The 30-second guide to publishing a TypeScript package to NPM

There's a few steps involved, but it's not too bad

· 2 min read · Last updated:
The logos for TypeScript and NPM next to a heart

You already have a library/package written in TypeScript that you’re ready to publish to NPM, but you still want all the types to work and you don’t want to commit compiled JS files. This article is for you 😘.

TLDR; you can see a simple example of this in action here: ccnokes/dom-event-utils

If you haven’t written your TS based package yet, no worries, just start with this: npm init -y and tsc --init. This generates a default package.json and tsconfig.json for you. Then, follow the steps below:

1. Add "declaration": true to the compilerOptions of your tsconfig.json

This tells TypeScript to emit an .d.ts definitions file along with your compiled JavaScript, which is what TypeScript will use for type checking. Note that at this point, when you run the TypeScript compiler, it will complain if you’re using a private type (i.e. not export-ed). This is because your types that are part of any public facing API (and that aren’t inline types) have to be exported so that users of your library can get type checking goodness. They don’t need to be in a separate file or anything, they just need that export keyword in front of them.

2. Add "types": "index.d.ts" to your package.json

When other people import your library, this tells the TypeScript compiler where to look for your library’s types. The filename of your .d.ts file will be the same as your main entry point. So, for example in your package.json you’ll want to have something like this in there:

"main": "dist/index.js",
"types": "dist/index.d.ts",

(This also assumes your outDir in tsconfig is a folder named dist).

3. .gitignore and .npmignore

We don’t want to track compiled JavaScript files in our git repository, so add dist to the .gitignore file. We do, however, want them sent to NPM when we publish, so create an empty .npmignore file. If you don’t have an .npmignore, NPM will automatically exclude gitignored files from being published. Having an npmignore file overwrites this behavior. You can read more about .npmignore here.

4. Run your build

Run tsc and whatever else to compile all your files. It might be a good idea to add a prepublish script to your package.json. Something like: "prepublish": "tsc".

Before you first publish something, it can sometimes be a good idea to run npm pack, which locally generates a tarball of everything that will get sent to and published on NPM. This way, you can verify that everything you’re publishing is correct.

If you want to verify that it works functionally before you publish (this is a good idea), then in your package root, run npm link. Then go to another folder and npm link <your package name>. Go into a .ts file and import your package by name (just like you would normally if you had npm installed it). You should see your types coming through in your editor.

5. Run npm publish

Boom! You just published a TypeScript based NPM package that interops seamlessly with TypeScript and JavaScript.

Here’s what your final package.json might look like:

Here’s what your final tsconfig.json might look like: