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Using React JSX with TypeScript


In the last months, we experienced with React and we enjoyed it a lot. As you may know, all Coveo’s web applications are built using TypeScript, so with the release of TypeScript 1.6 announcing support for React JSX syntax, we were stoked!

In this article, I’ll introduce you on how to start a new project using TypeScript, JSX and React and show you some tools we use to simplify our development.

EDIT:This article was updated on June 6, 2016 to use typings instead of tsd since it is now deprecated in favor of typings.

EDIT2: Please note that *typings* is not required anymore and may not work since a recent typescript update (2.0) made type definitions available in npm and auto discovered by the typescript compiler via node_modules

Initial setup with npm

First we’ll setup our project with npm init. For this project we need node, typescript, typings, and react. Let’s install them:

npm install typescript -g
npm install typings -g

npm install react --save

Second, let’s make sure we have TypeScript compiler 1.6 or later:

tsc --version

You should see an output similar to:

message TS6029: Version 1.6.2

TypeScript definitions with typings

We’re almost ready to start coding, but we’ll need the React definitions. We already installed typings which is a package manager to search and install TypeScript definition files directly from the community driven repositories. Most definitions are from DefinitelyTyped. DefinitelyTyped is a great project and we try to contribute as much as we can. It will allow us to download the latest definitions for React and other libraries. Like we did with npm, we need to initialize a “typings” project by running :

typings init

This will create a typings.json file (similar to a package.json but refering to our TypeScript definitions), a typings/ folder to store the definitions and a index.d.ts referencing all our downloaded definitions.

We can now install the needed definitions:

EDIT: Since typescript 2.0 you can do

npm install @types/react
npm install @types/...
typings install dt~react --global --save
typings install dt~react-dom --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-create-fragment --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-css-transition-group --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-linked-state-mixin --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-perf --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-pure-render-mixin --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-test-utils --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-transition-group --global --save
typings install dt~react-addons-update --global --save
typings install dt~react-global --global --save

This downloads the definitions to our typings folder, saves the commit hash to the typings.json and updates the typings/index.d.ts.

Our typings.json should contain something like :

  "dependencies": {},
  "globalDependencies": {
    "react": "registry:dt/react#0.14.0+20160602151522",
    "react-addons-create-fragment": "registry:dt/react-addons-create-fragment#0.14.0+20160316155526",
    "react-addons-css-transition-group": "registry:dt/react-addons-css-transition-group#0.14.0+20160316155526",
    "react-addons-linked-state-mixin": "registry:dt/react-addons-linked-state-mixin#0.14.0+20160316155526",
    "react-addons-perf": "registry:dt/react-addons-perf#0.14.0+20160316155526",
    "react-addons-pure-render-mixin": "registry:dt/react-addons-pure-render-mixin#0.14.0+20160316155526",
    "react-addons-test-utils": "registry:dt/react-addons-test-utils#0.14.0+20160427035638",
    "react-addons-transition-group": "registry:dt/react-addons-transition-group#0.14.0+20160417134118",
    "react-addons-update": "registry:dt/react-addons-update#0.14.0+20160316155526",
    "react-dom": "registry:dt/react-dom#0.14.0+20160412154040",
    "react-global": "registry:dt/react-global#0.14.0+20160316155526"

And the typings/index.d.ts should contain:

/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-create-fragment/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-css-transition-group/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-linked-state-mixin/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-perf/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-pure-render-mixin/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-test-utils/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-transition-group/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-addons-update/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-dom/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react-global/index.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="globals/react/index.d.ts" />

Let’s code

Create a file named HelloWorld.tsx. Notice the .tsx extension, this is needed for TypeScript to enable JSX syntax support.

/// <reference path="./typings/index.d.ts" />

class HelloWorld extends React.Component<any, any> {
  render() {
    return <div>Hello world!</div>

We first reference to our TypeScript definitions that we setup in the previous step. We then import React module using the ES6 module import syntax and then, we declare our first component using react!

Compiling to JavaScript

TypeScript 1.6 has a new flag to enable JSX support, we need to enable it. Compile HelloWorld.tsx to JS by running:

tsc --jsx react --module commonjs HelloWorld.tsx

This will produce HelloWorld.js

But, you might not want to remember all those flags, let’s save our compiler configuration to a tsconfig.json. The tsconfig.json file specifies the root files and the compiler options required to compile the project. For more details refer to the official documentation.

  "compilerOptions": {
    "jsx": "react",
    "module": "commonjs",
    "noImplicitAny": false,
    "removeComments": true,
    "preserveConstEnums": true,
    "outDir": "dist",
    "sourceMap": true,
    "target": "ES5"
  "files": [

We can now run tsc in our project folder to produce the same result. Notice that we include the typings/index.d.ts file, so we won’t need to reference it in all our files.

Finishing touches

Let’s explore a little deeper on how to render our HelloWorld component and pass typed props.

Let’s improve our HelloWorld component by adding firstname and lastname props and typing them with an interface. Then, let’s render it! This will allow us to be notified at compile time if a prop is missing or is the wrong type!

class HelloWorldProps {
  public firstname: string;
  public lastname: string;

class HelloWorld extends React.Component<HelloWorldProps, any> {
  render() {
    return <div>
      Hello {this.props.firstname} {this.props.lastname}!


Compile once again with tsc. Then let’s finish by importing everything in an index.html file:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <title>React TypeScript Demo</title>
    <div id="app"></div>

    <script src=""></script>
    <script src=""></script>
    <script src="HelloWorld.js"></script>

Open index.html in your browser and you should see

Hello John Smith!

That’s it! You’ve created your first TypeScript React project. Hope you enjoy developing with it as much as we do!

Note that i’ve intentionally left webpack out of this tutorial to keep it short but as your project grows to more than one file, a module loader will be necessary.