eventually—I’ve refactored).

## NPM

# Put NPM packages in homedir
export NPM_PACKAGES="$HOME/.npm-packages"

# Find user-installed node tools

# Unset manpath so we can inherit from /etc/manpath via the `manpath` command
unset MANPATH  # delete if you already modified MANPATH elsewhere in your configuration
export MANPATH="$NPM_PACKAGES/share/man:$(manpath)"

# Tell Node about these packages
export NODE_PATH="$NPM_PACKAGES/lib/node_modules:$NODE_PATH"

Install n, the annoyingly-named-but-delightful node version manager.

$ sudo npm install n --global
$ n --version

Next, update your login scripts again to know about n. I added this:

# Use n to manage node installations in place of NVM
export N_PREFIX="$HOME/.n"
export PATH="$N_PREFIX/bin:$PATH"

Now you can install any version of nodejs without messing up System nodejs.

$ n latest    # switch to the latest version and installed it if it's missing
$ n           # list the installed versions


“How to Install Node.js and npm on Ubuntu Linux”. A generic guide that might be out of date by the time you read this. If so, then search the web.

n – Interactively Manage Your Node.js Versions”

“Install Node.js to install n to install Node.js?” A discussion on how to install n without installing System node. I didn’t try this, but if you feel adventurous, you might want to try it. Please add a comment to let me know how it went.