Nothing is more frustrating than happily coding away, deciding you want to increase the security abstraction layer a bit – or perhaps you subscribe to the 12 Factor App – only to get met with this error.
Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place, as I will tell you exactly how to fix this issue!
Let’s dig in, shall we?
The root of the issue
The reason this is happening, is because for some reason you are not allowed to access
process which could happen for a variety of reasons.
I will go over each of them in-depth, but they are:
- Not properly picking up a new package
- Server having a bad day / TS compilation issue(s)
- Improper library versions
- Not having a backend
Now, just for the sake of adding some context to make sure you and I are on the same page, for the rest of the article I will assume you are doing work on your
localhost , on an unspecied (and unimportant to the point of this article) port.
Lastly, these issues are listed in order of occurrence for your convenience, as I’ve seen this error times enough to have found a good process for debugging it, so start from the top as that is the most common reason 🙂
The reasons this error shows up, and possible fixes
Not properly picking up a new package
Perhaps you’ve recently installed the library that was supposed to give you the freedom to start setting environment variables on
process.env such as the popular
If you have just installed this package, I’ve learned there’s always two things you should do to ensure things keep rolling smoothly:
- Properly import the package
- Restart your development server
To properly import the package, specify it as such:
import dotenv from 'dotenv';
I’ve seen plenty of projects write their import as:
import * as dotenv from 'dotenv'
While this should work, I had many issues with it in the past, until I decided to go with the ´cleaner´ option.
Secondly, it’s important that you fully stop and then restart your development server.
Because environment variables are injecting when starting the server, they won’t automagically work with a restart as all your other code changes you will.
If you’re using something like
tsc --watch ,
ts-node or even
ts-node-dev (which I’m a big advocate for), that means killing the process (typically with a CTRL-C) and starting it again.
Did it work? Great!
No? Well let’s try the next thing then..
Server having a bad day / TS compilation issue(s)
This one is short and sweet. Bit of a weird issue.
This happens frequently to me, on a weekly – if not occasionally daily – basis, for unknown reasons.
I’ll be happily coding away, on something completely unrelated to
process.env by the way, and for whatever reason the compiler or development server is having a bad day and decides to throw a hizzy fit.
If you for some inexplicable reason all of a sudden just get the error in question, and you have not touched any
process related code or replaced
dotenv or something of that nature, simply try restarting your development server or run the tsc compilation again.
Mostly, this fixes the issue for me!
Missing node types
Another reason however, could also be that you haven’t installed the necessary types for your node version, which will confuse your editor and can give you this error in-editor, even if TS will compile just fine.
The simple fix here is to install the appropriate version of
What I mean with appropriate, is you should be installing the version of the types that matches the
node version you are running. So if you are on node version 14, you should be installing types for node 14 as so:
npm install --save-dev @firstname.lastname@example.org
That should quelch the nasty error for you! But if it didn’t, read on..
Improper library versions
A worse situation to be in, is if you find yourself with an improper node version.
There could be a couple of situations in which we consider a version improper, but at its core it happens because there is a mismatch between a library and the node version.
This could happen because the library is just fetching the newest version, and it doesn’t play well with your version of
node . This is true particularly if you are adding
dotenv to an older codebase.
It could also be that you have an old version of a given library – such as
dotenv – and have recently updated your node to a newer version, making the two incompatible.
This case is much less common and will require some debugging on your own, but a good starting point is getting friendly with the command
npm outdated which can give you an indication of what might be going on.
Not having a “backend”
Last on the list, we have a unique case I am seeing more and more often.
As the wonderful world of frontend development keeps developing amazing tools and framework at break-neck speed, the documentation for errors arising on their behalf, struggle to keep up.
This is one such case.
A simple oversight, but if you’re developing on a newer frontend framework it may simply be that
process actually does not exist.
This is because
In other words, if you are building code that builds from something like
vite it may very well be that
process does not exist.
However, the Vite developers are smart and obviously aware of this, and they have tried compensating by giving access to a similar property
So instead of
your code becomes:
If you are not on Vite, but using another bundling tool, you might want to explore their documentation to find what the equivalent is in the particular framework.
If these steps didn’t help you resolve the issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me so I can add your solution to the list!
If it did, and you are looking to level up your Typescript game, I would be honored to add your email to my subscriber list, by filling out the form below.
I send an email about once every week or two, and I promise I won’t spam you 🙂