An in-depth Explanation of Node.js Global Objects


Author: Steve Alila
Reviewer: Deepak Prasad

Node.js global objects are JavaScript objects available in all modules. Before diving into some of the objects, it would be best to understand the ins and outs of Nodejs modules.


Understand modules before using Node.js global objects

Definition of a module

The most straightforward definition of a module is that a module is a file. A .js file like index.js, main.js, or script.js is a module in Nodejs.


How Nodejs resolves modules

Nodejs classifies modules into three primary levels: script file, third-party or built-in modules. The script file you are currently modifying is a module. It can use other files' contents by importing their code implementations.

const file = require('./file.js')

Third-party modules are those you install and manage with NPM.

const passport = require('passport')

Lastly, built-in modules come with Nodejs.

const fs = require('fs')

On requiring a module, Nodejs checks if it is a custom file. If it is not, it checks for the files inside the built-in modules. Otherwise, it looks for the module inside node_modules. If it fails to trace the module after inspecting the three levels, it throws an error.


Nodejs is a wrapper with five arguments

Nodejs wraps your .js files with an immediately invoked function expression (IIFE). The IIFE has five arguments: exports, require, module__filename, and __dirname.


An in-depth Explanation of Node.js Global Objects
1. exports
exports is a mutable object. You attach file contents to the exports object before exporting them to another file.

const calculateArea = (length, width) => length * width;
exports.area = calculateArea;

2. require
require imports another module's content into the current one.

const calculation = require('./file.js')
console.log(calculation.area(3, 5)) 

require caches the imported modules such that it won't reimport a module if you accidentally do so. The dot . tells Node to check the module in the current working directory.

3. module
module is the file you are (currently) editing. It works with the exports object.

const calculateArea = (length, width) => length * width;
module.exports.area = calculateArea;

exports is an alias of module.exports.

4. filename
__filename is the full path of the current module from the root folder.


5. dirname
__dirname helps you get the path of the current working directory.

The five IIFE arguments do not qualify to be Nodejs global objects because their existence is limited to the modules' scope.


5 Examples of Node.js global objects

JavaScript avails objects you can use in your Node script without importing. Some of the objects are Buffer, URL, URLSearchParams, TextEncoder, and TextDecoder


1. Buffer

The Buffer class represents binary data as a sequence of bytes.

For example, we can convert a string into a binary data stream by generating an object from the string.


// Generate a stream of binary data from the "HI" string.
const buffer = new Buffer.from('HI')

// print the actual buffer geneerated

// check the type of the output
console.log(typeof buffer)


<Buffer 48 49>

Similarly, we can generate a binary data stream of a predetermined length while ignoring the new keyword.


// allocate a buffer of length 15
const buffer1 = Buffer.alloc(5, 'HI');


<Buffer 48 49 48 49 48>

Buffer is a Node.js global object


2. URL

The object creates a new URL that follows the WHATWG URL stands. We can use the object to create a new URL by appending an input 'category/nodejs/' to a base value ''.


const url = new URL('category/nodejs/', '')


  href: '',
  origin: '',
  protocol: 'https:',
  username: '',
  password: '',
  host: '',
  hostname: '',
  port: '',
  pathname: '/category/nodejs/',
  search: '',
  searchParams: URLSearchParams {},
  hash: ''

The URL object created href before grouping its parts according to WHATWG URL standards.

An in-depth Explanation of Node.js Global Objects


3. URLSearchParams

The URLSearchParams object reads and writes to a URL's query. For example, we can use the object to dissect category and author searches as key-value pairs.


const url = new URL('')

const search = new URLSearchParams(


URLSearchParams { 'category' => 'nodejs', 'author' => 'alila' }

An in-depth Explanation of Node.js Global Objects


4. TextEncoder

The TextEncoder and TextDecoder objects implement the WHATWG encoding and decoding standard TextEncoder and TextDecoder APIs, respectively.

For example, the encode() method converts an input into a Buffer, whereas the decode() method reverts the Buffer to its initial data type.


const e = new TextEncoder()
const encoded = e.encode("TextEncoder is a Nodejs global object")


Uint8Array(37) [
   84, 101, 120, 116,  68, 101,  99, 111,
  100, 101, 114,  32, 105, 115,  32,  97,
   32,  78, 111, 100, 101, 106, 115,  32,
  103, 108, 111,  98,  97, 108,  32, 111,
   98, 106, 101,  99, 116

An in-depth Explanation of Node.js Global Objects

Likewise, we can decode the Buffer.


5. TextDecoder


const e = new TextEncoder()
const encoded = e.encode("TextDecoder is also a Nodejs global object.")

const d = new TextDecoder()
const decoded = d.decode(encoded)


TextDecoder is also a Nodejs global object.

An in-depth Explanation of Node.js Global Objects


APIs often confused with Node.js global objects

Nodejs runs JavaScript code by availing APIs which communicate with V8. Typical APIs are process, console, fetch, setTimeout, and setInterval.

1. process

The process library creates an interface for the Node and operating environments to interact. It enables you to read or write to the operating system through properties like env and methods like exit().

// read environment variables
try { 
	await mongoose.connect(process.env.mongoURI) 
// or exit the process
catch { 


2. console

The console object enables writing and reading to the operating system at a high level. At the lower level, it implements the process.stdout.write() method, which grabs user input from your Node environment and passes it into the operating system environment for the computer to process and return feedback.

The console object presents you with multiple methods to ease output representation. Examples of the methods are console.log() which prints the output as a string,

console.log('Nodejs global object')

console.dir() prints the output in a more controlled environment,

console.dir(arguments, {depth: 0})

and console.table(), which prints the output in a tabular form.

const objectsAndMethods = {
BuiltInMethods: ['console', 'fetch', 'process', 'setImmediate', 'setInterval', 'setTimeout()'],
JavaScriptObjects: ['Buffer','URL', 'URLSearchParams', 'TextDecoder'],
IIFEArguments: ['exports', 'module', 'require', '__filename', '__dirname']

An in-depth Explanation of Node.js Global Objects


3. fetch

The fetch object was introduced in Nodejs 17.5. It lets you download external resources.

const getUsers = async (url) => {
    const res = await fetch(url)
    const data = await res.json()


4. setTimeout

The setTimeout object executes your code after the specified number of milliseconds.

setTimeout( () => {
    console.log('Examples of Nodejs global objects.')
}, 3000)


5. setInterval

The setInterval object consistently runs a code portion after the specified milliseconds till you halt the operation.

setInterval(() => {
}, 5000)


Final Thoughts

This tutorial walked you through Node.js global objects. It started by defining what makes a method global.

It then explained the typical Node.js global objects and their level of usage. After going through the practical examples, you should comfortably apply Node.js global objects.


Related Keyword: which choice is not a node.js global object, node js global variable across files, nodejs global typescript, is console a global object in node js, global object in javascript


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Steve Alila

Steve Alila

He specializes in web design, WordPress development, and data analysis, with proficiency in Python, JavaScript, and data extraction tools. Additionally, he excels in web API development, AI integration, and data presentation using Matplotlib and Plotly. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn profile.

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