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Andreas Bergström
Andreas Bergström

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Simplify TypeScript builds with esbuild and skip tsc/tsx

The JavaScript ecosystem constantly undergoes innovations. One of the more recent game-changers is esbuild, a lightning-fast JavaScript and TypeScript bundler. Unlike traditional TypeScript compilers like tsc, esbuild offers rapid compile times and a straightforward configuration. This post will delve into using esbuild to handle TypeScript compilation, emphasizing the vast array of parameters it offers.

Why esbuild over tsc?

  • Performance: esbuild leverages Go's performance benefits, offering incredibly fast bundling times compared to other bundlers and compilers.
  • Simplicity: esbuild's configuration is relatively straightforward, making it easy to integrate into existing projects.
  • Flexibility: esbuild provides various options, like the ability to output to different formats, set the platform target, and more.

esbuild running in watch mode

Running esbuild in watch mode will allow you to use the same tool for production and development, without sacrificing performance!

Configuring esbuild for TypeScript

Firstly, ensure esbuild is part of your project:

npm install esbuild --save-dev
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Here's our proposed NPM script configuration using esbuild:

    "scripts": {
        "build": "esbuild `find src \\( -name '*.ts' \\)` --platform=node --target=esnext --outdir=build --format=cjs",
        "build:watch": "npm run build -- --watch",
        "start": "node build | npx pino-pretty",
        "start:watch": "node --watch -r dotenv/config build | npx pino-pretty",
        "dev": "concurrently \"npm:build:watch\" \"npm:start:watch\""

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esbuild Parameters Explained:

  1. Input Files: The find src \\( -name '*.ts' \\) portion locates all TypeScript files within the srcdirectory, feeding them to esbuild.

  2. platform: The --platform=node flag ensures the code is compatible with a Node.js environment. Other possible values include browser for browser-specific output.

  3. target: With --target=esnext, we instruct esbuild to output the latest version of ECMAScript. This is invaluable when you want to leverage the latest language features. Other values could be es6, es2016, etc., depending on your needs.

  4. outdir: The --outdir=build option specifies the output directory for our compiled files. Replace build with any directory name of your choosing.

  5. format: The --format=cjs command dictates the module system to be used. We've chosen CommonJS (cjs) here, but esbuild also supports esm (ES Modules), iife, and more.

  6. watch: Adding --watch makes esbuild monitor file changes and recompile as necessary. This is invaluable during development, negating the need to manually trigger recompiles.

  7. Concurrently: Not an esbuild parameter, but vital for our setup. concurrently runs multiple commands concurrently. In our script, it allows us to watch and build, and then run our application simultaneously.

Reaping the Rewards of esbuild

  1. Bypass tsc/tsx: Transitioning to esbuild means a direct reduction in compile times.

  2. Simplified Build Pipeline: The amalgamation of bundling and compiling under a single tool, esbuild, streamlines our pipeline.

  3. Parameter-Driven Configuration: esbuild's parameters allow developers to easily craft a build process tailored to their specific requirements.

Wrapping Up

esbuild's emergence as a go-to TypeScript compiler promises faster development cycles and simplified build processes. Its array of parameters allows fine-grained control over the build, catering to a myriad of configurations. If you haven't yet, now might be the time to consider the switch from traditional tsc compilation. Happy building!

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