Troubleshooting Handbook: Types

⚠️ Have you read the TypeScript FAQ Your answer might be there!

Facing weird type errors? You aren't alone. This is the hardest part of using TypeScript with React. Be patient - you are learning a new language after all. However, the more you get good at this, the less time you'll be working against the compiler and the more the compiler will be working for you!

Try to avoid typing with any as much as possible to experience the full benefits of TypeScript. Instead, let's try to be familiar with some of the common strategies to solve these issues.

Union Types and Type Guarding

Union types are handy for solving some of these typing problems:

class App extends React.Component<
{},
{
count: number | null; // like this
}
> {
state = {
count: null,
};
render() {
return <div onClick={() => this.increment(1)}>{this.state.count}</div>;
}
increment = (amt: number) => {
this.setState((state) => ({
count: (state.count || 0) + amt,
}));
};
}

View in the TypeScript Playground

Type Guarding: Sometimes Union Types solve a problem in one area but create another downstream. If A and B are both object types, A | B isn't "either A or B", it is "A or B or both at once", which causes some confusion if you expected it to be the former. Learn how to write checks, guards, and assertions (also see the Conditional Rendering section below). For example:

interface Admin {
role: string;
}
interface User {
email: string;
}
// Method 1: use `in` keyword
function redirect(user: Admin | User) {
if ("role" in user) {
// use the `in` operator for typeguards since TS 2.7+
routeToAdminPage(user.role);
} else {
routeToHomePage(user.email);
}
}
// Method 2: custom type guard, does the same thing in older TS versions or where `in` isnt enough
function isAdmin(user: Admin | User): user is Admin {
return (user as any).role !== undefined;
}

View in the TypeScript Playground

Method 2 is also known as User-Defined Type Guards and can be really handy for readable code. This is how TS itself refines types with typeof and instanceof.

If you need if...else chains or the switch statement instead, it should "just work", but look up Discriminated Unions if you need help. (See also: Basarat's writeup). This is handy in typing reducers for useReducer or Redux.

Optional Types

If a component has an optional prop, add a question mark and assign during destructure (or use defaultProps).

class MyComponent extends React.Component<{
message?: string; // like this
}> {
render() {
const { message = "default" } = this.props;
return <div>{message}</div>;
}
}

You can also use a ! character to assert that something is not undefined, but this is not encouraged.

Something to add? File an issue with your suggestions!

Enum Types

Enums in TypeScript default to numbers. You will usually want to use them as strings instead:

export enum ButtonSizes {
default = "default",
small = "small",
large = "large",
}

Usage:

export const PrimaryButton = (
props: Props & React.HTMLProps<HTMLButtonElement>
) => <Button size={ButtonSizes.default} {...props} />;

A simpler alternative to enum is just declaring a bunch of strings with union:

export declare type Position = "left" | "right" | "top" | "bottom";

This is handy because TypeScript will throw errors when you mistype a string for your props.

Type Assertion

Sometimes you know better than TypeScript that the type you're using is narrower than it thinks, or union types need to be asserted to a more specific type to work with other APIs, so assert with the as keyword. This tells the compiler you know better than it does.

class MyComponent extends React.Component<{
message: string;
}> {
render() {
const { message } = this.props;
return (
<Component2 message={message as SpecialMessageType}>{message}</Component2>
);
}
}

View in the TypeScript Playground

Note that you cannot assert your way to anything - basically it is only for refining types. Therefore it is not the same as "casting" a type.

You can also assert a property is non-null, when accessing it:

element.parentNode!.removeChild(element) // ! before the period
myFunction(document.getElementById(dialog.id!)! // ! after the property accessing
let userID!: string // definite assignment assertion... be careful!

Of course, try to actually handle the null case instead of asserting :)

Simulating Nominal Types

TS' structural typing is handy, until it is inconvenient. However you can simulate nominal typing with type branding:

type OrderID = string & { readonly brand: unique symbol };
type UserID = string & { readonly brand: unique symbol };
type ID = OrderID | UserID;

We can create these values with the Companion Object Pattern:

function OrderID(id: string) {
return id as OrderID;
}
function UserID(id: string) {
return id as UserID;
}

Now TypeScript will disallow you from using the wrong ID in the wrong place:

function queryForUser(id: UserID) {
// ...
}
queryForUser(OrderID("foobar")); // Error, Argument of type 'OrderID' is not assignable to parameter of type 'UserID'

In future you can use the unique keyword to brand. See this PR.

Intersection Types

Adding two types together can be handy, for example when your component is supposed to mirror the props of a native component like a button:

export interface Props {
label: string;
}
export const PrimaryButton = (
props: Props & React.HTMLProps<HTMLButtonElement> // adding my Props together with the @types/react button provided props
) => <Button {...props} />;

You can also use Intersection Types to make reusable subsets of props for similar components:

type BaseProps = {
className?: string,
style?: React.CSSProperties
name: string // used in both
}
type DogProps = {
tailsCount: number
}
type HumanProps = {
handsCount: number
}
export const Human: React.FC<BaseProps & HumanProps> = // ...
export const Dog: React.FC<BaseProps & DogProps> = // ...

View in the TypeScript Playground

Make sure not to confuse Intersection Types (which are and operations) with Union Types (which are or operations).

Union Types

This section is yet to be written (please contribute!). Meanwhile, see our commentary on Union Types usecases.

The ADVANCED cheatsheet also has information on Discriminated Union Types, which are helpful when TypeScript doesn't seem to be narrowing your union type as you expect.

Overloading Function Types

Specifically when it comes to functions, you may need to overload instead of union type. The most common way function types are written uses the shorthand:

type FunctionType1 = (x: string, y: number) => number;

But this doesn't let you do any overloading. If you have the implementation, you can put them after each other with the function keyword:

function pickCard(x: { suit: string; card: number }[]): number;
function pickCard(x: number): { suit: string; card: number };
function pickCard(x): any {
// implementation with combined signature
// ...
}

However, if you don't have an implementation and are just writing a .d.ts definition file, this won't help you either. In this case you can forego any shorthand and write them the old-school way. The key thing to remember here is as far as TypeScript is concerned, functions are just callable objects with no key:

type pickCard = {
(x: { suit: string; card: number }[]): number;
(x: number): { suit: string; card: number };
// no need for combined signature in this form
// you can also type static properties of functions here eg `pickCard.wasCalled`
};

Note that when you implement the actual overloaded function, the implementation will need to declare the combined call signature that you'll be handling, it won't be inferred for you. You can see readily see examples of overloads in DOM APIs, e.g. createElement.

Read more about Overloading in the Handbook.

Using Inferred Types

Leaning on TypeScript's Type Inference is great... until you realize you need a type that was inferred, and have to go back and explicitly declare types/interfaces so you can export them for reuse.

Fortunately, with typeof, you won't have to do that. Just use it on any value:

const [state, setState] = React.useState({
foo: 1,
bar: 2,
}); // state's type inferred to be {foo: number, bar: number}
const someMethod = (obj: typeof state) => {
// grabbing the type of state even though it was inferred
// some code using obj
setState(obj); // this works
};

Using Partial Types

Working with slicing state and props is common in React. Again, you don't really have to go and explicitly redefine your types if you use the Partial generic type:

const [state, setState] = React.useState({
foo: 1,
bar: 2,
}); // state's type inferred to be {foo: number, bar: number}
// NOTE: stale state merging is not actually encouraged in React.useState
// we are just demonstrating how to use Partial here
const partialStateUpdate = (obj: Partial<typeof state>) =>
setState({ ...state, ...obj });
// later on...
partialStateUpdate({ foo: 2 }); // this works
Minor caveats on using Partial

Note that there are some TS users who don't agree with using Partial as it behaves today. See subtle pitfalls of the above example here, and check out this long discussion on why @types/react uses Pick instead of Partial.

The Types I need weren't exported!

This can be annoying but here are ways to grab the types!

  • Grabbing the Prop types of a component: Use React.ComponentProps and typeof, and optionally Omit any overlapping types
import { Button } from "library"; // but doesn't export ButtonProps! oh no!
type ButtonProps = React.ComponentProps<typeof Button>; // no problem! grab your own!
type AlertButtonProps = Omit<ButtonProps, "onClick">; // modify
const AlertButton: React.FC<AlertButtonProps> = (props) => (
<Button onClick={() => alert("hello")} {...props} />
);

You may also use ComponentPropsWithoutRef (instead of ComponentProps) and ComponentPropsWithRef (if your component specifically forwards refs)

  • Grabbing the return type of a function: use ReturnType:
// inside some library - return type { baz: number } is inferred but not exported
function foo(bar: string) {
return { baz: 1 };
}
// inside your app, if you need { baz: number }
type FooReturn = ReturnType<typeof foo>; // { baz: number }

In fact you can grab virtually anything public: see this blogpost from Ivan Koshelev

function foo() {
return {
a: 1,
b: 2,
subInstArr: [
{
c: 3,
d: 4,
},
],
};
}
type InstType = ReturnType<typeof foo>;
type SubInstArr = InstType["subInstArr"];
type SubIsntType = SubInstArr[0];
let baz: SubIsntType = {
c: 5,
d: 6, // type checks ok!
};
//You could just write a one-liner,
//But please make sure it is forward-readable
//(you can understand it from reading once left-to-right with no jumps)
type SubIsntType2 = ReturnType<typeof foo>["subInstArr"][0];
let baz2: SubIsntType2 = {
c: 5,
d: 6, // type checks ok!
};
  • TS also ships with a Parameters utility type for extracting the parameters of a function
  • for anything more "custom", the infer keyword is the basic building block for this, but takes a bit of getting used to. Look at the source code for the above utility types, and this example to get the idea. Basarat also has a good video on infer.

The Types I need don't exist!

What's more annoying than modules with unexported types? Modules that are untyped!

Before you proceed - make sure you have checked that types don't exist in DefinitelyTyped or TypeSearch

Fret not! There are more than a couple of ways in which you can solve this problem.

Slapping any on everything

A lazier way would be to create a new type declaration file, say typedec.d.ts– if you don't already have one. Ensure that the path to file is resolvable by TypeScript by checking the include array in the tsconfig.json file at the root of your directory.

// inside tsconfig.json
{
// ...
"include": [
"src" // automatically resolves if the path to declaration is src/typedec.d.ts
]
// ...
}

Within this file, add the declare syntax for your desired module, say my-untyped-module– to the declaration file:

// inside typedec.d.ts
declare module "my-untyped-module";

This one-liner alone is enough if you just need it to work without errors. A even hackier, write-once-and-forget way would be to use "*" instead which would then apply the Any type for all existing and future untyped modules.

This solution works well as a workaround if you have less than a couple untyped modules. Anything more, you now have a ticking type-bomb in your hands. The only way of circumventing this problem would be to define the missing types for those untyped modules as explained in the following sections.

Autogenerate types

You can use TypeScript with --allowJs and --declaration to see TypeScript's "best guess" at the types of the library.

If this doesn't work well enough, use dts-gen to use the runtime shape of the object to accurately enumerate all available properties. This tends to be very accurate, BUT the tool does not yet support scraping JSDoc comments to populate additional types.

npm install -g dts-gen
dts-gen -m <your-module>

There are other automated JS to TS conversion tools and migration strategies - see our MIGRATION cheatsheet.

Typing Exported Hooks

Typing Hooks is just like typing pure functions.

The following steps work under two assumptions:

  • You have already created a type declaration file as stated earlier in the section.
  • You have access to the source code - specifically the code that directly exports the functions you will be using. In most cases, it would be housed in an index.js file. Typically you need a minimum of two type declarations (one for Input Prop and the other for Return Prop) to define a hook completely. Suppose the hook you wish to type follows the following structure,
// ...
const useUntypedHook = (prop) => {
// some processing happens here
return {
/* ReturnProps */
};
};
export default useUntypedHook;

then, your type declaration should most likely follow the following syntax.

declare module 'use-untyped-hook' {
export interface InputProps { ... } // type declaration for prop
export interface ReturnProps { ... } // type declaration for return props
export default function useUntypedHook(
prop: InputProps
// ...
): ReturnProps;
}

For instance, the useDarkMode hook exports the functions that follows a similar structure.

// inside src/index.js
const useDarkMode = (
initialValue = false, // -> input props / config props to be exported
{
// -> input props / config props to be exported
element,
classNameDark,
classNameLight,
onChange,
storageKey = "darkMode",
storageProvider,
global,
} = {}
) => {
// ...
return {
// -> return props to be exported
value: state,
enable: useCallback(() => setState(true), [setState]),
disable: useCallback(() => setState(false), [setState]),
toggle: useCallback(() => setState((current) => !current), [setState]),
};
};
export default useDarkMode;

As the comments suggest, exporting these config props and return props following the aforementioned structure will result in the following type export.

declare module "use-dark-mode" {
/**
* A config object allowing you to specify certain aspects of `useDarkMode`
*/
export interface DarkModeConfig {
classNameDark?: string; // A className to set "dark mode". Default = "dark-mode".
classNameLight?: string; // A className to set "light mode". Default = "light-mode".
element?: HTMLElement; // The element to apply the className. Default = `document.body`
onChange?: (val?: boolean) => void; // Overide the default className handler with a custom callback.
storageKey?: string; // Specify the `localStorage` key. Default = "darkMode". Set to `null` to disable persistent storage.
storageProvider?: WindowLocalStorage; // A storage provider. Default = `localStorage`.
global?: Window; // The global object. Default = `window`.
}
/**
* An object returned from a call to `useDarkMode`.
*/
export interface DarkMode {
readonly value: boolean;
enable: () => void;
disable: () => void;
toggle: () => void;
}
/**
* A custom React Hook to help you implement a "dark mode" component for your application.
*/
export default function useDarkMode(
initialState?: boolean,
config?: DarkModeConfig
): DarkMode;
}

Typing Exported Components

In case of typing untyped class components, there's almost no difference in approach except for the fact that after declaring the types, you export the extend the type using class UntypedClassComponent extends React.Component<UntypedClassComponentProps, any> {} where UntypedClassComponentProps holds the type declaration.

For instance, sw-yx's Gist on React Router 6 types implemented a similar method for typing the then untyped RR6.

declare module "react-router-dom" {
import * as React from 'react';
// ...
type NavigateProps<T> = {
to: string | number,
replace?: boolean,
state?: T
}
//...
export class Navigate<T = any> extends React.Component<NavigateProps<T>>{}
// ...

For more information on creating type definitions for class components, you can refer to this post for reference.