Part II - Using TypeLite to Generate TypeScript

This is a series of posts about TypeLite/TypeScript. The parts are:

Part I: TypeLite has gone v1.0 - Video demonstrating what we are doing

Part II (this part): Using TypeLite to Generate TypeScript - Building the TypeScript generator

Part III: Generating TypeScript at build-time using TypeLite - Automatically regenerating the TypeScript on each build

With webpages becoming more interactive and feature-rich by the day, like most developers, I’m finding more and more of my code I write is client-side.  I’m already leveraging TypeScript to provide type-safety across as much of the client code as possible, but there is still a disconnect between the TypeScript on the client, and the c# on the server.  If a property is renamed on the server, the compiler won’t help me find all the places in the JavaScript that I’ve not updated (yes, yes, of course ReSharper can help with this, but it’s not perfect).

There must be a better way…

What I really want is when a property is changed (renamed, deleted, whatever) on an object that is serialised to the client, when I rebuild I want to see any errors that it has caused in the client code.

One weird trick for success…

Having recently worked on a large Single Page Application, I introduced a library called TypeLite which enabled us to generate TypeScript definitions for all the c# classes that were passed over the wire.  The default use of TypeLite uses a T4 template to generate the TS (if you want to see the normal T4 usage, read the docs).

However, this didn’t quite do what I wanted (and I just don’t like T4) so I created a console app and using the TypeLite API directly. 

Here’s what I did…

(You can follow along with my example using the repository at  The starting point for the example is this commit.)

First, you’ll need to separate the objects that are sent/received by your MVC/WebAPI actions (or, if you are crazy, your WebForms [WebMethod] decorated static methods.  You weirdo) into an assembly separate from your web project.  So in my example code, I have a web project called TypeScriptSample.Web and a class library called TypeScriptSample.Models.  Anything that I’m passing to/from the client/server is moved to the Models project (in my project, that’s just one item, Person).  [If you are following along see this commit.])

Next, create a new console application and use Nuget to add package TypeLite.Lib (it might be easier to do this in a separate solution).  This app is going to take in two parameters – the path to the assembly containing your models, and a path to place the generated TypeScript.  Sample code for this is here, but be warned this is very rudimentary and contains no error checking, etc.  This sample takes two parameters, first one is the path of the ‘TypeScriptSample.Models’ assembly and the second is a path for the generated TypeScript.  This should be a path in your web project.  [See this commit.]

using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Reflection;
using TypeLite;

namespace TypeScriptSample.Generator
    class Program
        static void Main(string[] args)
            var assemblyFile = args[0];
            var outputPath = args[1];

            GenerateTypeScriptContracts(assemblyFile, outputPath);

        private static void LoadReferencedAssemblies(string assemblyFile)
            var sourceAssemblyDirectory = Path.GetDirectoryName(assemblyFile);
            foreach (var file in Directory.GetFiles(sourceAssemblyDirectory, "*.dll"))
                File.Copy(file, Path.Combine(AppDomain.CurrentDomain.BaseDirectory, new FileInfo(file).Name), true);

        private static void GenerateTypeScriptContracts(string assemblyFile, string outputPath)
            var assembly = Assembly.LoadFrom(assemblyFile);
            // If you want a subset of classes from this assembly, filter them here
            var models = assembly.GetTypes();

            var generator = new TypeScriptFluent()
                .WithConvertor<Guid>(c => "string");

            foreach (var model in models)

            //Generate enums
            var tsEnumDefinitions = generator.Generate(TsGeneratorOutput.Enums);
            File.WriteAllText(Path.Combine(outputPath, "enums.ts"), tsEnumDefinitions);
            //Generate interface definitions for all classes
            var tsClassDefinitions = generator.Generate(TsGeneratorOutput.Properties | TsGeneratorOutput.Fields);
            File.WriteAllText(Path.Combine(outputPath, "classes.d.ts"), tsClassDefinitions);


To run the console app on the sample application, the command line is:

TypeScriptSample.Generator.exe ..\\..\\..\\TypeScriptSample.Models\\bin\\debug\\TypeScriptSample.Models.dll ..\\..\\..\\TypeScriptSample.Web\\App\\server

image…which produces two files in the web project (after you’ve run the command for the first time, click show all files and include them in the web project).  [See this commit for the results]

Open the classes.d.ts and you’ll find a definition of the Person object from our Models assembly, and inside enums.ts their is a translation of the server-side MaritalStatus enum!

Putting this to use

In the web application there’s a simple TypeScript file that retrieves a list of Person objects from a WebAPI controller using ajax.  The current version of this looks like:

function getPeople() {
        url: "api/person",
        method: 'get',
        // response could be anything here
    }).done((response) => {
        var details = '<ul>';
        for (var i = 0; i < response.length; i++) {            //If 'Name' gets changed on the server, this code will fail 
            details += "<li>" + response[i].Name + "</li>";
        details += '</ul>';

Now we can update the ‘done’ function to tell the TypeScript compiler that the response from the server will be an array of Person objects.  Then we get a great intellisense experience, as you can see below [see this commit]


That’s the basics done… However, if we add or rename a property on our server model, we have to manually re-run the generator app to get the TypeScript in sync.  Next time I’ll demonstrate how to integrate this as part of your build process so that your TypeScript definitions are updated whenever the c# classes are modified.