Yet another software engineer

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TypeScript with NodeJS. Type safety with better IntelliSense in NodeJS

Posted at — Oct 30, 2019

TypeScript is awesome. If you have never hard of TS then it is the right time to google for it. In case you do not want to switch the tab right now I will write a very short description about TypeScript.

What is TypeScript?

TypeScript is a super set of JavaScript. What the hell does it mean? Well, what it means is TypeScript is basically JavaScript with some syntactical sugar. Why would you care? If you love type safety like me and dream about writing type safe JS then TypeScript in here for the rescue. It provides some advanced features that JavaScript still doesn’t provide. For example: Decorators, Interface etc. Oh, did I mention that TypeScript is developed by Microsoft? Oh another thing, Ryan Dahl the creator of Node.JS praises TypeScript.

Why should I care about Type Safety?

There are a lot of reasons for it. If you are from background of Java, C#, C++, Go or other strictly typed language then JavaScript would feel like a pain in the ass. At least I felt this way. You will miss type safety in JavaScript and will start to hate the language. But, this is just a personal preference right? What if you are not from the world of strictly typed language. JavaScript is your first language or you know Python very well. JavaScript/Python are not strictly typed language. They are loosely typed scripting language. They do not care about type that much. You can store string inside integer. The interpreter would do the conversion do the rest for you. This is one of many reasons why these languages perform lower than compiled languages. Type safety reduces a lots of errors in production by identifying them in compile time. For type safety IDE’s are able to provide better IntelliSense than dynamically typed languages.

Some example cases


const users = await User.findOne({ name: 'Musa' });
if (users.length) { // IDE would give an error here

Well I am convinced. Where do I start?

It is pretty straight forward to learn TypeScript. There are tons of tutorials out there. But, the one that I would highly recommend is an official TypeScript in 5 minutes tutorial. This tutorial is more than enough to get you started with TypeScript. All you need is a code editor and TypeScript compiler. My choice of code editor is Visual Studio Code.


  1. Code editor (VS Code).
  2. NodeJS and NPM.
  3. TypeScript compiler.
  4. TSLint extension (Built in VS Code).

First thing first, install NodeJS and NPM then install typescript globally. Command to install typescript npm install -g typescript.

Now, create a directory and inside that directory create a file named test.ts. Then, from that directory run tsc test.ts. A new test.js file will be created. You can take a look at the js file. Its a bit messy but you would get an idea how TypeScript transpiler/compiler turns typescript to plain JavaScript.

Type Definition (Type Declaration File)

In strictly typed world you can not just add a property to an object and call it when you want. Its a no do. What you would typically do is create an interface and then implements it to a class. Why thought? Lets assume you just required express in your app.js and called which you already know is not a valid method. TypeScript compiler would catch this error in compile time and also if you have TSLint installed then the IDE would catch this as error. What type definition file does is, it provides an interface of all the available methods/properties of an object. For example, after importing express when you write express., your IDE would show all the available options for the object. How would the IDE know about all the available properties? Well, its written in the type definition file. Now a days for increasing popularity of TypeScript, almost every NPM module contains type definition in it. Previously, type definition were provided by community. And most active and quality definitions were provided by DefinitelyTyped. Type definitions are devDependencies. To install a type definition you would run the following command.

npm install --save-dev @types/express

TS Configuration files

tsconfig.json contains configurations to be used by typescript compiler. This configuration file defines where the compiled code would be created, what module system to use, if it should support source map, which folders to watch etc. You will find more detail here.

tslint.json is same as eslint.json but its for typescript. I believe you are already familiar with ESLint. I am not going to write anything about it since you already know it. To find more about tslint check here.

TypeScript, NodeJS starter

Microsoft has an official GitHub repository to get you started quickly in no time. This is not an standard but just one of many ways to structure your project. The structure should vary project by project. But I like the initial idea of this structure. I typically follow the following structure inspired from their official repository.

  - configs/
  - models/
  - controllers/
  - services/
[..more files..]

After creating project structure, first thing you should do is install @types/node which is type definition for nodejs. Remember to add it as dev dependency.

npm install --save-dev @types/node


  1. Use typescript formatter tsfmt.json file to format output plain JavaScript.
  2. Use live compile in development tsc --watch. Config file is required.
  3. Use sourcemap support for debugging.


If you google something like ‘why use typescript with nodejs then you will find a good amount of articles saying how good typescript. You will also notice that how people are arguing the fact that if you need type-safety then why are you using loosely typed language in the first place? Why don’t you go for Java or C#? You will also see people struggling to get things work in typescript way.

When I was not familiar with TypeScript I was on their side. But, once I started using it I became a fan. I can’t convince you just by saying that TypeScript is good. You have to try it by yourself to feel it.