Microsoft's JavaScript Superset Now a First-Class Language in Visual Studio

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-02-25 Print this article Print

Microsoft took a different approach with TypeScript. The entire project from inception has been open source and is hosted on CodePlex, Microsoft's open-source repository. Since its first public release in October 2012, Microsoft continuously released TypeScript updates in the open. They went through a series of compilers—first the 08 series and then moved on to the 09 series of compilers where they introduced generics in the type system, which further strengthens a developer's ability to describe and use APIs in a strongly typed manor. And now the team is at a point where they have worked enough on scalability, correctness and stability that they are announcing the 1.0 Release Candidate of TypeScript.

In a year and a half, the uptake on this project has exceeded even the TypeScript team's most optimistic expectations, Hejlsberg said. TypeScript has seen lots of internal usage now at Microsoft, but also a large amount of external usage and a very vibrant community, he said.

"Internally, some of the marquee projects include Visual Studio Online -- the 'Monaco' toolset in Visual Studio Online is all built in TypeScript and is a 300,000-line project," Hejlsberg said. "They started out coding just in plain JavaScript and were initially somewhat skeptical but they are total converts now. The Xbox music app in Windows 8.1 was written in TypeScript. The F12 tools in Internet Explorer 11 are written in TypeScript. We have lots of usage in Bing in a variety of their properties. We have usage in Microsoft Dynamics AX. Almost every division in Microsoft is using TypeScript in one way or another."

Speaking of  'Monaco,' which is the code name for a new service that enables a lightweight coding environment in the browser, Hejlsberg said he is amazed by it.

"I am amazed at what that team has built," he said. "It is such a high quality implementation of a complete IDE in JavaScript that I would have sworn it wasn't possible to build and yet they built it. It's a testament to the team's capability; I think it's a testament to TypeScript as a large-scale application development tool. And also a testament to the power of the JavaScript VMs that we have in our browsers today. It's amazing how powerful that execution platform has gotten."

Externally, there has also been a fair amount of uptake for the technology. For instance, portions of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite for Windows 8 are written entirely in TypeScript.

"We've seen the community build TypeScript plug-ins for all the popular development tools out there, including Eclipse and JetBrains' ReSharper and WebStorm," Hejlsberg said. "You can find out there in the wild, CoffeeScript to TypeScript converters. We've seen a company called SitePen that develops the Dojo JavaScript framework, they are very pro TypeScript and have an excellent TypeScript tutorial and are investigating uses of TypeScript in Dojo. Google made the TypeScript compiler part of the Octane 2.0 benchmark. So they recognized it's important enough that VMs should be benchmarked against how well our compiler runs on them. And we've seen a number of HTML5/JavaScript game frameworks or 3-D frameworks pick up JavaScript. I think the reason there is that TypeScript is a very natural evolution from ActionScript. So if you've been programming in Flash and you're looking to move to HTML5, TypeScript is an excellent path. Because if you are accustomed to having classes and type annotations, which are present in ActionScript, then TypeScript provides you an even richer version of that."


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