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What is TypeScript's Exclude?

josnun profile image Josiah Nunemaker Originally published at josnun.com ・2 min read

Originally posted on JosNun.com

I'm going to be honest, here. I love TypeScript, but some of the docs for their utility methods aren't that great. Thankfully, they have examples, but sometimes, even those aren't that helpful. Exclude is one of those utility methods that always had an air of ambiguity around it for me, but recently I did some research, and what I found makes writing some types so much cleaner.

So what does exclude do? Well, here's what the docs say:

Exclude<T, U>: Constructs a type by excluding from T all properties that are assignable to U.'

Not terribly descriptive, but at least it points us in the right direction. In my opinion, the type definition of Exclude is much more helpful.

type Exclude<T, U> = T extends U ? never : T;

A simple way of putting it is that if TypeA is a subtype of TypeB, it gets removed. Here's an example:

interface Widget {
  doesStuff: boolean;
}

type Doodad = number | string | symbol | object | Widget;

type PropertyAccessor = Exclude<Doodad, object>; // string | number | symbol
type ExcludeWidget = Exclude<Doodad, Widget>; // string | number | symbol | object;

const string: PropertyAccessor = 'key';
const number: PropertyAccessor = 3;
const symbol: PropertyAccessor = Symbol();

const obj: PropertyAccessor = {}; // Type '{}' is not assignable to type 'symbol'
const widget: PropertyAccessor = {
  doesStuff: true,
}; // Type '{ doesStuff: boolean; }' is not assignable to type 'string | number | symbol'

const obj2: ExcludeWidget = {};
const widget2: PropertyAccessor = {
  doesStuff: true,
} as Widget;

As shown in the example, the Exclude, helper enables us to remove a type from a type union. Now, you may be surprised to see that the Widget interface is not included in the type PropertyAccessor. This is because an interface extends an object. The same would happen if the interface was declared as a type instead of an interface. On the flipside, however, if we were to exclude Widget from Doodad instead of object, both obj2 and widget2 would be perfectly valid. obj2 being allowed makes sense, since it's type is in the union. widget, though?! We excluded that type explicitely!

When Widget is excluded, object is still a valid type for ExcludeWidget. Widgets are subtypes of object however, so since object is valid, so are Widgets;

After my research and tinkering, I discovered that the name Exclude is very applicable for what the utility does. Hopefully now you have a better understanding of the way that Exclude works, and you'll be able to utilize it to write cleaner, simpler types without getting frustrated when that type you excluded is still perfectly valid ;).

Posted on by:

josnun profile

Josiah Nunemaker

@josnun

Just another curious programmer. Tries not to be biased, but yanno, I'm human :/ If ya got a question, ask, and I'll likely be glad to help :)

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