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    Stop using environment variable directly in your TypeScript code

    • avatar
      Nico Prananta

    Environment variables are a must-have in web development. They help us manage different configurations between development, testing, and production without hardcoding sensitive data like database URLs or API keys. They're flexible, secure, and help keep our applications modular.

    The Problem with Direct Access

    It might seem like a good idea to directly access process.env in your TypeScript code, but there are a few problems with it. First off, it can lead to typos in your variable names that go unnoticed until runtime, since they're just strings with no type checking. Additionally, using environment variables directly doesn't give you IntelliSense support or auto-completion in your IDE, making your development process more prone to errors and slower.

    Also, if you use environment variables directly, you need to do a lot of type casting and type checking in your code. Do you recognise code like this?

    const apiKey = process.env.NEXT_PUBLIC_API_KEY! as string

    This is a bad practice because it's error-prone and can lead to runtime errors.

    A Better Approach

    T3 Env helps you define your environment variables in one place, so they're accessed consistently throughout your application. It provides type safety thanks to Zod, so you catch any potential mistakes at compile time rather than at runtime. Plus, it integrates seamlessly with TypeScript to offer auto-completion and IntelliSense, making your coding faster and more reliable.

    But writing the code to read and validate the environment variables is still a bit of a hassle. Let’s say you have three environment variables you want to use in your code. When you're developing, you'll need to create the .env file like this:


    Then write the code like this:

    import { createEnv } from '@t3-oss/env-nextjs'
    import { z } from 'zod'
    export const env = createEnv({
      server: {
        DATABASE_URL: z.string().url(),
        OPEN_AI_API_KEY: z.string().min(1),
      client: {
        NEXT_PUBLIC_PUBLISHABLE_KEY: z.string().min(1),
      experimental__runtimeEnv: {

    As you've probably noticed, you need to write NEXT_PUBLIC_PUBLISHABLE_KEY four times in total.

    Automate with env-to-t3

    To make things even easier, I’ve created a CLI tool that can generate T3 Env compliant code automatically. It’s called env-to-t3, and it’s open-source, so you can use it for free.

    Here's how it makes your workflow easier:

    1. Define your environment variables in a .env file as usual.
    2. Next, run the env-to-t3 CLI on your project. It reads your .env file and automatically generates a TypeScript module that defines all your environment variables with the correct types.
    3. Then, import and use your typed variables from this module. This gives you all the benefits of type safety, auto-completion, and centralized management.

    Check the repository to see how it works and learn the other options you can pass to the CLI.

    The env-to-t3 tool is there to save you time and reduce errors by automating the boring bits of managing environment variables. You can focus on writing the code that matters without worrying about the underlying configuration logistics.

    By the way, I'm making a book about Pull Requests Best Practices. Check it out!