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    0.1.1 • Public • Published

    swc-plugin-node-cjs-interop: fix the default import interoperability issue in Node.js

    The problem to solve

    Consider the following modules:

    // a.js
    export default function greet() {
      console.log("Hello, world!");
    // b.js
    import greet from "a.js";

    They usually work, unless the following conditions are met:

    • a.js (the module being imported) is a simulated ESM. That is, the module is transpiled as a CommonJS module (by Babel or TypeScript) before execution. And,
    • b.js (the importing module) is a native ESM, That is, the module is run on Node.js' native ES Module support.

    You can reproduce the above condition by placing the following files:

    // a.cjs
    "use strict";
    Object.defineProperty(exports, "__esModule", {
      value: true,
    exports.default = greet;
    function greet() {
      console.log("Hello, world!");
    // b.mjs
    import greet from "./a.cjs";
    $ node ./b.mjs
    TypeError: greet is not a function
        at ./b.mjs:3:1
        at (node:internal/modules/esm/module_job:185:25)
        at async Promise.all (index 0)
        at async ESMLoader.import (node:internal/modules/esm/loader:281:24)
        at async loadESM (node:internal/process/esm_loader:88:5)
        at async handleMainPromise (node:internal/modules/run_main:65:12)

    The following packages solve the problem:

    Getting started

    Install the SWC plugin:

    npm install -D swc-plugin-node-cjs-interop
    # or:
    yarn add -D swc-plugin-node-cjs-interop

    Configure it in your SWC configuration:

    // .swcrc
      "jsc": {
        "experimental": {
          "plugins": [
            ["swc-plugin-node-cjs-interop", {
              // List the packages you're experiencing problems
              // importing from Node.js' native ESM.
              // I.e. list the packages in the simulated ESM format.
              "packages": ["styled-components", "@babel/helper-plugin-test-runner"]

    If you're unsure what packages to specify in the configuration, node-cjs-interop-finder might be useful:

    npx node-cjs-interop-finder



    export ... from is not detected yet.

    Effects to tree-shaking

    It may negatively affect tree-shaking because the wrapper function makes it difficult to analyze unused imports.

    Observing the export's newest value

    In ES Modules, a module can change its exports' values after it's been loaded, and the importing module can observe the update.

    export let counter = 0;
    export function countUp() {
    import { counter, countUp } from "./counter.js";
    console.log(counter); // => 0
    console.log(counter); // => 1

    Here the semantics is also not preserved when importing a simulated ESM module from a native ESM; the importing module always observes the initial value.

    This plugin also restores the intended behavior of updating exported variables. Therefore, in rare cases, you may find your program behaving differently regarding named imports other than default.

    Accesses to missing named exports

    When using native ESM, it is an error to import a non-existent named export:

    // Error
    import { nonExistent } from "./a.js";

    With babel-plugin-node-cjs-interop, it silently returns undefined.

    False positives

    This plugin uses the __esModule flag to detect Babel's ES Modules support. Technically speaking, it may lead to false positives in a rare situation. Consider the following code:

    // a.js (simulated ESM)
    export const val = 42;
    // b.js (native ESM; this plugin is not applied)
    export * from "a.js";
    export const foo = 100;
    // c.js (native ESM)
    import { foo } from "b.js";

    When this plugin is applied to the last import, the import will return an unintended value.



    • type: string[]
    • default: []

    List of packages to apply the transformation. If empty, no transformation is applied.

    Currently there is no way to apply the transformation to all imports.

    You can use node-cjs-interop-finder to figure out packages that might suit in the option:

    npx node-cjs-interop-finder


    • type: boolean
    • default: false

    Skips check of the ns.__esModule export. Note that it still checks for ns.default.__esModule.

    This is useful if a transpiler or a bundler generates a module which cjs-module-lexer cannot correctly parse.


    • type: boolean
    • default: false

    Imports helpers from the node-cjs-interop package. You need to add node-cjs-interop to your package's dependency.

    How it works

    How Node.js and Babel act differently with CommonJS interoperation

    ES Modules and CommonJS Modules use different models for module exports:

    • In ES Modules (ESM), a module exports multiple values, each having a name in string.
    • In CommonJS Modules (CJS), a module exports a single unnamed value.

    For this reason, exports are mapped differently in each direction:

    • Named imports in ESM are mapped to exports in CJS in the following ways:
      • The import named default is mapped to the single exported value.
      • Other named imports are mapped to each property of the single exported value.
    • Imports in CJS are mapped to the exported namespaces (the record containing all exported values) from ESM.

    And it has a big downside: default exports from ESM don't round-trip when shipped through CJS. This is problematic for transpilers like Babel, which needs to embed the semantics of ESM into CJS. Therefore Babel implements the additional rule to the above:

    • If a CJS module defines exports.__esModule as a truthy value, ESM's importing rule is modified so that the default import is treated uniformly with other named imports (i.e. mapped to exports.default rather than exports).

    And Babel defines exports.__esModule when transpiling modules in ESM to CJS format.

    However, Node.js didn't implement the rule for __esModule. It's a result of careful consideration, but is still problematic to gradual migration from CJS to ESM.


    node-cjs-interop works around the problem by replacing the namespace object appropriately. This is achieved by the following function:

    function interopImportCJSNamespace(ns) {
      return ns.__esModule && ns.default && ns.default.__esModule
        ? // `ns.default` likely comes from Babel's ESM emulation.
          // In this case `ns.default` works as the namespace object.
        : // Original namespace object

    swc-node-cjs-interop first transforms named imports:

    import f, { a } from "mod";
    console.log({ f, a });

    to namespace imports:

    import * as ns from "mod";
    console.log({ f: ns.default, a: ns.a });

    and then wraps the namespace object by the aforementioned function:

    import * as nsOrig from "mod";
    const ns = interopImportCJSNamespace(nsOrig);
    console.log({ f: ns.default, a: ns.a });


    npm i swc-plugin-node-cjs-interop

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