Matt Shelley

JS: Export vs Export Default

August 13, 2020

Over the years, I have seen conflicting opinions around when to use JavaScript’s export vs export default. One project may embrace export default, while another may avoid it. Admittedly, I have flip-flopped between projects, too.

Looking for best practices, the documentation offers some suggestions but no definitive answers. Meanwhile, many developers dislike export default.

So, what should we do?

What the documentation says

To begin, let’s be clear that export refers to named exports, and export default refers to the default export.

Named Exports

Named exports look like:

// module.js
export const value = 123

// another-module.js
import { value } from './module'

According to the MDN web docs, “named exports are useful to export several values” [1]. Further, we can have zero or more named exports per module, and must reference the exact names when importing [1].

Default Export

Default exports look like:

// module.js
const value = 123
export default value

// another-module.js
import value from './module'

According to the MDN web docs, default exports are useful “to export a single value or to have a have a fallback value for your module” [1]. We can have one default export per module, and can name it however we like when importing [1].

Under the hood, it appears that export default is syntactic sugar to create a named export called default [2][3]. Thus, these statements are equivalent:

// module.js
const value = 123
export default value
// module.js
const value = 123
export { value as default }

Further, these import statements are equivalent:

// another-module.js
import value from './module'
// another-module.js
import { default as value } from './module'

(If you’ve ever seen require('./module').default, now you know why.)

So, the default export aims to simplify some cases of named exports.

What others say

There are mixed opinions on named exports and default export.

Popular Libraries

Skimming through some popular libraries, we can see their preference.

React appears to use both default export and named exports:

import React, { useState } from 'react'

React Router appears to only use named exports:

import { BrowserRouter, Switch, Route } from 'react-router-dom'

Material-UI appears to use default export for components and named exports for utilities:

import { makeStyles } from '@material-ui/core/styles'
import Button from '@material-ui/core/Button'

Formik appears to only use named exports:

import { Formik, Field, Form } from 'formik'

Lodash appears to prefer default exports, but also supports named exports:

import includes from 'lodash/includes'
// Alternatively:
import { includes } from 'lodash'

Among popular libraries there is no preferred choice.


TypeScript recommends default export for modules with a primary purpose [4]:

If you’re only exporting a single class or function, use export default

… If a module’s primary purpose is to house one specific export, then you should consider exporting it as a default export. This makes both importing and actually using the import a little easier.

Further, TypeScript recommends named exports when there are multiple things to export [4].

Human Who Codes

Nicholas Zakas of Human Who Codes lists his problems with default export [5]:

  • It may not be obvious what the default export is
  • We may inconsistently import the same thing across modules
  • We do not receive an error if we import the wrong thing

TypeScript Deep Dive

Basarat Ali Syed of TypeScript Deep Dive recommends against default export [6]:

If you refactor Foo in foo.ts it will not rename it in bar.ts.

If you end up needing to export more stuff from foo.ts (which is what many of your files will have) then you have to juggle the import syntax.

He adds:

  • Intellisense and Autocomplete play nicer with named exports
  • It is easier to re-export named exports
  • We catch typos with named exports, e.g. Yup vs yup
  • We cannot write export default const ... on a single line

What I say

When I work on a new project where I can influence our approach, I like to use default export for the main export and named exports for everything else.

While there are flaws with default export, the syntax helps me focus on doing one thing per module. Further, the syntax works well when the module is named the same thing as the default export, such as with React components:

// SignupForm.js
import React from 'react'

const SignupForm = (props) => { ... }

export default SignupForm

// AnotherComponent.js
import SignupForm from './SignupForm'

When there are multiple things to export, such as with utilities and constants, I prefer named exports:

// primes.js
export const getPrimes = () => { ... }

export const getMedianPrimes = () => { ... }

// another-module.js
import { getPrimes, getMedianPrimes } from './primes'

Conversely, when I work on an existing project, I follow the team. If we have a standard, then it’s better to be consistent and do right by everyone. After all, we create better software when we work together.

So, really, it depends.

In Closing

To summarize, we can use export default to export the main thing in a module and export to export everything else. However, there are mixed opinions on whether we should use export default or just stick to export.

Ultimately, I think it’s more important to be consistent and support the team.


  1. “Export.” MDN Web Docs
  2. “ExportEntries.” Ecma International
  3. “Modules.” Exploring JS
  4. “Modules.” TypeScript: Handbook
  5. “Why I’ve stopped exporting defaults from my JavaScript modules.” Human Who Codes
  6. “Avoid Export Default.” TypeScript Deep Dive

Matt Shelley
Writing about software development and self-improvement