TypeScript Configuration Files: Best Practices and Essentials

TypeScript Configuration Files: Best Practices and Essentials


TypeScript’s rise in popularity is partly owed to its ability to enhance JavaScript with strong typing and object-oriented features. Central to leveraging TypeScript’s capabilities is the TypeScript configuration file, commonly known as tsconfig.json.

This file is crucial for defining how the TypeScript compiler behaves. This article explores the purpose, essential configurations, and best practices for managing tsconfig.json files in TypeScript projects.

Why TypeScript Configuration Files are Needed

  • Customization: TypeScript offers many compiler options tailored to suit specific project needs. These settings include how the code is compiled, which files are included, and how strict the type-checking should be.
  • Consistency: A tsconfig.json file ensures that every member of the team, as well as the build processes, use the same compiler settings, leading to consistent outputs and fewer “works on my machine” issues.
  • Project Structure: It defines the structure by specifying root files and the compiler options needed to compile the project.

Essential Options in tsconfig.json

  1. compilerOptions: The heart of tsconfig.json, where you define how the code should be compiled. Key options include:
    • target: Sets the JavaScript version to compile to (e.g., es5, es6).
    • module: Defines the module system used (e.g., CommonJS, ES6).
    • strict: Enables a strict type-checking mode for better type safety.
    • outDir: Specifies the output directory for compiled files.
  2. include and exclude: Define which files are included in or excluded from the compilation process. Useful for omitting test files or third-party libraries.
  3. files: If you want to explicitly specify a set of files to be included in the compilation.

Best Practices for Managing tsconfig.json

  1. Start with Strict Compiler Options: Enable strict type-checking options like strict or noImplicitAny. This practice encourages better coding standards and catches potential bugs early.
  2. Fine-Tune for the Project’s Needs: Customize the compiler options based on the project’s requirements. For instance, a Node.js project might use CommonJS modules, whereas a front-end project might use ES6 modules.
  3. Extend Base Configuration for Large Projects: In large projects with multiple sub-projects, create a base tsconfig.json at the root, and extend it in subdirectories. This keeps configurations consistent while allowing for flexibility.
  4. Exclude Unnecessary Files: Use exclude to prevent the compiler from including test files, build scripts, or other non-essential files.
  5. Keep Up with TypeScript Updates: Regularly update the TypeScript version and the tsconfig.json file to leverage new features and improvements in the language.

      // Sub-project specific options 


Here is an example of one of my config files: –

  "compilerOptions": {
    /* Basic Options */
    "target": "es6",                     // Specify ECMAScript target version
    "module": "commonjs",                // Specify module code generation
    "lib": ["dom", "es6", "dom.iterable", "scripthost"], // Specify library files to be included in the compilation
    "allowJs": true,                     // Allow JavaScript files to be compiled
    "outDir": "./dist",                  // Redirect output structure to the directory
    "rootDir": "./src",                  // Specify the root directory of input files
    "removeComments": true,              // Do not emit comments to output
    "noEmitOnError": true,               // Do not emit outputs if any errors were reported

    /* 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,// Ensure non-undefined class properties are initialized in the constructor

    /* 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",          // Choose the module resolution strategy
    "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'
      "*": ["node_modules/*", "src/types/*"]

    /* Source Map Options */
    "sourceMap": true,                   // Generates corresponding '.map' file

    /* Experimental Options */
    "experimentalDecorators": true,      // Enables experimental support for ES7 decorators
    "emitDecoratorMetadata": true        // Enables experimental support for emitting type metadata for decorators
  "include": [
    "src/**/*"                           // Include all files in the src directory
  "exclude": [
    "node_modules",                      // Exclude the node_modules directory
    "**/*.spec.ts"                       // Exclude test files


The tsconfig.json file is a powerful tool in a TypeScript developer’s arsenal. It provides fine-grained control over the TypeScript compiler, influencing the project’s structure, compilation process, and overall coding experience.

By understanding and implementing best practices in managing this configuration file, developers can harness the full potential of TypeScript, leading to more robust, maintainable, and efficient codebases.

Whether you are working on a small project or a large-scale enterprise application, a well-configured tsconfig.json is critical to a successful TypeScript development project.


Hi, my name is Stephen Finchett. I have been a software engineer for over 30 years and worked on complex, business critical, multi-user systems for all of my career. For the last 15 years, I have been concentrating on web based solutions using the Microsoft Stack including ASP.Net, C#, TypeScript, SQL Server and running everything at scale within Kubernetes.