# Glossary

# .env File

A special file which contains configuration information in the form of environment variables.

n8n uses the .env file to control how n8n works. You can set items such as username and password for the editor or your timezone using this file. See the n8n docs for more details.

To learn more about the .env file, read Manage Environment Variables in your NodeJS Application with dotenv (opens new window).

# Account

Service which allows a user to connect to a product. User's identity is confirmed through shared credentials. Also known as a user account.

Many of the nodes in n8n require you to have an account with the service for which the node was built. For example, Typeform.

# API

An acronym for Application Programming Interface, it is a framework for sharing text information by providing a specifically formatted URL to retrieve desired information.

APIs are a critical part of many n8n nodes and workflows. The nodes talk to the API that is provided by a service on the internet. n8n workflows allow these APIs to talk to each other.

For a more detailed understanding of APIs, see What is API: Definition, Types, Specifications, Documentation (opens new window).

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# Certificate

A file or character string that is used to encrypt and decrypt information between two entities (e.g. computers, applications, users, etc.). It is used to ensure that anyone who intercepts the information between the two entities will not be able to read the information.

n8n uses certificates to keep user information safe when working in the Editor UI. You can also customize the cetificate that you use in n8n.

For further information, see What are certificates? (opens new window).

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# CLI

An acronym for Command Line Interface, it is a text-based form of processing computer commands.

It is possible to start a workflow or change its status using the CLI in n8n.

To learn more, see What is Command Line Interface (CLI)? (opens new window).

# Connection

A link between two or more nodes that allows data to flow from one node to another.

This is a core concept in n8n.

# Credentials

Unique pieces of information that identifies a user or a service. A common form of credentials is a username and password pair.

n8n stores encrypted credentials so that it can automate tasks that require this information to run properly.

For more information, see Credentials (opens new window).

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# Docker

A system to build, run and share applications with all of the services bundled to support the application in one package.

n8n has created a docker image so that users who have a docker environment can quickly install and run n8n.

For more information, read Docker overview (opens new window) and A Docker Tutorial for Beginners (opens new window).

# Editor UI

In n8n, this is the web interface used to create workflows. It is accessed through a web browser at a designated website address.

To learn more about user interfaces, see User interface (opens new window).

# Encryption Key

A piece of data, either string or binary, which is used to encode information so that it cannot be easily read. Encryption keys are often long string of seemingly random characters.

n8n will sometimes use encryption keys for accessing APIs when required. It also uses a personal encryption key to secure credentials.

For more information, see What are encryption keys and how do they work? 🔐 (opens new window)

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# Execution

A completed run of a workflow from start to finish.

n8n logs workflow executions and allows the user to see if the workflow completed successfully or not.

n8n also has the ability to execute one workflow from another workflow.

To learn more, see Execution (computing) (opens new window).

# Expression

A string of characters and symbols in a programming language that represents a value depending upon its input.

n8n uses expressions extensively when a node is referring to another node for input.

Find out more about expressions by reading Expression (opens new window).

# Fair-code

A software model very similar to open source which allows developers to receive remuneration for use in a for profit product.

n8n is licensed under the fair-code model. See faircode.io (opens new window) for more details.

# Function

In programming, a set of reusable commands designed to be run together and launched by other commands in the code. It may or may not receive input from the command that launches it.

Many of the nodes in n8n behave like functions, receiving specific input to generate a specific output.

To learn more about functions, see Computer Programming - Functions (opens new window).

# IP Address

A string of numbers and letters which represents the location of an electronic device on a TCP/IP network.

n8n will often refer to IP addresses when accessing information on a system other than itself. This is more common when the service is on the local network rather than on the internet.

If you want to learn more about IP addresses, see What Is an IP Address? (opens new window).

# JavaScript

A modern programming language popular with web platforms used to create interactive web interfaces.

While n8n is written in TypeScript, the final code generated is JavaScript and the Function node uses JavaScript to create customized nodes. JavaScript is used in the n8n's Function nodes.

To learn more about Javascript, visit Javascript Tutorial (opens new window).

# JSON

An open standard file and data format commonly used with JavaScript. It is easy for humans to read and for computers to parse.

The majority of data that is transferred from one node to another in n8n is most likely in the JSON format.

For further reading, please see Introducing JSON (opens new window).

Section of an HTTP request message that defines allows extra information to be passed between the transmitter and receiver.

n8n has the ability to send custom header information to many APIs, specifically in the HTTP Request node.

For further information, see Request header (opens new window).

# Node

The basic building block for n8n. Each node is designed with a specific purpose of receiving, processing or outputting data.

For more information, see Node Basics.

# NodeJS

A package of JavaScript file used to provide everything needed to run JavaScript code without a web browser.

n8n runs on top of NodeJS and uses its libraries extensively.

Read more at About Node.js (opens new window).

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# npm

A program that installs, updates and removes JavaScript Packages.

n8n is installed and updated using npm.

Find out more at About npm (opens new window).

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# npx

A program that will download, run, then delete a JavaScript Packages. Often used for quickly testing what a package will do without completely installing it.

You can try out n8n without installing it to your system using npx.

For more information about npx, see npx documentation (opens new window).

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# Package

A group of JavaScript files which are designed to work together for a specific purpose.

n8n is also distributed as an npm package.

For more information, see software package (opens new window).

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# Parameter

Data that is passed to a program or script which is used for processing and directly effects the output or results generated.

Many n8n nodes accept parameters to customize their output.

The n8n CLI also accepts parameters so that it knows how to properly execute.

For more information, see Functions, procedures nad modules (opens new window).

# Password

A secret string of characters provided to prove one's identity. Often used to gain access to restricted applications and systems.

The n8n Editor UI can be password protected so that only authorized users can access the interface.

n8n also stores passwords as a part of credentials for some services.

To read more about passwords, see The Importance of passwords (opens new window).

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# REST API

See API

# Root User

In *NIX operating system, the user account that has no restrictions placed upon it within the system. The root user is typically only used for performing maintenance and upgrade tasks as improperly run applications using the root user account can cause significant damage to the system.

For the protection of the system, it is generally not recommended that n8n be run by the root user.

For more information about root, see root Definition (opens new window).

# SSL

An acronym for Secure Socket Layer, it is the primary way that web based services are secured. A SSL certificate is often used on websites to encrypt the information that is travelling between a web server and a web page.

n8n uses SSL certificates to secure the n8n UI so that any information that is passed between the n8n server and the user's web browser is encrypted and cannot be spied upon when it is travelling between the two. It is possible to customize the SSL installation.

For further reading, see SSL and SSL Certificates Explained For Beginners (opens new window).

# Token

A unique identifier, typically a long string of characters, used to increase the security of systems that request or transmit data. It is usually a shared secret between the sender and the receiver to allow either system to determine if they should be requesting/transmitting data. Tokens can also sometimes be used as encryption keys to make the data which is transmitted illegible to thoses without the token.

n8n uses tokens often when requesting or sending data using APIs or webhooks.

For more information, see token (opens new window).

# Trigger

A specific type of node that starts a workflow when it receives data from a source outside of the workflow itself.

A good example of a trigger node (opens new window) in n8n is a webhook. It listens for data coming into it and then starts a workflow when it sees data.

For more information about triggers, see Event Driven Programming (opens new window).

# Tunnel

An encrypted session between two systems used to secure data transmission.

n8n uses a tunnel to allow external users to access n8n installations that are behind firewalls, typically for triggering webhooks. This setup is recommended for testing use only.

For further reading, see VPN Tunnels explained: what are they and how can they keep your internet data secure (opens new window).

# TypeScript

An open source programming language that extends the JavaScript programming language.

n8n is written in TypeScript.

Read more at Typescript (opens new window).

# UI

An acronym for User Interface, it is the method or tool a person uses to interact with a computer system and its software.

n8n has a web based UI, meaning that you program and interact with n8n using a web browser.

Learn more at user interface (UI) (opens new window).

# URL

An acronym for Universal Resource Locator, it is a string of characters that represents a network location. Most people's experience with URLs is in the form of a website address (e.g. https://n8n.io)

n8n's Editor UI is accessed via an URL entered into a web browser (often https://localhost:5678).

Some nodes in n8n access resources on the internet using an URL.

Read more at What is a URL? (opens new window).

# Username

A character string representing an account on a computer system. It is often paired with a password to allow a person to access information and services that the person has permissions to use.

n8n also stores usernames as a part of credentials for some services.

Read more at Username (opens new window).

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# Variable

In computer programming, a variable represents a piece of data that can be changed or manipulated by the computer code. Variables are used to temporarily store information for processing.

n8n uses variables extensively throughout its programming and nodes.

Read more at Computer Programming - Variables (opens new window).

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# Webhook

A service that listens for data input from an external source used to trigger an action in a system. Webhooks allow external systems to provide real-time alerts and updates to the system that does not limit the updates to regular polling intervals. Webhooks are often referenced by push notifications.

n8n has the ability to create webhooks that can be used to start workflows and receive data from systems outside of the n8n system itself.

To learn more about webhooks, see What's a Webhook? (opens new window).

# Workflow

A collection of nodes connected together to produce a specific outcome.

n8n's primary form of programming uses a workflow model to represent both code and data flow.

For more information, see Workflow application (opens new window).