Modules Part 1 - Loading modules with require()
You know that the
require('express') line in your server.js gets the popular web framework loaded up. You're guessing that it gets loaded from
node_modules as installed by npm. You are aware that you can include your own source files with
However, you are at a bit unease about the specifics of how
finds its targets. And what if both you and your dependency depend on a library but different versions of it, which one gets loaded? You think you'd be writing better code if you understood modules better.
Modules organize program code
Modules are used to organize and create structure in program code. Modules allow you to define boundaries around logically related functionality and keep it separate from rest of the program code.
Every real world program, that is larger than a simple example application, will end up containing multiple modules.
Logically there are three categories of modules in Node.js
- your own source files
- core node modules
- installed dependencies in
Load your own source files using relative path
You can include your own source files by passing a relative path to
require(). The path is relative to the file calling require.
routes from the same directory.
fb from parent directory's
Supported types: .js, .json and .node
When loading your module
your source file being loaded is named
, but you pass it to
require() without the extension.
Node tries to read the file using three different extensions:
.node. This would result in trying:
If it finds a
.json file will be parsed as JSON and the
.node file will be loaded as compiled binary addon.
Core modules bundled in node binary
The argument to
require() can be one of the reserved module names called core modules. They are modules that are bundled into the node binary. Modules such as
http are core modules.
Core module names have preference over any other name. Calling
require('fs') will always load the core filesystem module even if you would have same name dependency in your project.
Installed dependencies in node_modules
require() with a name that is not a core module causes node to start looking for matching name inside a
The search is repetitive and starts from the immediate parent of the file calling
. It continues to parent of that directory, and parent of that, until it finds a match or the root of the filesystem is reached.
causes node to try the following directories
When matching directory is found, node looks in for
- package.json, and tries to read its
- index.js, .json or .node
For example if you have
somewhere in your program source. You have the correct dependency in
package.jsonand you have called
npm install. Then at the top level of the project have
node_modules/underscoredirectory and there is a
that tells node to load
If the search doesn't find a match, as the last resort node looks for your home directory and the global node installation directory. However, it is good design to keep your modules local to your project so you have complete control over them and don't depend on what is globally installed on the system.
Modules are cached
It is common to require the same module from multiple locations in your program code. Node does caching so only the first time new module is loaded will the code for that module be parsed and executed. The second time the same module is loaded the cached result is returned.
The caching is based on the actual resolved file location of the module, not just what is passed to
require() as an argument. This has an important consequence. The same
require() call may result in different module being loaded depending on the calling file location.
Dependencies have their own node_modules
The dependencies you state in
package.json are installed under
node_modules directory. Those dependencies may in turn depend on other modules. These are called transitive dependencies.
Npm takes care of installing transitive dependencies. For each module it checks if it depends on any module that is not already present in parent level
node_modules directory. For any module having missing transitive dependencies, it acts if calling
npm install inside that module's directory with one exception.
The exception is that it only installs dependencies not present in any parent
node_modules directories. It only installs necessary missing dependencies.
Installing transitive dependencies may lead to deep level of nested
node_moduledirectories. For example installing express-4.12.4 results in directory
type-isthat in turn depends on
mime-typesthat depends on
Module depends on different version of library
Npm installs transitive dependencies so that it leverages on modules already present in higher up
node_modules directories. This means you do have to worry about making all dependencies work together. Using newer module in your project level
package.json may cause some dependent library to go off its rocker when it does not get the version it expects.
That's all there really is to loading modules. There are three types of modules: your own source files, core node modules and installed dependencies. Modules are always cached and npm tries to leverage modules already present higher up in the tree.
There are 350 000 NPM packages. Your task: pick one.
Learn what to look for in a reliable NPM package.