Interface vs Type Alias in TypeScript—Quick Comparison

Quick Comparison: Interface vs Type Alias

This can be confusing for anyone working with TypeScript—beginner or seasoned programmer. Both ways can cover similar needs.

In this post you’ll quickly see what Typescript feature is possible to implement as Type Alias or Interface. I stayed brief and spicy to give the post an overview character.


👉 TLDR: You don’t care about each difference? What should you use?

Use interface until you need type

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Overview: Interface (I) vs Type Alias (T)

Feature I T Example
Primitives type UUID = string
Extend / Intersect Response & ErrorHandling
Unions string | number
Mapped object types ['apple' | 'orange']: number
Augment existing types declare global { interface Window { … } }
Declare type with typeof Response = typeof ReturnType<fetch>
Tuples [string, number]
Functions (x: number, y: number): void
Recursion Nested { children?: Nested[] }

Primitives

❌: Interface
✅: Type Alias

string, number and boolean make up the Primitives in Typescript.

Primitive type declaration comparison in TypeScript

Extend / Intersect

✅: Interface
✅: Type Alias

Although intersect and extend are not 100% the same for interface and type alias, I put them together in this example. The differences arise when type keys appear in both types that you want to extend or intersect from.

So if the extended or intersected key is not the same type:

  • Type Alias lets you do it but changes that type to never
  • Interface spits an error that the types are not compatible
Extend & intersect comparison in TypeScript

Mapped object types

❌: Interface
✅: Type Alias

Type the keys in your objects with this.

Here are a few useful applications of this:

  • [key: string]: only strings as key allowed
  • [key: number]: only numbers as key allowed
  • [key in keyof T as `get${Capitalize<string & key>}`]: only allow keys that start with get..., e.g. as seen in a Getter object
Mapped object types comparison in TypeScript

Unions

❌: Interface
✅: Type Alias

Typescript’s equivalent to OR: The type is either x or y or z or as many as you want.

Unions comparison in TypeScript

Augment existing types

✅: Interface
❌: Type Alias

You can add fields to already existing types. It’s useful when you add a new field (e.g. jQuery library for auto completion) onto an existing type (e.g. window).

Augment existing types comparison in TypeScript

Tuples

✅: Interface
✅: Type Alias

If you’ve used hooks in react, then you know the usefulness of tuples.

A single function call can return an array of values and functions, that are destructured and can be used as fully typed variables: const [name, setName] = useState('')

Tuples comparison in TypeScript

Functions

✅: Interface
✅: Type Alias

Functions can be annotated with Parameter Types and Return Types.

Functions comparison in TypeScript

Recursion

✅: Interface
✅: Type Alias

Recursion are simple to use. Make sure you add the optional ? to the recursive property. Otherwise the TS compiler spits out an error upon searching an endless recursion.

Recursion comparison in TypeScript

More resources


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Simon Wicki

Simon Wicki is a Freelance Frontend Developer in Berlin. Passionate and fluent in Vue, Angular, React and Ionic. Interested in Tech, frontend, web perf & non-fiction books

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