James Garbutt

Software engineer. Front-end @crispthinking.

Using strongly typed events in TypeScript

November 07, 2020

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Recently I have been working on improving a whole bunch of web components in one of our code bases. Part of this has been to improve the types and their strength (which also means better editor support :D).

These are just a few tips from what I found.

The aim

It is common that we might want to emit custom events from our components. For example:

class MyElement extends HTMLElement {
  // ..
  protected _doSomething(): void {
    this.dispatchEvent(new CustomEvent('my-event'));

In these situations, a consumer of the component would listen like so:

node.addEventListener('my-event', (ev) => {
  // ...

However, there would be no helpful type information to suggest that my-event is a valid (“known”) event and the type of the event it is.

So our aim to strengthen this would be to strongly type those events and give editors better completion/information.

Event maps

Thankfully, TypeScript already helped solve this problem with “event maps”. These are basically interfaces to hold the names of events and their type.

You can see that addEventListener is roughly typed like so:

// example map
interface EventMap {
  'my-event': MyCustomEventType;

// method
addEventListener<T extends keyof EventMap>(
  type: T,
  listener: (event: EventMap[T]) => any

Where EventMap is one of a few available maps depending on the type of node you’re dealing with.

The fall back, for when it isn’t in the event map, is basically Event. This means we’re not too strict.

Anyhow this results in useful hints and types like so:

document.addEventListener('load', fn); // knows that 'load' is an event
node.addEventListener('blur', (ev) => { ... }); // knows `ev` is `FocusEvent`
node.addEventListener('doesntexist', (ev) => { ... }); // `ev` is `Event`

Built in event maps

There are several, a couple are:

  • DocumentEventMap - defines all events available to Document
  • WindowEventMap - defines all events available to Window
  • HTMLElementEventMap - defines all events available to any HTML element

Extending a built in map

You can extend a built in event map by augmenting the global interface:

declare global {
  interface WindowEventMap {
    'my-event': CustomEvent<{foo: number}>;

// ...

  'my-event', // will be a known event name, suggested in your editor
  (ev) => { // will be typed as `CustomEvent<{foo: number}>`
    ev.detail.foo; // number

Defining your own event maps

You may want to tie events to your component and only your component, rather than the globally available list of events.

To do this, you can re-define addEventListener:

interface MyEventMap {
  'my-event': CustomEvent<{foo: number}>;

class MyElement extends HTMLElement {
  public addEventListener<T extends keyof MyEventMap>(
    // the event name, a key of MyEventMap
    type: T,

    // the listener, using a value of MyEventMap
    listener: (this: MyElement, ev: MyEventMap[T]) => any,

    // any options
    options?: boolean | AddEventListenerOptions
  ): void;

  // the fallback for any event names not in our map
  public addEventListener(
    type: string,
    listener: (this: MyElement, ev: Event) => any,
    options?: boolean | AddEventListenerOptions
  ): void {
    super.addEventListener(type, listener, options);

// ...

const node = document.createElement('my-element');
  'my-event', // strongly typed, suggested by editor
  (ev) => { ... } // ev is a `CustomEvent<{foo: number}>`

It looks like there’s a lot going on here, but really we are just copying what the original definition of addEventListener is from TypeScript’s DOM definitions.

Wrap up

Again, this was just a quick one to show the findings. These things can make the dev experience super nice, though.

Now in our editors we can get strongly typed event names along with their strongly typed events, rather than relying on casts and what not.