Nocturnal Pumpkin Maelstrom


    2.0.0 • Public • Published

    Helper library for using environment variables fluently and readably, so you can use them for your app settings instead of nonstandardized config files.

    Get neat groups of camelCased environment variables from a large, flat, SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASED NodeJS process.env object.



    # .env

    Then instead of:

      key: process.env.BLUE_API_KEY
      apiSecret: process.env.BLUE_API_SECRET,
      id: process.env.BLUE_ID
      key: process.env.RED_API_KEY
      apiSecret: process.env.RED_API_SECRET,
      logLevel: process.env.RED_LOG_LEVEL

    you can do

    const env = camelspace.of(['blue', 'red'], process.env);

    And it handles arbitrary levels of nesting and what have you. OK, here's the long version.


    1. Usage
      1. Managing Groups of App Settings with camelspace.of()
    2. Advanced Usage
      1. Scoped environment objects
      2. Reversing the transform
      3. Unscoped transforming
    3. API Reference
      1. camelspace.of()
      2. camelspace(namespace)
        1. configFactory.fromEnv(env)
        2. configFactory.toEnv(configObj)
        3. configFactory.for(<section>, <subsections>, [env])
      3. FAQ
        1. Why not just a JSON configuration file?
        2. What are valid environment variable names?
        3. How does Camelspace validate?


    npm install camelspace
    import camelspace from 'camelspace';

    Call camelspace with some strings to show it how your app settings are stored. It will return a sanitized, readable, camel-cased object that helps you keep your environment variables organized. There are three modes of usage:

    Managing Groups of App Settings with camelspace.of()

    A common environment need in a modern app is to juggle more than one credential for more than one external API. That's a lot of things called "API KEY"! The best solution is to namespace, and camelspace makes that easy.

    Let's say you want to integrate with both Twitter and Slack. The Twitter API client tells you it needs four environment variables to start up.

    const twitterClient = new TwitterClient({
      apiKey: '<YOUR-TWITTER-API-KEY>',
      apiSecret: '<YOUR-TWITTER-API-SECRET>',
      accessToken: '<YOUR-TWITTER-ACCESS-TOKEN>',
      accessTokenSecret: '<YOUR-TWITTER-ACCESS-TOKEN-SECRET>',

    Meanwhile, Slack has its own credentials:

    const slackApp = new App({
      token: '<YOUR-SLACK-TOKEN>'
      signingSecret: '<SLACK-SIGNING-SECRET>'

    You need environment variables for each of these. And you want to distinguish between similarly named credentials, so you do:

    # .env`

    And now, once you've pulled .env into your Node environment (using dotenv perhaps?) you can create a client:

    // Plug the environment into the clients.
    const twitterClient = new TwitterClient({
      apiKey: process.env.TWITTER_CONSUMER_KEY,
      apiSecret: process.env.TWITTER_CONSUMER_SECRET,
      accessToken: process.env.TWITTER_ACCESS_TOKEN,
      accessTokenSecret: process.env.TWITTER_ACCESS_TOKEN_SECRET
    const slackApp = new App({
      token: '<YOUR-SLACK-TOKEN>'
      signingSecret: '<SLACK-SIGNING-SECRET>'

    This is verbose and error-prone. Camelspace takes advantage of the capitalization patterns of JavaScript variables and environment variables, and automates some of this for you.

    // Get a camelcased object of all env vars beginning with `TWITTER_`.
    const { twitter } = camelspace.of(['twitter']);
    // Use it for the config instead.
    const twitterClient = new TwitterClient({
      apiKey: twitter.apiKey,
      apiSecret: twitter.apiSecret,
      accessToken: twitter.accessToken,
      accessTokenSecret: twitter.accessTokenSecret
    // Get a camelcased object of all env vars beginning with `SLACK_`.
    const { slack } = camelspace.of(['slack']);
    // Use it for the config instead.
    const slackApp = new App({
      token: slack.token,
      signingSecret: slack.signingSecret

    Note that because we named our environment variables carefully so their camelcased versions matched up with the constructor signatures, it can actually get even simpler.

    Which is when you really start to see the benefit:

    // Get a camelcased object of every section of environment relevant to your app.
    const config = camelspace.of(['twitter', 'slack']);
    const twitterClient = new TwitterClient(config.twitter);
    const slackApp = new App(config.slack);

    ⚠️ Note that camelspace does no type coercion or validation; that's for other libraries to do. In particular, camelsace does not validate environment variables against your app's own configuration schema. Definitely use utilities like envalid to validate their types, docstrings, and defaults.

    If you have more complex needs, such as nested configuration or multiple versions of the same app, then read on...

    Advanced Usage

    The camelspace() function creates config factory objects, which can be reused with different env objects, or recursively called to create more specific configurators within a namespace.

    A config factory object has methods: .fromEnv(), .toEnv() and .for().

    Call configFactory.for with a root namespace, a list of configuration sections, and optionally an environment object. If you pass no third argument, configFactory.for will use process.env as the environment object.

    const getAppConf = camelspace('myApp');
    const [{ mode }] = getAppConf.for('indexer', ['cache']);
    // This retrieves process.env.MY_APP_INDEXER_CACHE_MODE in a different style.
    if (mode === 'redis') {
      // etc

    This is more verbose than the fluent style, but it can aid in testability.

    ℹ️ The following examples all use an environment generated from the example environment variables from the FAQ.

    Scoped environment objects

    The .fromEnv() and .toEnv() methods return scoped objects constrained to the root namespace of the factory.

    const appConfig = camelspace('myApp'); // could be "MY_APP";
    const appEnv = appConfig.fromEnv(process.env);
    appEnv.coreMode === 'test';
    appEnv.coreToken === 'ba6bd9a8e6da';
    appEnv.ciToken === '1730eb9867d';
    const coreConfig = appConfig('core'); // could be "CORE";
    const coreEnv = coreConfig.fromEnv(process.env);
    core.mode === 'test';
    core.token === 'ba6bd9a8e6da';
    // You could get the equivalent with the following, but that requires
    // more modules to know the parent namespace, which is tigher coupling.
    const coreConfig = camelspace('myAppCore');
    const coreEnv = coreConfig.fromEnv(process.env);
    core.mode === 'test';
    core.token === 'ba6bd9a8e6da';

    Transformers can compose arbitrarily deep.

    const telemetryLogEnv = camelspace('myApp')('telemetry')('log').fromEnv(
    telemetryLogEnv.enabled === '1'; // Note that camelspace does no type coercion.
    telemetryLogEnv.level === 'debug';

    Reversing the transform

    Turn a camelCased object back into an object of SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE environment variables by using configFactory.toEnv(obj). You might need this to pass environment variables to a child process, for example.

    A transform function has a method .toEnv(camelSpacedObject), which does the reverse operation transformer.toEnv(object) transforms any object returned by the same transformer into a flat SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASED object with the original prefix. For any transformer, .fromEnv() and .toEnv() are inverse operations (barring the original .fromEnv(process.env), which elides variables outside the approved pattern and/or the given namespace.)

    const appConfig = camelSpace('myApp');
    const appEnv = appConfig.fromEnv(process.env);
    /** appEnv looks like:
     * {
     *   coreMode: "test",
     *   coreToken: "ba6bd9a8e6da",
     *   ciToken: "1730eb9867d"
     *   telemetryApiEndpoint: ""
     *   telemetryLogEnabled: "1",
     *   telemetryLogLevel: "debug"
     * }
    const originalEnv = appConfig.toEnv(appEnv);
    /** originalEnv looks like:
     * {
     *   MY_APP_CORE_MODE: "test",
     *   MY_APP_CORE_TOKEN: "ba6bd9a8e6da",
     *   MY_APP_CI_TOKEN: "1730eb9867d"
     *   MY_APP_TELEMETRY_LOG_LEVEL: "debug"
     * }

    Unscoped transforming

    The camelspace default export is just a config factory whose namespace is the empty string ''.

    Call camelspace.fromEnv() with a process.env object (or any object with SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE properties). This returns an object representing the whole environment, with all properties changes to camelCase. (No validation or type coercion is done on the values of the object; camelspace only formats the object keys.)

    const env = configFactory.fromEnv(process.env)
    env.myAppCoreMode === 'test';
    env.thirdPartyNullableBoolean === '';
    env.port === undefined

    The corresponding camelspace.toEnv(env) will turn a config object back into environment variables, not limited by a scope prefix.

    API Reference


    Parameter Description
    namespaces Array of camelCased prefixes for each section of env vars to collect. For instance, ['twitter', 'googleAnalytics'] would get all env vars starting with TWITTER_, and all env vars starting with GOOGLE_ANALYTICS.
    env Optional, defaults to process.env. If passed, camelcase will use this argument as the object of env vars to process, instead of process.env.

    Returns an object with keys matching the list of namespaces, and values matching camel cased versions of the env vars under each namespace.


        ['twitter', 'googleAnalytics'],
          TWITTER_USER: '@dril',
          TWITTER_API_KEY: 'abcdef',
          UNRELATED: 'foo'
      twitter: {
        user: '@dril',
        apiKey: 'abcdef'
      googleAnalytics: {
        accountId: 123456

    Considering the underscores in env var names to be "levels", you can split out your vars however you wish. For instance, camelspace will turn the same environment into a different object if google is used instead:

      twitter: {
        user: '@dril',
        apiKey: 'abcdef'
      google: {
        analyticsAccountId: 123456

    For more complex objects with deeper nesting, use the camelspace() factory.


    Parameter Description
    namespace The camelcased prefix for all the env vars you want to use. For instance, myAppCore would limit to all varnames beginning with MY_APP_CORE_.

    Returns a config factory object with fromEnv, toEnv, and for methods. The object is also a callable function that can return another config factory, with a deeper scope.


    Parameter Description
    envObj Object with SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE keys, to use as the source of environment variables.

    Returns an object of the variables whose names begin with the config factory's namespace, and the values camelCased.


    Parameter Description
    configObj Object with camelCased keys, to use as the source of environment variables.

    Returns an object with SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE keys, whose properties all begin with the SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE transofmration of the config factory's namespace.

    configFactory.for(<section>, <subsections>, [env])

    Parameter Description
    namespace The camelcased prefix for all the env vars you want to use. For instance, myAppCore would limit to all varnames beginning with MY_APP_CORE_.
    sections An array of strings, with each string representing a camelcased sub-namespace with the namespace. For instance, ['network'] would return a length-1 array whose first index was an object of all the env vars starting with MY_APP_CORE_NETWORK_.
    env Optional, defaults to process.env. If passed, camelspace will use this object to lookup env vars, instead of the Node builtin process.env.

    Returns an array of objects, of the same length as the sections argument. Each section is an object whose keys are camelcased environment variable keys with the namespace prefix removed, and whose values are the values of the environment variables in the object. No coercion is done; the values are exactly what exists in process.env, or whatever argument object was sent as the third argument.


    Why not just a JSON configuration file?

    We're supposed to configure well-designed apps with environment variables, because they are simple, cross-platform, easy to combine and override, and separate from code. Using a JSON configuration file or an .rc configuration file invites a few antipatterns to come in and roost:

    • File-based config implies inheritance-based config: a directory has an .rc file, which overrides the whole project's .rc file, which extends your home directory's .rc file. This works great for developer tools, but is terrible for deployed software, because it makes runtime behavior highly dependent on the state of the filesystem. It can take a lot of debugging to realize that what's breaking your app is an .rc file in /usr/share or something else far away from your code.
    • Eventually JSON config files become JS config files, and JS config files become basically scripts which build config objects, and then your config isn't declarative anymore.

    What are valid environment variable names?

    Env vars should work everywhere, but truly cross-platform environments have some constraints.

    # It's a flat dictionary with no namespacing or hierarchy.
    THIRD_PARTY_VAR='Who knows!'
    # You can do ad-hoc namespacing, but is often ambiguous;
    # All values are strings. How do you escape or validate?
    # And they should be SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE!

    Some operating systems may allow more flexible environment variables, but not all of them, and the point of using them is to be maximally portable. Escaping rules differ; shell syntax differs; some shells aren't case sensitive, and more. The Open Group defines some restrictions here, but the easiest rule to remember is ONLY_CAPITAL_ASCII_LETTERS_AND_UNDERSCORES_NO_FUNNY_BUSINESS.

    How does Camelspace validate?

    ⚠️ To pursue this ideal, camelspace will ignore any environment variables that don't match this format:

    • First character must be [A-Z]
    • Subsequent characters may be [A-Z], [0-9], or _

    At the very least, to ensure cross-platform consistency, the incoming environment variables need to be formatted in this manner.


    npm i camelspace

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