Minimal environments with dotenv and Node.js

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Personally I use dotenv to handle different environments in my Node.js applications.

It gives you the ability to specify a .env file (generally provisioned on each environment with the corresponding environment variables), along these lines:



Install dotenv with npm i dotenv


I want to be able to have multiple .env files (e.g. .env.production, .env.staging, .env.test) and switch between different environment.

Idiomatically in Node.js we use NODE_ENV.

So by setting just the environment variable NODE_ENV when running a Node.js program, env.js will load the environment variable of the corresponding environment.

This is how lib/env.js looks like:

const path = require('path')
const envFileName = `.env${process.env.NODE_ENV && `.${process.env.NODE_ENV}`}`
const pathToEnvFile = path.resolve(__dirname, envFileName)
require('dotenv').config({ path: pathToEnvFile })

it is then used simply by require’ing it with require('./env'):

console.log('process.env.MONGO_URL', process.env.MONGO_URL)

Here’s an example of how it’s used in source code.

You need to call this just once in your main js file and you’re good to go.

E.g. to run any script with a given environment:

env NODE_ENV=production npm run migrate -- status
env NODE_ENV=development npm run migrate -- status

env NODE_ENV=production npm run migrate -- up
env NODE_ENV=development npm run migrate -- up

Given you have a .env.production and .env.development file set up.