Request for Comments: Package Importer

Posted 26 September 2023 by James Stuckey Weber

Sass users often need to use styles from a dependency to customize an existing theme or access styling utilities. Historically, Sass has not specified a standard method for using packages from dependencies. This has led to a variety of domain-specific solutions, including the ~ prefix in Webpack, and adding node_modules to loadPaths.

This has been a common pain point, and can make it difficult to rely on dependencies. It can also make it more difficult to move your project to a new build process.

Package ImportersPackage Importers permalink

We are proposing a new type of importer that allows users to use the pkg: URL scheme to direct Sass to resolve the dependency URL using the resolution standards and conventions for a specific environment.

To address the largest use case, we are proposing a built-in Package Importer for the Node ecosystem. Our recommendation is for package authors to define a sass conditional export for entry points to their package in their distributed package.json. For example, a package.json containing:

  "exports": {
    ".": {
      "sass": "./src/scss/index.scss",
      "import": "./dist/js/index.mjs",
      "default": "./dist/js/index.js"
    "./utils": {
      "sass": "./src/scss/_utils.scss",
      "default": "./dist/js/utils.js"

would allow a package consumer to write:

@use "pkg:library";
@use "pkg:library/utils";

We wanted to allow Sass package consumers to start using pkg: URLs without requiring changes from the package authors. Because many Sass packages already define their entrypoints in a variety of ways, the Node Package Importer also supports several other ways of defining entrypoints, which cover the majority of implementations we observed. These resolve in the following order:

  1. sass, style, or default condition in package.json exports that resolves to a Sass or CSS file.

  2. If there is not a subpath, then find the root export:

    1. sass key at package.json root.

    2. style key at package.json root.

    3. index file at package root, resolved for file extensions and partials.

  3. If there is a subpath, resolve that path relative to the package root, and resolve for file extensions and partials.

To better understand and allow for testing against the recommended algorithm, a Sass pkg: test repository has been made with a rudimentary implementation of the algorithm.

DetailsDetails permalink

Because the Node ecosystem is primarily concerned with distributing JavaScript, we needed to find a way to allow package authors to distribute Sass. In many ways, the closest analog is to TypeScript types, as type definition files are distributed alongside compiled code, and are often not the primary export in a package.

Based on our analysis of over 400 packages for design libraries and frameworks, we anticipate package consumers will be able to use pkg: URLs for many packages without package authors needing to make changes. Package authors will be able to better specify and document how to consume the packages.

Our analysis also showed that packages distributing Sass almost always did so alongside JavaScript code. Some packages do specify a Sass file as a sass key or a CSS file as a style key at the package.json root, both of which will be supported by the Node Package Importer. We observed little usage of main or module keys for CSS or Sass, which will not be supported.

While we observed low usage currently of conditional exports fields for specifying Sass and CSS files, we expect this to grow as package authors adopt conditional exports. In addition, build tools like Vite, Parcel and Sass Loader for Webpack all currently resolve Sass paths using the sass and style custom conditions.

Users will need to opt-in to the new Package Importer by importing the nodePackageImporter from sass and including it in the list of importers. This won’t be available for Sass in the browser.

const sass = require('sass');

sass.compile('style.scss', {
    importers: [sass.nodePackageImporter]

Next stepsNext steps permalink

This is still in the proposal phase, so we are open to feedback. Review the proposal on Github, and open an issue with any thoughts or concerns you may have.