Vite with Preact and TypeScript

Stefan Baumgartner

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Update: Please note that this article already has some age and Vite has seen significant updates. Also, the Preact team has created their own preset for Vite which you can find here. Be sure to check that out!

Vite is a new web development build tool by Evan You, the creator of Vue.js. It’s in early beta at the time of this writing and was mainly created for Vue 3, but it’s also able to build React and Preact and has TypeScript support out of the box.

Vite’s biggest difference to other tools is that for development, it relies on the basic loading capabilities of ECMAScript modules. This means that your import statements translate are executed natively by the browser. Vite’s task is to serve your files. Nothing more. Well, a little bit more.

If you have a file that needs transpilation, Vite transpiles them to regular JS for you so the browser knows what to do. This means that

  • JSX, TSX, TS files are transpiled to JavaScript
  • CSS you import in your JavaScript files is transpiled to JavaScript that injects style tags
  • VUE files are also split up and transpiled to whatever they need to be

And you can extend Vite with custom transpilers, like Sass or other CSS preprocessors.

And since there is no bundling work to be done, or excessive dependency trees to be maintained, serving, translating, and hot module replacement is insanely vite … eh … fast!

If you do a production build, Rollup runs under the hood to do proper tree shaking and creating the smallest possible chunks for your deployment.

Vite really feels like it could be the build tool of all build tools. I’m very impressed! There are also some templates for Vue 3, React and Preact available. But at the time of writing, Preact didn’t have any templates with TypeScript support. So I added my own, and this is what I did.

Step 1. Create a new Preact project with Vite #

As mentioned, there is a Preact template for Vite that we are going to use as a base. It already has most of the things wired up, we only need to add TypeScript support.

$ npm init vite-app my-preact-project --template preact

npm init vite-app is a shortcut for npx create-vite-app. It also works with create-react-app or create-next-app, and whatever create- tool there is out there.

Also, we install TypeScript, at least in version 4.0.

$ npm install typescript

Try npm install typescript@beta if TypeScript isn’t at 4.0, yet. This is the first step. Now we set up the configuration.

Step 2. Setting up TypeScript #

There is no TypeScript project without a good TypeScript configuration. Create a tsconfig.json in your root folder and add the following:

"compilerOptions": {
"target": "esnext",
"lib": ["DOM", "DOM.Iterable", "esnext"],
"allowJs": false,
"skipLibCheck": false,
"esModuleInterop": false,
"allowSyntheticDefaultImports": true,
"strict": true,
"forceConsistentCasingInFileNames": true,
"module": "esnext",
"moduleResolution": "node",
"resolveJsonModule": true,
"isolatedModules": true,
"noEmit": true,
"jsx": "preserve",
"jsxFactory": "h",
"jsxFragmentFactory": "Fragment"
"include": ["src"]

There’s lots of settings in there, but the most important for our case are the last three lines in compilerOptions:

"jsx": "preserve",
"jsxFactory": "h",
"jsxFragmentFactory": "Fragment"

We set

  • jsx to preserve, which means that TypeScript doesn’t compile JSX. This is done by Vite anyway
  • jsxFactory is h. This is Preact’s virtual DOM implementation. All JSX elements are transpiled to h function calls. See my article on JSX is syntactic sugar if you want to know what’s happening here under the hood.
  • jsxFragmentFactory to Fragment. This is Preact’s fragment component. Fragments are nice because they don’t require you to add wrapping divs. Clean markup when rendered! This setting is new in TypeScript 4, and allows TypeScript to know that you mean Fragment when doing empty <>...</> tags.

Those settings are mostly for the editor experience, so you get proper typings when editing, and all the auto-completion that you love from TypeScript.

Compilation is done by Vite, though. So we also have to adapt vite.config.js a little bit. Right now, vite.config.js looks something like this:

const config = {
jsx: 'preact',
plugins: [preactRefresh()]

This JSX preset from Vite injects h globally. This is ok for most JavaScript projects, but TypeScript loses some information on JSX and what your JSX factory function does. That’s why Vite allows us to override the preset with custom JSX info:

const config = {
jsx: {
factory: 'h',
fragment: 'Fragment'
plugins: [preactRefresh()]

This mirrors what we have in tsconfig.json, cool!

Step 3. Adapting files #

We’re close! The last thing we need to do is adapting files.

  1. Rename all .jsx files to .tsx.
  2. Open index.html and refer to main.tsx instead of main.jsx.

Next, let your tsx files know which factory and fragment factory you are using. Since we are not injecting globally anymore, we need to import them in each file.

import { Fragment, h } from 'preact'

Since we have TypeScript now up and running, our editor already gives us a sweet error message that we use document.getElementById('app') with way too much confidence. This might be null, after all!

Let’s be sure that this element exists:

const el = document.getElementById('app')
if(el) {
render(<App />, el)

And that’s it! You can see a rough and unpolished demo setup on GitHub. Let me know what you think!

Further reading #

  • Please also check out Snowpack by Fred K. Schott. A very similar approach and a very detailled explanation on some ground concepts behind O(1) build tooling.

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