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Environment variables are key-value pairs defined to match a specific application environment (local, dev, prod, etc.). Often they contain

  • Flags that control the application behavior
  • Secrets and api keys that can differ by environment

Setting Variables


Do not put your .env file in GitHub

Especially if your repo is public. Make sure to add .env file to your .gitignore. If you accidentally push your .env file to GitHub, its contents will be permanently in the repository's history - even if you delete it afterwards

On local, there are many ways to get environment variables into your application. Refer to these popular packages for more info:

  • env-cmd - (recommended)
    • can be used in package.json scripts to injects variables from .env without changes to application code. For example:
      • in dev - load local env vars from .env and watch for file changes
      • when deployed, Cyclic runs start. env-cmd is not needed since variables are available automatically. This way env-cmd only has to be a devDependency
      "scripts": {
      "start": "node index.js",
      "dev": "env-cmd node --watch index.js"
      • tip: as of node 18, node --watch can be used to watch for file changes in place of nodemon
  • dotenv -
    • sets variables from a .env file with:


Environment variables can be set on first deployment via Advanced build options and then Variables tab.

Environment variables can be set after a first deployment in an app's dashboard via the Variables tab.

Cyclic stores environment variables securely by encrypting them at rest, they are visible only to users that have permissions to the app environment.

Changes are applied immediately

Changes to environment variables are applied immediately to running apps without a re-deployment.

All apps are preset with the following variables:

  • CYCLIC_URL - the default url of the app
  • CYCLIC_DB - the name of the AWS DynamoDB table available to the app
  • CYCLIC_BUCKET_NAME - the name of the AWS S3 Bucket available to the app
  • CYCLIC_APP_ID - the app environments unique id

There are two ways to set up variables:

Key-Value Editor:

Add the variable name and value with + Add Variable, then Save

Bulk Editor:

A text editor that allows you to work on multiple variables at once in a similar syntax to .env files with the exceptions:

  • Comments are not supported
  • Quotes not required and are passed as part of the value
    • VAR="MY VALUE" will result in your code seeing "MY VALUE" rather than MY VALUE
    • VAR instead should be set as VAR=MY VALUE

Accessing Variables


The frontend does not have access to environment variables

Variable values often include database secrets and API keys - they should never be exposed to the frontend.


Application code on the backend has access to variables via process.env during runtime.


Environment variables that are set for the runtime are also accessible to the scripts defined in package.json

Reserved Environment Variables

Cyclic apps run on AWS and have pre-configured AWS credentials for access to the built-in S3 storage and DynamoDB database.

For this, Cyclic reserves the following environment variables:


If you are using resources in your own AWS account and would like you add your own credentials. Consider using alternative environment variables and setting the credentials on the SDK clients directly:

    const { S3Client } = require("@aws-sdk/client-s3");
let client = new S3Client({
region: process.env.MY_REGION,
accessKeyId: process.env.MY_AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID,
secretAccessKey: process.env.MY_AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY

Watch an overview here: