A starter template for TypeScript and React with a detailed README describing how to use the two together.
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README.md

TypeScript React Starter

This quick start guide will teach you how to wire up TypeScript with React. By the end, you'll have

  • a project with React and TypeScript
  • linting with TSLint
  • testing with Jest and Enzyme, and
  • state management with Redux

We'll use the create-react-app tool to quickly get set up.

We assume that you're already using Node.js with npm. You may also want to get a sense of the basics with React.

Install create-react-app

We're going to use the create-react-app because it sets some useful tools and canonical defaults for React projects. This is just a command-line utility to scaffold out new React projects.

npm install -g create-react-app

Create our new project

We'll create a new project called my-app:

create-react-app my-app --scripts-version=react-scripts-ts

react-scripts-ts is a set of adjustments to take the standard create-react-app project pipeline and bring TypeScript into the mix.

At this point, your project layout should look like the following:

my-app/
├─ .gitignore
├─ images.d.ts
├─ node_modules/
├─ public/
├─ src/
│  └─ ...
├─ package.json
├─ tsconfig.json
├─ tsconfig.prod.json
├─ tsconfig.test.json
└─ tslint.json

Of note:

  • tsconfig.json contains TypeScript-specific options for our project.
    • We also have a tsconfig.prod.json and a tsconfig.test.json in case we want to make any tweaks to our production builds, or our test builds.
  • tslint.json stores the settings that our linter, TSLint, will use.
  • package.json contains our dependencies, as well as some shortcuts for commands we'd like to run for testing, previewing, and deploying our app.
  • public contains static assets like the HTML page we're planning to deploy to, or images. You can delete any file in this folder apart from index.html.
  • src contains our TypeScript and CSS code. index.tsx is the entry-point for our file, and is mandatory.
  • images.d.ts will tell TypeScript that certain types of image files can be import-ed, which create-react-app supports.

Setting up source control

Our testing tool, Jest, expects some form of source control (such as Git or Mercurial) to be present. For it to run correctly, we'll need to initialize a git repository.

git init
git add .
git commit -m "Initial commit."

Note: if you've cloned this repository, you won't have to run the above at all.

Overriding defaults

The TSLint configuration that react-scripts-ts sets us up with is a bit overzealous. Let's fix that up.

 {
-  "extends": ["tslint:recommended", "tslint-react", "tslint-config-prettier"],
+  "extends": [],
+  "defaultSeverity": "warning",
   "linterOptions": {
     "exclude": [
       "config/**/*.js",
       "node_modules/**/*.ts"
     ]
   }
 }

Configuring TSLint is out of the scope of this starter, but you should feel free to experiment with something that works for you.

Running the project

Running the project is as simple as running

npm run start

This runs the start script specified in our package.json, and will spawn off a server which reloads the page as we save our files. Typically the server runs at http://localhost:3000, but should be automatically opened for you.

This tightens the iteration loop by allowing us to quickly preview changes.

Testing the project

Testing is also just a command away:

npm run test

This command runs Jest, an incredibly useful testing utility, against all files whose extensions end in .test.ts or .spec.ts. Like with the npm run start command, Jest will automatically run as soon as it detects changes. If you'd like, you can run npm run start and npm run test side by side so that you can preview changes and test them simultaneously.

Creating a production build

When running the project with npm run start, we didn't end up with an optimized build. Typically, we want the code we ship to users to be as fast and small as possible. Certain optimizations like minification can accomplish this, but often take more time. We call builds like this "production" builds (as opposed to development builds).

To run a production build, just run

npm run build

This will create an optimized JS and CSS build in ./build/static/js and ./build/static/css respectively.

You won't need to run a production build most of the time, but it is useful if you need to measure things like the final size of your app.

Creating a component

We're going to write a Hello component. The component will take the name of whoever we want to greet (which we'll call name), and optionally, the number of exclamation marks to trail with (enthusiasmLevel).

When we write something like <Hello name="Daniel" enthusiasmLevel={3} />, the component should render to something like <div>Hello Daniel!!!</div>. If enthusiasmLevel isn't specified, the component should default to showing one exclamation mark. If enthusiasmLevel is 0 or negative, it should throw an error.

We'll write a Hello.tsx:

// src/components/Hello.tsx

import * as React from 'react';

export interface Props {
  name: string;
  enthusiasmLevel?: number;
}

function Hello({ name, enthusiasmLevel = 1 }: Props) {
  if (enthusiasmLevel <= 0) {
    throw new Error('You could be a little more enthusiastic. :D');
  }

  return (
    <div className="hello">
      <div className="greeting">
        Hello {name + getExclamationMarks(enthusiasmLevel)}
      </div>
    </div>
  );
}

export default Hello;

// helpers

function getExclamationMarks(numChars: number) {
  return Array(numChars + 1).join('!');
}

Notice that we defined a type named Props that specifies the properties our component will take. name is a required string, and enthusiasmLevel is an optional number (which you can tell from the ? that we wrote out after its name).

We also wrote Hello as a stateless function component (an SFC). To be specific, Hello is a function that takes a Props object, and picks apart (or "destructures") all the properties that it will be passed. If enthusiasmLevel isn't given in our Props object, it will default to 1.

Writing functions is one of two primary ways React allows us to make components. If we wanted, we could have written it out as a class as follows:

class Hello extends React.Component<Props, object> {
  render() {
    const { name, enthusiasmLevel = 1 } = this.props;

    if (enthusiasmLevel <= 0) {
      throw new Error('You could be a little more enthusiastic. :D');
    }

    return (
      <div className="hello">
        <div className="greeting">
          Hello {name + getExclamationMarks(enthusiasmLevel)}
        </div>
      </div>
    );
  }
}

Classes are useful when our component instances have some state or need to handle lifecycle hooks. But we don't really need to think about state in this specific example - in fact, we specified it as object in React.Component<Props, object>, so writing an SFC makes more sense here, but it's important to know how to write a class component.

Notice that the class extends React.Component<Props, object>. The TypeScript-specific bit here are the type arguments we're passing to React.Component: Props and object. Here, Props is the type of our class's this.props, and object is the type of this.state. We'll return to component state in a bit.

Now that we've written our component, let's dive into index.tsx and replace our render of <App /> with a render of <Hello ... />.

First we'll import it at the top of the file:

import Hello from './components/Hello';

and then change up our render call:

ReactDOM.render(
  <Hello name="TypeScript" enthusiasmLevel={10} />,
  document.getElementById('root') as HTMLElement
);

Type assertions

One thing we'll point out in this section is the line document.getElementById('root') as HTMLElement. This syntax is called a type assertion, sometimes also called a cast. This is a useful way of telling TypeScript what the real type of an expression is when you know better than the type checker.

The reason we need to do so in this case is that getElementById's return type is HTMLElement | null. Put simply, getElementById returns null when it can't find an element with a given id. We're assuming that getElementById will actually succeed, so we need to convince TypeScript of that using the as syntax.

TypeScript also has a trailing "bang" syntax (!), which removes null and undefined from the prior expression. So we could have written document.getElementById('root')!, but in this case we wanted to be a bit more explicit.

Stateful components

We mentioned earlier that our component didn't need state. What if we wanted to be able to update our components based on user interaction over time? At that point, state becomes more important.

Deeply understanding best practices around component state in React are out of the scope of this starter, but let's quickly peek at a stateful version of our Hello component to see what adding state looks like. We're going to render two <button>s which update the number of exclamation marks that a Hello component displays.

To do that, we're going to

  1. Define a type for our state (i.e. this.state)
  2. Initialize this.state based on the props we're given in our constructor.
  3. Create two event handlers for our buttons (onIncrement and onDecrement).
// src/components/StatefulHello.tsx

import * as React from "react";

export interface Props {
  name: string;
  enthusiasmLevel?: number;
}

interface State {
  currentEnthusiasm: number;
}

class Hello extends React.Component<Props, State> {
  constructor(props: Props) {
    super(props);
    this.state = { currentEnthusiasm: props.enthusiasmLevel || 1 };
  }

  onIncrement = () => this.updateEnthusiasm(this.state.currentEnthusiasm + 1);
  onDecrement = () => this.updateEnthusiasm(this.state.currentEnthusiasm - 1);

  render() {
    const { name } = this.props;

    if (this.state.currentEnthusiasm <= 0) {
      throw new Error('You could be a little more enthusiastic. :D');
    }

    return (
      <div className="hello">
        <div className="greeting">
          Hello {name + getExclamationMarks(this.state.currentEnthusiasm)}
        </div>
        <button onClick={this.onDecrement}>-</button>
        <button onClick={this.onIncrement}>+</button>
      </div>
    );
  }

  updateEnthusiasm(currentEnthusiasm: number) {
    this.setState({ currentEnthusiasm });
  }
}

export default Hello;

function getExclamationMarks(numChars: number) {
  return Array(numChars + 1).join('!');
}

Notice:

  1. Much like with Props, we had to define a new type for our state: State.
  2. To update state in React, we use this.setState - we don't set it directly except in the constructor. setState only takes the properties we're interested in updating and our component will re-render as appropriate.
  3. We're using class property initializers with arrow functions (e.g. onIncrement = () => ...).
  • Declaring these as arrow functions avoids issues with orphaned uses of this.
  • Setting them as instance properties creates them only once - a common mistake is to initialize them in the render method which allocates closures one every call to render.

We won't use this stateful component any further in this starter. Stateful components are great for creating components that focus solely on presenting content (as opposed to handling core application state). In some contexts, it can be used for handling your entire application's state, with one central component passing down functions that can call setState appropriately; however, for much larger applications, a dedicated state manager might be preferable (as we'll discuss below).

Adding style 😎

Styling a component with our setup is easy. To style our Hello component, we can create a CSS file at src/components/Hello.css.

.hello {
  text-align: center;
  margin: 20px;
  font-size: 48px;
  font-family: 'Segoe UI', Tahoma, Geneva, Verdana, sans-serif;
}

.hello button {
  margin-left: 25px;
  margin-right: 25px;
  font-size: 40px;
  min-width: 50px;
}

The tools that create-react-app uses (namely, Webpack and various loaders) allow us to just import the stylesheets we're interested in. When our build runs, any imported .css files will be concatenated into an output file. So in src/components/Hello.tsx, we'll add the following import.

import './Hello.css';

Writing tests with Jest

We had a certain set of assumptions about our Hello component. Let's reiterate what they were:

  • When we write something like <Hello name="Daniel" enthusiasmLevel={3} />, the component should render to something like <div>Hello Daniel!!!</div>.
  • If enthusiasmLevel isn't specified, the component should default to showing one exclamation mark.
  • If enthusiasmLevel is 0 or negative, it should throw an error.

We can use these requirements to write a few tests for our components.

But first, let's install Enzyme. Enzyme is a common tool in the React ecosystem that makes it easier to write tests for how components will behave. By default, our application includes a library called jsdom to allow us to simulate the DOM and test its runtime behavior without a browser. Enzyme is similar, but builds on jsdom and makes it easier to make certain queries about our components.

Let's install it as a development-time dependency.

npm install -D enzyme @types/enzyme enzyme-adapter-react-16 @types/enzyme-adapter-react-16 react-test-renderer

Notice we installed packages enzyme as well as @types/enzyme. The enzyme package refers to the package containing JavaScript code that actually gets run, while @types/enzyme is a package that contains declaration files (.d.ts files) so that TypeScript can understand how you can use Enzyme. You can learn more about @types packages here.

We also had to install enzyme-adapter-react-16 and react-test-renderer. This is something enzyme expects to be installed.

Before writing the first test, we have to configure Enzyme to use an adapter for React 16. We'll create a file called src/setupTests.ts that is automatically loaded when running tests:

import * as enzyme from 'enzyme';
import * as Adapter from 'enzyme-adapter-react-16';

enzyme.configure({ adapter: new Adapter() });

Now that we've got Enzyme set up, let's start writing our test! Let's create a file named src/components/Hello.test.tsx, adjacent to our Hello.tsx file from earlier.

// src/components/Hello.test.tsx

import * as React from 'react';
import * as enzyme from 'enzyme';
import Hello from './Hello';

it('renders the correct text when no enthusiasm level is given', () => {
  const hello = enzyme.shallow(<Hello name='Daniel' />);
  expect(hello.find(".greeting").text()).toEqual('Hello Daniel!')
});

it('renders the correct text with an explicit enthusiasm of 1', () => {
  const hello = enzyme.shallow(<Hello name='Daniel' enthusiasmLevel={1}/>);
  expect(hello.find(".greeting").text()).toEqual('Hello Daniel!')
});

it('renders the correct text with an explicit enthusiasm level of 5', () => {
  const hello = enzyme.shallow(<Hello name='Daniel' enthusiasmLevel={5} />);
  expect(hello.find(".greeting").text()).toEqual('Hello Daniel!!!!!');
});

it('throws when the enthusiasm level is 0', () => {
  expect(() => {
    enzyme.shallow(<Hello name='Daniel' enthusiasmLevel={0} />);
  }).toThrow();
});

it('throws when the enthusiasm level is negative', () => {
  expect(() => {
    enzyme.shallow(<Hello name='Daniel' enthusiasmLevel={-1} />);
  }).toThrow();
});

These tests are extremely basic, but you should be able to get the gist of things.

Adding state management

At this point, if all you're using React for is fetching data once and displaying it, you can consider yourself done. But if you're developing an app that's more interactive, then you may need to add state management.

State management in general

On its own, React is a useful library for creating composable views. However, React doesn't prescribe any specific way of synchronizing data throughout your application. As far as a React component is concerned, data flows down through its children through the props you specify on each element. Some of those props might be functions that update the state one way or another, but how that happens is an open question.

Because React on its own does not focus on application state management, the React community uses libraries like Redux and MobX.

Redux relies on synchronizing data through a centralized and immutable store of data, and updates to that data will trigger a re-render of our application. State is updated in an immutable fashion by sending explicit action messages which must be handled by functions called reducers. Because of the explicit nature, it is often easier to reason about how an action will affect the state of your program.

MobX relies on functional reactive patterns where state is wrapped through observables and passed through as props. Keeping state fully synchronized for any observers is done by simply marking state as observable. As a nice bonus, the library is already written in TypeScript.

There are various merits and tradeoffs to both. Generally Redux tends to see more widespread usage, so for the purposes of this tutorial, we'll focus on adding Redux; however, you should feel encouraged to explore both.

The following section may have a steep learning curve. We strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with Redux through its documentation.

Setting the stage for actions

It doesn't make sense to add Redux unless the state of our application changes. We need a source of actions that will trigger changes to take place. This can be a timer, or something in the UI like a button.

For our purposes, we're going to add two buttons to control the enthusiasm level for our Hello component.

Installing Redux

To add Redux, we'll first install redux and react-redux, as well as their types, as a dependency.

npm install -S redux react-redux @types/react-redux

In this case we didn't need to install @types/redux because Redux already comes with its own definition files (.d.ts files).

Defining our app's state

We need to define the shape of the state which Redux will store. For this, we can create a file called src/types/index.tsx which will contain definitions for types that we might use throughout the program.

// src/types/index.tsx

export interface StoreState {
    languageName: string;
    enthusiasmLevel: number;
}

Our intention is that languageName will be the programming language this app was written in (i.e. TypeScript or JavaScript) and enthusiasmLevel will vary. When we write our first container, we'll understand why we intentionally made our state slightly different from our props.

Adding actions

Let's start off by creating a set of message types that our app can respond to in src/constants/index.tsx.

// src/constants/index.tsx

export const INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM = 'INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM';
export type INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM = typeof INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM;


export const DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM = 'DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM';
export type DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM = typeof DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM;

This const/type pattern allows us to use TypeScript's string literal types in an easily accessible and refactorable way.

Next, we'll create a set of actions and functions that can create these actions in src/actions/index.tsx.

import * as constants from '../constants';

export interface IncrementEnthusiasm {
    type: constants.INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM;
}

export interface DecrementEnthusiasm {
    type: constants.DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM;
}

export type EnthusiasmAction = IncrementEnthusiasm | DecrementEnthusiasm;

export function incrementEnthusiasm(): IncrementEnthusiasm {
    return {
        type: constants.INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM
    }
}

export function decrementEnthusiasm(): DecrementEnthusiasm {
    return {
        type: constants.DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM
    }
}

We've created two types that describe what increment actions and decrement actions should look like. We also created a type (EnthusiasmAction) to describe cases where an action could be an increment or a decrement. Finally, we made two functions that actually manufacture the actions which we can use instead of writing out bulky object literals.

There's clearly boilerplate here, so you should feel free to look into libraries like redux-actions once you've got the hang of things.

Adding a reducer

We're ready to write our first reducer! Reducers are just functions that generate changes by creating modified copies of our application's state, but that have no side effects. In other words, they're what we call pure functions.

Our reducer will go under src/reducers/index.tsx. Its function will be to ensure that increments raise the enthusiasm level by 1, and that decrements reduce the enthusiasm level by 1, but that the level never falls below 1.

// src/reducers/index.tsx

import { EnthusiasmAction } from '../actions';
import { StoreState } from '../types/index';
import { INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM, DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM } from '../constants/index';

export function enthusiasm(state: StoreState, action: EnthusiasmAction): StoreState {
  switch (action.type) {
    case INCREMENT_ENTHUSIASM:
      return { ...state, enthusiasmLevel: state.enthusiasmLevel + 1 };
    case DECREMENT_ENTHUSIASM:
      return { ...state, enthusiasmLevel: Math.max(1, state.enthusiasmLevel - 1) };
  }
  return state;
}

Notice that we're using the object spread (...state) which allows us to create a shallow copy of our state, while replacing the enthusiasmLevel. It's important that the enthusiasmLevel property come last, since otherwise it would be overridden by the property in our old state.

You may want to write a few tests for your reducer. Since reducers are pure functions, they can be passed arbitrary data. For every input, reducers can be tested by checking their newly produced state. Consider looking into Jest's toEqual method to accomplish this.

Making a container

When writing with Redux, we will often write components as well as containers. Components are often data-agnostic, and work mostly at a presentational level. Containers typically wrap components and feed them any data that is necessary to display and modify state. You can read more about this concept on Dan Abramov's article Presentational and Container Components.

First let's update src/components/Hello.tsx so that it can modify state. We'll add two optional callback properties to Props named onIncrement and onDecrement:

export interface Props {
  name: string;
  enthusiasmLevel?: number;
  onIncrement?: () => void;
  onDecrement?: () => void;
}

Then we'll bind those callbacks to two new buttons that we'll add into our component.

function Hello({ name, enthusiasmLevel = 1, onIncrement, onDecrement }: Props) {
  if (enthusiasmLevel <= 0) {
    throw new Error('You could be a little more enthusiastic. :D');
  }

  return (
    <div className="hello">
      <div className="greeting">
        Hello {name + getExclamationMarks(enthusiasmLevel)}
      </div>
      <div>
        <button onClick={onDecrement}>-</button>
        <button onClick={onIncrement}>+</button>
      </div>
    </div>
  );
}

In general, it'd be a good idea to write a few tests for onIncrement and onDecrement being triggered when their respective buttons are clicked. Give it a shot to get the hang of writing tests for your components.

Now that our component is updated, we're ready to wrap it into a container. Let's create a file named src/containers/Hello.tsx and start off with the following imports.

import Hello from '../components/Hello';
import * as actions from '../actions/';
import { StoreState } from '../types/index';
import { connect, Dispatch } from 'react-redux';

The real two key pieces here are the original Hello component as well as the connect function from react-redux. connect will be able to actually take our original Hello component and turn it into a container using two functions:

  • mapStateToProps which massages the data from the current store to part of the shape that our component needs.
  • mapDispatchToProps which creates callback props to pump actions to our store using a given dispatch function.

If we recall, our application state consists of two properties: languageName and enthusiasmLevel. Our Hello component, on the other hand, expected a name and an enthusiasmLevel. mapStateToProps will get the relevant data from the store, and adjust it if necessary, for our component's props. Let's go ahead and write that.

export function mapStateToProps({ enthusiasmLevel, languageName }: StoreState) {
  return {
    enthusiasmLevel,
    name: languageName,
  }
}

Note that mapStateToProps only creates 2 out of 4 of the properties a Hello component expects. Namely, we still want to pass in the onIncrement and onDecrement callbacks. mapDispatchToProps is a function that takes a dispatcher function. This dispatcher function can pass actions into our store to make updates, so we can create a pair of callbacks that will call the dispatcher as necessary.

export function mapDispatchToProps(dispatch: Dispatch<actions.EnthusiasmAction>) {
  return {
    onIncrement: () => dispatch(actions.incrementEnthusiasm()),
    onDecrement: () => dispatch(actions.decrementEnthusiasm()),
  }
}

Finally, we're ready to call connect. connect will first take mapStateToProps and mapDispatchToProps, and then return another function that we can use to wrap our component. Our resulting container is defined with the following line of code:

export default connect(mapStateToProps, mapDispatchToProps)(Hello);

When we're finished, our file should look like this:

// src/containers/Hello.tsx

import Hello from '../components/Hello';
import * as actions from '../actions/';
import { StoreState } from '../types/index';
import { connect, Dispatch } from 'react-redux';

export function mapStateToProps({ enthusiasmLevel, languageName }: StoreState) {
  return {
    enthusiasmLevel,
    name: languageName,
  }
}

export function mapDispatchToProps(dispatch: Dispatch<actions.EnthusiasmAction>) {
  return {
    onIncrement: () => dispatch(actions.incrementEnthusiasm()),
    onDecrement: () => dispatch(actions.decrementEnthusiasm()),
  }
}

export default connect(mapStateToProps, mapDispatchToProps)(Hello);

Creating a store

Let's go back to src/index.tsx. To put this all together, we need to create a store with an initial state, and set it up with all of our reducers.

import { createStore } from 'redux';
import { enthusiasm } from './reducers/index';
import { StoreState } from './types/index';

const store = createStore<StoreState>(enthusiasm, {
  enthusiasmLevel: 1,
  languageName: 'TypeScript',
});

store is, as you might've guessed, our central store for our application's global state.

Next, we're going to swap our use of ./src/components/Hello with ./src/containers/Hello and use react-redux's Provider to wire up our props with our container. We'll import each:

import Hello from './containers/Hello';
import { Provider } from 'react-redux';

and pass our store through to the Provider's attributes:

ReactDOM.render(
  <Provider store={store}>
    <Hello />
  </Provider>,
  document.getElementById('root') as HTMLElement
);

Notice that Hello no longer needs props, since we used our connect function to adapt our application's state for our wrapped Hello component's props.

Ejecting

If at any point, you feel like there are certain customizations that the create-react-app setup has made difficult, you can always opt-out and get the various configuration options you need. For example, if you'd like to add a Webpack plugin, it might be necessary to take advantage of the "eject" functionality that create-react-app provides.

Simply run

npm run eject

and you should be good to go!

As a heads up, you may want to commit all your work before running an eject. You cannot undo an eject command, so opting out is permanent unless you can recover from a commit prior to running an eject.

Next steps

create-react-app comes with a lot of great stuff. Much of it is documented in the default README.md that was generated for our project, so give that a quick read.

If you still want to learn more about Redux, you can check out the official website for documentation. The same goes for MobX.

If you want to eject at some point, you may need to know a little bit more about Webpack. You can check out our React & Webpack walkthrough here.

At some point you might need routing. There are several solutions, but react-router is probably the most popular for Redux projects, and is often used in conjunction with react-router-redux.