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Modules in JavaScript

The structure is key when writing code. A well-structured program is easy to explain and each part plays a defined role. Unfortunately, many programs grow spontaneously, and as new functionality is added, the structure becomes entangled and difficult to understand.

Modules are an attempt to avoid this "big ball of mud" scenario by allowing developers to separate functionality into distinct, self-contained parts.

What are Modules in JavaScript?

Modules in JavaScript are a way to organize code into reusable, independent units. They allow developers to keep code organized, maintainable and modular, making it easier to share and reuse code between different parts of an application. Modules in JavaScript are typically defined in a separate file, and they can be imported into other parts of the application where they are needed.

Why Use Modules?

There are specific reasons why it's beneficial to use modules. Some of them include:

  • Code Organization: Modules help keep code organized and separated into smaller, manageable pieces, making it easier to understand, maintain, and debug.

  • Code Reuse: Modules can be reused in different parts of an application, making it possible to write code once and reuse it multiple times. This helps to save time and reduce the amount of code you have to write.

  • Reduced Global Scope Pollution: Modules allow developers to create variables and functions only accessible within the module, reducing the risk of global scope pollution and naming collisions.

Creating Modules in JavaScript

In 2015, ECMAScript 6 introduced native support for modules in JavaScript, providing a standard way to organize code and share it across different files and even across different projects. However, before ES6, there were already several ways to create and use modules in JavaScript, such as CommonJS and AMD.


As a module system, CommonJS was created for server-side applications, especially Node.js. To create a module using CommonJS, you need to use the module.exports object.

// myModule.js
const myFunction = () => {
  console.log("Hello from my module!");

module.exports = myFunction;

To import the module in another file, you can use the require function:

// index.js
const myModule = require('./myModule');
myModule(); // Output: "Hello from my module!"

ECMAScript Modules (ESM)

ESM is a more recent way to create modules in JavaScript, and it's the standard supported by modern browsers and JavaScript tools. To create a module using ESM, you need to use the export keyword.

// myModule.js
export const myFunction = () => {
  console.log("Hello from my module!");

Then, we can import the module in another file like so:

// index.js
import { myFunction } from './myModule';
myFunction(); // Output: "Hello from my module!"

AMD or Asynchronous Module Definition

Require.js was the first library that originally implemented AMD as a module system. We can recognize the basic syntax by noticing the define function.

// module-a.js
define('moduleA', function() {
  return { message: 'Hello from module A' };

// module-b.js
require(['moduleA'], function(moduleA) {
  console.log(moduleA.message); // Hello from module A

Let's break down the example above.

In module-a.js we define moduleA. We can import and use this module in module-b.js with the require function.

In modern web development, modules are set up by using a build system like Webpack and other convenient options.

You can learn more about Module Bundlers in JavaScript here.

The export and import statements

The export statement exports a module's values and enables us to use them in other modules while import allows a module to import the exports from another module.

// moduleA.js
export const message = 'Hello from module A';

// moduleB.js
import { message } from './moduleA';
console.log(message); // outputs: "Hello from module A"

module.exports and require()

Another way to create modules in JavaScript is to use the module.exports object. This allows you to export multiple values from a single module. The require() function can be used to import the values from a module.

// moduleA.js
module.exports = {
  message: 'Hello from module A',
  greeting: function () {

// moduleB.js
const moduleA = require('./moduleA');
console.log(moduleA.message); // outputs: "Hello from module A"
moduleA.greeting(); // outputs: "Greetings!"

Named and Default Exports

Named exports allow us to export multiple values from a module, such as functions and variables, and import them in a specific manner.

Let's look at a simple calculation example using a named export in a module named math.js:

// math.js
export const sum = (a, b) => a + b;
export const multiply = (a, b) => a * b;

// In another file
import { sum, multiply } from './math';
console.log(sum(1, 2)); // 3
console.log(multiply(1, 2)); // 2
  • For named exports, use the curly braces {} to specify the names of the exports.

In contrast, default exports export a single value of a module as seen in the example below in the module named greeting:

// greeting.js
export default () => 'Hello World!';

// In another file
import greeting from './greeting';
console.log(greeting()); // 'Hello World!'
  • For a default export, use the default import syntax without curly braces {}.

Scripts and Modules

Scripts are a simple way to include code from one file into another by using the <script> tag in HTML. The problem with scripts is that they have no way to control what is exported or imported between files, and all variables and functions are globally accessible.

Modules, on the other hand, offer a way to include code from one file into another while controlling what is exported and imported between the files. In modules, variables, and functions are only accessible within the module, making it easier to manage and maintain your code.


When working on a large or complex project, managing dependencies can quickly become a challenge. Packages are collections of modules that can be easily managed using the npm (Node Package Manager) tool. npm makes it easy to install and update packages, manage dependencies, and share packages with others.

Best Practices

  • Keep your modules small and focused, aiming for single responsibility.

  • Avoid tight coupling between modules, and promote loose coupling with well-defined interfaces.

  • Use descriptive and meaningful names for your modules and exports.

  • Consider the scope of your modules and exports, and use default exports sparingly.

  • Use a module bundler, such as Webpack, to optimize your code for production.

  • Test your modules thoroughly to ensure they are working as expected.

  • Consider the maintainability and future scalability of your code when structuring your modules.

  • Utilize version control systems, such as Git, to track changes to your code and collaborate with others.

Renaming Modules

In some cases, you may need to rename a module when importing it. This can be useful if the module name is too long or if you want to give it a more descriptive name. To rename a module, you can use the as keyword.

// myModule.js
export const myFunction = () => {
  console.log("Hello from my module!");
// index.js
import { myFunction as greeting } from './myModule';
greeting(); // Output: "Hello from my module!"


Modules are essential for modern JavaScript development. The benefits of using modules are vast, and streamline the workflow, especially when working on larger projects.

  • Modules provide a powerful way to organize your code into reusable, maintainable units.

  • By following best practices and utilizing module systems and build tools, you can create scalable and efficient code.

  • Modules allow for modular development and make it easier to manage dependencies.

  • With modules, your code will be easier to read, maintain, and debug, leading to improved quality and performance.