Spoiled by TypeScript

TypeScript is a gradually typed programming language. It’s based on JavaScript, and destined for easy migration, so you can statically type the parts of your code you care about, and leave other, less critical parts, dynamically typed.

That’s the obvious side of gradual typing. I’m more interested in the other side. With the compiler option strict: true, we can write TypeScript which is entirely statically typed, but the gains from gradual typing don’t end here.

What’s unapparent for many who connect static typing with strong typing, TypeScript often lets you type your code stronger than Java, C# or C++, languages that were statically typed from the beginning. By stronger, I mean closer to your intent or business domain.

Why is it so? Well, that’s quite funny if you think about it.

TypeScript needs to deal with JavaScript’s bullshit.

You know JavaScript. It’s expressive, it works everywhere, tons of people of different backgrounds are using it. It’s also quirky. It has some bad parts.

javascript bad parts

To create a language allowing to statically type idiomatic JavaScript is a challenge, because popular JavaScript idioms are seldom possible to express conveniently in a conventional statically typed language.

Think of accessing a deeply nested value by a dotted path.

const x = { a: { b: { c: "banana" } } };

get(x, "a.b.c") === "banana";

Typing get as (object, string) -> unknown is clearly inconvenient. I want to know that get(x, 'a.d') is incorrect without leaving my editor, and I want to know that get(x, 'a.b') is { c: string } or even { c: 'banana' }.

Why would you need such a weird API if you can just write x.a.b.c (or x?.a?.b?.c ?? 'default' to handle missing value)? It’s quite convenient for embedded styling DSLs and similar declarative constructs.

<p css={{ color: "primary.500", bgColor: "gray.200" }}>Hello world!</p>

Template literal types come to the rescue here.

This is of course, not the only interesting case. Have a highly dynamic function which returned typed differs greatly based on input? Generics are not sufficient? Conditional types have got your back.

While its simple type inference, the lack of pattern matching and the lack of higher kinded types (you can fake them with a hack, see fp-ts) may discourage typed functional programming enthusiasts, TypeScript has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to domain modeling capabilities.

Sum types, product types, mapping over types. TypeScript has got it all, and it adds a bunch of unique features needed to statically type idiomatic JavaScript.

This is a language that can spoil you. It certainly spoiled me. Many languages I use feel… “less powerful” now.

The important question is: do you need powerful language features to build good, reliable software?

I wouldn’t say so.

There are many TypeScript Exercises and Challenges to learn these unique and strange features.