Node.js Everywhere with Environment Variables

Node.js Everywhere with Environment Variables

Environment variables are a fundamental part of Node development, but for some reason I never bothered with learning how to properly use them.

Maybe because they are called “Environment Variables.”

Just the words “Environment Variable” trigger a PTSD-laced flashback in which I am trying to add the correct path to the Java Home directory on Windows. Does it go in PATH or JAVA_HOME or both? Do I need to end it with a semicolon? WHY AM I USING JAVA?


In Node, environment variables can be global (like on Windows), but are often used with a specific process that you want to run. For instance, if you had a web application, you might have environment variables that define:

  • The HTTP Port to listen on
  • The Database Connection String
  • The JAVA_HOME…wait…no — sorry. The healing process takes time.

In this context, environment variables are really more like “Configuration Settings.” See how much nicer that sounds?

If you’ve done .NET before, you might be familiar with something like a web.config file. Node environment variables work much the same was as settings in a web.config — they’re a way for you to pass in information that you don’t want to hard code.

Quoting yourself is the pinnacle of delusion

But how do you use these variables in your Node application? I had a hard time finding good resources on this with the requisite amount of Java jokes, so I decided to create one. Here are some of the different ways you can define and then read environment variables in your Node applications.

Pass it in the terminal

You can pass environment variables on the terminal as part of your Node process. For instance, if you were running an Express app and wanted to pass in the port, you could do it like this…

PORT=65534 node bin/www

Fun fact: port 65535 is the largest TCP/IP network value available. How do I know that? StackOverflow of course. How does anybody know anything? But you can only go as high as port 65534 for a web app because that’s the highest port Chrome will connect to. How do I know that? Because Liran Tal told me in the comments. You should follow him. Between the two of us he’s the one who knows what he’s doing.

Now to use the variable in your code, you would use the process.env object.

var port = process.env.PORT;

But this could get ugly. If you had a connection string, you probably wouldn’t want to start passing multiple variables on the terminal. It would look like you are hoarding configuration values, and someone who loves you could stage an intervention and that would be awkward for everyone involved.

PORT=65534 DB_CONN="mongodb://react-cosmos-db:swQOhAsVjfHx3Q9V[email protected]" SECRET_KEY=b6264fca-8adf-457f-a94f-5a4b0d1ca2b9  node bin/www

This doesn’t scale, and everyone wants to scale. According to every architect I’ve ever sat in a meeting with, “scaling” is more important than the application even working.

So let’s look at another way: .env files.

Use a .env file

.env files allow you to put your environment variables inside a file. You just create a new file called .env in your project and slap your variables in there on different lines.

DB_CONN="mongodb://react-cosmos-db:swQOhAsVjfHx3Q9V[email protected]"

To read these values, there are a couple of options, but the easiest is to use the dotenv package from npm.

npm install dotenv --save

Then you just require that package in your project wherever you need to use environment variables. The dotenv package will pick up that file and load those settings into Node.

Use dotenv to read .env vars into Noderequire('dotenv').config();
var MongoClient = require('mongodb').MongoClient;// Reference .env vars off of the process.env objectMongoClient.connect(process.env.DB_CONN, function(err, db) {  if(!err) {    console.log("We are connected");  }});

PROTIP: Don’t check your .env file into Github. It has all you secrets in it and Github will email you and tell you so. Don’t be like me.

OK — Nice. But this is kind of a pain. You have to put this in every single file where you want to use environment variables AND you have to deploy the dotenv to production where you don’t actually need it. I’m not a huge fan of deploying pointless code, but I guess I just described my whole career.

Luckily, you are using VS Code (because of course you are), so you have some other options.

Working with .env files in VS Code

First off, you can install the DotENV extension for code which will give you nice syntax highlighting in your .env files.

DotENV - Visual Studio Marketplace
_Extension for Visual Studio Code - Support for dotenv file

The VS Code Debugger also offers some more convenient options for loading values from .env files if you are using the VS Code Debugger.

VS Code Launch Configurations

The Node debugger for VS Code (already there, no need to install anything) supports loading in .env files via launch configurations. You can read more more about Launch Configurations here.

When you create a basic Node Launch Configuration (click on the gear and select Node), you can do one or both of two things.

The first is you can simply pass variables in on the launch config.

This is nice, but the fact that every value has to be a string bothers me a bit. It’s a number, not a string. JavaScript only has, like, 3 types. Don’t take one of them away from me.

There is a simpler way here. We’ve already learned to love .env files, so instead of passing them, we can just give VS Code the name of the .env file.

And as long as we are starting our process from VS Code, environment variables files are loaded in. We don’t have to mutilate numbers into strings and we aren’t deploying worthless code into production. Well, at least you aren’t.

Starting with NPM instead of Node

You might have gotten this far and thought, “Burke, I never ever run node anything. It’s always an npm script like npm start”.

In this case you can still use VS Code Launch configs. Instead of using a standard Node Launch process, you add a config that is a “Launch Via NPM” task.

Now you can add back in your envFile line and tweak the runtimeArgs so that they launch the correct script. This is usually something like “start” or “debug”.

Note that you have to add the --inspect flag to your npm script so that VS Code can attach the debugger. Otherwise the task will launch, but the VS Code debugger will time out like me trying to get a date in high school.

Production environment variables

So far we’ve looked at how to define variables for development. You likely won’t use .env files in production, and VS Code Launch Configurations aren’t going to be super helpful on a server.

In production, variables will be defined however your platform of choice allows you to do so. In the case of Azure, there are 3 different ways to define and manage environment variables.

The first way is to use the Azure CLI.

az webapp config appsettings set -g MyResourceGroup -n MyApp --settings PORT=65534

Which works, but, ew.

Another way is via the Azure web portal. I don’t always use a web portal, but when I do, it’s to set environment variables.

In the case of Azure, these are called “Application Settings”.

And since you are using VS Code, you can install the App Service extension and manage all the App Settings right from the editor.

I love not having to leave VS Code to do anything. I would write emails in VS Code if I could.


markdown-mail - Visual Studio Marketplace
_Extension for Visual Studio Code - Using markdown to write your email and send!

Now you know

Now you know what I know (which aint a lot, let me tell you) and I feel like I accomplished my goal of a tasteful amount of Java jokes along the way. Just in case I didn’t, I’ll leave you with this one.

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Top 7 Most Popular Node.js Frameworks You Should Know

Top 7 Most Popular Node.js Frameworks You Should Know

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform, runtime environment that allows developers to run JavaScript outside of a browser. In this post, you'll see top 7 of the most popular Node frameworks at this point in time (ranked from high to low by GitHub stars).

Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform, runtime environment that allows developers to run JavaScript outside of a browser.

One of the main advantages of Node is that it enables developers to use JavaScript on both the front-end and the back-end of an application. This not only makes the source code of any app cleaner and more consistent, but it significantly speeds up app development too, as developers only need to use one language.

Node is fast, scalable, and easy to get started with. Its default package manager is npm, which means it also sports the largest ecosystem of open-source libraries. Node is used by companies such as NASA, Uber, Netflix, and Walmart.

But Node doesn't come alone. It comes with a plethora of frameworks. A Node framework can be pictured as the external scaffolding that you can build your app in. These frameworks are built on top of Node and extend the technology's functionality, mostly by making apps easier to prototype and develop, while also making them faster and more scalable.

Below are 7of the most popular Node frameworks at this point in time (ranked from high to low by GitHub stars).


With over 43,000 GitHub stars, Express is the most popular Node framework. It brands itself as a fast, unopinionated, and minimalist framework. Express acts as middleware: it helps set up and configure routes to send and receive requests between the front-end and the database of an app.

Express provides lightweight, powerful tools for HTTP servers. It's a great framework for single-page apps, websites, hybrids, or public HTTP APIs. It supports over fourteen different template engines, so developers aren't forced into any specific ORM.


Meteor is a full-stack JavaScript platform. It allows developers to build real-time web apps, i.e. apps where code changes are pushed to all browsers and devices in real-time. Additionally, servers send data over the wire, instead of HTML. The client renders the data.

The project has over 41,000 GitHub stars and is built to power large projects. Meteor is used by companies such as Mazda, Honeywell, Qualcomm, and IKEA. It has excellent documentation and a strong community behind it.


Koa is built by the same team that built Express. It uses ES6 methods that allow developers to work without callbacks. Developers also have more control over error-handling. Koa has no middleware within its core, which means that developers have more control over configuration, but which means that traditional Node middleware (e.g. req, res, next) won't work with Koa.

Koa already has over 26,000 GitHub stars. The Express developers built Koa because they wanted a lighter framework that was more expressive and more robust than Express. You can find out more about the differences between Koa and Express here.


Sails is a real-time, MVC framework for Node that's built on Express. It supports auto-generated REST APIs and comes with an easy WebSocket integration.

The project has over 20,000 stars on GitHub and is compatible with almost all databases (MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Redis). It's also compatible with most front-end technologies (Angular, iOS, Android, React, and even Windows Phone).


Nest has over 15,000 GitHub stars. It uses progressive JavaScript and is built with TypeScript, which means it comes with strong typing. It combines elements of object-oriented programming, functional programming, and functional reactive programming.

Nest is packaged in such a way it serves as a complete development kit for writing enterprise-level apps. The framework uses Express, but is compatible with a wide range of other libraries.


LoopBack is a framework that allows developers to quickly create REST APIs. It has an easy-to-use CLI wizard and allows developers to create models either on their schema or dynamically. It also has a built-in API explorer.

LoopBack has over 12,000 GitHub stars and is used by companies such as GoDaddy, Symantec, and the Bank of America. It's compatible with many REST services and a wide variety of databases (MongoDB, Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL).


Similar to Express, hapi serves data by intermediating between server-side and client-side. As such, it's can serve as a substitute for Express. Hapi allows developers to focus on writing reusable app logic in a modular and prescriptive fashion.

The project has over 11,000 GitHub stars. It has built-in support for input validation, caching, authentication, and more. Hapi was originally developed to handle all of Walmart's mobile traffic during Black Friday.

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A Beginner Guide To Node.js (Basic Introduction To Node.js)

Node.js is a very popular javascript free and open source cross-platform for server-side programming built on Google Chrome’s Javascript V8 Engine. It is used by thousands of developers around the world to develop mobile and web applications. According to StackOverflow survey, Node.js is one of most famous choice for building the web application in 2018.


Node.js is a very popular javascript free and open source cross-platform for server-side programming built on Google Chrome’s Javascript V8 Engine. It is used by thousands of developers around the world to develop mobile and web applications. According to StackOverflow survey, Node.js is one of most famous choice for building the web application in 2018.

In this article, you will gain a deep understanding of node, learn how node.js works and why it is so popular among the developers and startups. Not In startup even big companies like eBay, Microsoft, GoDaddy, Paypal etc.

Why is Node.js so much popular

It is fast very fast

It’s a javascript runtime built on google chrome javascript v8 engine which means both node js and js executed in your browser running in the same engine that makes it very fast in comparison to any other server-side programming language.

It uses event-driven and non-blocking model

Node.js uses the event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it very lightweight and efficient.
Now let’s understand the above statement in more details. Here I/O refers to Input /Output.

Event Driven Programming is a paradigm in which control flow of any program is determined by the occurrence of the events. All these events monitor by the code which is known as an event listener. If you are from javascript background then most probably you know what is event-listeners. In short, event-listener is a procedure or function that waits for an event to occurs. In javascript, onload, onclick, onblur most common event-listener.

**Blocking I/O **takes time and hence block other function. Consider the scenario where we want to fetch data from the database for two different users. Here we can not get the data of the second user until we did not complete the first user process. Since javascript is a single threaded and here we would have to start a new thread every time we want to fetch user data. So here Non-Blocking I/O parts come in.

Example of Blocking I/O operation

<span class="hljs-keyword">const</span> fs = <span class="hljs-built_in">require</span>(‘fs’);
<span class="hljs-keyword">var</span> contents = fs.readFileSync(<span class="hljs-string">'package.json'</span>).toString();
<span class="hljs-built_in">console</span>.log(contents);

In** Non-blocking I/O **operations, you can get the user2 data without waiting for the completion of the user1 request. You can initiate both requests in parallel. **Non-blocking I/O **eliminates the need for the multi-threaded, since the system can handle multiple requests at the same time. That is the main reason which makes it very fast.

Example of Non-blocking I/O operation

<span class="hljs-keyword">const</span> fs = <span class="hljs-built_in">require</span>(‘fs’);
fs.readFile(<span class="hljs-string">'package.json'</span>, <span class="hljs-function"><span class="hljs-keyword">function</span> (<span class="hljs-params">err, buf</span>)</span>{
    <span class="hljs-built_in">console</span>.log(buf.toString());

Note: You can learn more about the event loop and other things by going through this link.

What is Node Package Manager ( NPM )

It is is the official package manager for the node. It bundles automatically installed when you install node in your system. It is used to install new packages and manage them in useful ways. NPM install packages in two modes local and global. In the local mode, NPM installs packages in the node_module directory of the current working directory which location is owned by current user. Global packages installed in the directory where the node is installed and the location is owned by the root user.

What is the package.json

package.json is a plain JSON text file which manages all the packaged which you installed in your node application. Every Node.js applications should have this file at the root directory to describe the application metadata. A simple package.json file looks like below

    <span class="hljs-string">"name"</span> : <span class="hljs-string">"codesquery"</span>,
    <span class="hljs-string">"version"</span> : <span class="hljs-string">"1.0.0"'
    "repository": {
	"type" : "git",
	"url" : "github_repository_url"
    "dependencies": {
	"async": "0.8.0",
	"express": "4.2.x"

In the above file, name and versions are mandatory for the package.json file and rest is optional.

Installing Node.js

  • In Windows, you can install the node.js by using the installer provided by the official node.js website. Follow the installer instruction and node.js will be installed in your windows system.
  • In Linux OS, you can install the node.js by adding the PPA in your system and then install node js. Run the below command the terminal to install node js
sudo apt-get install curl python-software-properties
curl -sL https:<span class="hljs-comment">// | sudo -E bash -</span>
sudo apt-get install nodejs

  • In macOS, download the macOS installer from the official node.js website. Now run the installer by accepting the license and selecting the destination.

Test Node.js Installation

You can test the node.js installation by typing below command in the terminal

node -v

If node.js was installed successfully then you will see the installed version of the node in the terminal.

Frameworks and Tools

After gaining the popularity among the developers, there are so many frameworks built for the node js for the different type of uses. Here, I will tell you some of the most famous node js frameworks in the market

  • Express.js is the most popular framework for node.js development. A lot of popular websites is powered by express.js due to its lightweight.
  • Hapi.js is a powerful and robust framework for developing the API. This framework has features like input validation, configuration based functionality, error handling, caching and logging.
  • Metor.js is one of the most used frameworks in the node js web application development. This framework is backed by a huge community of developers, tutorials and good documentation.
  • is used to build a real-time web application like chat system and analytics. Its allow the bi-direction data flow between the web client and server.
  • Koa.js is yet another most used framework to build the web application using the node js. This framework is backed by the team behind Express.js. It allows you to ditch callbacks and increase error handling.


Today, Node.js shaping the future of web and application development technology. This is the just the basic of how node js works. If you want to build a scalable web application using the node js then you need to know more then this.

Till now, you have got the basic idea of node.js and now it is time to build something using the node.js. You can start with first by create a simple server using the node.js and then connect your node with MongoDB to perform the basic crud operation.