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5-Minute Quick Start

This guide will get you up and running with Automerge in a JavaScript or TypeScript application. This guide is recommended for you if you have strong understanding of JavaScript fundamentals and CRDTs. If you find this quick start to be complicated, we recommend trying the Tutorial section.


Installation from npm, using Node.js:

npm install automerge ## or yarn add automerge

Then load the library as follows:

const Automerge = require('automerge')

If you are using ES2015 or TypeScript, import the library like this:

import * as Automerge from 'automerge'

In a browser-based app, you can load Automerge with a script tag, which will set up a global variable called Automerge:

<script type="application/javascript" src="[email protected]/dist/automerge.min.js"></script>

Creating a document

Let's say doc1 is the application state on device 1. Further down we'll simulate a second device. We initialize the document to initially contain an empty list of cards.

let doc1 = Automerge.init()

Automerge follows good functional programming practice. The doc1 object is treated as immutable -- you never change it directly. To change it, you need to call Automerge.change() with a callback in which you can mutate the state.

Making changes

doc1 = Automerge.change(doc1, 'Add card', doc => { = []{ title: 'Rewrite everything in Clojure', done: false }){ title: 'Rewrite everything in Haskell', done: false })
// { cards: [
// { title: 'Rewrite everything in Clojure', done: false },
// { title: 'Rewrite everything in Haskell', done: false } ]}

Automerge.change(doc, [message], changeFn) enables you to modify an Automerge document doc, returning an updated copy of the document.

The message argument is optional. It allows you to attach an arbitrary string to the change, which is not interpreted by Automerge, but saved as part of the change history.

The doc1 returned by Automerge.change() is a regular JavaScript object containing all the edits you made in the callback. Any parts of the document that you didn't change are carried over unmodified. The only special things about it are:

  • It is treated as immutable, so all changes must go through Automerge.change().
  • Every object has a unique ID, which you can get by passing the object to the Automerge.getObjectId() function. This ID is used by Automerge to track which object is which.
  • Objects also have information about conflicts, which is used when several users make changes to the same property concurrently (see conflicts).

Merging documents

Now let's simulate another device, whose application state is doc2. We must initialise it separately, and merge doc1 into it. After merging, doc2 is a replicated copy of doc1.

let doc2 = Automerge.init()
doc2 = Automerge.merge(doc2, doc1)

You can also load the document as a binary, if you want to send the document over the network in a compact format, or if you want to save the document to disk.

let binary =
let doc2 = Automerge.load(binary)

Now, when both documents are ready, we make separate (non-conflicting) changes. For handling conflicting changes, see the section on conflicts.

doc1 = Automerge.change(doc1, 'Mark card as done', doc => {[0].done = true
doc2 = Automerge.change(doc2, 'Delete card', doc => {

Now comes the moment of truth. Let's merge the changes again. You can also do the merge the other way around, and you'll get the same result. Order doesn't matter here. The merged result remembers that 'Rewrite everything in Clojure' was set to true, and that 'Rewrite everything in Haskell' was deleted:

let finalDoc = Automerge.merge(doc1, doc2)
// { cards: [ { title: 'Rewrite everything in Clojure', done: true } ] }

Get change history

As our final trick, we can inspect the change history. Automerge automatically keeps track of every change, along with the "commit message" that you passed to change(). When you query that history, it includes both changes you made locally, and also changes that came from other devices. You can also see a snapshot of the application state at any moment in time in the past. For example, we can count how many cards there were at each point:

Automerge.getHistory(finalDoc).map(state => [state.change.message,])
// [ [ 'Add card', 2 ],
// [ 'Mark card as done', 2 ],
// [ 'Delete card', 1 ] ]


If you're hungry for more, look in the Cookbook section.