How do I define global variables in CoffeeScript?


bawbag = (x, y) ->
    z = (x * y)

bawbag(5, 10) 

would compile to:

var bawbag;
bawbag = function(x, y) {
  var z;
  return (z = (x * y));
bawbag(5, 10);

compiling via coffee-script under node.js wraps that so:

(function() {
  var bawbag;
  bawbag = function(x, y) {
    var z;
    return (z = (x * y));
  bawbag(5, 10);

Docs say:

If you'd like to create top-level variables for other scripts to use, attach them as properties on window, or on the exports object in CommonJS. The existential operator (covered below), gives you a reliable way to figure out where to add them, if you're targeting both CommonJS and the browser: root = exports ? this

How do I define Global Variables then in CoffeeScript. What does 'attach them as properties on window' mean?

Since coffee script has no var statement it automatically inserts it for all variables in the coffee-script, that way it prevents the compiled JavaScript version from leaking everything into the global namespace.

So since there's no way to make something "leak" into the global namespace from the coffee-script side of things on purpose, you need to define your global variables as properties of the global object.

attach them as properties on window

This means you need to do something like = 'baz';, which handles the browser case, since there the global object is the window.


In Node.js there's no window object, instead there's the exports object that gets passed into the wrapper that wraps the Node.js module (See: ), so in Node.js what you would need to do is = 'baz';.

Now let us take a look at what it states in your quote from the docs:

...targeting both CommonJS and the browser: root = exports ? this

This is obviously coffee-script, so let's take a look into what this actually compiles to:

var root;
root = (typeof exports !== "undefined" && exports !== null) ? exports : this;

First it will check whether exports is defined, since trying to reference a non existent variable in JavaScript would otherwise yield an SyntaxError (except when it's used with typeof)

So if exports exists, which is the case in Node.js (or in a badly written WebSite...) root will point to exports, otherwise to this. So what's this?

(function() {...}).call(this);

Using .call on a function will bind the this inside the function to the first parameter passed, in case of the browser this would now be the window object, in case of Node.js it would be the global context which is also available as the global object.

But since you have the require function in Node.js, there's no need to assign something to the global object in Node.js, instead you assign to the exports object which then gets returned by the require function.


After all that explanation, here's what you need to do:

root = exports ? this = -> 'Hello World'

This will declare our function foo in the global namespace (whatever that happens to be).
That's all :)

To me it seems @atomicules has the simplest answer, but I think it can be simplified a little more. You need to put an @ before anything you want to be global, so that it compiles to this.anything and this refers to the global object.


@bawbag = (x, y) ->
    z = (x * y)

bawbag(5, 10)

compiles to...

this.bawbag = function(x, y) {
  var z;
  return z = x * y;
bawbag(5, 10);

and works inside and outside of the wrapper given by node.js

(function() {
    this.bawbag = function(x, y) {
      var z;
      return z = x * y;
    console.log(bawbag(5,13)) // works here

console.log(bawbag(5,11)) // works here

Ivo nailed it, but I'll mention that there is one dirty trick you can use, though I don't recommend it if you're going for style points: You can embed JavaScript code directly in your CoffeeScript by escaping it with backticks.

However, here's why this is usually a bad idea: The CoffeeScript compiler is unaware of those variables, which means they won't obey normal CoffeeScript scoping rules. So,

`foo = 'bar'`
foo = 'something else'

compiles to

foo = 'bar';
var foo = 'something else';

and now you've got yourself two foos in different scopes. There's no way to modify the global foo from CoffeeScript code without referencing the global object, as Ivy described.

Of course, this is only a problem if you make an assignment to foo in CoffeeScript—if foo became read-only after being given its initial value (i.e. it's a global constant), then the embedded JavaScript solution approach might be kinda sorta acceptable (though still not recommended).

You can pass -b option when you compile code via coffee-script under node.js. The compiled code will be the same as on

To add to Ivo Wetzel's answer

There seems to be a shorthand syntax for exports ? this that I can only find documented/mentioned on a Google group posting.

I.e. in a web page to make a function available globally you declare the function again with an @ prefix:

<script type="text/coffeescript">
    @aglobalfunction = aglobalfunction = () ->
         alert "Hello!"

<a href="javascript:aglobalfunction()" >Click me!</a>

I think what you are trying to achieve can simply be done like this :

While you are compiling the coffeescript, use the "-b" parameter.

-b / --bare Compile the JavaScript without the top-level function safety wrapper.

So something like this : coffee -b --compile whatever.js

This will output your code just like in the site.

If you're a bad person (I'm a bad person.), you can get as simple as this: (->@)()

As in,

(->@)().im_a_terrible_programmer = yes
console.log im_a_terrible_programmer

This works, because when invoking a Reference to a Function ‘bare’ (that is, func(), instead of new func() or obj.func()), something commonly referred to as the ‘function-call invocation pattern’, always binds this to the global object for that execution context.

The CoffeeScript above simply compiles to (function(){ return this })(); so we're exercising that behavior to reliably access the global object.

Since coffeescript is rarely used on it's own, you can use global variable supplied by either node.js or browserify (and any descendants like coffeeify, gulp build scripts, etc).

In node.js global is global namespace.

In browserify global is equal to window.

So, just:

somefunc = ->
  global.variable = 123