Modes and Environment Variables


Mode is an important concept in Vue CLI projects. By default, there are three modes:

  • development is used by vue-cli-service serve
  • test is used by vue-cli-service test:unit
  • production is used by vue-cli-service build and vue-cli-service test:e2e

You can overwrite the default mode used for a command by passing the --mode option flag. For example, if you want to use development variables in the build command:

vue-cli-service build --mode development

When running vue-cli-service, environment variables are loaded from all corresponding files. If they don't contain a NODE_ENV variable, it will be set accordingly. For example, NODE_ENV will be set to "production" in production mode, "test" in test mode, and defaults to "development" otherwise.

Then NODE_ENV will determine the primary mode your app is running in - development, production or test - and consequently, what kind of webpack config will be created.

With NODE_ENV set to "test" for example, Vue CLI creates a webpack config that is intended to be used and optimized for unit tests. It doesn't process images and other assets that are unnecessary for unit tests.

Similarly, NODE_ENV=development creates a webpack configuration which enables HMR, doesn't hash assets or create vendor bundles in order to allow for fast re-builds when running a dev server.

When you are running vue-cli-service build, your NODE_ENV should always be set to "production" to obtain an app ready for deployment, regardless of the environment you're deploying to.


If you have a default NODE_ENV in your environment, you should either remove it or explicitly set NODE_ENV when running vue-cli-service commands.

Environment Variables

You can specify env variables by placing the following files in your project root:

.env                # loaded in all cases
.env.local          # loaded in all cases, ignored by git
.env.[mode]         # only loaded in specified mode
.env.[mode].local   # only loaded in specified mode, ignored by git

An env file simply contains key=value pairs of environment variables:


For more detailed env parsing rules, please refer to the documentation of dotenv. We also use dotenv-expand for variable expansion (available in Vue CLI 3.5+).

Loaded variables will become available to all vue-cli-service commands, plugins and dependencies.

Env Loading Priorities

An env file for a specific mode (e.g. .env.production) will take higher priority than a generic one (e.g. .env).

In addition, environment variables that already exist when Vue CLI is executed have the highest priority and will not be overwritten by .env files.

Example: Staging Mode

Assuming we have an app with the following .env file:


And the following .env.staging file:

VUE_APP_TITLE=My App (staging)
  • vue-cli-service build builds a production app, loading .env, .env.production and .env.production.local if they are present;

  • vue-cli-service build --mode staging builds a production app in staging mode, using .env, .env.staging and .env.staging.local if they are present.

In both cases, the app is built as a production app because of the NODE_ENV, but in the staging version, process.env.VUE_APP_TITLE is overwritten with a different value.

Using Env Variables in Client-side Code

Only variables that start with VUE_APP_ will be statically embedded into the client bundle with webpack.DefinePlugin. You can access them in your application code:


During build, process.env.VUE_APP_SECRET will be replaced by the corresponding value. In the case of VUE_APP_SECRET=secret, it will be replaced by "secret".

In addition to VUE_APP_* variables, there are also two special variables that will always be available in your app code:

  • NODE_ENV - this will be one of "development", "production" or "test" depending on the mode the app is running in.
  • BASE_URL - this corresponds to the publicPath option in vue.config.js and is the base path your app is deployed at.

All resolved env variables will be available inside public/index.html as discussed in HTML - Interpolation.

You can have computed env vars in your vue.config.js file. They still need to be prefixed with VUE_APP_. This is useful for version info

process.env.VUE_APP_VERSION = require('./package.json').version

module.exports = {
  // config

Local Only Variables

Sometimes you might have env variables that should not be committed into the codebase, especially if your project is hosted in a public repository. In that case you should use an .env.local file instead. Local env files are ignored in .gitignore by default.

.local can also be appended to mode-specific env files, for example .env.development.local will be loaded during development, and is ignored by git.