Fisher Sun

TIL: ESM equivalent of if __name__ == "__main__"

til, web, javascript

While developing this website, I wanted to write a little script to automate creating blog post files and generating frontmatter blocks. This would not be that useful, but I thought it would be good to get some practice using JavaScript for scripting— to learn how to do all the stuff I usually do with Python.

Translating how I normally code in Python, my code ran from the main function, which returned the program’s exit code. I called it at the bottom of the module.

 * @param {string[]} args command-line arguments passed to the script
 * @returns {number} the exit code
function main(args) {
    // function body omitted for brevity

process.exitCode = main(process.argv.slice(2));

But, what about the trusty if __name__ == "__main__" that’s so common in Python? (Of course, it’s not very useful in this context. But, I think it’s a good habit to have, so I wanted to learn what the JavaScript version was.)

The first thing my search brought me to was a Stack Overflow answer that recommended the following:

if (require.main === module) {
    process.exitCode = main(process.argv.slice(2));

This looked clean, but running it with node gave me an error:

ReferenceError: require is not defined in ES module scope, you can use import instead
This file is being treated as an ES module because it has a '.js' file extension and '/home/fisher/repos/blog-astro/package.json' contains "type": "module". To treat it as a CommonJS script, rename it to use the '.cjs' file extension.

Since this approach used a CJS require, it wasn’t compatible with ESM, which my project used by default.

Renaming the file to use a .cjs extension and changing my imports to requires worked, but it didn’t seem ideal. I wondered, what was the ESM way?

With some more searching, I found a book, Shell Scripting with Node.js, that got me this:

import * as url from 'node:url';

if (import.meta.url.startsWith('file:')) {
    const modulePath = url.fileURLToPath(import.meta.url);
    if (process.argv[1] === modulePath) {
        process.exitCode = main(process.argv.slice(2));

I couldn’t believe how complex this was.

And, since there’s an import (which would bother me at the bottom of the file), I couldn’t simply create a snippet to paste it. So if I started using this in scripts, it would quickly get annoying.

I’m fairly new to Node, so I’m wondering what I’m missing. The pattern of if __name__ == "__main__" is commonly seen in Python, so why is there no simple way of doing it with ESM? Is ESM not as commonly adopted with Node as I thought? Or do people use ESM, but just switch to CJS for this kind of thing? Or maybe this Python pattern isn’t commonly used in Node? Please let me know your thoughts!