Using tsc as a Codebase Doctor

Introducing type-doc - a simple, opinionated tsc output parser

Posted on July 15, 2022

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So you're hacking along on a React Native project, when you get the dreaded "unknown module" red screen of death:

Red screen of death.

Ah, the classic and cryptic "requiring unknown module" error... Well, crap. It's 4 PM and you've been hacking along on that feature all day. It was just working, where did you go wrong? You've surely missed a small import somewhere, or Visual Studio Code imported the wrong library or something like that.. You look at git - over 20 files modified since last commit. Crap! Gotta hunt down that sour import by hand now...

Sound familiar? This is how I used to feel when first I started out with application development, especially with React Native where the errors from the Metro bundler can be so uninformative (what the heck even is module "28"?!).

Since adopting TypeScript for all React Native projects I work on, I slowly began to realize there is a much better way to hunt down these issues: simply issuing the tsc command.

tsc as Your Project's Type Doctor

While it's true we are always using TypeScript and IntelliSense directly in our files, it'd be nice if we could get a static overview of the entire project, right? In nearly all of my projects that use TypeScript, I have the following entry in my package.json:

"type-check": "tsc --noEmit"

Go ahead and try this command right now on your TypeScript projects, i.e. npm run type-check. If you're a true legend (or perhaps you've been cleanly building your project with TypeScript from scratch), this should produce no output. More realistically, however, if you've adopted a legacy JavaScript project, or have let in the entropy that is software development slowly crawl into your project, or heck, if you were just plain lazy you'll see anywhere from dozens to hundreds of lines of all the warnings that TypeScript has found.

(As a side note: ideally, this should be the first step in your testing pipeline, since tsc --noEmit will only return code 0 in bash if your project truly has no type errors or warnings. Then you can run in a series before running your tests, i.e. npm run type-check && npm run test)

Ok... but what about that original error? The red screen of death with the cryptic "requiring unknown module" error?

Now we can get fancy.

A good first test is to pipe the output from tsc to grep 'Cannot find module':

tsc --noEmit | grep 'Cannot find module'

An example output might look like this:

src/screens/MyScreen.tsx(19,20): error TS2307: Cannot find module './stylez' or its corresponding type declarations.

Aha! We've already found our issue. It was just a typo in our import! We misspelled styles with stylez. Problem solved.

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