Debugging TypeScript projects with VSCode in 2023

Debugging TypeScript projects with VSCode in 2023

A simple config for your Node.js and TypeScript projects to get debugging and auto-restarts working together in just a few minutes.

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I finally decided to invest some time in properly setting up a debugger for my Node + TS projects. console.log is cool and all, but it just wasn't cutting it anymore.

So, I've been reading documentation (plus so many GitHub issues), and trying different solutions, and I ended up with a config that I'm actually happy with!

Keep reading to learn how to:

  1. Create a project with Node.js and TypeScript.

  2. Install a package (ts-node-dev) and configure it so it can run your project and auto-restart on save.

  3. Configure the debugger in VSCode so it uses ts-node-dev to both enable the debugging of .ts files and provide auto-restarts.

  4. Finally, stop relying on console.log('here!') to debug your code :D

Initialize the project

Create a directory for your project and initialize it:

mkdir ts-starter
cd ts-starter
npm init -y

Install TypeScript

Install TypeScript and the type definitions for node:

npm install typescript @types/node --save-dev

Setup your tsconfig

To create the tsconfig.json file, run the following command:

npx tsc --init

The default tsconfig.json generated should look something like this:

    "compilerOptions": {
        "target": "ES2016",
        "module": "commonjs",
        "esModuleInterop": true,
        "forceConsistentCasingInFileNames": true,
        "strict": true,
        "skipLibCheck": true 

Install ts-node-dev

We’re going to hook up ts-node-dev with the VSCode debugger to get both the debugger and auto-restarts working!

Start by installing the package:

npm install ts-node-dev --save-dev

To quickly try it out, we can create a new script in the package.json:

"scripts": {
    "dev": "ts-node-dev --respawn src/index.ts"

Now let’s write some code to run!

Create the src directory and add the following code:

// index.ts

interface Game {
  name: string;
  genre: string;
  platform: string;

const game: Game = {
  name: "Super Mario",
  genre: "Platformer",
  platform: "Nintendo",


We’re adding some types so we can make sure the compiler is working properly.

Finally, run the dev script from your terminal:

npm run dev

You should see something like this:

And finally, change the values in your game constant and save the file, to see the automatic restarts in action!

Nice, we can see how the app auto-restarts after we make changes!

Set up the VSCode Debugger

First, let’s generate a launch.json file. To do that:

  1. Open the command palette (Ctrl + Shift + P or Cmd + Shift + P on Mac) and select “Debug: Add Configuration”

  2. On the next step, select Node.js for the Debugger

You should get an auto-generated launch.json file, like this one:

    "version": "0.2.0",
    "configurations": [
            "type": "node",
            "request": "launch",
            "name": "Launch Program",
            "skipFiles": [
            "program": "${workspaceFolder}\\\\src\\\\index.ts",
            "outFiles": [

Replace it with the following configuration:

    "version": "0.2.0",
    "configurations": [
            "type": "node",
            "request": "launch",
            "name": "Launch + auto-restart",
            "runtimeExecutable": "${workspaceRoot}/node_modules/.bin/ts-node-dev",
            "args": [

The main properties to notice here are:

  • runtimeExecutable: By default, this would be node, but we are replacing it with ts-node-dev

  • args: We’re adding the --respawn flag, which tells ts-node-dev to restart the process when files change, and then we add the path to our startup file.

Essentially, these two properties produce a result similar to the ts-node-dev --respawn src/index.ts script we set up earlier in the package.json.

Now, let’s try it!

Press F5 to start the debugger. You should see the output on VSCode’s integrated terminal:

Try adding a breakpoint, and then make some changes and save:

The app should restart and hit the breakpoint!

That's it!

What I love about this config is how simple it is. All we needed was ts-node-dev, a few tweaks to the debugger config file, and it just works!

Although, to be completely honest, I'll probably still use console.log('here') every now and then, just for old times' sake.

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