TypeScript - why you should care

Building big web applications written in JavaScript is not a simple thing. We don't have types, interfaces, enums etc. These features could be really helpful to maintenance our complex applications. To solve this problem - we can use TypeScript.

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   Mobile  Front-end 

Introduction

Building big web applications written in JavaScript is not a simple thing. We don't have types, interfaces, enums etc. These features could be really helpful to maintenance our complex applications. To solve this problem - we can use TypeScript.

As it is stated on TypeScript landing page TypeScript is JavaScript that scales. It is a typed superset of JavaScript that compiles to plain JavaScript. It means that each and every JavaScript code is a valid typescript code.

Author assumes that readers has basic knowledge of JavaScript. All examples from the article can be tested on Typescript Playground.

Types

We can type all variables, not only as primitive types (string, boolean, number) but also as types or even intefaces. It allows us to get all information about available methods or properties to specific type i.e. for "number" we see methods 'toFixed' or 'toExponential'. If we try use method which is not available on its prototype - compile error will appear.

const num: number = 12;
const str: string = 'string';
str.toFixed(2); // Property 'toFixed' does not exist on type 'string'

Let’s imagine a situation: We use REST Api to consume data from the server. It would be nice to have see all properties available in this response in our IDE.

We can create type which includes all properties we got from the server.

type ApiResponse = {
    name: string;
    surname: string;
    car: {
        name: string;
        doors: number;
    }
};

fetch(’/api’)
    .then((res: Response) => res.json())
    .then((res: ApiResponse) => {
        res.name; // ok
        res.age; // Property 'age' does not exist on type 'ApiResponse'
    })

Of course it requires updating a type as soon as api changes but if we use typescript both on frontend and backend side we can use the same type for typing response and there's no need to have two separate types.

Interfaces

Interfaces are similar to types. But in this case we can also use them for implementing methods and properties from interface in classes.

interface InterfaceToImplement {
    str: string;
    doSth: () => Promise<any>
};

class MyClass implements InterfaceToImplement {
    str: string = ’some string’;
    doSth() {
        return Promise.resolve();
    }
}

 

String enums

Since  2.4 version of typescript we can use string enums. It can be helpful for unifying actions names, creating a colour map. We can use it as a type as well.

enum Color {
    Gray = ’#95a5a6’,
    Green = ’#2ecc71’,
    Blue = ’#3498db’
}

const myColor: Color = Color.Green; // ok
const chosenColor: Color = ’#2ecc71’; // Type '"#2ecc71"' is not assignable to type 'Color'.

Unions

As you can see in previous example even though green color value (#2ecc72) is the same as Color.Green Typescript shows an error. Typescript allows us to assign a value one of many string. This construction is called union:

Type Color = '#95a5a6' | '#2ecc71' | '#3498db';
 
const color: Color = '#95a5a6'; // ok
const otherColor: Color = '#443244'; // Type '"#443244"' is not assignable to type 'Color'.

Async/Await

This constructions can be helpful when we'd like to use async functions and write in a more synchronous way. By default - it can be transpile to ES6. If we want transpile it to ES5 or even ES3 - we have to add Promise polyfill to tsconfig.json.

async function greetMe(name: string): Promise<string> {
    const greeting = await Promise.resolve(`Hi ${name}`);
 
    return greeting;   
}
 
greetMe(’John’).then(greeting => console.log(greeting)); // Hi John

Keyof

This feature is in Typescript since 2.1 version. It allows to declare a set of values which another objects will made from.

interface UserConfiguration {
    name: string;
    age: number;
}
 
type UserConfigurationOption = keyof UserConfiguration;
 
function keyValue<T extends UserConfigurationOption>(key: T, value: UserConfiguration[T]) {
  console.log(`Setting: ${key} to ${value}`);
}
 
keyValue('name', 'John');
keyValue('age', 25);
keyValue('age', true); // Argument of type 'true' is not assignable to parameter of type 'number'.

Summary

This is just a small overview a few features available in Typescript. I’ve showed you most useful features in Typescript which are not available in ES6.

Links

Typescript Website

Typescript Playground

Typescript source code

Paweł Jurczyński

Frontend developer in j-labs

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TypeScript - why you should care