TypeScript and React: Secrets of a Happy Marriage

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TypeScript and React are inseparable. What's the secret to their successful union? Quite a lot of surprisingly strange code. Learn why useRef always feels weird, how to wrangle generics in custom hooks, and how union types can transform your components.

Matt Pocock
Matt Pocock
21 min
24 Oct, 2022

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Video Summary and Transcription

React and TypeScript have a strong relationship, with TypeScript offering benefits like better type checking and contract enforcement. Failing early and failing hard is important in software development to catch errors and debug effectively. TypeScript provides early detection of errors and ensures data accuracy in components and hooks. It offers superior type safety but can become complex as the codebase grows. Using union types in props can resolve errors and address dependencies. Dynamic communication and type contracts can be achieved through generics. Understanding React's built-in types and hooks like useState and useRef is crucial for leveraging their functionality.

1. Introduction to React and TypeScript

Short description:

React and TypeScript are like star-crossed lovers. Many people enter a honeymoon period with React and TypeScript, but they eventually realize that some things don't click. However, there is a secret to a happy marriage between React and TypeScript. TypeScript is enormously popular in the React community, and it offers benefits that JSX files and prop types don't provide. TypeScript provides better type checking, auto-complete, and enforces contracts at the component level. It also works seamlessly with React hooks, which are essential in modern React development.

♪♪ Two houses, both alike in dignity, in fair VS code, where we lay our scene. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life. React and TypeScript, star-crossed lovers, I believe. You know, I think they're soulmates. But a lot of people, they get into a honeymoon period with React and TypeScript, put them together, and they start to realize some things don't really click. And they never quite fulfill the relationship and never quite make it to old age.

So I want to tell you the secret of a happy marriage between React and TypeScript, how to kind of survive the honeymoon period and the disappointment afterwards. I am the Rodney Molinow TypeScript, apparently. That's my sort of tagline on Twitter. That's how everyone knows me. I'm mattpoco.uk on Twitter. I'm building a course called totaltypescript.com, which looks fricking amazing. Look at all these illustrations, which is going to cover like a huge amount of TypeScript, hopefully all of it, basically, from all the beginner stuff to all the advanced stuff. And I also work at Vassell on a different product called TurboRepo, which is real good too.

So why would you use TypeScript in React? Like why not just use JSX? Well, like there must be something to this because TypeScript is enormously popular. And if you're building a React app at the moment, you're either choosing to use TypeScript or you're probably choosing not to use TypeScript. But TypeScript is always in the conversation. So why wouldn't you just use like JSX files? Well, there's a page on the React docs, which is like basically type checking in React. And it's using something called prop types. And prop types, you're basically able to give a component, a kind of interface to say this is how you're supposed to call that component. And not bad. I mean, like if you use this and if you like say, okay, I want to use this input here then it actually does give you some auto-complete on like the name here. And if I change this to like ID, I'll get auto-complete on the ID too. So it's not terrible, but it's also kind of like, when you look at TypeScript, you ain't gonna look at this again. The next thing is like, like it doesn't really enforce a contract at the component level. It gives you some hints and it allows you to sort of, it sort of documents what it does a little bit, but prop types doesn't actually really error. It just kind of throws up an error into the console. And if you're not looking at the console, then you're not really going to see any of this stuff. It also doesn't work with hooks either. And hooks are kind of like the main currency of React since they dropped.

2. Importance of Failing Early and Failing Hard

Short description:

Failing in the console is too late. You want to catch errors as soon as possible. Failing early makes it easier to debug and extract the error. Failing hard means not ignoring errors. It's important to fail early and fail hard.

And failing in the console is really too late for a failure. Like you really want to get that error as soon as possible. And if you're not checking the console, then you might just push that code out to production and it might kind of fail. And the reason this is, is that you always want to fail earlier. The earlier you fail, the easier it is to see what happened. Because if you fail too late and that error and that bad sort of thing, like that bad bit of data that you pass into your component kind of goes through your system, then it's really, really hard to debug it. It's kind of like it's buried into your system and you've got to extract it out. And the harder you fail, then the harder it is to ignore too. If you're just sort of throwing up an error in the console, then that's not going to do the job really. Ideally, you want to fail early and fail hard, just like my mama always said.

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