Automatically Generate TypeScript Definitions for GraphQL Queries with Apollo Codegen

So happy together

👋🏽 Hi! I’m Faraz, and I’m a software engineer @ AdHawk.

Recently, I’ve started to use TypeScript with Apollo and React, and I’d love to share something cool that I learned.

Apollo has a great set of command line tools that make generating type definitions for your queries quite simple. This gives you the power of type checking your queries wherever you use them! Let’s dive right in.


Let’s create a new React application that uses TypeScript.

npx create-react-app react-apollo-typescript --typescript

Sweet. Now, we need to install some dependencies that we will use to generate our types and use GraphQL queries in our app.

yarn add graphql apollo-boost react-apollo

graphql is needed for certain features, like parsing GraphQL queries. apollo-boost comes with a well configured ApolloClient so we can get started quickly. react-apollo gives us components and utils we can use in React.

We will also need the apollo command line tool and types for the graphql package, which we can install as a devDependencies.

yarn add -D apollo @types/graphql

We have what we need to get started.

Downloading Our GraphQL Schema

In order for apollo to generate types for our queries, we will need to download a schema of our GraphQL API and save it in a file located in our app.

For the sake of brevity in this tutorial, I’m going to be using (and also because Pokemon are dope).

All we need to do to download our schema is:

yarn run apollo schema:download --endpoint= graphql-schema.json

Let’s break down what’s happening here.

apollo is the command line tool we installed in the previous step. schema:download is the command used to download our schema into a file locally. --endpoint is, like it says, the endpoint of our GraphQL API. If you have a local graphql server on something like http://localhost:4000/graphql make sure that your server is running, because schema:download actually makes a POST request to the server. Finally, graphql-schema.json is the name of the file we will use to store our schema.

You should see the following in your terminal:

✔ Loading Apollo Project
✔ Saving schema to graphql-schema.json

Great 🎉

If you open your project directory, you’ll see the newly created graphql-schema.json as well.

Creating a GraphQL Query and Generating Type Definitions

Next, we will write a query so that we can retrieve some data about Pokemon. We will also generate the types for this query automatically with the apollo cli.

I created a new query located at src/queries/pokemonsQuery.ts It looks like this:

I’m simply querying for the $first n number of Pokemon.

Now for the magic 🌟

yarn run apollo codegen:generate --localSchemaFile=graphql-schema.json --target=typescript --includes=src/**/*.ts --tagName=gql --addTypename --globalTypesFile=src/types/graphql-global-types.ts types

Phew. There’s a lot there. Let’s break it down.

apollo is the command line tool, codegen:generate is the command we use to generate the types. --localSchemaFile is the location of the schema file we downloaded in the last step. --target is the target we want to generate types for. We’re using typescript, but you can do flow or swift too! --includes is the glob of files to search for GraphQL queries. --tagName is the name of the template literal tag that contains our queries. --addTypename automatically adds __typename to our queries. --globalTypesFile by default TypeScript will add a file called “globalTypes.ts”, this overrides the file name and location. Finally, types is the name of the folder where we want our generated types to be.

After running the command, you should see the following in your terminal:

✔ Loading Apollo Project
✔ Generating query files with 'typescript' target - wrote 2 files

And you should see the generated types in src/queries/types 🙌🏽

Using Our Typed Query in React

We now have a GraphQL query pokemonsQuery.ts and have generated types for it.

Let’s use everything we’ve learned and create a simple React component that renders a list of Pokemon.

There’s a little bit of configuration we need to do before we can use queries within our app.

Since we used create-react-app we need to add a few things to our tsconfig.json

First, we added some options for lib, and exclude our generated graphql-global-types.ts file and the node_modules directory.

We can now create an instance of ApolloClient in our index.tsx and setup our app to use it.

Editing our index.tsx …

Thanks to apollo-boost and react-apollo this is all we need to do to be able to use GraphQL queries in React!

Finally, we can use the PokemonsQuery in our App.tsx and render a list of Pokemon!

If you noticed the comment above, this code will throw an error. first is expected to an integer, and we are passing a string. Win.

Simply change the string ‘10’ to 10 and you should see a list of Pokemon on the screen!

Link to repo:

Thanks for reading!

Hey! I’m Faraz.
I’m a software engineer @ AdHawk.
I like to write about react, react native, javascript, basketball, and film.
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