TypeScript Compilation Config (tsconfig.json) Tutorial

In this TypeScript tutorial we learn about the tsconfig.json file that specifies the compiler options for a project.

We cover how to create this file in your project and how to add and change properties. We also cover including and excluding files from the compilation process.

What is the TypeScript Compilation Config

The compilation config file is a JSON file, called ‘tsconfig.json’, that specifies various compiler options required to compile a single project.

It also indicates that the directory the file is in, is the root directory of the project.

When we compile scripts, or a whole project, the compiler will look for this file and take its options into account. It’s similar to adding multiple compiler flags to the compile command.

How to create and populate a tsconfig.json

TypeScript has a handy command that will create, and populate, a ‘tsconfig.json’ file for us.

Navigate to the root folder of your project in your terminal/command prompt/powershell and run the following command.

 tsc --init
  "compilerOptions": {
    /* Basic Options */
    // "incremental": true,                   /* Enable incremental compilation */
    "target": "es5",                          /* Specify ECMAScript target version: 'ES3' (default), 'ES5', 'ES2015', 'ES2016', 'ES2017', 'ES2018', 'ES2019' or 'ESNEXT'. */
    "module": "commonjs",                     /* Specify module code generation: 'none', 'commonjs', 'amd', 'system', 'umd', 'es2015', or 'ESNext'. */
    // "lib": [],                             /* Specify library files to be included in the compilation. */
    // "allowJs": true,                       /* Allow javascript files to be compiled. */
    // "checkJs": true,                       /* Report errors in .js files. */
    // "jsx": "preserve",                     /* Specify JSX code generation: 'preserve', 'react-native', or 'react'. */
    // "declaration": true,                   /* Generates corresponding '.d.ts' file. */
    // "declarationMap": true,                /* Generates a sourcemap for each corresponding '.d.ts' file. */
    // "sourceMap": true,                     /* Generates corresponding '.map' file. */
    // "outFile": "./",                       /* Concatenate and emit output to single file. */
    // "outDir": "./",                        /* Redirect output structure to the directory. */
    // "rootDir": "./",                       /* Specify the root directory of input files. Use to control the output directory structure with --outDir. */
    // "composite": true,                     /* Enable project compilation */
    // "tsBuildInfoFile": "./",               /* Specify file to store incremental compilation information */
    // "removeComments": true,                /* Do not emit comments to output. */
    // "noEmit": true,                        /* Do not emit outputs. */
    // "importHelpers": true,                 /* Import emit helpers from 'tslib'. */
    // "downlevelIteration": true,            /* Provide full support for iterables in 'for-of', spread, and destructuring when targeting 'ES5' or 'ES3'. */
    // "isolatedModules": true,               /* Transpile each file as a separate module (similar to 'ts.transpileModule'). */

    /* Strict Type-Checking Options */
    "strict": true,                           /* Enable all strict type-checking options. */
    // "noImplicitAny": true,                 /* Raise error on expressions and declarations with an implied 'any' type. */
    // "strictNullChecks": true,              /* Enable strict null checks. */
    // "strictFunctionTypes": true,           /* Enable strict checking of function types. */
    // "strictBindCallApply": true,           /* Enable strict 'bind', 'call', and 'apply' methods on functions. */
    // "strictPropertyInitialization": true,  /* Enable strict checking of property initialization in classes. */
    // "noImplicitThis": true,                /* Raise error on 'this' expressions with an implied 'any' type. */
    // "alwaysStrict": true,                  /* Parse in strict mode and emit "use strict" for each source file. */

    /* Additional Checks */
    // "noUnusedLocals": true,                /* Report errors on unused locals. */
    // "noUnusedParameters": true,            /* Report errors on unused parameters. */
    // "noImplicitReturns": true,             /* Report error when not all code paths in function return a value. */
    // "noFallthroughCasesInSwitch": true,    /* Report errors for fallthrough cases in switch statement. */

    /* Module Resolution Options */
    // "moduleResolution": "node",            /* Specify module resolution strategy: 'node' (Node.js) or 'classic' (TypeScript pre-1.6). */
    // "baseUrl": "./",                       /* Base directory to resolve non-absolute module names. */
    // "paths": {},                           /* A series of entries which re-map imports to lookup locations relative to the 'baseUrl'. */
    // "rootDirs": [],                        /* List of root folders whose combined content represents the structure of the project at runtime. */
    // "typeRoots": [],                       /* List of folders to include type definitions from. */
    // "types": [],                           /* Type declaration files to be included in compilation. */
    // "allowSyntheticDefaultImports": true,  /* Allow default imports from modules with no default export. This does not affect code emit, just typechecking. */
    "esModuleInterop": true,                  /* Enables emit interoperability between CommonJS and ES Modules via creation of namespace objects for all imports. Implies 'allowSyntheticDefaultImports'. */
    // "preserveSymlinks": true,              /* Do not resolve the real path of symlinks. */
    // "allowUmdGlobalAccess": true,          /* Allow accessing UMD globals from modules. */

    /* Source Map Options */
    // "sourceRoot": "",                      /* Specify the location where debugger should locate TypeScript files instead of source locations. */
    // "mapRoot": "",                         /* Specify the location where debugger should locate map files instead of generated locations. */
    // "inlineSourceMap": true,               /* Emit a single file with source maps instead of having a separate file. */
    // "inlineSources": true,                 /* Emit the source alongside the sourcemaps within a single file; requires '--inlineSourceMap' or '--sourceMap' to be set. */

    /* Experimental Options */
    // "experimentalDecorators": true,        /* Enables experimental support for ES7 decorators. */
    // "emitDecoratorMetadata": true,         /* Enables experimental support for emitting type metadata for decorators. */

    /* Advanced Options */
    "forceConsistentCasingInFileNames": true  /* Disallow inconsistently-cased references to the same file. */

We can simply uncomment any option we want to include, or comment out an option we want to exclude.

We can also change some of the options in the file. For instance, the target option can be set to “ES2019” to allow us to use the latest Javascript features.

How to include and exclude files from a project

If we have a small number of files we want to add to the config, we can use the files property and specify them individually.

  "compilerOptions": {
    "files": [

If we have a large number of files, we use the include property, which allows us to take an array pattern to add a list of .ts files to the compilation process.

  "include": ["src/**", "tests/**"]

The example above will include everything inside the ‘src’ and ‘tests’ directories.

We can exclude files in the same way with the exclude property.

  "exclude": ["node_modules", "**/*.spec.ts"]

Further reading

There are too many options to include in this tutorial, but you can find all the tsconfig.json options in the Official TypeScript Documentation .