Starting a new book on TypeScript

It’s Saturday morning and it’s raining in New York City. There is not much you can do. Why not start writing a new book? The agreement with the publisher is signed, and my colleague Anton Moiseev kindly agreed to be my co-author again. The book will have a title Get Programming with TypeScript, and its first chapters have to be released in August.

In this blog, I’ll show you the first two pages that I just wrote as well as a table of contents (subject to change). Besides introducing the code samples illustrating the syntax of the language, we’ll be developing a blockchain app using TypeScript in different environments: in Node.js, in the browser without frameworks, with Angular, with React… Meanwhile, the first two pages are ready.

Unit 1. Getting started with TypeScript

This unit starts with presenting the benefits of programming in TypeScript over JavaScript. Then we’ll install the TypeScript compiler and the IDE, and you’ll learn about the process of transforming a TypeScript program into its JavaScript equivalent that can be run in any JavaScript engine. After that, you’ll see how various TypeScript types can be used in a program. In the hands-on section, we’ll introduce you to the blockchain project and will develop a library that will be used in subsequent units.

We’d like to make a clear distinction between the syntax introduced in ECMAScript specification, and the syntax that’s unique to TypeScript. That’s why we recommend you to read the Appendix A first, so you know where ECMAScript ends and TypeScript begins.

Why program in TypeScript

TypeScript is a compile-to-JavaScript language. It’s also a superset JavaScript, which means that you can take any JavaScript file, e.g. myProgram.js, change its name extension from .js to .ts, and the file myProgram.ts becomes a valid TypeScript program without changing a single line of code.

The word superset means that it contains something additional compared to the set. The main addition to the JavaScript is static types. You can declare a variable of a certain type, and any attempt to assign a value of a different type to it results in a compilation error. This is not the case in JavaScript, where you can change the type of a variable anytime you want during runtime.

But web browsers don’t support TypeScript and this won’t change in the foreseeable future. The program written in TypeScript has to be transpiled into JavaScript first, and then it can be executed in the browser or a standalone JavaScript engine.

The difference between transpiling and compiling is that the latter turns the source code of a program into a bytecode or machine code, whereas the former converts the program from one language to another, e.g. from TypeScript to JavaScript.

Then why go through a hassle of writing a program in TypeScript and then transpiling it into JavaScript, if you could write this program in JavaScript in the first place?

In essence, TypeScript is JavaScript with static types. For example, if you declare a variable as a string, trying to assign a numeric value to it will result in the compile-time error.

let customerId: string
customerId = 123;  // compile-time error

In JavaSript, you can’t explicitly assign the type to a variable, and you could write

let customerId = "A15BN";
customerId = 123;  // no errors 

Let’s write a JavaScript function that applies the provided discount to a price. It has two arguments and both must be numbers.

function getFinalPrice(price, discount) {
  return price - price/discount;
}

How do you know that the arguments must be numbers? First of all, you wrote this function and having an exceptional memory, you may just remember all types of all functions arguments. Secondly, you use descriptive names of the arguments that hint their types. Thirdly, you could guess the types by reading the function code.

This is a pretty simple function, which is not always the case. But let’s say someone (not you) would invoke this function by providing a discount as a string, this function would print NaN during the runtime.

console.log(getFinalPrice( 100, 10));    // prints 90
console.log(getFinalPrice( 100, "10%")); // prints NaN

In TypeScript, you could provide the types for the function arguments, so if someone would try to invoke the function with a wrong type of an argument, this error would be caught as you were typing. Let’s see it in action.

The official TypeScript web page is located here. It offers the language documentation and a playground, where you could enter the code snippets in TypeScript, which would be immediately transpiled into JavaScript.

Follow this link https://bit.ly/2IyVNlj, and you’ll see our code snippet in the TypeScript playground, with the squiggly red line under “10%”. If you hover the mouse over the erroneous code, you’ll see a prompt explaining the error as shown below.

This error was caught by the TypeScript static code analyzer as I was typing. Moreover, if you specify the variable types, your IDE would offer the auto-complete feature suggesting you the argument names and types of the getFinalPrice() function.

Isn’t it nice that the errors are caught during the compile time? I think so. The vast majority of the developers with the background in such languages as Java, C++, C# and others take it for granted that the errors are caught during compile time, and they welcome TypeScript.

Having said that, I need to admit that some of the hard-core JavaScript developers say that TypeScript slows them down by requiring to use types, and in JavaScript, they’d be more productive. But the majority of the web developers are not JavaScript ninjas and can appreciate a helping hand offered by TypeScript.

This is all I got so far.

Below is the current version of the Table of Contents.

Unit 1: Getting started with TypeScript
1.1 Why developing in TypeScript
1.2 Installing and using the TypeScript compiler
1.3 Introducing the Visual Studio Code IDE
1.4 Getting familiar with TypeScript syntax
1.4.1 Type annotations and inferred types
1.5. Hands-on: Starting the blockchain project
1.5.1 Introducing the blockchain project
1.5.2 Developing a library that implements a mining algorithm

Unit 2 Classes and interfaces
2.1 Classes
2.1.1 Instance and static methods
2.1.2 Properties and access modifiers public, private, protected
2.1.3 Constructors
2.1.4 Abstract classes
2.2 Interfaces
2.2.1 Declaring custom types with interfaces
2.2.2 Interface as a contract
2.2.3 Declaring types with classes vs interfaces
2.3 Hands-on: Developing browser-based blockchain node with TypeScript
2.3.1 Working with DOM elements
2.3.2 Making AJAX requests
2.3.3 Implementing the blockchain node for

Unit 3 Generics
3.1 Intro to Generics
3.2 Creating custom generics
3.3 Hands-on: Developing Angular client for the browser-based blockchain node
3.3.1 Brief overview of Angular
3.3.2 Creating a new app with Angular CLI
3.3.3 Generating Angular components and services
3.3.4 Implementing the blockchain node in Angular

Unit 4 Tooling
4.1 Improving code quality with TSLint
4.2 Bundling the TypeScript code with Webpack
4.4 Debugging TypeScript in the browser
4.5 Unit testing TypeScript code
4.7 Hands-on: Developing React client for the browser-based blockchain node
4.7.1 Brief overview of React
4.7.2 Transpiling TypeScript with Babel
4.7.3 Creating a React app for the blockchain node

Unit 5 Advanced types
5.1 Unions, intersections, and the type keyword
5.2 Enums
5.3 Mapped types
5.4 Conditional types
5.5. Hands-on: Developing a server for discovering blockchain nodes in the network

Unit 6 Advanced TypeScript features
6.1 Decorators
6.1.1 Creating custom decorators
6.2 Mixins
6.3 Dynamic imports
6.4 Hands-on: Implementing peer-to-peer blockchain nodes communication
6.4.1 Introducing WebRTC
6.4.2 Implementing nodes communication via WebRTC

Appendix A Modern JavaScript
A.1 The keywords let and const
A.2 Functions
A.2.1 Default and optional function parameters
A.2.2 Fat arrow function expressions
A.3 Classes and inheritance
A.4. Asynchronous programming
A.4.1 From callbacks to promises
A.4.2 async and await
A.5 Destructuring
A.6 The Spread operator
A.6.1 Cloning objects with the Spread operator
A.7 The Rest operator
A.8 Iterating data collections

Appendix B Using TypeScript with JavaScript libraries
B.1 Type declaration files
B.1.1 How to create type declaration files
B.2 Using the JavaScript lodash library in TypeScript code

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