How do I include a JavaScript file in another JavaScript file?

How do I include a JavaScript file in another JavaScript file?

Is there something in JavaScript similar to @import in CSS that allows you to include a JavaScript file inside another JavaScript file?

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

The old versions of JavaScript had no import, include, or require, so many different approaches to this problem have been developed.

But since 2015 (ES6), JavaScript has had the ES6 modules standard to import modules in Node.js, which is also supported by most modern browsers.

For compatibility with older browsers, build and/or transpilation tools can be used.

ES6 Modules

ECMAScript (ES6) modules have been supported in Node.js since v8.5, with the --experimental-modules flag. All files involved must have the .mjs extension.

// module.mjs
export function hello() {
  return "Hello";
}
// main.mjs
import { hello } from 'module'; // or './module'
let val = hello();  // val is "Hello";

ECMAScript modules in browsers

Browsers have had support for loading ECMAScript modules directly (no tools like Webpack required) since Safari 10.1, Chrome 61, Firefox 60, and Edge 16. Check the current support at caniuse.

<script type="module">
  import { hello } from './hello.mjs';
  hello('world');
</script>
// hello.mjs
export function hello(text) {
  const div = document.createElement('div');
  div.textContent = `Hello ${text}`;
  document.body.appendChild(div);
}

Read more at https://jakearchibald.com/2017/es-modules-in-browsers/

Dynamic imports in browsers

Dynamic imports let the script load other scripts as needed:

<script type="module">
  import('hello.mjs').then(module => {
      module.hello('world');
    });
</script>

Read more at https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2017/11/dynamic-import

Node.js require

The old style of importing modules, still widely used in Node.js, is the module.exports/require system.

// mymodule.js
module.exports = {
   hello: function() {
      return "Hello";
   }
}
// server.js
const myModule = require('./mymodule');
let val = myModule.hello(); // val is "Hello"   

There are other ways for JavaScript to include external JavaScript contents in browsers that do not require preprocessing.

AJAX Loading

You could load an additional script with an AJAX call and then use eval to run it. This is the most straightforward way, but it is limited to your domain because of the JavaScript sandbox security model. Using eval also opens the door to bugs, hacks and security issues.

Fetch Loading

Like Dynamic Imports you can load one or many scripts with a fetch call using promises to control order of execution for script dependencies using the Fetch Inject library:

fetchInject([
  'https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/momentjs/2.17.1/moment.min.js'
]).then(() => {
  console.log(`Finish in less than ${moment().endOf('year').fromNow(true)}`)
})

jQuery Loading

The jQuery library provides loading functionality in one line:

$.getScript("my_lovely_script.js", function() {
   alert("Script loaded but not necessarily executed.");
});

Dynamic Script Loading

You could add a script tag with the script URL into the HTML. To avoid the overhead of jQuery, this is an ideal solution.

The script can even reside on a different server. Furthermore, the browser evaluates the code. The <script> tag can be injected into either the web page <head>, or inserted just before the closing </body> tag.

Here is an example of how this could work:

function dynamicallyLoadScript(url) {
    var script = document.createElement("script");  // create a script DOM node
    script.src = url;  // set its src to the provided URL

    document.head.appendChild(script);  // add it to the end of the head section of the page (could change 'head' to 'body' to add it to the end of the body section instead)
}

This function will add a new <script> tag to the end of the head section of the page, where the src attribute is set to the URL which is given to the function as the first parameter.

Both of these solutions are discussed and illustrated in JavaScript Madness: Dynamic Script Loading.

Detecting when the script has been executed

Now, there is a big issue you must know about. Doing that implies that you remotely load the code. Modern web browsers will load the file and keep executing your current script because they load everything asynchronously to improve performance. (This applies to both the jQuery method and the manual dynamic script loading method.)

It means that if you use these tricks directly, you won’t be able to use your newly loaded code the next line after you asked it to be loaded, because it will be still loading.

For example: my_lovely_script.js contains MySuperObject:

var js = document.createElement("script");

js.type = "text/javascript";
js.src = jsFilePath;

document.body.appendChild(js);

var s = new MySuperObject();

Error : MySuperObject is undefined

Then you reload the page hitting F5. And it works! Confusing…

So what to do about it ?

Well, you can use the hack the author suggests in the link I gave you. In summary, for people in a hurry, he uses an event to run a callback function when the script is loaded. So you can put all the code using the remote library in the callback function. For example:

function loadScript(url, callback)
{
    // Adding the script tag to the head as suggested before
    var head = document.head;
    var script = document.createElement('script');
    script.type = 'text/javascript';
    script.src = url;

    // Then bind the event to the callback function.
    // There are several events for cross browser compatibility.
    script.onreadystatechange = callback;
    script.onload = callback;

    // Fire the loading
    head.appendChild(script);
}

Then you write the code you want to use AFTER the script is loaded in a lambda function:

var myPrettyCode = function() {
   // Here, do whatever you want
};

Then you run all that:

loadScript("my_lovely_script.js", myPrettyCode);

Note that the script may execute after the DOM has loaded, or before, depending on the browser and whether you included the line script.async = false;. There’s a great article on Javascript loading in general which discusses this.

Source Code Merge/Preprocessing

As mentioned at the top of this answer, many developers use build/transpilation tool(s) like Parcel, Webpack, or Babel in their projects, allowing them to use upcoming JavaScript syntax, provide backward compatibility for older browsers, combine files, minify, perform code splitting etc.

Solution 2:

If anyone is looking for something more advanced, try out RequireJS. You’ll get added benefits such as dependency management, better concurrency, and avoid duplication (that is, retrieving a script more than once).

You can write your JavaScript files in “modules” and then reference them as dependencies in other scripts. Or you can use RequireJS as a simple “go get this script” solution.

Example:

Define dependencies as modules:

some-dependency.js

define(['lib/dependency1', 'lib/dependency2'], function (d1, d2) {

     //Your actual script goes here.   
     //The dependent scripts will be fetched if necessary.

     return libraryObject;  //For example, jQuery object
});

implementation.js is your “main” JavaScript file that depends on some-dependency.js

require(['some-dependency'], function(dependency) {

    //Your script goes here
    //some-dependency.js is fetched.   
    //Then your script is executed
});

Excerpt from the GitHub README:

RequireJS loads plain JavaScript files as well as more defined
modules. It is optimized for in-browser use, including in a Web
Worker, but it can be used in other JavaScript environments, like
Rhino and Node. It implements the Asynchronous Module API.

RequireJS uses plain script tags to load modules/files, so it should
allow for easy debugging. It can be used simply to load existing
JavaScript files, so you can add it to your existing project without
having to re-write your JavaScript files.

Solution 3:

There actually is a way to load a JavaScript file not asynchronously, so you could use the functions included in your newly loaded file right after loading it, and I think it works in all browsers.

You need to use jQuery.append() on the <head> element of your page, that is:

$("head").append('<script type="text/javascript" src="' + script + '"></script>');

However, this method also has a problem: if an error happens in the imported JavaScript file, Firebug (and also Firefox Error Console and Chrome Developer Tools as well) will report its place incorrectly, which is a big problem if you use Firebug to track JavaScript errors down a lot (I do). Firebug simply doesn’t know about the newly loaded file for some reason, so if an error occurs in that file, it reports that it occurred in your main HTML file, and you will have trouble finding out the real reason for the error.

But if that is not a problem for you, then this method should work.

I have actually written a jQuery plugin called $.import_js() which uses this method:

(function($)
{
    /*
     * $.import_js() helper (for JavaScript importing within JavaScript code).
     */
    var import_js_imported = [];

    $.extend(true,
    {
        import_js : function(script)
        {
            var found = false;
            for (var i = 0; i < import_js_imported.length; i++)
                if (import_js_imported[i] == script) {
                    found = true;
                    break;
                }

            if (found == false) {
                $("head").append('<script type="text/javascript" src="' + script + '"></script>');
                import_js_imported.push(script);
            }
        }
    });

})(jQuery);

So all you would need to do to import JavaScript is:

$.import_js('/path_to_project/scripts/somefunctions.js');

I also made a simple test for this at Example.

It includes a main.js file in the main HTML and then the script in main.js uses $.import_js() to import an additional file called included.js, which defines this function:

function hello()
{
    alert("Hello world!");
}

And right after including included.js, the hello() function is called, and you get the alert.

(This answer is in response to e-satis’ comment).

Solution 4:

Another way, that in my opinion is much cleaner, is to make a synchronous Ajax request instead of using a <script> tag. Which is also how Node.js handles includes.

Here’s an example using jQuery:

function require(script) {
    $.ajax({
        url: script,
        dataType: "script",
        async: false,           // <-- This is the key
        success: function () {
            // all good...
        },
        error: function () {
            throw new Error("Could not load script " + script);
        }
    });
}

You can then use it in your code as you’d usually use an include:

require("/scripts/subscript.js");

And be able to call a function from the required script in the next line:

subscript.doSomethingCool(); 

Solution 5:

There is a good news for you. Very soon you will be able to load JavaScript code easily. It will become a standard way of importing modules of JavaScript code and will be part of core JavaScript itself.

You simply have to write import cond from 'cond.js'; to load a macro named cond from a file cond.js.

So you don’t have to rely upon any JavaScript framework nor do you have to explicitly make Ajax calls.

Refer to:

Solution 6:

It is possible to dynamically generate a JavaScript tag and append it to HTML document from inside other JavaScript code. This will load targeted JavaScript file.

function includeJs(jsFilePath) {
    var js = document.createElement("script");

    js.type = "text/javascript";
    js.src = jsFilePath;

    document.body.appendChild(js);
}

includeJs("/path/to/some/file.js");