Global: Plugin


A UMD module is one that can either be used as module (through an import), or as a global (when run in an environment without a module loader). Many popular libraries, such as Moment.js, are written this way. For example, in Node.js or using RequireJS, you would write:

import moment = require("moment");

whereas in a vanilla browser environment you would write:


Identifying a UMD library

UMD modules check for the existence of a module loader environment. This is an easy-to-spot pattern that looks something like this:

(function (root, factory) {
if (typeof define === "function" && define.amd) {
define(["libName"], factory);
} else if (typeof module === "object" && module.exports) {
module.exports = factory(require("libName"));
} else {
root.returnExports = factory(root.libName);
}(this, function (b) {

If you see tests for typeof define, typeof window, or typeof module in the code of a library, especially at the top of the file, it’s almost always a UMD library.

Documentation for UMD libraries will also often demonstrate a “Using in Node.js” example showing require, and a “Using in the browser” example showing using a <script> tag to load the script.

Examples of UMD libraries

Most popular libraries are now available as UMD packages. Examples include jQuery, Moment.js, lodash, and many more.


There are three templates available for modules, module.d.ts, module-class.d.ts and module-function.d.ts.

Use module-function.d.ts if your module can be called like a function:

var x = require("foo");
// Note: calling 'x' as a function
var y = x(42);

Be sure to read the footnote “The Impact of ES6 on Module Call Signatures”

Use module-class.d.ts if your module can be constructed using new:

var x = require("bar");
// Note: using 'new' operator on the imported variable
var y = new x("hello");

The same footnote applies to these modules.

If your module is not callable or constructable, use the module.d.ts file.

Module Plugin or UMD Plugin

A module plugin changes the shape of another module (either UMD or module). For example, in Moment.js, moment-range adds a new range method to the moment object.

For the purposes of writing a declaration file, you’ll write the same code whether the module being changed is a plain module or UMD module.


Use the module-plugin.d.ts template.

Global Plugin

A global plugin is global code that changes the shape of some global. As with global-modifying modules, these raise the possibility of runtime conflict.

For example, some libraries add new functions to Array.prototype or String.prototype.

Identifying global plugins

Global plugins are generally easy to identify from their documentation.

You’ll see examples that look like this:

var x = "hello, world";
// Creates new methods on built-in types
var y = [1, 2, 3];
// Creates new methods on built-in types


Use the global-plugin.d.ts template.

Global-modifying Modules

A global-modifying module alters existing values in the global scope when they are imported. For example, there might exist a library which adds new members to String.prototype when imported. This pattern is somewhat dangerous due to the possibility of runtime conflicts, but we can still write a declaration file for it.

Identifying global-modifying modules

Global-modifying modules are generally easy to identify from their documentation. In general, they’re similar to global plugins, but need a require call to activate their effects.

You might see documentation like this:

// 'require' call that doesn't use its return value
var unused = require("magic-string-time");
/* or */
var x = "hello, world";
// Creates new methods on built-in types
var y = [1, 2, 3];
// Creates new methods on built-in types


Use the global-modifying-module.d.ts template.

Consuming Dependencies

There are several kinds of dependencies your library might have. This section shows how to import them into the declaration file.

Dependencies on Global Libraries

If your library depends on a global library, use a /// <reference types="..." /> directive:

/// <reference types="someLib" />
function getThing(): someLib.thing;

Dependencies on Modules

If your library depends on a module, use an import statement:

import * as moment from "moment";
function getThing(): moment;

Dependencies on UMD libraries

From a Global Library

If your global library depends on a UMD module, use a /// <reference types directive:

/// <reference types="moment" />
function getThing(): moment;

From a Module or UMD Library

If your module or UMD library depends on a UMD library, use an import statement:

import * as someLib from "someLib";

Do not use a /// <reference directive to declare a dependency to a UMD library!


Preventing Name Conflicts

Note that it’s possible to define many types in the global scope when writing a global declaration file. We strongly discourage this as it leads to possible unresolvable name conflicts when many declaration files are in a project.

A simple rule to follow is to only declare types namespaced by whatever global variable the library defines. For example, if the library defines the global value ‘cats’, you should write

declare namespace cats {
interface KittySettings {}

But not

// at top-level
interface CatsKittySettings {}

This guidance also ensures that the library can be transitioned to UMD without breaking declaration file users.

The Impact of ES6 on Module Plugins

Some plugins add or modify top-level exports on existing modules. While this is legal in CommonJS and other loaders, ES6 modules are considered immutable and this pattern will not be possible. Because TypeScript is loader-agnostic, there is no compile-time enforcement of this policy, but developers intending to transition to an ES6 module loader should be aware of this.

The Impact of ES6 on Module Call Signatures

Many popular libraries, such as Express, expose themselves as a callable function when imported. For example, the typical Express usage looks like this:

import exp = require("express");
var app = exp();

In ES6 module loaders, the top-level object (here imported as exp) can only have properties; the top-level module object is never callable. The most common solution here is to define a default export for a callable/constructable object; some module loader shims will automatically detect this situation and replace the top-level object with the default export.

Library file layout

The layout of your declaration files should mirror the layout of the library.

A library can consist of multiple modules, such as

+---- index.js
+---- foo.js
+---- bar
+---- index.js
+---- baz.js

These could be imported as

var a = require("myLib");
var b = require("myLib/foo");
var c = require("myLib/bar");
var d = require("myLib/bar/baz");

Your declaration files should thus be

+---- index.d.ts
+---- foo.d.ts
+---- bar
+---- index.d.ts
+---- baz.d.ts
// Type definitions for [~THE LIBRARY NAME~] [~OPTIONAL VERSION NUMBER~]
// Project: [~THE PROJECT NAME~]
// Definitions by: [~YOUR NAME~] <[~A URL FOR YOU~]>
/*~ This template shows how to write a global plugin. */
/*~ Write a declaration for the original type and add new members.
*~ For example, this adds a 'toBinaryString' method with overloads to
*~ the built-in number type.
interface Number {
toBinaryString(opts?: MyLibrary.BinaryFormatOptions): string;
callback: MyLibrary.BinaryFormatCallback,
opts?: MyLibrary.BinaryFormatOptions
): string;
/*~ If you need to declare several types, place them inside a namespace
*~ to avoid adding too many things to the global namespace.
declare namespace MyLibrary {
type BinaryFormatCallback = (n: number) => string;
interface BinaryFormatOptions {
prefix?: string;
padding: number;

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MHMohamed Hegazy  (53)
OTOrta Therox  (16)
MFMartin Fischer  (1)
JHJonathan Harrison  (1)
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Last updated: May 16, 2024