module.exports vs. export default in Node.js and ES6

The Question :

375 people think this question is useful

What is the difference between Node’s module.exports and ES6’s export default? I’m trying to figure out why I get the “__ is not a constructor” error when I try to export default in Node.js 6.2.2.

What works

'use strict'
class SlimShady {
  constructor(options) {
    this._options = options
  }

  sayName() {
    return 'My name is Slim Shady.'
  }
}

// This works
module.exports = SlimShady

What doesn’t work

'use strict'
class SlimShady {
  constructor(options) {
    this._options = options
  }

  sayName() {
    return 'My name is Slim Shady.'
  }
}

// This will cause the "SlimShady is not a constructor" error
// if in another file I try `let marshall = new SlimShady()`
export default SlimShady

The Question Comments :

The Answer 1

458 people think this answer is useful

The issue is with

  • how ES6 modules are emulated in CommonJS
  • how you import the module

ES6 to CommonJS

At the time of writing this, no environment supports ES6 modules natively. When using them in Node.js you need to use something like Babel to convert the modules to CommonJS. But how exactly does that happen?

Many people consider module.exports = ... to be equivalent to export default ... and exports.foo ... to be equivalent to export const foo = .... That’s not quite true though, or at least not how Babel does it.

ES6 default exports are actually also named exports, except that default is a “reserved” name and there is special syntax support for it. Lets have a look how Babel compiles named and default exports:

// input
export const foo = 42;
export default 21;

// output
"use strict";

Object.defineProperty(exports, "__esModule", {
  value: true
});
var foo = exports.foo = 42;
exports.default = 21; 

Here we can see that the default export becomes a property on the exports object, just like foo.

Import the module

We can import the module in two ways: Either using CommonJS or using ES6 import syntax.

Your issue: I believe you are doing something like:

var bar = require('./input');
new bar();

expecting that bar is assigned the value of the default export. But as we can see in the example above, the default export is assigned to the default property!

So in order to access the default export we actually have to do

var bar = require('./input').default;

If we use ES6 module syntax, namely

import bar from './input';
console.log(bar);

Babel will transform it to

'use strict';

var _input = require('./input');

var _input2 = _interopRequireDefault(_input);

function _interopRequireDefault(obj) { return obj && obj.__esModule ? obj : { default: obj }; }

console.log(_input2.default);

You can see that every access to bar is converted to access .default.

The Answer 2

10 people think this answer is useful

Felix Kling did a great comparison on those two, for anyone wondering how to do an export default alongside named exports with module.exports in nodejs

module.exports = new DAO()
module.exports.initDAO = initDAO // append other functions as named export

// now you have
let DAO = require('_/helpers/DAO');
// DAO by default is exported class or function
DAO.initDAO()

The Answer 3

1 people think this answer is useful

You need to configure babel correctly in your project to use export default and export const foo

npm install --save-dev @babel/plugin-proposal-export-default-from

then add below configration in .babelrc

"plugins": [ 
       "@babel/plugin-proposal-export-default-from"
      ]

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