Free eBook - Mastering TypeScript 3 - Third Edition

3.7 (9 reviews total)
By Nathan Rozentals
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  1. TypeScript Tools and Framework Options
About this book
TypeScript is both a language and a set of tools to generate JavaScript. It was designed by Anders Hejlsberg at Microsoft to help developers write enterprise-scale JavaScript. Starting with an introduction to the TypeScript language, before moving on to basic concepts, each section builds on previous knowledge in an incremental and easy-to-understand way. Advanced and powerful language features are all covered, including asynchronous programming techniques, decorators, and generics. This book explores many modern JavaScript and TypeScript frameworks side by side in order for the reader to learn their respective strengths and weaknesses. It will also thoroughly explore unit and integration testing for each framework. Best-of-breed applications utilize well-known design patterns in order to be scalable, maintainable, and testable. This book explores some of these object-oriented techniques and patterns, and shows real-world implementations. By the end of the book, you will have built a comprehensive, end-to-end web application to show how TypeScript language features, design patterns, and industry best practices can be brought together in a real-world scenario.
Publication date:
February 2019


TypeScript Tools and Framework Options

JavaScript is a truly ubiquitous language—the more you look, the more JavaScript you find running in the most unlikely of places. Just about every website that you visit in the modern world is using JavaScript to make the site more responsive, more readable, or more attractive to use. Even traditional desktop applications are moving online. Where we once needed to download and install a program to generate a diagram, or write a document, we can now do all of this on the web, from within the confines of our humble browser.

This is the power of JavaScript. It enables us to rethink the way we use the web. But it also enables us to rethink the way we use web technologies. Node, for example, allows JavaScript to run server-side, rendering entire large-scale websites, complete with session handling, load balancing, and database interaction. This shift in thinking regarding web technologies, however, is only the beginning.

Apache Cordova is a fully-fledged web server that runs as a native mobile phone application. This means that we can build a mobile phone application using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and then interact with the phone's accelerometer, geolocation services, or file storage. With Cordova, therefore, JavaScript and web technologies have moved into the realm of native mobile phone applications.

Likewise, projects such as Kinoma are using JavaScript to drive devices for the Internet Of Things (IoT), running on tiny microprocessors embedded in all sorts of devices. Espruino is a microcontroller chip purposefully designed to run JavaScript. So, JavaScript can now control microprocessors on embedded devices.

Desktop applications can also be written in JavaScript, and interact with the filesystem using projects such as Electron. This allows a write-once, run on any operating system approach, out of the box. In fact, two of the most popular source code editors, Atom and Visual Studio Code, have been built using Electron.

Learning JavaScript, therefore, means that you have the ability to build websites, mobile phone applications, desktop applications, and IoT applications to run on embedded devices.

The JavaScript language is not a difficult language to learn, but it does present challenges when writing large, complex programs, particularly in a team working on a single project. One of the main challenges is that JavaScript is an interpreted language—and therefore has no compilation step. To check that all written code has no minor mistakes means that you have to run it in an interpreter. It has also been traditionally difficult to implement object-oriented principles natively in the language, and it takes great care and discipline to build good, maintainable, and understandable JavaScript. For programmers that are moving from other strongly typed, object-oriented languages, such as Java, C#, or C++, JavaScript can seem like a completely foreign environment, especially when targeting earlier versions of JavaScript.

TypeScript bridges this gap. It is a strongly typed, object-oriented language that uses a compiler to generate JavaScript. The compiler will identify errors within the code base even before it is run in an interpreter. TypeScript also allows you to use well-known, object-oriented techniques and design patterns to build JavaScript applications. Bear in mind that the generated JavaScript is just JavaScript, and so will run wherever JavaScript can run—in the browser, on the server, on a mobile device, on the desktop, or even in an embedded device.

This chapter is divided into two main sections. The first section is a quick overview of some of the benefits of using TypeScript, while the second section deals with setting up a TypeScript development environment.

If you are an experienced TypeScript programmer, and already have a development environment set up, then you might want to skip this chapter. If you have never worked with TypeScript before, and have picked up this book because you want to understand what TypeScript can do, then read on.

We will cover the following topics in this chapter:

  • The benefits of TypeScript:
    • Compilation
    • Strong typing
    • Integration with popular JavaScript libraries
    • Encapsulation
    • Public and private accessors
  • Setting up a development environment:
    • Node-based compilation
    • Visual Studio Code
    • Visual Studio 2017
    • WebStorm
    • Other editors and Grunt

What is TypeScript?

TypeScript is a programming language designed by Anders Hejlsberg, the founder of the C# language. It is the result of an assessment of the JavaScript language, and what could be done to help developers when writing JavaScript. TypeScript includes a compiler which will transform code written in TypeScript into JavaScript. It's beauty is really in its simplicity. We can take existing JavaScript, add a few TypeScript keywords here and there, and transform our code into a strongly-typed, object-oriented, syntax-checked code base. By adding a compile step, we can validate that we have written sound JavaScript that is going to behave as we intended it to.

TypeScript generates JavaScript—it's as simple as that. This means that wherever JavaScript can be used, TypeScript can be used to generate the same JavaScript, but with added compile-time validations to ensure that it does not break certain rules. Having these extra validations before we even run the JavaScript is an immense time-saver, particularly where development teams are large, or where the resulting JavaScript is published as a library.

TypeScript also includes a Language Service, which can be used by tools such as code editors to help us understand how we should use JavaScript functions and libraries. These editors can then automatically provide a programmer with code suggestions and hints on how to use these libraries.

The TypeScript language, it's compiler, and associated tools helps JavaScript developers to be more productive, find bugs quicker, and help each other understand how their code should be used. It allows us to use tried and tested object-oriented concepts and Design patterns in our JavaScript code in a very simple and easy to understand manner. Let's try to understand how it does this.

JavaScript and the ECMAScript Standard

JavaScript as a language has been around for a long time. Originally designed as a language to support HTML within a single web browser, it inspired multiple clones of the language, each with its own implementations. Eventually, a global standard was introduced, allowing websites to support multiple browsers. The language defined in this standard is called ECMAScript.

Each JavaScript interpreter must deliver functions and features that conform to the ECMAScript standard. The ECMAScript standard that was published in 1999 was officially called ECMA-262, 3rd edition, but became known simply as ECMAScript 3. This version of JavaScript became widely adopted and formed the basis for the explosive popularity and growth of the internet as we know it.

With the popularity of the language, and the increase in usage outside of a web browser, the ECMAScript standard has been revised and updated a number of times. Unfortunately, the time it takes between proposing new language features and the ratification of a new standard to cover them can be rather lengthy. Even when a new version of the standard is published, web browsers only adopt these standards over time, and may also implement parts of the standard before others.

Before choosing which standard to adopt, therefore, it is important to understand which browsers, or more accurately, which runtime engine will need to be supported. To support these decisions, there are a number of reference sites that list support in what is known as a compatibility table.

Currently, there are three main versions of ECMAScript to choose from: ES3, ES5 and the newly ratified ES6. ES3 has been around for a long time, and pretty much any web browser will support it. ES5 is supported by most modern web browsers. ES6 is the latest version of the standard, and by far the biggest update to the language thus far. It introduces classes into the language for the first time, making object-oriented programming easier to implement.

The TypeScript compiler has a parameter that can switch between different versions of the ECMAScript standard. TypeScript currently supports ES3, ES5, and ES6. When the compiler runs over your TypeScript, it will generate compile errors if the code you are attempting to compile is not valid for that standard. The team at Microsoft has committed to follow the ECMAScript standards in any new versions of the TypeScript compiler, so, as and when new editions are adopted, the TypeScript language and compiler will follow suit.

The benefits of TypeScript

To give you a flavor of the benefits of TypeScript, let's take a very quick look at some of the things that TypeScript brings to the table:

  • Compilation
  • Strong typing
  • Type definitions for popular JavaScript libraries
  • Encapsulation
  • Public and private accessors


One of the most-loved features of JavaScript is the lack of a compilation step. Simply change your code, refresh your browser, and the interpreter will take care of the rest. There is no need to wait for a while until the compiler is finished in order to run your code.

While this may be seen as a benefit, there are many reasons why you would want to introduce a compilation step. A compiler can find silly mistakes, such as missing braces or missing commas. It can also find other more obscure errors, such as using a single quote (') where a double quote (") should have been used. Every JavaScript developer will tell horror stories of hours spent trying to find bugs in their code, only to find that they have missed a stray closing brace } , or a simple comma ,.

Introducing a compilation step into your workflow really starts to shine when managing a large code base. There is an old adage that states that we should fail early and fail loudly, and a compiler will shout very loudly at the earliest possible stage when errors are found. This means that any check-in of source code will be free from bugs that the compiler has identified.

When making changes to a large code base, we also need to ensure that we are not breaking any existing functionality. In a large team, this often means using the branching and merging features of a source code repository. Running a compilation step before, during, and after merges from one branch to another gives us further confidence that we have not made any mistakes, or that the automatic merge process has not made any mistakes either.

If a development team is using a continuous integration process, the continuous integration (CI) server can be responsible for building and deploying an entire site, and then running a suite of unit and integration tests on the newly checked-in code. We can save hours of build time and hours of testing time by ensuring that there are no syntax errors in the code, before we embark on deploying and running tests.

Lastly, as mentioned before, the TypeScript compiler can be configured to output ES3, ES5, or ES6 JavaScript. This means that we can target different runtime versions from the same code base.

Strong typing

JavaScript is not strongly typed. It is a language that is very dynamic, as it allows objects to change their properties and behavior on the fly. As an example of this, consider the following code:

var test = "this is a string"; 
console.log('test=' + test); 
test = 1; 
console.log('test=' + test); 
test = function (a, b) { 
    return a + b; 
console.log('test=' + test); 

On the first line of this code snippet, a variable named test is declared, and assigned a string value. To ensure that this is the case, we have logged the value to the console. We then assign a numeric value to the test variable, and again log its value to the console. Note, however the final snippet of code. We are assigning a function that takes two parameters to the test variable. If we run this code, we will get the following results:

test = this is a string
test = 1
test = function (a, b) {
return a + b;

Here, we can clearly see the changes we are making to the test variable. It changes from a string value to a numeric value, and then becomes a function.

Changing the type of a variable at runtime can be a very dangerous thing to do, and can cause untold problems. This is why traditional object-oriented languages enforce strict typing. In other words, they do not allow the nature of a variable to change once declared.

While all of the preceding code is valid JavaScript – and could be justified – it is quite easy to see how this could cause runtime errors during execution. Imagine that you were responsible for writing a library function to add two numbers, and then another developer inadvertently reassigned your function to subtract these numbers instead.

These sorts of errors may be easy to spot in a few lines of code, but it becomes increasingly difficult to find and fix these as your code base and development team expands.

TypeScript's syntactic sugar

TypeScript introduces a very simple syntax to check the type of an object at compile time. This syntax has been referred to as syntactic sugar, or more formally, type annotations. Consider the following version of our original JavaScript code, but written in TypeScript:

var test: string = "this is a string"; 
test = 1; 
test = function(a, b) { return a + b; } 

Note that on the first line of this code snippet, we have introduced a colon : and a string keyword between our variable and its assignment. This type annotation syntax means that we are setting the type of our variable to be of type string, and that any code that does not adhere to these rules will generate a compile error. Running the preceding code through the TypeScript compiler will generate two errors:

hello.ts(3,1): error TS2322: Type 'number' is not assignable to type 'string'.
hello.ts(4,1): error TS2322: Type '(a: any, b: any) => any' is not assignable to type 'string'.

The first error is fairly obvious. We have specified that the variable test is a string, and therefore attempting to assign a number to it will generate a compile error. The second error is similar to the first, and is in essence saying that we cannot assign a function to a string.

In this way, the TypeScript compiler introduces strong, or static typing to our JavaScript code, giving us all of the benefits of a strongly typed language. TypeScript is therefore described as a superset of JavaScript. We will explore this in more detail in Chapter 2, Types, Variables, and Function Techniques.

Type definitions for popular JavaScript libraries

As we have seen, TypeScript has the ability to annotate JavaScript, and bring strong typing to the JavaScript development experience. But how do we strongly type existing JavaScript libraries? The answer is surprisingly simple: by creating a definition file. TypeScript uses files with a .d.ts extension as a sort of header file, similar to languages such as C++, in order to superimpose strong typing on existing JavaScript libraries. These definition files hold information that describes each available function and or variables, along with their associated type annotations.

Let's have a quick look at what a definition would look like. As an example, consider a function from the popular Jasmine unit testing framework called describe:

var describe = function(description, specDefinitions) { 
  return jasmine.getEnv().describe(description, specDefinitions); 

Note that this describe function has two parameters – description and specDefinitions. But JavaScript does not tell us what sort of variables these are. We would need to have a look at the Jasmine documentation to figure out how to call this function: If we head over to , we will see an example of how to use this function:

describe("A suite", function () { 
    it("contains spec with an expectation", function () { 

From the documentation, then, we can easily see that the first parameter is a string, and the second parameter is a function. But there is nothing in JavaScript that forces us to conform to this API. As mentioned before, we could easily call this function with two numbers, or inadvertently switch the parameters around, sending a function first, and a string second. We will obviously start getting runtime errors if we do this, but TypeScript, using a definition file, can generate compile-time errors before we even attempt to run this code.

Let's have a look at a piece of the jasmine.d.ts definition file:

declare function describe( 
    description: string,  
    specDefinitions: () => void 
): void; 

This is the TypeScript definition for the describe function. Firstly, declare function describe tells us that we can use a function called describe, but that the implementation of this function will be provided at runtime.

Clearly, the description parameter is strongly typed to be a string, and the specDefinitions parameter is strongly typed to be a function that returns void. TypeScript uses the double braces () syntax to declare functions, and the arrow syntax to show the return type of the function. Hence, () => void is a function that does not return anything. Finally, the describe function itself will return void.

Imagine that our code were to try and pass in a function as the first parameter, and a string as the second parameter (clearly breaking the definition of this function), as shown in the following example:

describe(() => { /* function body */}, "description"); 

In this instance, TypeScript will generate the following error:

hello.ts(11,11): error TS2345: Argument of type '() => void' is not assignable to parameter of type 'string'.  

This error is telling us that we are attempting to call the describe function with invalid parameters. We will look at definition files in more detail in later chapters, but this example clearly shows that TypeScript will generate errors if we attempt to use external JavaScript libraries incorrectly.


Soon after TypeScript was released, Boris Yankov started a GitHub repository to house definition files, called DefinitelyTyped ( . This repository has now become the first port of call for integrating external libraries into TypeScript, and it currently holds definitions for over 1,600 JavaScript Libraries. The growth of this site, and the rate at which type definitions have been generated for many JavaScript libraries, shows the popularity of TypeScript.


One of the fundamental principles of object-oriented programming is encapsulation, the ability to define data, as well as a set of functions that can operate on that data, into a single component. Most programming languages have the concept of a class for this purpose—providing a way to define a template for data and related functions.

Let's first take a look at a simple TypeScript class definition:

class MyClass { 
    add(x, y) { 
        return x + y; 
var classInstance = new MyClass(); 
var result = classInstance.add(1,2); 
console.log(`add(1,2) returns ${result}`); 

This code is pretty simple to read and understand. We have created a class, named MyClass, with a simple add function. To use this class, we simply create an instance of it, and call the add function with two arguments.

JavaScript, prior to ES6, does not have a class statement, but instead uses functions to reproduce the functionality of classes. Encapsulation through classes is accomplished by either using the prototype pattern, or by using the closure pattern. Understanding prototypes and the closure pattern, and using them correctly, is considered a fundamental skill when writing enterprise-scale JavaScript.

A closure is essentially a function that refers to independent variables. This means that variables defined within a closure function remember the environment in which they were created. This provides JavaScript with a way to define local variables, and provide encapsulation. Writing the MyClass definition in the preceding code, using a closure in JavaScript, would look something like this:

var MyClass = (function () { 
    // the self-invoking function is the 
    // environment that will be remembered 
    // by the closure 
    function MyClass() { 
        // MyClass is the inner function, 
        // the closure 
    MyClass.prototype.add = function (x, y) { 
        return x + y; 
    return MyClass; 
var classInstance = new MyClass(); 
var result = classInstance.add(1, 2); 
console.log("add(1,2) returns " + result);  

We start with a variable called MyClass, and assign it to a function that is executed immediately – note the })(); syntax near the bottom of the closure definition. This syntax is a common way to write JavaScript in order to avoid leaking variables into the global namespace. We then define a new function named MyClass, and return this new function to the outer calling function. We then use the prototype keyword to inject a new function into the MyClass definition. This function is named add and takes two parameters, returning their sum.

The last few lines of the previous code snippet show how to use this closure in JavaScript. Create an instance of the closure type, and then execute the add function. Running this code will log add(1,2) returns 3 to the console, as expected.

Looking at the JavaScript code versus the TypeScript code, we can easily see how simple the TypeScript looks compared to the equivalent JavaScript. Remember how we mentioned that JavaScript programmers can easily misplace a brace {, or a bracket ( ? Have a look at the last line in the closure definition: })(); Getting one of these brackets or braces wrong can take hours of debugging to find.

TypeScript classes generate closures

The JavaScript as shown previously is actually the output of the TypeScript class definition. So, TypeScript actually generates closures for you.

Adding the concept of classes to the JavaScript language has been talked about for years, and is currently a part of the ECMAScript 6th Edition. Microsoft has committed to follow the ECMAScript standard in the TypeScript compiler, as and when these standards are published.

Public and private accessors

A further object-oriented principle that is used in encapsulation is the concept of data hiding—that is, the ability to have public and private variables. Private variables are meant to be hidden to the user of a particular class—as these variables should only be used by the class itself. Inadvertently exposing these variables can easily cause runtime errors.

Unfortunately, JavaScript does not have a native way of declaring variables private. While this functionality can be emulated using closures, a lot of JavaScript programmers simply use the underscore character (_) to denote a private variable. At runtime though, if you know the name of a private variable, you can easily assign a value to it. Consider the following JavaScript code:

var MyClass = (function() { 
    function MyClass() { 
        this._count = 0; 
    MyClass.prototype.countUp = function() { 
        this._count ++; 
    MyClass.prototype.getCountUp = function() { 
        return this._count; 
    return MyClass; 
var test = new MyClass(); 
test._count = 17; 
console.log("countUp : " + test.getCountUp()); 

The MyClass variable is actually a closure, with a constructor function, a countUp function, and a getCountUp function. The _count variable is supposed to be a private member variable that is used only within the scope of the closure. Using the underscore naming convention gives the user of this class some indication that the variable is private, but JavaScript will still allow you to manipulate the _count variable. Take a look at the second last line of the code snippet. We are explicitly setting the value of _count to 17, which is allowed by JavaScript, but not desired by the original creator of the class. The output of this code would be countUp : 17.

TypeScript, however, introduces the public and private keywords that can be used on class member variables. Trying to access a class member variable that has been marked as private will generate a compile time error. As an example of this, the previous JavaScript code can be written in TypeScript as follows:

class CountClass { 
    private _count: number; 
    constructor() { 
        this._count = 0; 
    countUp() { 
        this._count ++; 
    getCount() { 
        return this._count; 
var countInstance = new CountClass() ; 
countInstance._count = 17;  

Here, on the second line of our code snippet, we have declared a private member variable named _count. Again, we have a constructor, a countUp function, and a getCount function. If we compile this file, the compiler will generate an error:

hello.ts(39,15): error TS2341: Property '_count' is private and only accessible within class 'CountClass'. 

This error is generated because we are trying to access the private variable, _count, in the last line of the code.

The TypeScript compiler is therefore helping us to adhere to public and private accessors by generating a compile error when we inadvertently break this rule.

Remember, though, that these accessors are a compile-time feature only, and will not affect the generated JavaScript. You will need to bear this in mind if you are writing JavaScript libraries that will be consumed by third parties. Note that, by default, the TypeScript compiler will still generate the JavaScript output file, even if there are compile errors. This option can be modified, however, to force the TypeScript compiler not to generate JavaScript if there are compilation errors.

TypeScript IDEs

The purpose of this section of the chapter is to get you up and running with a TypeScript environment so that you can edit, compile, run, and debug your TypeScript code. TypeScript has been released as an open source project, and includes both a Windows variant, as well as a Node variant. This means that the compiler will run on Windows, Linux, macOS, and any other operating system that supports Node. On Windows environments, we can either install Visual Studio, which will register tsc.exe (TypeScript compiler) in our c:\Program Files directory, or we can use Node. On Linux and macOS environments, we will need to use Node.

In this section, we will be looking at the following IDEs:

  • Node-based compilation
  • Visual Studio Code
  • Visual Studio 2017
  • WebStorm
  • Using Grunt

Node-based compilation

The simplest and leanest TypeScript development environment consists of a simple text editor, and a Node-based TypeScript compiler. Head over to the Node website ( and follow the instructions to install Node on your operating system of choice.

Once Node is installed, TypeScript can be installed by simply typing the following:

npm install -g typescript

This command invokes the Node Package Manager (npm) to install TypeScript as a global module (the -g option), which will make it available no matter what directory we are currently in. Once TypeScript has been installed, we can display the current version of the compiler by typing the following:

tsc -v

At the time of writing, the TypeScript compiler is at version 3.3.3, and therefore the output of this command is as follows:

Version 3.3.3

Let's now create a TypeScript file named hello.ts with the following content:

console.log('hello TypeScript'); 

From the command line, we can use TypeScript to compile this file into a JavaScript file by issuing the following command:

tsc hello.ts 

Once the TypeScript compiler has completed, it will have generated a hello.js file in the current directory. We can run this file using Node by typing the following:

node hello.js

This will output the following to the console:

hello TypeScript

Creating a tsconfig.json file

The TypeScript compiler uses a tsconfig.json file at the root of the project directory to specify any global TypeScript project settings and compiler options. This means that instead of compiling our TypeScript files one by one (by specifying each file on the command line), we can simply type tsc from the project root directory, and TypeScript will recursively find and compile all TypeScript files within the root directory and all sub-directories. The tsconfig.json file that TypeScript needs in order to do this can be created from the command line by simply typing the following:

tsc --init

The result of this command is a basic tsconfig.json file as follows:

    "compilerOptions": {
        "target": "es5",
        "module": "commonjs",
        "strict": true,
        "esModuleInterop": true

This is a simple JSON format file, with a single JSON property named compilerOptions, which specifies compile options for the project. The target property indicates the preferred JavaScript output to generate, and can be either es3, es5, es6, ES2016, ES2017, or ESNext. The option named strict is a flag to turn on all strict type-checking options. We will explore the meaning of these options in Chapter 5, Declaration Files and Strict Compilation Options. The esModuleInterop option has to do with the generation of modules, which we will also discuss in Chapter 10, Modularization.

TypeScript allows for multiple tsconfig.json files within a directory structure. This allows different sub directories to use different compiler options.

With our tsconfig.json file in place, we can compile our application by simply typing the following:


This command will invoke the TypeScript compiler, using the tsconfig.json file that we have created, and generate a hello.js JavaScript file. In fact, any TypeScript source file that has a file extension of .ts will generate a JavaScript file with an extension of .js.

We have successfully created a simple Node-based TypeScript development environment, with a simple text editor and access to the command line.

Localized messages

When invoking the TypeScript compiler through the command line, we can also specify that any messages should be displayed in a specific language. This is accomplished via the --locale command-line option, as follows:

tsc --locale pl

Here, we are compiling our source code as per usual, but the message output will be in Polish, as follows:

error TS2322: Typu „number” nie można przypisać do typu „string”

As at the time of writing, the possible values that can be used for the --locale compile option are as follows:

    en English US
    cs Czech
    de German
    es Spanish
    fr French
    it Italian
    ja Japanese
    ko Korean
    pl Polish
    ru Russian
    tr Turkish
There is no corresponding tsconfig.json option for the --locale command-line option, so this will need to be included whenever running tsc from the command line.

When building TypeScript applications, all of the frameworks and supporting tools you will need come with a command-line interface. It is not unusual to see a developer running multiple command-line windows, one for automatic code compilation, one for running a web server, and another to run unit tests, as and when the code base changes. If you are developing on Windows, then take a look at the excellent command-line emulator named cmder ( It supports multiple tabs, split screens, and includes a Linux emulator with out-of-the-box git support.

If you are looking for a good TypeScript source code editor, then you simply must consider Visual Studio Code (VSCode). Using a Node-based command-line environment and VSCode is all you will need to build any TypeScript project on any operating system. If you are familiar with Microsoft Visual Studio, or Webstorm, and like a fully integrated development environment, then these two IDEs may be best suited.

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code (VSCode) is a lightweight development environment produced by Microsoft that runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS. It includes development features such as syntax highlighting, bracket matching, Intellisense, and also has support for many different languages. These languages include TypeScript, JavaScript, JSON, HTML, CSS, C#, C++, Java, and many more, making it ideal for TypeScript development targeting either web pages or Node. Its main focus is Node development with TypeScript, and ASP.NET Core development with C#. It also has strong Git support out of the box, and was even built using TypeScript and Electron.

Installing VSCode

VSCode can be installed on Windows by simply downloading and running the installer. On Linux systems, VSCode is provided as either a .deb package, an .rpm package, or a binary tar file. In macOS, download the .zip file, unzip it, and then copy the Visual Studio file to your applications folder.

Exploring VSCode

Create a new directory to hold your source code, and fire up VSCode. This can be done by navigating to the directory, and executing code . from the command line. On Windows systems, fire up VSCode, and then Select File | Open folder from the menu bar. Hit Ctrl+N to create a new file, and type the following:

console.log("hello vscode"); 

Note that there is no syntax highlighting at this stage, as VSCode does not know what type of file it is working with. Hit Ctrl+S to save the file, and name it hello.ts. Now that VSCode understands that this is a TypeScript file, you will have full Intellisense and syntax highlighting available.

Creating a tasks.json file

VSCode uses a special tasks.json file in order to run commonly used tasks that you may need in your development life cycle. Obviously, one of the most common tasks you will need to run is the compilation step, otherwise known as the build step. The keyboard shortcut to build a project in VSCode is Ctrl+Shift+B.

In order to run a build step with Ctrl+Shift+B, we will need to create a tasks.json file, and configure it correctly to run the tsc command to build our project. If you do not already have a tsconfig.json file for your project, then go ahead and create one from the command line by typing the following:

tsc --init

Once we have a tsconfig.json file for our project, we can configure the default build task. In VSCode, hit Ctrl+Shift+B. This will bring up an option to select a build task to run. Select the tsc : build - tsconfig.json option. This will execute the tsc compilation step for your project, and show the results in the built-in terminal.

Unfortunately, if we hit Ctrl+Shift+B again, we will be prompted to select a build task once more. This means that, although we have configured a build task, we have not specified what task should be run by default when we hit the build shortcut. There are two ways that we can specify this default build task. The first is by selecting the menu option Tasks | Configure Default build task. This will bring up an option where we can select the tsc : build - tsconfig.json task as our default. Choosing this option will open the tasks.json file in the .vscode directory in the editor.

The second way to specify the default build task is through the command pallet. VSCode has many commands that can be configured through the command pallet, and each one can be tied to a specific shortcut key. Selecting the menu option View | Command Pallet, or the shortcut key Ctrl+Shift+P, will bring up a list of available commands. This list can be filtered by simply typing a keyword. If we start typing the word task, the list is automatically filtered to only show commands that contain the word "task". We can then select the Tasks : configure default build task to open the tasks.json file in the editor.

Note that there are many available commands that can be selected via the View | Command Pallet menu option, or by hitting the shortcut key, Ctrl+Shift+P. Take a few minutes to scroll through the list of commands to see how configurable VSCode actually is.

Whether we have navigated to the configure default build tasks via the menu option, or from the command pallet, VSCode will open our tasks.json file in the editor, as follows:

    // See 
    // for the documentation about the tasks.json format 
    "version": "2.0.0", 
    "tasks": [ 
            "type": "typescript", 
            "tsconfig": "tsconfig.json", 
            "problemMatcher": [ 
            "group": { 
                "kind": "build", 
                "isDefault": true 

This tasks.json file has a version property and a tasks property. The tasks property is an array of tasks that have a number of sub-properties. VSCode has automatically created a task for us that will compile our project, and specified via the group.isDefault property that this is the default build task.

Note that ,when editing this file, VSCode will automatically show us what properties are available depending on which part of the file we are modifying, as follows:

Here, we can see that VSCode is showing us that the available configuration properties for a task include identifier, isBackground, label, and others.

A handy property to keep in mind is the label property, which we can use to specify an easy-to-remember name for our task. Let's add this label property, and set its value to Run tsc build. Now, whenever we see this build task in a list of options, it will be displayed as Run tsc build, which helps us to remember which task is which.

Building the project

Our sample project can now be built by hitting Ctrl+Shift+B. Note that, in the base directory of our project, we now have a hello.js and a file as the result of the compilation step.

Creating a launch.json file

VSCode includes an integrated debugger that can be used to debug TypeScript projects. If we switch to the Debugger panel, or simply hit F5 to start debugging, VSCode will ask us to select a debugging environment. For the time being, select the Node.js option, which will create a launch.json file in the .vscode directory, and again open it for editing. Find the option named program, and modify it to read "${workspaceFolder}/hello.js". Hit F5 again, and VSCode will launch hello.js as a Node program and output the results to the debugging window:

node --debug-brk=34146 --nolazy hello.js 
debugger listening on port 34146
hello vscode  

Setting breakpoints

Using breakpoints and debugging at this stage will only work on the generated .js JavaScript files. We will need to make a change to the tsconfig.json file to enable debugging directly in our TypeScript files. Edit the tsconfig.json file, and add a property with the name sourceMaps and the property value true. This instructs the compiler to output a source map file (named .map) for each TypeScript file we are compiling. Once we rebuild the project, these map files will appear in our source code tree. Now, we can set breakpoints directly in our .ts files for use by the VSCode debugger:

Debugging web pages

Debugging TypeScript, which is running within a web page in VSCode, requires a little more setup. VSCode uses the Chrome debugger to attach to a running web page. To enable debugging web pages, we will firstly need to add a Debug configuration to our launch.json file. Luckily, VSCode has a toolbar command for this, and will generate a launch configuration for us. Select the Debug | Add Configuration menu option, and then select the Chrome Attach option. This will modify our launch.json file as follows:

"configurations": [ 
        "type": "chrome", 
        "request": "attach", 
        "name": "Attach to Chrome", 
        "port": 9222, 
        "webRoot": "${workspaceFolder}" 
        "type": "node", 
... } ]

This launch option is named Attach to Chrome, and will attach to a running instance of Chrome using the debug port 9222. Save the launch.json file, and create an HTML page named index.html at the root directory of the project, as follows:

    <script src="helloweb.js"></script> 
        hello vscode 
        <div id="content"></div> 

This is a very simple page that loads the helloweb.js file, and displays the text, hello vscode. Our helloweb.ts file is as follows:

window.onload = () => { 
    console.log("hello vscode"); 

This TypeScript code simply waits for the web page to load, and then logs hello vscode to the console.

The next step is to fire up Chrome using the debug port option. On Linux systems, this is done from the command prompt, as follows:

google-chrome --remote-debugging-port=9222 

Note that you will need to ensure that there are no other instances of Chrome running in order to use it as a debugger with VSCode.

Next, load the index.html file in the browser by using Ctrl+O, and selecting the file to load. You should see the HTML file rendering the hello vscode text.

Now, we can go back to VSCode, click on the debugging icon, and select the Attach Chrome option in the launcher dropdown. Hit F5, and the VSCode debugger should now be attached to the running instance of Chrome. We will then need to refresh the page in Chrome in order to start debugging:

With a slight tweak to our launch.json, we can combine these manual steps into a single launcher, as follows:

    "name": "Launch chrome", 
    "type": "chrome", 
    "request" : "launch", 
    "url" : "file:/// ... insert full path here ... /index.html", 
    "runtimeArgs": [ 
    "sourceMaps": true 

In this launch configuration, we have changed the request property from attach to launch, which will launch a new instance of Chrome, and automatically navigate to the file path specified in the url property. The runtimeArgs property also now specifies the remote debugging port of 9222. With this launcher in place, we can simply hit F5 to launch Chrome, with the correct URL and debugging options for the debugging of HTML applications.

Microsoft Visual Studio

Let's now look at Microsoft Visual Studio. This is Microsoft's primary IDE, and comes in a variety of pricing combinations. At the time of writing, Microsoft's latest version is Visual Studio 2017. Microsoft has an Azure-based licensing model, starting at around $45 per month, all the way up to a professional license with an MSDN subscription at around $1,199. The good news is that Microsoft also has a Community edition, which can be used in non-enterprise environments for both free and non-paid products. The TypeScript compiler is included in all of these editions.

Visual Studio can be downloaded as either a web installer or an .iso CD image. Note that the web installer will require an internet connection during installation, as it downloads the required packages during the installation step. Visual Studio will also require Internet Explorer 10 or later, but will prompt you during installation if you have not upgraded as yet. If you are using the .iso installer, just bear in mind that you may be required to download and install additional operating system patches if you have not updated your system in a while.

Creating a Visual Studio project

Once Visual Studio 2017 is installed, fire it up and create a new project (File | New Project). There are many different options available for new project templates, depending on your choice of language. Under the Templates section on the left-hand side, you will see an Other Languages option, and under this, a TypeScript option. The project templates that are available are slightly different in Visual Studio 2017 than they were in Visual Studio 2015, and are geared toward Node development. Visual Studio 2015 included a template named Html Application with TypeScript, which will create a very simple, single-page web application for you. Unfortunately, this option has been removed in Visual Studio 2017:

To create a simple TypeScript web application in Visual Studio 2017, we will need to create a blank web application first, and then we can add TypeScript files to this project as required. From our Templates dialog, select the Visual C# template option, and then select the Web option. This will give us a project template named ASP.NET Web Application. Select a Name and a Location for the new project, and then click on Ok, as demonstrated in the following screenshot:

Once we have selected the basic information for our new project, Visual Studio will generate a second dialog box asking what sort of ASP.NET project we would like to generate. Select the Empty template, and click on Ok:

Visual Studio 2017 will then pop up another dialog named Create App Service, which provides options for creating a host in Azure for your new web application. We will not be publishing our application to Azure, so we can click on Skip at this stage.

Default project settings

Once a new Empty ASP.NET web application has been created, we can start adding files to the project by right-clicking on the project itself, and selecting Add then New Item. There are two files that we are going to add to the project, namely, an index.html file, and an app.ts TypeScript file. For each of these files, select the corresponding Visual Studio template, as follows:

We can now open up the app.ts file and start typing the following code:

class MyClass { 
    public render(divId: string, text: string) { 
        var el: HTMLElement = document.getElementById(divId); 
        el.innerText = text; 
window.onload = () => { 
    var myClass = new MyClass(); 
    myClass.render("content", "Hello World"); 

Here, we have created a class named MyClass, that has a single render function. This function takes two parameters, named divId and text. The function finds an HTML DOM element that matches the divId argument, and then sets the innerText property to the value of the text argument. We then define a function to be called when the browser calls window.onload. This function creates a new instance of the MyClass class, and calls the render function.

Do not be alarmed if this syntax and code is a little confusing. We will be covering all of the language elements and syntax in later chapters. The point of this exercise is simply to use Visual Studio as a development environment for editing TypeScript code.

You will notice that Visual Studio has very powerful Intellisense options, and will suggest code, function names, or variable names as and when you are typing your code. If they are not automatically appearing, then hitting Ctrl+spacebar will bring up the Intellisense options for the code you are currently typing.

With our app.ts file in place, we can compile it by hitting Ctrl+Shift+B, or F6, or by selecting the Build option from the toolbar. If there are any errors in the TypesScript code that we are compiling, Visual Studio will automatically pop up an Error List panel, showing current compilation errors. Double-clicking on any one of these errors will bring up the file in the editor panel, and automatically move the cursor to the offending code.

The generated app.js file is not included in the Solution Explorer in Visual Studio. Only the app.ts TypeScript file is included. This is by design. If you wish to see the generated JavaScript file, simply click on the Show All Files button in the Solution Explorer toolbar.

To include our TypeScript file in the HTML page, we will need to edit the index.html file, and add a <script> tag to load app.js, as follows:

<!DOCTYPE html> 
    <meta charset="utf-8" /> 
     <script src="app.js"></script> 
    <div id="content"></div> 

Here, we have added the <script> tag to load our app.js file, and have also created a <div> element with the id of content. This is the DOM element that our code will modify the innerHtml property of. We can now hit F5 to run our application:

Debugging in Visual Studio

One of the best features of Visual Studio is that it is truly an integrated environment. Debugging TypeScript in Visual Studio is exactly the same as debugging C# or any other language in Visual Studio, and includes the usual Immediate, Locals, Watch, and Call stack windows.

To debug TypeScript in Visual Studio, simply put a breakpoint on the line you wish to break on in your TypeScript file (move your mouse into the breakpoint area next to the source code line, and click). In the following screenshot, we have placed a breakpoint within the window.onload function. To start debugging, simply hit F5:

When the source code line is highlighted in yellow, simply hover your mouse over any of the variables in your source, or use the Immediate, Watch, Locals, or Call stack windows.

Note that Visual Studio only supports debugging in Internet Explorer 11. If you have multiple browsers installed on your machine (including Microsoft Edge), make sure that you select Internet Explorer in your Debug toolbar, as shown in the following screenshot:


WebStorm is a popular IDE by JetBrains (, and will run on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Prices range from $59 per year for a single developer to $129 per year for a commercial license. JetBrains also offers a 30-day trial version.

WebStorm has a couple of great features, including live edit, code refactoring suggestions, and Intellisense. Live edit, in particular, allows you to keep a browser open that will automatically update based on changes to CSS, HTML, and JavaScript as you type it. Code suggestions, which are also available with another popular JetBrains product, ReSharper, will highlight code that you have written and suggest better ways of implementing it. WebStorm also has a large number of project templates, which are seamlessly integrated into the IDE, automatically downloading and including the relevant JavaScript or CSS files in your project.

On Windows systems, setting up WebStorm is as simple as downloading the package from the website, and running the installer. On Linux systems, Webstorm is provided as a tar ball. Once unpacked, install WebStorm by running the script in the bin directory. Note that on Linux systems, a running version of Java must be installed before setup will continue.

Creating a WebStorm project

To create a WebStorm project, fire up WebStorm, and hit File | New Project. Select a template from the left-hand menu, and fill in the configuration options in the right-hand panel. Depending on which template is chosen for the project, the configuration options will change. For this project, we will select the Twitter Bootstrap template, which only requires a location and a bootstrap version:

Default files

Once a project template has been selected, WebStorm will create a default project directory tree, and download the required files in order for us to start using this template. For a Bootstrap project, note that Webstorm has conveniently created a css and js directory, and downloaded and included the relevant CSS and JavaScript files automatically. Note that the project template has not created an index.html file for us, nor has it created any TypeScript files. So let's create an index.html file.

Simply click on File | New and select HTML file, enter index as a name, and click OK.

Next, let's create a TypeScript file in a similar manner. Select File | New, and then TypeScript file. We will call this file app (or app.ts), in order to mirror the Visual Studio project that we created earlier. As we click inside the new app.ts file, WebStorm will pop up a message at the top of the file, with a suggestion reading Compile TypeScript to JavaScript?, with three options – OK, No, and Configure, as shown in the following screenshot:

Clicking on Configure will bring up the Settings panel for TypeScript. There are a number of options on this panel, but, for the time being, we can simply accept the defaults, and click Ok.

Building a simple HTML application

Now that we have configured WebStorm to compile our Typescript files, let's create a simple TypeScript class and use it to modify the innerText property of an HTML div. While you are typing, you will notice WebStorm's autocompletion or Intellisense feature helping you with available keywords, parameters, and naming conventions, among others. This is one of the most powerful features of WebStorm, and is similar to the enhanced Intellisense seen in Visual Studio. To see a list of TypeScript compilation errors, we can open the TypeScript output window by navigating to View | Tool Windows | TypeScript. As we type code into this file, WebStorm will automatically compile our file ( without needing to save it), and report any errors in the TypeScript tool window. Go ahead and type the following TypeScript code, during which you will get a good feeling of WebStorm's available autocompletion, and the error-reporting capabilities:

class MyClass { 
    public render(divId: string, text: string) { 
        var el: HTMLElement | null = document.getElementById(divId); 
        if (el) { 
            el.innerText = text; 
window.onload = () => { 
    var myClass = new MyClass(); 
    myClass.render("content", "Hello World"); 

This code is similar to the sample we used for Visual Studio 2017.

If you have any errors in your TypeScript file, these will automatically show up in the output window, giving you instant feedback while you type.

With this TypeScript file created, we can now include it in our index.html file and try some debugging.

Open the index.html file, and add a script tag to include the app.js JavaScript file, along with a div with an id of content. Just as we saw with TypeScript editing, you will find that WebStorm has powerful Intellisense features when editing HTML as well:

<!DOCTYPE html> 
<head lang="en"> 
    <meta charset="UTF-8"> 
    <script src="app.js"></script> 
    <div id="content"></div> 

Again, this HTML is the same as we used earlier in the Visual Studio example.

Running the web page in Chrome

When viewing or editing HTML files in WebStorm, you will notice a small set of browser icons popping up in the top-right corner of the editing window. Clicking on any one of the icons will launch your current HTML page using the selected browser:

To debug our web application in WebStorm, we will need to set up a debug configuration for the index.html file. Click on Run | Debug, and then edit configurations. Click on the plus (+) button, select the JavaScript debug option on the left, and give this configuration a name. Note that WebStorm has already identified that index.html is the default page, but this can easily be modified. Next, click on Debug at the bottom of the screen, as shown in the following screenshot:

WebStorm uses a Chrome plugin to enable debugging in Chrome and will prompt you the first time you start debugging to download and enable the JetBrains IDE Support Chrome plugin. With this plugin enabled, WebStorm has a very powerful set of tools to inspect JavaScript code, add watchers, view the console, and many more, right inside the IDE, as demonstrated in the following screenshot:

Other editors

There are a number of editors that include support for TypeScript, such as Atom, Brackets, and even the age-old Vim editor. Each of these editors have varying levels of TypeScript support, including syntax highlighting and Intellisense. Using these editors represents a bare-bones TypeScript development environment, relying on the command line to automate build tasks. They do not have built-in debugging tools, and therefore do not qualify as an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) per se, but can easily be used to build TypeScript applications. The basic workflow using these editors would be as follows:

  1. Create and modify files using the editor
  2. Invoke the TypeScript compiler from the command line
  3. Run or debug applications using existing debuggers

Using --watch and Grunt

In a bare-bones environment, any change to a TypeScript file means that we need to reissue the tsc command from the command line every time we wish to compile our project. Obviously, it is going to be very tedious to have to switch to the command prompt and manually compile our project every time we have made a change. Fortunately, the TypeScript compiler provides the --watch option that will run a background task to monitor files for changes, and automatically recompile them when a change is detected. From the command line, we can run the following:

tsc --watch

Here, we have invoked the TypeScript compiler with the --watch option, which will then start the compilation step in watch mode. As and when we modify .ts files in our project directory, the compilation step will re-execute, and report any errors found.

If we have a more complicated build process that compiles our project, for example, and then needs to uglify the resulting JavaScript, we can use an automated task runner such as Grunt or Gulp. As an example of this process, let's replicate the --watch option by using Grunt to automatically invoke the tsc compiler when a file is saved. Gulp is a very similar task runner to Grunt, and, in certain circumstances, can perform steps faster than Grunt. Grunt, however, has a simpler syntax for configuration, and so we will use it in this section to introduce the concept of automated task runners.

Grunt runs in a Node environment, and therefore needs to be installed as an npm dependency of our project. To install Grunt, we will first need to create a packages.json file in the base directory of the project that will list all of the npm package dependencies that we may need. To create this packages.json file, open up a command prompt, navigate to the base directory of your project, and then simply type the following:

npm init

Then follow the prompts. You can pretty much leave all of the options as their defaults, and always go back to edit the packages.json file that is created from this step, should you need to tweak any changes.

Now that we have a packages.json file created, we can install Grunt. Grunt has two components that need to be installed independently. Firstly, we need to install the Grunt command-line interface that allows us to run Grunt from the command line. This can be accomplished as follows:

npm install -g grunt-cli  

The second component is to install the Grunt files within our project directory:

npm install grunt --save-dev

The --save-dev option will install a local version of Grunt in the project directory. This is done so that multiple projects on your machine can use different versions of Grunt. We will also need the grunt-exec package, as well as the grunt-contrib-watch package installed for the project. These can be installed with the following commands:

npm install grunt-exec --save-dev
npm install grunt-contrib-watch --save-dev

Lastly, we will need a GruntFile.js. Using an editor, create a new file, save it as GruntFile.js, and enter the following JavaScript. Note that we are creating a JavaScript file here, not a TypeScript file. You can find a copy of this file in the sample source code that accompanies this chapter:

module.exports = function (grunt) { 
    grunt.initConfig( { 
        pkg: grunt.file.readJSON('package.json'), 
        watch : { 
            files : ['**/*.ts'], 
            tasks : ['exec:run_tsc'] 
        exec: { 
            run_tsc: { cmd : 'tsc'} 
    grunt.registerTask('default', ['watch']); 

This GruntFile.js contains a simple function to initialize the Grunt environment, and specify the commands to run. The first two lines of the function are loading grunt-contrib-watch and grunt-exec as npm tasks. We then call initConfig to configure the tasks to run. This configuration section has a pkg property, a watch property, and an exec property. The pkg property is used to load the package.json file that we created earlier as part of the npm init step.

The watch property has two sub-properties. The files property specifies a matching algorithm for Grunt to identify which files to watch for. In this case, it is set to find any .ts files within our entire source tree. The tasks array specifies that we should kick off the exec:run_tsc command once a file has changed. Finally, we call grunt.registerTask, specifying that the default task is to watch for file changes.

We can now run grunt from the command line, as follows:


As can be seen from the command line output, Grunt is running the watch task, and is waiting for changes to any .ts files, as follows:

Running "watch" task

Open up any TypeScript file, make a small change (add a space or something), and then hit Ctrl+S to save the file. Now, check back on the output from the Grunt command line. You should see something like the following:

>> File "hellogrunt.ts" changed.
Running "exec:run_tsc" (exec) task
Done, without errors.
Completed in 1.866s at Fri Jul 20 2018 22:22:52 GMT+0800 (AWST) - Waiting...

This command line output is confirmation that the Grunt watch task has identified that the hellogrunt.ts file has changed, run the exec:run_tsc task, and is waiting for the next file to change. We should now also see a hellogrunt.js file in the same directory as our Typescript file.



In this chapter, we have had a quick look at what TypeScript is and what benefits it can bring to the JavaScript development experience. We also looked at setting up a development environment using some popular IDEs, and had a look at what a bare-bones development environment would look like. Now that we have a development environment set up, we can start looking at the TypeScript language itself in a bit more detail. In the next chapter, we will discuss the basic types that are available within TypeScript, and then discuss the various ways that these types can be used with variables or functions.

About the Author
  • Nathan Rozentals

    Nathan Rozentals has been writing commercial software for over 30 years, in C, C++, Java and C#. He picked up TypeScript within a week after its initial release in October 2012 and realized how much TypeScript could help when writing JavaScript. He was one of the first people to start blogging about TypeScript, discussing early frameworks such as Backbone, Marionette, ExtJS and AngularJs. He knew he'd hit the mark when Microsoft staff started to reference his blog posts in their CodePlex discussion forums. Nathan's TypeScript solutions now control User Interfaces in IoT devices, run as stand-alone applications for Point-of-Sale solutions, provide complex application configuration web sites, and are used for mission-critical server APIs.

    Browse publications by this author
Latest Reviews (9 reviews total)
The book gives an introduction to TypeScript but it also contains some things that are not relevant to this topic. Overuses the terms "patterns" and "OOP".
Good volume! practical samples
Great to understand, easy to learn
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