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React Query and TypeScript

Dominik D
Originally published at tkdodo.eu Updated on ・9 min read

TypeScript is 🔥 - this seems to be a common understanding now in the frontend community. Many developers expect libraries to either be written in TypeScript, or at least provide good type definitions. For me, if a library is written in TypeScript, the type definitions are the best documentation there is. It's never wrong because it directly reflects the implementation. I frequently look at type definitions before I read API docs.

React Query was initially written in JavaScript (v1), and was then re-written to TypeScript with v2. This means that right now, there is very good support for TypeScript consumers.

There are however a couple of "gotchas" when working with TypeScript due to how dynamic and unopinionated React Query is. Let's go through them one by one to make your experience with it even better.

Generics

React Query heavily uses Generics. This is necessary because the library does not actually fetch data for you, and it cannot know what type the data will have that your api returns.

The TypeScript section in the official docs is not very extensive, and it tells us to explicitly specify the Generics that useQuery expects when calling it:

function useGroups() {
    return useQuery<Group[], Error>('groups', fetchGroups)
}
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Over time, React Query has added more Generics to the useQuery hook (there are now four of them), mainly because more functionality was added. The above code works, and it will make sure that the data property of our custom hook is correctly typed to Group[] | undefined as well as that our error will be of type Error | undefined. But it will not work like that for more advanced use-cases, especially when the other two Generics are needed.

The four Generics

This is the current definition of the useQuery hook:

export function useQuery<
    TQueryFnData = unknown,
    TError = unknown,
    TData = TQueryFnData,
    TQueryKey extends QueryKey = QueryKey
>
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There's a lot of stuff going on, so let's try to break it down:

  • TQueryFnData: the type returned from the queryFn. In the above example, it's Group[].
  • TError: the type of Errors to expect from the queryFn. Error in the example.
  • TData: the type our data property will eventually have. Only relevant if you use the select option, because then the data property can be different from what the queryFn returns. Otherwise, it will default to whatever the queryFn returns.
  • TQueryKey: the type of our QueryKey, only relevant if you use the QueryKey that is passed to your queryFn.

As you can also see, all those Generics have default values, which means that if you don't provide them, TypeScript will fall back to those types. This works pretty much the same as default parameters in JavaScript:

function multiply(a, b = 2) {
    return a * b
}

multiply(10) // ✅ 20
multiply(10, 3) // ✅ 30
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Type Inference

TypeScript works best if you let it infer (or figure out) what type something should be on its own. Not only does it make code easier to write (because you don't have to type all the types 😅), but it will also make it easier to read. In many instances, it can make code look exactly like JavaScript. Some simple examples of type inference would be:

const num = Math.random() + 5 // ✅ `number`

// 🚀 both greeting and the result of greet will be string
function greet(greeting = 'ciao') {
    return `${greeting}, ${getName()}`
}
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When it comes to Generics, they can also generally be inferred from their usage, which is super awesome. You could also provide them manually, but in many cases, you don't need to.

function identity<T>(value: T): T {
    return value
}

// 🚨 no need to provide the generic
let result = identity<number>(23)

// ⚠️ or to annotate the result
let result: number = identity(23)

// 😎 infers correctly to `string`
let result = identity('react-query')
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Partial Type Argument Inference

...doesn't exist in TypeScript yet (see this open issue). This basically means that if you provide one Generic, you have to provide all of them. But because React Query has default values for Generics, we might not notice right away that they will be taken. The resulting error messages can be quite cryptic. Let's look at an example where this actually backfires:

function useGroupCount() {
    return useQuery<Group[], Error>('groups', fetchGroups, {
        select: (groups) => groups.length,
        // 🚨 Type '(groups: Group[]) => number' is not assignable to type '(data: Group[]) => Group[]'.
        // Type 'number' is not assignable to type 'Group[]'.ts(2322)
    })
}
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Because we haven't provided the 3rd Generic, the default value kicks in, which is also Group[], but we return number from our select function. One fix is to simply add the 3rd Generic:

function useGroupCount() {
    // ✅ fixed it
    return useQuery<Group[], Error, number>('groups', fetchGroups, {
        select: (groups) => groups.length,
    })
}
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As long as we don't have Partial Type Argument Inference, we have to work with what we got.

So what's the alternative?

Infer all the things

Let's start by not passing in any Generics at all and let TypeScript figure out what to do. For this to work, we need the queryFn to have a good return type. Of course, if you inline that function without an explicit return type, you will have any - because that's what axios or fetch give you:

function useGroups() {
    // 🚨 data will be `any` here
    return useQuery('groups', () => axios.get('groups').then((response) => respone.data))
}
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If you (like me) like to keep your api layer separated from your queries, you'll need to add type definitions anyways to avoid implicit any, so React Query can infer the rest:

function fetchGroups(): Promise<Group[]> {
    return axios.get('groups').then((response) => response.data)
}

// ✅ data will be `Group[] | undefined` here
function useGroups() {
    return useQuery('groups', fetchGroups)
}

// ✅ data will be `number | undefined` here
function useGroupCount() {
    return useQuery('groups', fetchGroups, {
        select: (groups) => groups.length,
    })
}
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Advantages of this approach are:

  • no more manually specifying Generics
  • works for cases where the 3rd (select) and 4th (QueryKey) Generic are needed
  • will continue to work if more Generics are added
  • code is less confusing / looks more like JavaScript

What about error?

What about error, you might ask? Per default, without any Generics, error will be inferred to unknown. This might sound like a bug, why is it not Error? But it is actually on purpose, because in JavaScript, you can throw anything - it doesn't have to be of type Error:

throw 5
throw undefined
throw Symbol('foo')
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Since React Query is not in charge of the function that returns the Promise, it also can't know what type of errors it might produce. So unknown is correct. Once TypeScript allows skipping some generics when calling a function with multiple generics (see this issue for more information), we could handle this better, but for now, if we need to work with errors and don't want to resort to passing Generics, we can narrow the type with an instanceof check:

const groups = useGroups()

if (groups.error) {
    // 🚨 this doesn't work because: Object is of type 'unknown'.ts(2571)
    return <div>An error occurred: {groups.error.message}</div>
}

// ✅ the instanceOf check narrows to type `Error`
if (groups.error instanceof Error) {
    return <div>An error occurred: {groups.error.message}</div>
}
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Since we need to make some kind of check anyways to see if we have an error, the instanceof check doesn't look like a bad idea at all, and it will also make sure that our error actually has a property message at runtime. This is also in line with what TypeScript has planned for the 4.4 release, where they'll introduce a new compiler flag useUnknownInCatchVariables, where catch variables will be unknown instead of any (see here).

Type Narrowing

I rarely use destructuring when working with React Query. First of all, names like data and error are quite universal (purposefully so), so you'll likely rename them anyway. Keeping the whole object will keep the context of what data it is or where the error is coming from. It will further help TypeScript to narrow types when using the status field or one of the status booleans, which it cannot do if you use destructuring:

const { data, isSuccess } = useGroups()
if (isSuccess) {
    // 🚨 data will still be `Group[] | undefined` here
}

const groupsQuery = useGroups()
if (groupsQuery.isSuccess) {
    // ✅ groupsQuery.data will now be `Group[]`
}
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This has nothing to do with React Query, it is just how TypeScript works. @danvdk has a good explanation for this behaviour

Type safety with the enabled option

I've expressed my ♥️ for the enabled option right from the start, but it can be a bit tricky on type level if you want to use it for dependent queries and disable your query for as long as some parameters are not yet defined:

function fetchGroup(id: number): Promise<Group> {
    return axios.get(`group/${id}`).then((response) => response.data)
}

function useGroup(id: number | undefined) {
    return useQuery(['group', id], () => fetchGroup(id), { enabled: Boolean(id) })
    // 🚨 Argument of type 'number | undefined' is not assignable to parameter of type 'number'.
    //  Type 'undefined' is not assignable to type 'number'.ts(2345)
}
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Technically, TypeScript is right, id is possibly undefined: the enabled option does not perform any type narrowing. Also, there are ways to bypass the enabled option, for example by calling the refetch method returned from useQuery. In that case, the id might really be undefined.

I've found the best way to go here, if you don't like the non-null assertion operator, is to accept that id can be undefined and reject the Promise in the queryFn. It's a bit of duplication, but it's also explicit and safe:

function fetchGroup(id: number | undefined): Promise<Group> {
    // ✅ check id at runtime because it can be `undefined`
    return typeof id === 'undefined'
        ? Promise.reject(new Error('Invalid id'))
        : axios.get(`group/${id}`).then((response) => response.data)
}

function useGroup(id: number | undefined) {
    return useQuery(['group', id], () => fetchGroup(id), { enabled: Boolean(id) })
}
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Optimistic Updates

Getting optimistic updates right in TypeScript is not an easy feat, so we've decided to add it as a comprehensive example to the docs.

The important part is: You have to explicitly type the variables argument passed to onMutate in order to get the best type inference. I don't fully comprehend why that is, but it again seems to have something to do with inference of Generics. Have a look at this comment for more information.

useInfiniteQuery

For the most parts, typing useInfiniteQuery is no different from typing useQuery. One noticeable gotcha is that the pageParam value, which is passed to the queryFn, is typed as any. Could be improved in the library for sure, but as long as it's any, it's probably best to explicitly annotate it:

type GroupResponse = { next?: number, groups: Group[] }
const queryInfo = useInfiniteQuery(
    'groups',
    // ⚠️ explicitly type pageParam to override `any`
    ({ pageParam = 0 }: { pageParam: GroupResponse['next']) => fetchGroups(groups, pageParam),
    {
        getNextPageParam: (lastGroup) => lastGroup.next,
    }
)
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If fetchGroups returns a GroupResponse, lastGroup will have its type nicely inferred, and we can use the same type to annotate pageParam.

Typing the default query function

I am personally not using a defaultQueryFn, but I know many people are. It's a neat way to leverage the passed queryKey to directly build your request url. If you inline the function when creating the queryClient, the type of the passed QueryFunctionContext will also be inferred for you. TypeScript is just so much better when you inline stuff :)

const queryClient = new QueryClient({
    defaultOptions: {
        queries: {
            queryFn: async ({ queryKey: [url] }) => {
                const { data } = await axios.get(`${baseUrl}/${url}`)
                return data
            },
        },
    },
})
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This just works, however, url is inferred to type unknown, because the whole queryKey is an unknown Array. At the time of the creation of the queryClient, there is absolutely no guarantee how the queryKeys will be constructed when calling useQuery, so there is only so much React Query can do. That is just the nature of this highly dynamic feature. It's not a bad thing though because it means you now have to work defensively and narrow the type with runtime checks to work with it, for example:

const queryClient = new QueryClient({
    defaultOptions: {
        queries: {
            queryFn: async ({ queryKey: [url] }) => {
                // ✅ narrow the type of url to string so that we can work with it
                if (typeof url === 'string') {
                    const { data } = await axios.get(`${baseUrl}/${url.toLowerCase()}`)
                    return data
                }
                throw new Error('Invalid QueryKey')
            },
        },
    },
})
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I think this shows quite well why unknown is such a great (and underused) type compared to any. It has become my favourite type lately - but that is subject for another blog post 😊.


That's it for today. Feel free to reach out to me on twitter
if you have any questions, or just leave a comment below ⬇️

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