The JavaScript Toolchain Sucks

Programming in server-side, NodeJS JavaScript is so frustrating for me at the moment. I love JS the language, but the tooling around it is fairly awful.

There’s this whole galaxy of configuration files that float along with every project: package.json and package-lock.json for modules, .prettierrc and .prettierignore for formatting, .nvmrc for which node version you’re using, a .husky directory with some git hooks, .eslintrc and .eslintignore for linting the code, maybe a tsconfig.json for doing TypeScript stuff, .npmrc for using custom node package registries…

And each one comes with a bristling array of options such that the config surface of any utility is easily mismatched against any prior or future project I’ve worked on. For instance, I don’t know that any TypeScript config I’ve ever used has been easily moved from one project to another.

And, yes, I know there are probably good reasons for this. And, yes, I understand that such hairs are actually the sign of a thriving ecosystem that serves a broad array of users.

But I can’t help wondering if there’s a usability failure here. Extensive configurability surfaces (like preferences dialogs with a gajillion tabs) are sometimes a sign of ceded design responsibilities. They’re also sometimes a sign of bad engineering workarounds and cans kicked down the road.

Not to pick on TypeScript here too much (they’re all guilty), but have you seen tsconfig.json’s property disableSizeLimit? It’s categorized under “Editor Support”. Why is the compiler config worried about bloating the memory of editors? Which editor is it worried about here? I’m pretty sure this was added because of something going on with Visual Studio Code. And Code is a useful editor, and I’m glad we’re keeping it working. But, again, the compiler might have an option turned on to help that editor… sometimes?