Alternate ways to handle deep types in libraries

July 30, 2021 by Colby M. White

Take the following scenario in a typescript library we'll call foo-lib.

import { LibAType } from 'libA';
import { LibBType } from 'libB';

interface FooType {
foo: number;

const libAObject: LibAType = { a: 0 };
const libBObject: LibBType = { b: 1 };
const anObject: FooType = { foo: 2 };
export const FOO: MyType & LibAType & LibBType = Object.assign(anObject, libAObject, libBObject);

You've got your own type (FooType), two types from other libraries (LibAType, LibBType), and you're exporting a constant that is a union of all three types. And you yourself are a library.

Now let's take the following scenario of how your consumer may use your library.

import { FOO } from 'foo-lib';

interface ConsumerType {
consumer: number;

const consumerObject: ConsumerType = { consumer: 4 };

export const consumerConst: FooType & LibAType & LibBType & ConsumerType = Object.assign(FOO, consumerObject);

The consumer has their own type ConsumerType and is trying to build a constant that is a union if its own type (FooType) and the type of the exported constant (FOO) from foo-lib.

Note that in order to properly and explicitly declare the type for consumerConst, you need to reference LibAType and LibBType, but you can't import those types because they're transitive dependencies. Thus this wouldn't compile properly.

So how do we solve? I see two solutions.

typeof in the consumer

export const consumerConst: FooType & typeof FOO = Object.assign(FOO, consumerObject);

This is succinct and avoids the library having to do anything.

Explicit type in the library

In the library:

export type MyInnerType = MyType & LibAType & LibBType;
export const FOO: MyInnerType = Object.assign(anObject, libAObject, libBObject);

In the consumer:

import { MyInnerType } from 'foo-lib';

export const consumerConst: FooType & MyInnerType = Object.assign(FOO, consumerObject);

This puts an extra line of work on the library to explicitly declare a type of FOO, but now the consumer doesn't need to know about the inner workings of the deep libraries.

I think I prefer tha explicit type scenario, but it's six of one, half of a dozen. The explicit type is effectively doing what typeof does for you under the covers. 🤷