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Laravel Application Environment variable in config/app.php and .env file

I'm facing a bit of confusion while trying to set up the Laravel application environment variables. I know that there are two places where I can define these variables - in the `config/app.php` file and the `.env` file.

I'm aware that the `.env` file is the recommended way to store environment-specific configuration, but I noticed that the `config/app.php` file also has an `env` key that allows me to define the environment directly.

So, my question is, how are these two different and which one should I use to define the environment for my Laravel application? Additionally, what are the best practices around using these files effectively?

Any help in clarifying this matter would be greatly appreciated!

All Replies


In my personal experience, it is always best to define the application environment in the `.env` file rather than the `config/app.php` file. The `.env` file is specifically designed to store environment-specific configuration, and it offers several advantages.

Firstly, using the `.env` file keeps your configuration separate from your codebase, making it easier to manage and maintain. With environment variables stored in the `.env` file, you can easily modify them based on different deployment environments like local, development, staging, or production.

Secondly, the `.env` file allows you to securely store sensitive information such as database credentials or API keys. Since the `.env` file is typically not committed to version control, it keeps your sensitive data private and prevents accidental exposure.

Moreover, using the `.env` file fosters collaboration within a team. Each team member can have their own local configuration without affecting others, as they can simply update their individual `.env` file.

On the other hand, the `config/app.php` file is more suitable for defining application-specific settings rather than environment-specific variables. It generally contains global configuration options for your Laravel application, such as the application name or timezone.

To summarize, while both `config/app.php` and `.env` file can be used to define the application environment, it is considered a best practice to utilize the `.env` file for setting environment variables. It ensures a cleaner separation of concerns, enhances security, and facilitates a smoother workflow across different environments.


I've had some personal experience with configuring Laravel environment variables, and I'd like to share a slightly different perspective.

While the `.env` file is indeed the recommended way to store environment-specific configuration, there can be situations where defining the application environment directly in the `config/app.php` file might be beneficial.

One advantage I found with setting the environment in `config/app.php` is that it allows you to easily switch between different environments without modifying the `.env` file, especially during development or debugging. You can simply change the value of the `env` key in the `config/app.php` file, and Laravel will use the appropriate configuration settings.

Additionally, by setting the environment in the `config/app.php` file, you can avoid any potential issues related to the loading or caching of environment variables from the `.env` file. Sometimes, when the application's caching mechanism is enabled, changes made in the `.env` file might not be immediately reflected. In such cases, having the option to define the environment directly in `config/app.php` can be handy.

However, it's important to remember that while setting the environment in `config/app.php` provides flexibility, it also means that you need to be cautious. Make sure not to commit any sensitive information or environment-specific data into version control, as the `config/app.php` file is part of the codebase.

In summary, while using the `.env` file is generally recommended for storing environment variables, setting the application environment directly in `config/app.php` can be useful in certain cases. Just ensure that you handle any sensitive information securely and avoid committing environment-specific data into version control.

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