npm is introducing a new setting for access tokens to support publishing to the npm registry from CI/CD workflows.
Previously, you could create an access token with one of two settings: read-only, and publish. A publish token allows you to publish packages, like the name implies, but if you have two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled on your account, you'll be prompted for your one-time passcode.
We recommend that people set up 2FA on their account for added security, but requiring a passcode means that all publishing must be done interactively. Many people want to automate their publish step with a CI/CD workflow.
Today, we've added a third option for access tokens: automation. You can create an automation token in your access token settings page.
Using an automation token will not prompt for a one-time passcode, meaning that you can use it as a secret in your publish workflow. Now you can publish a package directly to the npm registry when you cut a release.
If you're a package maintainer, and you want to require that publishers to your package continue to use two-factor authentication and publish interactively, you can do that in the package settings. If you already required 2FA, there's no change to this behavior; automation tokens won't be accepted unless you allow them to be.
If you've been waiting to enable two-factor authentication on your npm account because it prevented you from publishing in an automated workflow, you can now set up an automation token and enable 2FA.