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How to TypeScriptify a Purely JavaScript NativeScript Project

You've been building your NativeScript app using pure JavaScript. Maybe ES2015 or ES2017, then you're transpiling to ES5 at build time. And…

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You've been building your NativeScript app using pure JavaScript. Maybe ES2015 or ES2017, then you're transpiling to ES5 at build time. And now, after hearing about how amazing TypeScript is, and "everybody's doing it", you're finally ready to take the next step into TypeScript; you're ready to TypeScriptify your NativeScript project.


This is not difficult to do. Just follow the simple steps outlined here. You can even see me doing all this in the video below.


Step 1

Open the package.json file in the root of your NativeScript project. It will likely be pretty simple and not have any TypeScript related dependencies or devDependencies.

Perhaps it will look like this:

{
  "description": "NativeScript Application",
  "license": "SEE LICENSE IN <your-license-filename>",
  "readme": "NativeScript Application",
  "repository": "<fill-your-repository-here>",
  "nativescript": {
    "id": "org.nativescript.myjsproj"
  },
  "dependencies": {
    "nativescript-theme-core": "~1.0.4",
    "tns-core-modules": "~4.1.0"
  }
}

The file above is really simple because this is what an initial package.json file looks like when you create a brand new NativeScript JavaScript project using the command:

tns create myjsproj

You might already have a bunch of other dependencies and devDependencies listed, if you're converting an existing project that's anything other than a Hello World project.

Nonetheless, the next step is the same.

Step 2

If not already present, add the devDependencies section in your package.json file, and add the most recent nativescript-dev-typescript npm package to that section. TypeScript itself, any typings, and the NativeScript plugin for TypeScript are all development time artifacts, they are not present at runtime, and thus they all go into the devDependencies section.

{
  "description": "NativeScript Application",
  "license": "SEE LICENSE IN <your-license-filename>",
  "readme": "NativeScript Application",
  "repository": "<fill-your-repository-here>",
  "nativescript": {
    "id": "org.nativescript.myjsproj"
  },
  "dependencies": {
    "nativescript-theme-core": "~1.0.4",
    "tns-core-modules": "~4.1.0"
  },
  "devDependencies": {
    "nativescript-dev-typescript": "0.7.2"
  }
}

Step 3

You can now run your project using

tns run ios

OR

tns run android

This will automatically detect that the nativescript-dev-typescript package is missing, install the package, also install a local instance of TypeScript, and then run your app. Your app will now be a TypeScript app, so you can just add new TypeScript files and keep writing your app using TypeScript methodologies.

There are two other things you will notice:

  1. There is a new tsconfig.json file in your project folder, preconfigured for a NativeScript TypeScript project.
  2. There is a new entry in the devDependencies section in the package.json file, it's a local version of TypeScript.

Step 4

If you want to convert your existing JavaScript files to TypeScript, you can rename all the existing JavaScript files to TypeScript files just by changing the file extension from .js to .ts.


This should just work, unless you have some global function or variable names that are the same in multiple files (as is the case with the hello world template - see the video below on the fix for this).


Then you can gradually start introducing type annotations into your old JavaScript files, one at a time now (because you're a cautious developer, right?).


You can also start using other TypeScript goodies like exporting functions directly instead of having to add a new property on the exports object of each module. See the video for an example of this.

Step 5

Watch this video.




Go convert some JavaScript to TypeScript!



For more video tutorials about NativeScript, look at our courses on NativeScripting.com. The latest Hands-on UI course is a pretty popular starting point for those starting out learning NativeScript and how to work with UI.

Let me know if you enjoyed this short tutorial on Twitter: @digitalix, and what else you'd like to see in these tutorials.


Alex lives in Washington, DC. He's a speaker, trainer, and a Telerik Developer Expert. He's been invloved in NativeScript projects since 2015 and has created courses for Pluralsight and LinkedIn.

Learn something new. Take control of your career.