DEV Community

Lars Wächter
Lars Wächter

Posted on • Updated on

Path aliases with TypeScript in Node.js

This post was originally published on my blog.

Some days ago I included path aliases in my TypeScript Node.js projects. Since they make the code look much cleaner in my opinion I like to show you how to setup these in a project.

The problem

In Node.js (or TS/JS in general) you can import single modules into your code.
This might look the following:

import { User } from '../../user/model';
import { Article } from '../../article/model';

import { Cache } from '../../../../cache';
import { MongoDB } from '../../../../mongodb';
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Noticed these dots ('../') to access upper modules?

The problem we have here is that the deeper your project tree is the more '../' are required to access modules in higher layers. Actually, this doesn't look very beautiful to be honest. Fortunately we can change that.

The solution: path aliases

What are path aliases?

In TypeScript you can avoid these "bad" looking imports with the help of path aliases. With path aliases you can declare aliases that map to a certain absolute path in your application.

Here a quick example:

import { User } from '@modules/user/model';
import { Article } from '@modules/article/model';

import { Cache } from '@services/cache';
import { MongoDB } from '@services/mongodb';
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

In this case our two aliases are

  • @modules that maps to './src/rest/modules'
  • @services that maps to './src/services'


Let's get into it and setup some path aliases. Note that I won't explain how to setup a TypeScript project in Node.js. I assume that you did this already.

Imagine we have the following project structure:

folder structure
   │   │
   │   └───modules
   │   │   │
   │   │   └───article
   │   │   │
   │   │   └───user
   │   │
   │   │   server.ts
   │   │    cache.ts
   │   │    mongodb.ts
   │   index.ts
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Step 1: Update tsconfig.json

First of all, we have to declare the path aliases in our tsconfig file

"baseUrl": "./src",
"paths": {
    "@modules/*": ["rest/modules/*"],
    "@services/*": ["services/*"]
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Now, you can use the new path aliases for module imports in your application. There occur any errors in your IDE (in my case VSC) or when you compile the code.

However, we are not done yet. When you try compile the TS code into JS you won't see any errors. But as soon as you run your compiled JS code you will get an error:

For example:

Error: Cannot find module '@modules/user'
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

That's because JS can't resolve the modules for the declared path aliases.

Step 2: Install module-alias package

Next, we'll install an npm package called module-alias

npm i --save module-alias
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

This module registers the path aliases in the compiled JS files. Therefor we need to make some changes to our package.json:

"_moduleAliases": {
    "@modules": "dist/rest/modules",
    "@services": "dist/services"
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Note that 'dist' is the folder where the compiled JS files are located.

Last but not least we have to register the path aliases in our application.
Add the following line at the top of your startup file:

import 'module-alias/register';
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Finally, when you compile and execute the code you shouldn't see any import errors.

Here you can find some examples for path aliases in a side project I'm currently working on.

Top comments (31)

davestewart profile image
Dave Stewart

I've just released a new package Alias HQ, which allows you to reuse your js/tsconfig.json path aliases in Webpack, Jest, Rollup, or any other library.

Just call hq.get('<library name>') in the config file you want to use aliases in, and you're done:

js2me profile image
Sergey S. Volkov


Also I find out that if we have webpack in project we just use resolve.alias option:

  resolve: {
    extensions: ['.js', '.ts', '.tsx', '.styl'],
    mainFields: ['module', 'browser', 'main'],
    alias: Object.keys(tsconfig.compilerOptions.paths).reduce((aliases, aliasName) => {

      aliases[aliasName] = path.resolve(__dirname, `src/${tsconfig.compilerOptions.paths[aliasName][0]}`)

      return aliases
    }, {})
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode
darrensapalo profile image
Darren • Edited

Had an issue with zeit/pkg because the generated files (in the dist folder) still had the @/dir/to/your/file references, which pkg could not handle.

In case you need to change your js files from the @/your-file back into their ../../../your-file form, you can use ef-tspm to bring it back. Note, if you do so, you won't need to deal with the extra steps for the module-alias specified above. Trade-off is you have an additional build step. So first you would tsc to build the typescript code, then ef-tspm to properly remove the module aliases.

loclv profile image

Thanks for sharing!

jimstack profile image

Thank you! I read several posts about using path aliases and thought it was perfect for my project, but I hit the *cannot find module" issue. I was banging my head off the desk all afternoon. It's been really difficult to find anything on this.

forsetius profile image
Marcin Paździora

Thanks for the article!

However, to utilize this solution we have to define the aliases in 2 locations: tsconfig.json and package.json. Is it possible to avoid this duplication?

etroynov profile image
Evgeniy Troynov

You can use:

it much easier

itsikbelsonspotlight profile image
itsikbelson-spotlight • Edited

I also kept receiving module_not_found while running ts-node.
The way that worked for me (taken from

In tsconfig.json add the following section:

"ts-node": {
      "require": ["tsconfig-paths/register"]
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

In order to make the script run on the compiled js (for production distribution), you can defined the following script in package.json:

"scripts": {
      "start": "TS_NODE_BASEURL=./dist node -r tsconfig-paths/register dist/index.js"
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Don't forget to run npm i tsconfig-paths

empflow profile image

Thank you so much! I've probably spent like 6 hours in total trying to get this to work and I finally see the listening on port 3000 log 😁

vitalodev profile image

you made my day, thx!

ksnyde profile image
Ken Snyder • Edited

These aliases -- which I've grown used to on the frontend frameworks which use webpack -- are a VERY welcome addition to writing typescript on the backend (or in other library code). My one question comes down to testing. I have a library with hundreds of tests but right now none of them run because I'm using Mocha/Chai with ts-node and I'm not sure but I think that ts-node is not able to use the alias.

The command I use is:

./node_modules/.bin/mocha --no-timeouts --require ts-node/register --exit

This is a pretty standard way of testing as it allows you to test directly on the source rather than needing to transpile before testing.

stanyeshchenko profile image
Stanislav Yeshchenko • Edited

Did you have a situation where shared folder has its own package.json with node_modules?

During compilation node_modules are not included in the dist folder, and the compiler is complaining about missing npm modules from the shared

shubhamsinha profile image
Shubham Sinha

Does VSC automatic imports work with this?

larswaechter profile image
Lars Wächter

Yes, it does.

coderarchive profile image
Lu-Vuong Le 🚀

For anyone reading this, when updating the tsconfig file, you'll need to add the "baseUrl" and "paths" options inside the "compilerOptions" object :)

devoresyah profile image
DeVoresyah ArEst

hi, thanks for your sharing. I've followed step-by-step from the article, but however I can't click to navigate to the path when using alias in my vscode. Normally when I click the path, it goes directly to the path... can you help me with this case? I'm not using typescript, so I can't add tsconfig

ruslangonzalez profile image
Ruslan Gonzalez

How cool is that eh! thanks for posting.

theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring

How complex is the folder organization for your source code? I had looked into this but it doesn't have as much value with flatter source-orgs

larswaechter profile image
Lars Wächter

The complexity of my folder organization depends on the project. Mostly I have some root folders like: config, rest, services that I declare path aliases for. Inside these I have my components for example.

senpl profile image
Michał Urbanek

I found that using extension to import works good enough and not require much logic.

dainiuss profile image
Dainius Stepulevicius


I have followed your tutorial by the letter and even restarted code editor but keep getting the error, no matter what I do

larswaechter profile image
Lars Wächter

Which error?

dainiuss profile image
Dainius Stepulevicius

the original error that article is about
'module is not found'