Needs advice
on
TypeScript
and
ES6

I consider myself now (after a few years of practice) to be a decent JavaScript/Node.js practitioner. So can someone convince me that I have to learn TypeScript and use it in my everyday life? In other words, why would TypeScript be necessary over some proper ES6 compliant code with strict mode enabled? Any thoughts/opinions are welcome.

EDIT 07/20/2020 : Thank you all for your feedback. I'm definitely going to invest some time in some TypeScript education in the long run. Apart from all the points you made in your responses (static typing, compilation, codebase consistency, etc ...), the fact that Deno may go big (which I hope, the improvements over Node.js could be life changing) and that Visual Studio Code (which I use) is built on top of Electron using TypeScript is what convinces me.

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mulekick 路 GitHub (github.com)
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Software Engineer at Minna Technologies
Recommends
TypeScript

I was asking myself this same question a few years ago. I felt that ES6 provided a terse, declarative syntax, that in combination with unit tests was reliable enough. Dynamic typing kept the code looking clean and left most functions generic and reusable for several data types. However, as your code base starts to grow and more and more "ad hoc" data types are introduced. It starts to become very hard to maintain and refactor code because you have to keep long call chains in your head and you sometimes don't know if you can remove a field from an object without introducing a runtime error. In essence, the less strict a programming language is the more you will have to test explicitly all the time. On top of that JavaScript is really good at coercing types in weird ways.

So the main benefit that TypeScript brings is static typing. You make your code more explicit, thereby limiting the number of unintentional behaviors that are possible. The compilers type checker can suddenly take care of testing these extra constraints for you and you start removing this burden from your unit tests. As a matter of fact TypeScript has a pretty advanced type system, a magnitude better than the current Java version (14) or Go-lang. One of these features are union types (aka. coproduct, sum type, etc). This lets you represent your types as "this thing" or "this other thing". Returning a disjoint union can make your code even more explicit and thus further limiting the number of unintentional behaviors. A simple example of this is the head function that returns the first element of a list. Either you get the value or you get undefined if the list is empty. A better approach is to return a Maybe type which is either an instance of Just(<value>) or Nothing. This tells you that the code calling head needs to handle exactly two possible cases. Languages with even stronger type systems like Elm and Haskell can even enforce that your code won't compile unless you handle all the possible cases for any union type. So again the compiler helps you avoid more runtime errors.

So to conclude the benefits of using a language with strong static typing:

  • Compiler helps you avoid runtime errors
  • Substantially reduce number of explicit unit tests
  • Better security and reliability by preventing unintentional behavior
  • Let's you refactor code with confidence
  • Code becomes more self-documenting
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Ashwani Agarwal
Ashwani Agarwal
July 16th 2020 at 9:12AM

The unintended behaviour of addition (or not knowing the gotchas) on web-browser have always got FE devs scratching their head. I never really got a chance to work on an actual TS project professionally, but having worked with Node.js quite a lot and later moving to Java (mostly for web services), I just didn't want to move back to Node.js. But TS is definitely a game-changer.

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Chris Sundberg
Chris Sundberg
July 16th 2020 at 9:45AM

Unfortunately there is too much "quick and dirty" rather than "correct, secure and reliable" in our industry.

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President & Full Stack Enginee at Narro, LLC
Recommends
TypeScript

I've been feeling the same way and it was almost too simple for me. First, strongly typed languages are objectively better for catching errors during development instead of during production so a small amount of work upfront pays huge dividends later. But the easy part is how actionable it is.

Find a codebase that you want to convert. For me, it was a server that I wanted to convert to Firebase cloud functions to go serverless. I took my server.js file and copied it as server.ts. I created a simple tsconfig.json file in the root with some standard settings online and then I let the VS Code IntelliSense guide the migration. It was so much easier than I expected and I learned TypeScript as I was converting my codebase.

It was almost too easy and now I have all of the benefits of feature-rich and built-in assistance in my code-editor. Documentation on hover, clear and clean errors. This was only about 2 weeks ago and I am not sure I'd ever go back to Vanilla JS now. It was love at first use with me.

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Chris Sundberg

Software Engineer at Minna Technologies