Getting Started
ESM TypeScript usage

ESM TypeScript Usage

ESM is an important step in the JavaScript ecosystem because it allows static analysis of the dependency tree. For bundlers such as Webpack, this is huge as it allows the compiled bundle only to contain code that is required at runtime, which means a smaller download size when loading code over the network.

While ESM is a huge benefit for the whole JavaScript community, the adoption is not straight-forward.

Note: ESM adoption in the JavaScript ecosystem is still in progress. If you choose to use ESM in your application (especially Node.js), you might hit a lot of pitfalls and incompatibility issues within libraries.

If you are not interested in ESM, you can easily skip this documentation.

Let's show you how to use ESM with TypeScript.

If you are impatient, checkout this example.

Codegen Configuration

One quirk of ESM is that named imports, such as ./foo or ../something/from/here, now require adding a .js at the end of the import statement. For these examples, the correct ESM counterpart is ./foo.js and ../something/from/here.js.

In order to instruct GraphQL Code Generator to generate such imports whenever a named import is generated, you need to set the emitLegacyCommonJSImports option to false.

import { CodegenConfig } from '@graphql-codegen/cli'
const config: CodegenConfig = {
  schema: 'http://localhost:4000/graphql',
  documents: ['src/**/*.tsx'],
  emitLegacyCommonJSImports: false,
  generates: {
    './src/gql/': {
      preset: 'client',
      plugins: []
export default config

TypeScript Compiler Options

TypeScript introduced a new module resolution algorithm for ESM in version 4.7. For supporting ESM within your application, you need to set moduleResolution to node16 and the (output) module type to node16 (see tsconfig.json).

  "compilerOptions": {
    "target": "ES2018",
    "moduleResolution": "node16",
    "module": "node16",
    "outDir": "dist"
  "include": ["src/**/*"]

Package adjustments

In order to instruct runtimes and tooling to interpret .js files as ESM you have to set the type property to module within the package.json of your application.

Furthermore, you can use the ESM CLI version of GraphQL Code Generator by utilizing the command `graphql-codegen-esm. This step, however, is fully optional.

  "name": "example-typescript-esm",
  "version": "0.0.0",
  "private": true,
  "devDependencies": {
    "@graphql-codegen/cli": "2.11.3",
    "@graphql-codegen/gql-tag-operations-preset": "1.5.2"
  "dependencies": {
    "@graphql-typed-document-node/core": "3.1.1",
    "graphql": "16.5.0"
  "scripts": {
    "codegen": "graphql-codegen-esm --config codegen.ts",
    "build": "tsc",
    "start": "node dist/main.js"
  "type": "module"


Supporting ESM and configuring GraphQL Code Generator and your project for ESM requires some work but isn't that hard. As mentioned before, you can check out an example in the GraphQL Code Generator repository.

Here are also some useful additional resources:

Last updated on September 13, 2022