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Using Import aliases in JavaScript

Renaming module Imports like a Pro, now with added use-case!

Photo by Finan Akbar / Unsplash

If you’ve come to JavaScript in recent years and are a user of the newer front-end frameworks or libraries like React, import and export will be familiar to you. For those of us who weren't watching the new module syntax being introduced in ES6, you may have just got to a level of understanding between the difference of a named and a default export, but you may have missed the nuance on the ability to alias imports and why this could be important.

The basics again (in brief)

A module (as an example, a Javascript file like my-module.js) can export functionality or objects from itself for use in other modules. This is fundamental in adhering to a bunch of coding principles, like code-reuse and separation of concerns. In modules, we find exports in two ways:

  1. by using export on different functions or objects.
  2. by using export default on a single function or object.

When a module needs to import functionality from another module, it has a number of options available:

  1. Import all exports into current module scope — import * from "my-module.js"
  2. Import particular named exports — import { func1, obj2 } from "my-module.js"
  3. Import the default export — import func from "my-module.js"
  4. Run a module’s global code but not import anything — import "my-module.js"
  5. Dynamic importing a module — import("my-module.js").then((module) => { //...do something })

For most use cases, especially if you’re a React developer, importing named and default exports will be what you’ll primarily use.

There are use cases where you’ll import into the current module scopes (like project constants defined in a JS object) or dynamic import (for code-splitting) but more often than not it’s just the default and named exports that you’ll focus on.

Import aliases are where you take your standard import, but instead of using a pre-defined name by the exporting module, you use a name that is defined in the importing module.

Why is this important?

There may a be time where you find yourself requiring imports from multiple different modules but contain exports named the same. Javascript doesn’t like this.

Failed to compile.
/Users/gregbyrne/Project/One/src/pages/index.js
SyntaxError: /Users/gregbyrne/Project/One/src/pages/index.js: Identifier 'Card' has already been declared (6:9)
4 | import { Button } from '../components/button'
5 | import { Card } from '../components/card'
> 6 | import { Card } from 'react-native-elements'

A common example where you may come across this problem is providing a project-level abstraction over a dependency.

For example, using a component library directly in your screens can make your project highly-coupled with the implementation of that component library. In the future, your project may switch that dependency and if it wasn’t abstracted, you may find it isn’t as simple as switching imports. That’s where project abstractions come to the rescue.

// Card.js in project/src/components/card
import { Card } from "cool-component-library"
const Card = () => (
// abstraction over cool-component-library card
// suitable for your project needs
)
const ListCard = () => (
// like above
)
export { Card, ListCard }// ---// Index.js in project/src/pagesimport { Card } from '.../components/card'// ... index page code

The eagle eyed reading this would see from the above that Card.js won't compile because of the declaration error as before.

Differentiating your imports

So we come full circle to Import aliases. These will allow you to import similarly named exports for use within your module.

TL;DR

When importing from a named export, e.g.

// my-module.js// ... code ..export { Something1, Something2}

You can alias the import using as:

import { Something1 as MySomething } from "my-module.js"

For importing default exports, e.g.

// my-module.js// ... code ..export default Something

You can alias the import directly:

import MySomething from "my-module.js"

You can read more on imports from MDN web docs

With the example above on the Card component project abstraction, we can solve the compile error by aliasing the named export.

// Card.js in project/src/components/card
import { Card as CoolCard } from "cool-component-library"
const Card = () => (
// abstraction over cool-component-library card
// suitable for your project needs
)
const ListCard = () => (
// like above
)
export { Card, ListCard }

If it happens to be a default export, we can still alias it.

// Button.js in project/src/components/buttonimport CoolButton from "cool-component-library-button"const MyButton = () => (
// code
)
export default MyButton// ---// Index.js in project/src/pagesimport Button from '.../components/button/Button.js'// ... index page code

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Greg Byrne

Greg Byrne

Engineer of Software. Breaking life’s hurdles with peregrine speed and a manatee’s grace.