Understanding the esModuleInterop option in tsconfig.json


Why is it that different patterns of imports are shown across typescript examples?

import * as React from 'react'; import React from 'react';

Let us look at how the two examples are compiled to javascript code using tsc.

First, intialize a project with the following commands:

mkdir esminterop-example && cd esminterop-example # create project directory yarn init -y # initialize npm project yarn add react # add react package (opt.) yarn add -D typescript @types/node @types/react # add typescript compiler and type definitions (req.) touch star.ts plain.ts

Fill in the files star.ts and plain.ts with the following code:


import * as React from 'react'; console.log(React);


import React from 'react'; console.log(React);

First, let's compile star.ts with tsc and see the output.

npx tsc star.ts


'use strict'; exports.__esModule = true; var React = require('react'); console.log(React);

All good. Now try to compile plain.ts, and an error will occur.

npx tsc plain.ts plain.ts:1:8 - error TS1259: Module '"/Users/pacokwon/workspace/esminterop-example/node_modules/@types/react/index"' can only be default-imported using the 'esModuleInterop' flag 1 import React from 'react'; ~~~~~ node_modules/@types/react/index.d.ts:65:1 65 export = React; ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This module is declared with using 'export =', and can only be used with a default import when using the 'esModuleInterop' flag. Found 1 error.

The problem occurs because while react does not have a default export, our typescript file is attempting to default import it. One way of solving this issue might be to use the wildcard(asterisk) import above. Another way is to use the --esModuleInterop flag. Now let's see how the latter way works, by using that flag in our compiler.

npx tsc --esModuleInterop plain.ts

There are no errors, which is a good thing. The compiled file looks like this:

'use strict'; var __importDefault = (this && this.__importDefault) || function (mod) { return mod && mod.__esModule ? mod : { default: mod }; }; exports.__esModule = true; var react_1 = __importDefault(require('react')); console.log(react_1['default']);

One can find out that a wrapper to the require is added. The wrapper provides additional logic, that allows flexible resolution between es6 modules and commonjs modules. It can also be observed that a "default" export or import is, from a commonjs module point of view, the value that corresponds to the key "default" in the module.exports object.

AFAIK, javascript packages are usually shipped with the original source code transpiled into using commonjs modules, so the esModuleInterop flag is a flag that I commonly use in my tsconfig.json.