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Managing Environment Variables, API Keys, and Files

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We can use a npm package called dotenv to load all our environment variables from a .env file to the global object property, process.env. This allows us to access them in our program.

import dotenv from "dotenv"; // Imports the npm package
dotenv.config(); // Loads environment variables into process.env
console.log(process.env.DB_HOST); // Prints “123.45.678.90”
console.log(process.env.API_KEY); // Prints “V3rYPubl1cK3y”


It’s easy to accidentally stage and push files containing sensitive information such as API Keys and database configurations to a remote Github repository. This is where we can take advantage of .gitignore, a plain text file in which each line corresponds to a file, directory, or pattern we would like to ignore when staging. The files, .env and thumbs.db, are being ignored in the example as well as the node_modules directory.

# Environment Variables
# Windows OS file
# node_modules folder

Environment Variables

Environment variables are used to store information we want to reference in a program. They are a key-value pair whose value is set and stored outside a program in a .env file. Environment variables can prevent the secret development keys and passwords from getting out and reward us with more efficient code.