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Cheat sheet: modules

Named exports, named imports, namespace imports

If we put export in front of a named entity inside a module, it becomes a named export of that module. All other entities are private to the module.

//===== lib1.mjs =====
// Named exports
export const one = 1, two = 2;
export function myFunc() {
  return 3;
//===== main1a.mjs =====
// Named imports
import {one, myFunc as f} from './lib1.mjs';
assert.equal(one, 1);
assert.equal(f(), 3);

// Namespace import
import * as lib1 from './lib1.mjs';
assert.equal(, 1);
assert.equal(lib1.myFunc(), 3);

The string after from is called a module specifier. It identifies from which module we want to import.

Dynamic imports

So far, all imports we have seen were static, with the following constraints:

  • They have to appear at the top level of a module.
  • The module specifier is fixed.

Dynamic imports via import() [ES2020] don’t have those constraints:

//===== main1b.mjs =====
function importLibrary(moduleSpecifier) {
  .then((lib1) => {
    assert.equal(, 1);
    assert.equal(lib1.myFunc(), 3);

Default exports and imports

A default export is mainly used when a module only contains a single entity (even though it can be combined with named exports).

//===== lib2a.mjs =====
export default function getHello() {
  return 'hello';

A default export is the exception to the rule that function declarations always have names. In the previous example, we can omit the name getHello.

//===== lib2b.mjs =====
export default 123; // (A) instead of `const`

There can be at most one default export. That’s why const or let can’t be default-exported (line A).

//===== main2.mjs =====
import lib2a from './lib2a.mjs';
assert.equal(lib2a(), 'hello');

import lib2b from './lib2b.mjs';
assert.equal(lib2b, 123);

Kinds of module specifiers

There are three kinds of module specifiers:

  • Absolute specifiers are full URLs – for example:


    Absolute specifiers are mostly used to access libraries that are directly hosted on the web.

  • Relative specifiers are relative URLs (starting with '/', './' or '../') – for example:


    Relative specifiers are mostly used to access other modules within the same code base.

  • Bare specifiers are paths (without protocol and domain) that start with neither slashes nor dots – for example:


    Bare specifiers are mostly used to refer to npm packages.

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