Thursday, August 25, 2016

Modules Again

Things had been running smoothly in suneido.js with the UMD approach. Until today when I went to run my code in the browser (I hadn’t done this for a little while because I’d been working on transpiling) and I got errors saying one of my modules couldn’t be found. I realized that I had started using a Node.js module in my code, which of course couldn’t be found in the browser. Crap!

I searched the web and most recommendations were to use browserify. It sounded straightforward, and it made sense to combine all my JavaScript into one file. So I installed browserify and switched my tsconfig.json back to commonjs.

But it wouldn’t work. It kept telling me it couldn’t find one of my modules. But as far as I could tell there was nothing different about that particular module or where it was imported.

I finally remembered that the flashy dependency graph feature of Alm had shown I had a circular dependency. Was that a problem with browserify? Searching the web didn’t find anything definitive, but there were some references to it being problematic.

It wasn’t hard to fix the dependency (and I’d been meaning to do it eventually anyway).

But it still didn’t work! Then I realized that the code shown in the Chrome developer tools debugger wasn’t my fixed version. Caching? A little more digging and I found you can right click on the refresh button and pick “Hard Refresh and Reset Caches”. Finally it worked! (Although I wondered if any of my other approaches would have worked if I’d done this???)

It seems like a reasonable solution, other than taking a dependency on yet another tool and adding another build step. (I do have to admit that npm makes it easy to install these tools.)

Friday, August 05, 2016

Alm TypeScript Editor

When I was reading TypeScript Deep Dive (recommended) I noticed a mention of an "alm" TypeScript editor. I'd never heard of it so I figured I'd better check it out.

The developer turned out to be the same as the author of the book - Basarat Ali Syed aka "bas". Who also turned out to be the the original developer of the atom-typescript plugin that I've been using.

Alm is a new project but it's moving quickly and is already full featured. And there's actually documentation :-) It has features like go to definition, find references, and even rename refactor. It also has some flashier features like dependency graphs and AST views. It has an outline side bar (alm calls it a Semantic View) which is a feature I really like in Eclipse and miss in Visual Studio. (We also have it in Suneido.)

The current "packaging" is a little quirky - you start it from a command prompt and the actually UI runs in Chrome. It would be nice to see it packaged with Electron, like Atom, but that's not critical.

You can use Chrome's Save To Desktop to open it as a "bare" window without the browser chrome, but you still have to start Alm first. No doubt there's a way to automate that. Or you can use "alm -o" which will open it in a tab in Chrome, and then use something like the Chrome extension Open as Popup.

I was interested to see that it was using the CodeMirror JavaScript code editor component which is what we have been using in the suneido.js project. But recently it changed to use the Monaco editor which was written for Visual Studio Code and recently released as a separate open source component. That makes sense because Monaco is written in TypeScript, and TypeScript was the original target language for Visual Studio Code.

Alm leverages the actual TypeScript compiler for source code analysis, which seems like the ideal approach.

I've only used it for a few days and I'm still learning my way around, but it looks like it will be my preferred editor for TypeScript.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

TypeScript Modules

TypeScript will translate ES6 (ES2015) modules into a variety of formats e.g. CommonJS for Node.js or AMD for require.js in browsers.

I found it a pain to have to switch my tsconfig.json back and forth to run my tests in Node.js or to run the actual code in the browser. Inevitably I'd forget to switch and/or recompile and it wouldn't work. I had to check one or the other version of tsconfig.json into Git, but that would confuse anyone who downloaded and tried to run the code.

I could probably set up a build process to generate both versions but I never got around to figuring that out.

I knew some code was written in a way that would work with both CommonJS and AMD and wondered why TypeScript didn't generate that format. Guess what, it does :-) TypeScript calls this output "UMD" or "isomorphic". (See TypeScript Modules under Code Generation)

    "compilerOptions": {
        "module": "umd",

The generated code is slightly larger since it basically contains both versions, but that's not a big deal.

Eventually (I hope) software will support ES6/2015 modules natively and you won't have to translate at all.

For backgrounds see What is AMD, CommonJS, and UMD?

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

TypeScript const enums

In my previous post I mentioned that if you make an enum const then you don't get the run time bidirectional mapping between numbers and names. It turns out that's not quite true.

If you turn on the preserveConstEnums compiler option (set it to true) then TypeScript still emits the mapping object, even though it still in-lines the enum values.

That seems like the best of both worlds. But I couldn't get it to work. If you try to use the mapping, you get:
import { Token } from "./tokens"

=> A const enum member can only be accessed using a string literal.
I searched online and found some suggestions to type assert to "any", but it didn't work.
import { Token } from "./tokens"
(Tokens as any)[token]

=> 'const' enums can only be used in property or index access expressions or the right hand side of an import declaration or export assignment.
So I gave up and didn't use const.

Then I came across a slightly different type assertion that worked!
import * as tokens from "./tokens"
(tokens as any).Tokens[token]
As the saying goes: "All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection"

Note: As is recommended, I'm using the newer "as" form of type assertions instead of the older <type> form.