Debugging React Native with TypeScript and Visual Studio Code

August 09, 2017  2 minute read  

One of the things I really miss from React Native was the support for TypeScript. TypeScript helps me immensely, but it really comes into its own with React programming as the PropTypes are specified for you (no more propTypes static). I’m also getting into MobX as a flux implementation and that uses decorators, which is native in TypeScript. There is lots to love in TypeScript.

However, every single guide I saw for implementing TypeScript within React Native was flawed. Specifically, there was a need for a separate build step, so I could not just use Visual Studio Code to run a debug instance of my app.

Well, I’ve solved that and this is how I did it.

Create an App

Use either react-native init to create your app. You can use create-react-native-app to create your app but there are a couple of extra steps that I am not going to cover here. If you use create-react-native-app, check the transformer repo.

Add TypeScript Packages

Use the following to add the appropriate packages:

yarn add --dev react-native-typescript-transformer typescript @types/react @types/react-native

The first package is the glue code that makes this all possible. After that, you should recognize the other packages as they are common for all TypeScript projects.

Configure TypeScript

TypeScript has a configuration file called tsconfig.json. The major parts of this are as follows:

    "compilerOptions": {
        "target": "es2015",
        "module": "es2015",
        "jsx": "react-native",
        "moduleResolution": "node",
        "allowSyntheticDefaultImports": true

You can add whatever other options you need to your TypeScript configuration at this point. I like things like noImplicitAny here, for example.

Configure the React Native Packager

This (along with the react-native-typescript-transformer package) is the bit that does the magic – compiling your TypeScript files on the fly! Create a file called rn-cli.config.js with the following contents:

module.exports = {
    getTransformModulePath() {
        return require.resolve('react-native-typescript-transformer');
    getSourceExts() {
        return [ 'ts', 'tsx' ]

You will also want to update the start script definition within package.json:

"scripts": {
    "start": "react-native start --transformer node_modules/react-native-typescript-transformer/index.js --sourceExts ts,tsx",
    "test": "jest"

This will add the transformer when you run npm start instead of using the IDE.

Write a TypeScript React Native component

I’ve created a folder called src that holds my TypeScript files. I’ve placed a component in src/index.tsx as follows:

import React from 'react';
import { StyleSheet, Text, TextStyle, View, ViewStyle } from 'react-native';

interface Props {

interface State {

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
  container: {
    flex: 1,
    justifyContent: 'center',
    alignItems: 'center',
    backgroundColor: '#F5FCFF',
  } as ViewStyle,
  welcome: {
    fontSize: 20,
    textAlign: 'center',
    margin: 10,
  } as TextStyle,
  instructions: {
    textAlign: 'center',
    color: '#333333',
    marginBottom: 5,
  } as TextStyle,

export default class App extends React.Component<Props, State> {
  render() {
    return (
      <View style={styles.container}>
        <Text style={styles.welcome}>
          Welcome to React Native!
        <Text style={styles.instructions}>
          {'To get started, edit src/index.tsx'}

Yes, this is just plain old TypeScript+JSX, but using React Native components.

Wire up your TypeScript component

Before we continue, there is a bunch of code in the index.ios.js and files. Unless you want to hack the iOS and Android platform code, it’s best to leave these as JavaScript code. However, you can make them minimal. Both of mine are identical:

import { AppRegistry } from 'react-native';
import App from './src';

AppRegistry.registerComponent('masterdetailtemplate', () => App);

Add React Native Launch Controls and Debug

Click into the Debug area of Vistual Studio code and create the React Native launch.json file. Select the appropriate target (I use Debug iOS to run the iOS simulator). Then click on the green start button.

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