Building TypeScript definitions on demand

I recently came across an interesting problem: is it possible to dynamically create TypeScript definitions for a React component library that doesn’t use TypeScript at all? Something like a DefinitelyTyped package for a private NPM package?

The problem

Let me detail the problem a bit better. Consider the Button component below:

import PropTypes from "prop-types";

const Button = ({ appearance, children, ...props }) => {
 return (
  <button className={`button--${appearance}`} {...props}>

Button.propTypes = {
 /** Type of the button */
 appearance: PropTypes.oneOf(["primary", "secondary"]),
 /** Content for the button */
 children: PropTypes.node.isRequired

Button.displayName = 'Button';

export default Button;

This component is very straightforward: a <button> that will be accordingly styled with the value of appearance.

Now imagine that a new developer joined the company and they shipped their very first feature with the following Button:

<Button variant="link">Buy now</Button>

The new developer used to work with Material UI and variant="link" came from their old days. No one noticed that the Button didn’t look like the others in the application.

It would be great to have a warning in our editor mentioning that variant is not a valid prop for <Button>. It would be great to have an autocomplete feature in our editor, so the developer could learn the component API as they work in the codebase. TypeScript solves these problems; however, the codebase doesn’t use TS.

In addition, the Button is imported from a private NPM package. If the repository and packages were public, probably someone would create definitions and add them in the DefinitelyTyped repository.

Going back to the initial question of this post: is it possible to dynamically create TypeScript definitions for a React component library that doesn’t use TypeScript at all? YES!

The solution

I am using the react-to-typescript-definitions package to create definitions from the compiled files. The tool can map most PropTypes (any, array, bool, func, number, object, string, node, element, oneOfType, arrayOf, symbol, shape) and identify the required ones. The package partially support oneOf PropType and can even re-use your comments.

You can create definitions from the command line or import the functionality into a script with this tool. Here is one example:

import { generateFromFile } from "react-to-typescript-definitions";

generateFromFile(null, "Button.js", {}, "react");

The function generateFromFile will return something like:

export type ButtonAppearance = "primary" | "secondary";

export interface ButtonProps {
    // All other props
    [x:string]: any;
     * Type of the button
    appearance?: ButtonAppearance;
     * Content for the button
    children: React.ReactNode;

export const Button: React.FC<ButtonProps>;

A few highlights: The tool reused the comments (“Type of the button”, “Content for the button”) from the original component; The tool identified appearance as optional and children as required props; The tool created a variable with the possible values of appearance;

In real life

We have two options of usage of this package.


CLI can be helpful for one-off scenarios or for when you want to test things out. The example that I posted above could be created by running:

cat src/components/Button/Button.js | yarn --silent react2dts --top-level-module Button

Node module

Importing the package into your toolbox scripts gives you the flexibility to customize what needs definitions and define what to do with the data. Here is what I am doing:

I created a script that imports all components from my main index.js file (import * as componentLibrary from './src/index.js';). This index.js looks like this:

export { default as Avatar } from './components/Avatar';
export { default as Badge } from './components/Badge';
export { default as Button } from './components/Button';

For each of these components, I call the generateFromFile function:

import * as componentLibrary from './src/index.js';

let definitionsContent = '';
const components = Object.keys(componentLibrary);

components.forEach((component) => {
  if (
    typeof componentLibrary[component] === 'function' &&
    componentLibrary[component].filename !== undefined
  ) {
    const definitions = generateFromFile(

    definitionsContent = `${definitionsContent}${definitions}`;

The definitionsContent variable might have some duplicated content, for example, multiple import * as React from 'react';. After cleaning this, I store the content of this variable in the dist/es/index.d.ts. Finally, in the package.json, I mention the location of the types:

  "module": "dist/es/index.js",
  "types": "dist/es/index.d.ts",
  "files": [

This script is executed in CI environmnent. When someone publishes a new version of the component library:

  1. We build the package using rollup, saving the files in the dist folder;
  2. We execute the script to create the TypeScript definitions;
  3. We run npm publish (currently with Lerna)
  4. We make release notes with Lerna

What do you think of this solution? Let me know in the comments.

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