Setting up a new Typescript 1.9 and React project


This post is a brain dump of the steps required to set up a Typescript and React project with some explanatory notes – I intend to write about working with Typescript and React in a real world project in more detail soon. Some knowledge of React and of the basics of Typescript is assumed.

These instructions will guide you through setting up a new project with Typescript, React, Webpack and Babel – neither Webpack nor Babel are required to work with Typescript, as Typescript can transpile ES6 to ES5 and do some degree of bundling itself; but using them enables Hot Module Reloading, and also allows you to run other Babel and Webpack plugins on the compiled output if desired.

The resulting project template is available on Github at

Editor setup


Atom users will need to install the atom-typescript plugin, which is excellent, but currently doesn’t support some of the features in Typescript 1.9, and seems to be lacking an active project leader.


Sublime users will need the official Microsoft Typescript package (, which is also very good.

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code users don’t need to install anything – it’s already set up for Typescript.


All of these editor/plugin combinations work well, and will automatically detect Typescript projects and offer the appropriate autocompletion and error highlighting.

Visual Studio Code has the best Typescript integration (as you might expect from Microsoft!) and is noticeably faster than Atom. In the past, I was put off using VS Code due to the lack of tabs, but as these are now available in the latest Insiders build by enabling a flag, it’s now my recommended editor.

The Atom and Sublime plugins offer broadly similar functionality, and I have always used Atom in the past, but I can’t fully recommend it at the minute due to the uncertain status of the atom-typescript plugin and its lack of support for Typescript 1.9 features (although this is fair enough, as it is still a beta). The Sublime plugin is an official Microsoft product, so shouldn’t suffer from the same issues, and is a great choice if you are already a Sublime user.

Note: If you are using Visual Studio Code, see step 1 for additional setup required to make it use the typescript@next compiler.


If you want to lint your code, you’ll want to install a tslint plugin for your editor and setup tslint – see the project page at for more information.

Basic project setup

  1. Install Typescript globally - this is optional, but it’s handy to have the Typescript compiler tsc available globally at the command line. We will use typescript@next (version 1.9.x) even though it is still in beta, as it supports installing type declarations from npm rather than having to use the typings tool, which is the future of working with type declaration files and makes life much easier.

    npm install -g typescript@next

    Note for VS Code users

    If you are using VS Code, you need to tell it to use the Typescript compiler that you installed with npm, otherwise you’ll get syntax errors as the internal VS Code Typescript compiler is v1.8 and so doesn’t support type declarations installed from npm.

    To do so, you’ll need to know where npm has installed your global packages to – you can check this with:

    npm list -g | head -n1

    Then open up your user settings in VS Code (Cmd + , on a Mac) and add a line to your user settings, pointing the typescript.tsdk option to the node_modules/typescript/lib directory in this location – for example, if the global packages are installed to /Users/td/.nvm/versions/node/v5.5.0/lib/, then add the following and restart Code:

      "typescript.tsdk": "/Users/td/.nvm/versions/node/v5.5.0/lib/node_modules/typescript/lib"
  2. Create a new project:

    mkdir my-project && cd my-project
    git init
    npm init -y
  3. Initialise the project for Typescript - install Typescript as a dev dependency and create a skeleton tsconfig.json:

    npm i -D typescript@next
    tsc --init

Setting up tsconfig.json

  1. tsconfig.json controls the behaviour of the Typescript compiler (tsc). There are a few settings which are useful for React and Babel projects which differ from the defaults. Open tsconfig.json and change it to the following:

      "compilerOptions": {
        "module": "es6",
        "target": "es6",
        "moduleResolution": "node",
        "baseUrl": "src",
        "allowSyntheticDefaultImports": true,
        "noImplicitAny": false,
        "sourceMap": true,
        "outDir": "ts-build",
        "jsx": "preserve"
      "exclude": [

    An explanation of what this all means:

    • "module": "es6" tells tsc to output code which uses the ES6 module spec (i.e. import statements). It’s also possible to set this to e.g. commonjs, in which case tsc will convert your code to that module spec, but as we will be putting our compiled JS code through Webpack, we can keep it as ES6 and let Webpack handle the module bundling.

    • "target": "es6" tells tsc to output ES6 rather than ES5 Javascript code. We want this as we will be running the compiled JS through Babel, and keeping ES6 code intact after compilation can be useful for some Babel plugins (e.g. transform-react-stateless-component-name, which automatically names stateless components, will only pick up on arrow functions).

      This also allows us to use async/await, which is understood by Typescript but not currently able to be transpiled – instead, we can use Babel to handle the transpilation of async code. If we weren’t using Babel, this setting could be omitted or set to es5, to make tsc do the transpilation of ES6 to ES5 itself.

    • "moduleResolution": "node" tells tsc to use the Node module resolution strategy. This allows Typescript to load type declarations supplied alongside npm packages (e.g. MobX includes its own type declarations in the main mobx package), and with the baseUrl option, allows us to use absolute-style imports for local modules.

    • "baseUrl": "src" tells tsc to look in src for any modules we import that aren’t found in node_modules. This allows us to write absolute-style imports for local modules, e.g. import Whatever from 'components/Whatever' rather than import Whatever from '../components/Whatever', which is great for one’s sanity.

      Note that this settings does not work with the current version of atom-typescript (see – remove this line from your tsconfig.json if you want to use Atom. You can get an approximation of the absolute-style import by using "moduleResolution": "classic" (which will walk up the directory tree until a match is found, so not the same behaviour, but similar end result in many cases), but this breaks the ability to automatically import type declarations supplied with npm packages.

    • "allowSyntheticDefaultImports": true allows us to use ES6 import syntax for npm modules which don’t have a default export.

    • "noImplicitAny": false tells tsc not to warn us if any variables are inferred as having a type of any. It’s actually probably good practice to set this to true, but it does mean you’ll potentially have to be more liberal with type annotations.

    • "sourceMap": true tells tsc to output a source map, which enables easier debugging from the browser as it can tell you where in the original .ts source file an error occurred, rather than just in the compiled .js.

    • "outDir": "ts-build" tells tsc to output the compiled .js files to a directory called ts-build (which can be .gitignored). The default is to output them alongside the original .ts source files, but this gets messy. It should be noted that most of the time, we won’t be outputting the compiled .js to disk, as the Webpack loader will do the compilation in memory, but it is sometimes useful to be able to invoke tsc manually and inspect the compiled output.

    • "jsx": "preserve" tells tsc to leave JSX code as it is, meaning that something else (in this case, Babel) is responsible for compiling it down to React.createElement function calls. It is possible to set this to "react" instead, which will cause tsc to output React.createElement calls directly, but it can be useful to have the raw JSX available to Babel, e.g. for plugins to process.

    • We exclude node_modules as we don’t want tsc to try and compile anything it finds in there – it’s alternatively possible to explicitly include files for compilation (or use the non-standard filesGlob option, which allows you to specify wildcard patterns, supported by the Atom plugin and

Adding React to the project

  1. Install React to node_modules:

    npm i -S react
  2. To demonstrate what we are about to do, mkdir src and create a file index.tsx in there containing a basic (stateless) React component:

    import * as React from 'react';
    export default () => <div>Hello world</div>;

    If your editor is set up correctly, you should already see that it has highlighted an issue with the import * as React from 'react'; line, but to demonstrate further, run tsc from your project root and you should get the following output:

    src/index.tsx(1,24): error TS2307: Cannot find module 'react'.

    The issue here is that the Typescript type declarations for React aren’t installed, and so Typescript says it can’t find the module, as type declarations are required for any modules that are imported (the error message doesn’t make this especially clear!).

    Something interesting to note, however, is that tsc has created a ts-build directory and written index.jsx there, with sensible contents – in general, the Typescript compiler will try and emit code even if there are errors, as long as they aren’t fatal (although this can be disabled in tsconfig.json with the noEmitOnError option).

  3. Before installing type declarations for React, we first need to check if they exist – the majority of type declaration files are created by the community rather than the library authors, but most popular libraries are covered.

    The type declaration system has been through several iterations of tooling (first tsd, then typings) but is now moving to be purely npm based. The original definitions live in the massive DefinitelyTyped Github repo, and are automatically synced to npm.

    It seems that the only way to check if a package has type declarations in npm is to search at – type in react, and indeed it does have a definition, hosted on npm at

    Previous iterations of the typing system had the ability to search from the command line, which is preferable in most cases, so hopefully someone will fill this gap for npm-based type declarations – for now, you could install typings ( and use that to search DefinitelyTyped, or just use Google/GitHub/npm search.

  4. Now we know the React type declarations exist at @types/react, we can install them with npm:

    npm i -D @types/react

    And now both tsc and your editor should be happy with the React import. At this point, you should also be able to get a sense for the autocompletion Typescript enables, by typing React. somewhere in your index.tsx file and seeing the autocomplete dropdown with the correct options.

  5. We also need the react-dom package, which can be installed in the same way:

    npm i -S react-dom
    npm i -D @types/react-dom

    To my mind, it makes sense for type declarations to be in devDependencies (so npm -D rather than npm -S). Also note that the structure of the type declaration package name is always @types/<npm_package_name>, so you could take advantage of this naming scheme and try installing types for a given package based on its name rather than using the search in most cases.

    One other thing worth noting is that the current version of the React typings is 0.14 whereas we are using React 0.15 – this is one downside of type declarations being maintained by the community, but in most cases it doesn’t present too much of a problem (as long as the API hasn’t changed much). It is of course possible to put in a PR to DefinitelyTyped to fix the type defs if they are out of sync (or to augment them with local type declaration “overrides”, or in extreme cases, to import the module without any typings – more on that later).

Setting up Webpack and Babel

As mentioned above, we’re using Babel to transpile to ES6 output from Typescript so we can take advantage of the Babel plugin ecosystem, and Webpack as our module bundler; so we need to setup Webpack to invoke the Typescript loader and then pass the output to Babel. I won’t go into too much detail on the Webpack setup as it’s a huge topic in itself!

  1. Install Webpack itself, and the handy notifier plugin which will notify you of the build status with your system notifier (especially useful with Typescript as the code will be compiled every time you save a file, so this surfaces compile errors much quicker than watching the terminal):

    npm i -D webpack webpack-notifier
  2. Install the Webpack Typescript loader, so Webpack can handle compiling Typescript as part of the bundling process:

    npm i -D ts-loader
  3. Install Babel itself, the Babel Webpack loader, and a few presets so it can understand the ES6 and JSX code that the Typescript compiler will output (I’m not sure if stage-0 is strictly necessary, stage-3 might be enough for async/await support):

    npm i -D babel-core babel-loader babel-preset-es2015 babel-preset-react babel-preset-stage-0
  4. Create a .babelrc file in the project root to tell Babel to use the presets we just installed:

      "presets": ["es2015", "react", "stage-0"]
  5. Create a Webpack config in config/webpack.config.js to tell Webpack how to build and bundle the project. I’ve added comments explaining what is going on inline:

    var webpack = require('webpack');
    var path = require('path');
    var WebpackNotifierPlugin = require('webpack-notifier');
    module.exports = {
      devtool: 'eval',
      // This will be our app's entry point (webpack will look for it in the 'src' directory due to the modulesDirectory setting below). Feel free to change as desired.
      entry: [
      // Output the bundled JS to dist/app.js
      output: {
        filename: 'app.js',
        path: path.resolve('dist')
      resolve: {
        // Look for modules in .ts(x) files first, then .js(x)
        extensions: ['', '.ts', '.tsx', '.js', '.jsx'],
        // Add 'src' to our modulesDirectories, as all our app code will live in there, so Webpack should look in there for modules
        modulesDirectories: ['src', 'node_modules'],
      module: {
        loaders: [
          // .ts(x) files should first pass through the Typescript loader, and then through babel
          { test: /\.tsx?$/, loaders: ['babel', 'ts-loader'] }
      plugins: [
        // Set up the notifier plugin - you can remove this (or set alwaysNotify false) if desired
        new WebpackNotifierPlugin({ alwaysNotify: true }),
  6. Add a script to invoke Webpack when you run npm run build to your package.json:

    "scripts": {
      "build": "webpack --config config/webpack.config.js"
  7. You should now be able to build the project with Webpack:

    npm run build

    and see that it has created an output file at dist/app.js (you probably want to gitignore the dist directory).

Adding hot module reloading

Nearly there! All that remains is to add hot module reloading to the project. In reality, this is completely optional, but I find it invaluable for working on a React project, so would consider it part of any project’s setup. It’s also not really Typescript-specific, but there aren’t many good guides out there for setting up the latest version of HMR, and setting it up gives us a chance to see a couple more tips on working with Typescript.

  1. Create an index.html file which will load the bundled JS and give React somewhere to mount the application to. Create the file in the project root with the following contents:

    <!DOCTYPE html>
    <html lang="en">
      <meta charset="UTF-8">
      <title>My Typescript App</title>
      <div id="app"></div>
      <script src="dist/app.js"></script>
  2. Next, install the react-hot-loader npm package. We are using the latest 3.0.0 beta version, as it supports stateless functional components.

    npm i -D react-hot-loader@3.0.0-beta.2
  3. Add the react-hot-loader plugin to .babelrc, so it now contains:

      "presets": ["es2015", "react", "stage-0"],
      "plugins": ["react-hot-loader/babel"]
  4. Install the webpack-dev-server npm package, to allow us to setup a dev server to work with the hot module reloading:

    npm i -D webpack-dev-server
  5. Create the dev server in a new file in your project root, server.js, with the following contents (based on

    var webpack = require('webpack');
    var WebpackDevServer = require('webpack-dev-server');
    var config = require('./config/webpack.config');
    new WebpackDevServer(webpack(config), {
      publicPath: config.output.publicPath,
      hot: true,
      historyApiFallback: true
    }).listen(3000, 'localhost', function (err, result) {
      if (err) {
        return console.log(err);
      console.log('Listening at http://localhost:3000/');
  6. Modify config/webpack.config.js to enable Webpack support for hot module reloading, so it now contains the following (explanatory comments inline):

    var webpack = require('webpack');
    var path = require('path');
    var WebpackNotifierPlugin = require('webpack-notifier');
    module.exports = {
      devtool: 'eval',
      entry: [
        // Add the react hot loader entry point - in reality, you only want this in your dev Webpack config
      output: {
        filename: 'app.js',
        publicPath: '/dist',
        path: path.resolve('dist')
      resolve: {
        extensions: ['', '.ts', '.tsx', '.js', '.jsx'],
        modulesDirectories: ['src', 'node_modules'],
      module: {
        loaders: [
          { test: /\.tsx?$/, loaders: ['babel', 'ts-loader'] }
      plugins: [
        // Add the Webpack HMR plugin so it will notify the browser when the app code changes
        new webpack.HotModuleReplacementPlugin(),
        new WebpackNotifierPlugin({ alwaysNotify: true }),
  7. Add a script to start the dev server with npm start to your package.json:

    "scripts": {
      "build": "webpack --config config/webpack.config.js",
      "start": "node server.js"
  8. Finally, we need to create a skeleton app set up in a suitable way for hot module reloading.

    Our entry point needs to be set up so that it can handle requests to hot reload the app. Open up src/index.tsx and change it to the following (explanatory comments inline):

    // Import React and React DOM
    import * as React from 'react';
    import { render } from 'react-dom';
    // Import the Hot Module Reloading App Container – more on why we use 'require' below
    const { AppContainer } = require('react-hot-loader');
    // Import our App container (which we will create in the next step)
    import App from 'containers/App';
    // Tell Typescript that there is a global variable called module - see below
    declare var module: { hot: any };
    // Get the root element from the HTML
    const rootEl = document.getElementById('app');
    // And render our App into it, inside the HMR App ontainer which handles the hot reloading
        <App />
    // Handle hot reloading requests from Webpack
    if ( {'./containers/App', () => {
        // If we receive a HMR request for our App container, then reload it using require (we can't do this dynamically with import)
        const NextApp = require('./containers/App').default;
        // And render it into the root element again
             <NextApp />

    Effectively, this renders our app inside a special container (the react-hot-loader AppContainer), and then waits for Webpack to notify it of any changes to any of the app’s files (which will trigger HMR requests, which end up bubbling up to the top level parent module, containers/App). When a change is detected, the whole App container is reloaded and the existing instance of it in the DOM is replaced with the new, modified one.

    The trick here is that the react-hot-loader AppContainer takes care of persisting the state of components (whether local state or in Redux or similar) when it is reloaded, so in most cases, we don’t lose where we were in the app.

    A quick note on a couple of things:

    Importing modules without type declarations

    const { AppContainer } = require('react-hot-loader');

    Here, we are using require rather than import. This is a useful trick to know, as it allows you to import an npm module without requiring any type declarations.

    In this case, there are currently no type declarations for react-hot-loader, but if we use require, it is treated as being of any type. This can be handy for working with modules that don’t have type declarations, particularly if you are just trying out modules to see if they are suitable and don’t want worry about typing them.

    If you use const Whatever = require('whatever'); rather than import Whatever from 'whatever';, Typescript won’t complain about Cannot find module — although it also won’t offer you any type safety when working with this module!

    See the next step for an important note on this – by default, Typescript doesn’t know what require means (as it’s not a built-in Javascript construct).

    Declaring global variables

    declare var module: { hot: any };

    declare is how we can tell Typescript about global variables that it doesn’t already know about. Here, we are telling it that a global variable called module will exist, and it’s type will be an object, which has a key called hot, who’s value is of type any (which means it will not be type-checked – a bit of a cop out, and generally any types should be avoided, but this is okay for our purposes here).

  9. If you run tsc at this point, you’ll get an error:

    src/index.tsx(5,26): error TS2304: Cannot find name 'require'.

    This is because Typescript doesn’t know what require means. There are a few ways round this, for example installing the node or requirejs type declarations, but the one recommended at which plays nicely with CSS modules is to create your own declaration for require — this also gives me the opportunity to demonstrate how we can create our own local type declarations for libraries!

    It’s up to you where you would like to keep your local type declarations, but I would suggest a top-level directory named type-declarations. If you are using the default exclude pattern for tsconfig.json, any *.ts files in your entire project except those in node_modules will automatically be included in the compilation, so we don’t need to explicitly tell Typescript where we have put the declarations.

    A type declaration file has the extension .d.ts, and can declare types either globally or inside a named module scope (which is how most third party library definitions are written, so the types only come into scope when the module is imported). Details of how type declarations work is beyond the scope of this guide, but for now create a file named require.d.ts in a directory called type-declarations in the project root with the following contents:

    declare var require: {
        (path: string): any;
        <T>(path: string): T;
        (paths: string[], callback: (...modules: any[]) => void): void;
        ensure: (paths: string[], callback: (require: <T>(path: string) => T) => void) => void;

    Run tsc again, and the warning should be gone (with just one about containers/App being missing remaining) – we’ve told Typescript that calling require with a single string argument will return a variable of type any.

    This technique of creating local type declarations can also be useful if a libraries’ declarations are out of date or inaccurate – you can add exported variables or additional properties to existing interfaces like so (although really it’s best to submit these changes back to DefinitelyTyped if time allows):

    declare module "redux-form" {
        export var change: any
        export interface ReduxFormConfig {
            alwaysAsyncValidate?: boolean
  10. The final step: we need to create our actual App container component. We’ll just create a placeholder for now, but in reality this would be the root component of your app (e.g. where your <Router> lives).

    Create a new directory, src/containers, and create a new file in there, App.tsx, with the following contents:

    import * as React from 'react'
    export default () => <div>Hello world</div>

    Now you should be able to start your dev server:

    npm start

    and go to to see the “Hello World” message! Update the App.tsx file to say something else, and you should see the app hot reload.

Next steps

That’s basically it in terms of project setup. As mentioned at the start, the complete template is available at – I think it’s helpful to go through each step and understand why it is required the first time, but in future, you can use the template you’ve created as a starting point for new projects.

In terms of next steps, it’s really just a case of building your app as usual, but taking advantage of Typescript’s type checking and editor integration. The only real pain point is likely to be working with type declarations for third party libraries, but using npm for the typings has made this easier, and there is always the option to import the library using require and bypassing the need for type declarations initially.

I intend to write more about working with Typescript and React soon, but hopefully this is a useful start – any questions, comments or feedback is very welcome either via the comments, or via Twitter or email.