Using Multiple Types in an Array in TypeScript

Updated: January 7, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


TypeScript, a superscript of JavaScript, offers static typing capabilities that help developers ensure type safety. One scenario where TypeScript shines is in defining arrays with multiple types, also known as ‘tuples’. This tutorial will guide you through using such feature-rich structures in TypeScript.

Type Basics

Before jumping into multi-type arrays, let’s quickly review TypeScript’s fundamental type annotations. In TypeScript, you can define an array of single type elements as follows:

let fruits: string[] = ['Apple', 'Banana', 'Cherry'];

However, in some cases, you need an array to store elements of various types.

Defining Multi-Type Arrays

To define an array with multiple types, you use the tuple type in TypeScript:

let mixedArray: [string, number, boolean] = ['Hello', 42, true];

This indicates that the first element must be a string, the second a number, and the third a boolean.

Basic Usage

In its simplest form, you could use such an array as follows:

let person: [string, number] = ['Alex', 30];
console.log(person[0]); // Output: Alex
console.log(person[1]); // Output: 30

Adding Optional Types

Optionally, you can allow undefined values using the ‘?’ operator to indicate optional elements:

let optionalTuple: [string, number, boolean?] = ['Tree', 10];

Array of Tuples

When you have an array where each item is a tuple of the same structure, you can define it as follows:

let employeeData: [string, number, boolean][] = [
    ['Alice', 28, true],
    ['Bob', 35, false]

Variadic Tuple Types

With TypeScript 4.0 and later, you have the option to define variadic tuple types using the spread operator:

type StringNumberBooleans = [string, number, ...boolean[]];
let data: StringNumberBooleans = ['Sample', 10, true, false, true];

Tuple Operations

Working with TypeScript tuples involves understanding how to manipulate these structures.

Accessing Tuple Elements

Accessing elements in a tuple is akin to array access:

let firstElement = mixedArray[0]; // string
let secondElement = mixedArray[1]; // number

Adding and Removing Elements

Mutating a tuple should usually align with its defined structure:

// Correctly adding elements

// Incorrectly adding elements - would throw an error during compilation
optionalTuple.push('New string');

Advanced Tuple Type Patterns

More complex scenarios bring out the power of tuples with multiple types in TypeScript.

Read-Only Tuples

You can also define tuples that are not mutable using the ‘readonly’ keyword:

let fixedTuple: readonly [string, number] = ['Immutable', 10];
// fixedTuple.push(20); // Error!

Tuple with Rest Parameters

Functions can take advantage of Tuple types with rest parameters.

function logItems(...items: [string, number, boolean]) {
  items.forEach(item => console.log(item));
logItems('Test', 42, true);

Generics and Tuples

Generics offer a way to create reusable component types. They work with tuples too:

function pair<T, U>(a: T, b: U): [T, U] {
  return [a, b];
let stringNumberPair = pair('One', 1);

Practical Application

This section covers common use-cases for tuples in real-life development.

Returning multiple Values

Often you want to return multiple values from a function:

function getStats(input: number[]): [number, number, number] {
  const total = input.reduce((acc, val) => acc + val, 0);
  const count = input.length;
  const average = total / count;
  return [total, count, average];

CSV File Parsing

Parsing CSV files often involves working with different data types, and tuples can fit this scenario quite well:

// Assume a CSV line: Name, Age, HasDriverLicence
let csvData: [string, number, boolean] = parseCSVLine('John,30,true');


Using multiple types in a TypeScript array utilizes the power of tuples, providing several benefits such as type safety, clarity in function return types, and flexible array-like usage. Variadic tuples and tuple generics open even more possibilities, cementing TypeScript’s reputation as a powerful tool for developers.