Consider Using TypeScript
Nick Taylor Oct 8 '17 Updated on May 08, 2018
Originally posted at iamdeveloper.com
I'm not going to be one of those that tells you have to use TypeScript (or Flow for that matter). I'm also not going to go into the whole TS vs. Flow debate. There are plenty of people already doing that. All I want to do is present some good reasons why you might want to consider using TypeScript. After that, I leave it up to you.
So let's get to it. If you've never used a statically typed language like Java or C#, this may seem foreign to you. You're probably asking yourself, why TypeScript?
- Type Safety: During development, if a type is not correct, it is caught during compile time. e.g.
const index: number = 'hi'; // index can't be a stringor if a property on an object has a typo. This allows us to catch errors early on during development instead of at run-time (since JS is a dynamically typed language). Here's a good explanation of statically typed vs. dynamic languages.
- Refactoring and Intellisense capabilities when using a TypeScript enabled editor or plugin.
- Intellisense when using npm packages that have TypeScript declaration files even if your project isn't written in TypeScript (As far as I know this only applies to VS Code. Please chime in if this is not the case.)
Great, looks awesome, but what about consuming npm packages from projects that don't use TypeScript? As mentioned briefly above, Visual Studio Code can grab the declaration files even if your project doesn't use TypeScript. So where are these declaration files coming from?
TypeScript Declaration Files
What is a TypeScript declaration file? In a nutshell, it's a file that describes what types are in a package. For authors of TypeScript based projects, they will almost always author TypeScript declaration files. For projects that aren't written in TypeScript, sometimes, package authors will write the declaration files by hand and maintain them in their projects. In most cases though, the community has stepped in/up to write declaration files by hand of projects that aren't written in TypeScript. They're all housed in a repository called DefinitelyTyped, a repository of high quality TypeScript type definitions maintained by the JS/TS OSS community.
To add types for a package that does not have its own declaration file, install its equivalent
@types package. e.g.
npm install lodash --save;npm install @types/lodash --save-dev; Now when you use lodash in your TS project in a TS capable editor, you will get typed Intellisense.
Who's Using It?
The hard (smart) work and love that has gone into TypeScript has not gone unnoticed. In recent times, some fairly large projects that you may know have migrated to TypeScript.
- Fun fact, Visual Studio Code is written in TypeScript!
- Angular adopted TypeScript in version 2 (related Dart, Typescript and official languages at Google)
- TypeScript at Slack – Several People Are Coding
- GitHub Rewrites its Desktop Client Using Electron
- Apollo GraphQL
- TypeScript at Lyft
- glimmer.js (of Ember fame), also related Glimmer.js: What’s the Deal with TypeScript?
- Lighter than Lightweight: How We Built the Same App Twice with Preact and Glimmer.js | LinkedIn Engineering
I'm sure there are others, but these are the big ones I'm aware of. You can always check GitHub for trending TypeScript projects.
Here are some additional resources to get you up and running.
- TypeScript Playground
- TypeScript Deep Dive
- Full-stack TypeScript on Slack
- TypeScript Fundamentals (Great free course)
- Quokka.js (live scratchpad for JS with TypeScript support but
- Accounts to follow on Twitter:
To summarize, TypeScript is a great option if you're looking to scale a team up quickly on a codebase (Intellisense, refactoring) as well as catching silly errors via type checking. In a later post I'll go into how to migrate an existing codebase to TypeScript. If you're interested in seeing what a project looks like after being converted to TypeScript, check out ts-react-slingshot.
Questions or comments? Hit me up on Twitter @nickytonline.