My girlfriend is learning Meteor as she already has some knowledge in AngularJS and I personally think TypeScript would make her life easier (eventually) I suggested her, to follow the great tutorial on AngularJS with Meteor, but implement it in TypeScript. Her code is on GitHub, in case you want to give it a try yourself and check how the solution could look like.

While it wasn’t easy, in chapter 14 it got really confusing for her, because of this being used in a function in JavaScript. There are over 19 Million (!) hits on my Google search for javascript this binding. And this issue gets bigger in TypeScript, which introduces a new way of defining function, with the arrow notation (() => {}).

So let’s first look at the TypeScript’s arrow function:

...
var f = () => {
    console.log("I'm an arrow function in the context");
    console.log(this);
}
...

That code will compile to:

...
var _this = this;
function f() {
    console.log("I'm an arrow function in the context");
    console.log(_this);
}
...

You see, once you have an arrow function, this isn’t going to change, ever. No bind or apply will change it. TypeScript essentially does with the arrow function, what so many developers did before in plain JavaScript. It introduces a temporary variable which takes on the form of this, outside the function (usually called _this), and that variable is used instead of this inside the function.

Ok, so basically, what ever you know about bind and apply just isn’t relevant, as long as you use arrow functions, awesome, TypeScript might have made your life actually easier. Now what if you actually need to retrieve the value of a modified this inside a function? Well, at first, don’t define it as an arrow function, it won’t work. Now, let’s have a look at a practical example. Here is a Meteor method defined from chapter 14, the original JavaScript code:

  Meteor.methods({
    invite: function (partyId, userId) {
      check(partyId, String);
      check(userId, String);
      var party = Parties.findOne(partyId);
        if (!party)
          throw new Meteor.Error(404, "No such party");
        if (party.owner !== this.userId)
          throw new Meteor.Error(404, "No such party");
        if (party.public)
          throw new Meteor.Error(400,
            "That party is public. No need to invite people.");

      if (userId !== party.owner && ! _.contains(party.invited, userId)) {
        Parties.update(partyId, { $addToSet: { invited: userId } });

        var from = contactEmail(Meteor.users.findOne(this.userId));
        var to = contactEmail(Meteor.users.findOne(userId));

        if (Meteor.isServer && to) {
          // This code only runs on the server. If you didn't want clients
          // to be able to see it, you could move it to a separate file.
          Email.send({
            from: "noreply@socially.com",
            to: to,
            replyTo: from || undefined,
            subject: "PARTY: " + party.title,
            text:
              "Hey, I just invited you to '" + party.title + "' on Socially." +
              "\n\nCome check it out: " + Meteor.absoluteUrl() + "\n"
          });
        }
      }
    }
  });

Let’s try to transform it into TypeScript. I won’t be adding references as I assume they are in the head of the file. Here the new code, with comments on what changed:

  // first we need to create a new interface for the context `this`, in which the method will be executed
  interface IMeteorMethodThis {
    userId: string; // this is the only property I'm sure of and which I need below, so it's ok
  }

  Meteor.methods({
    invite: function (partyId: string, userId: string) { // adding type information, no arrow notation allowed :(
      check(partyId, String);
      check(userId, String);

      // we will be using `this` but in order to get better syntax support, we'll need to cast it. In these cases, I'm assigning it to a new variable called `me`
      // this GitHub issue is meant to deal with that problem: https://github.com/Microsoft/TypeScript/issues/229 - add comments there, to keep it alive
      var me = <IMeteorMethodThis>this;

      var party = Parties.findOne(partyId);
        if (!party)
          throw new Meteor.Error('404', "No such party"); // Meteor.Error actually expects 2 strings, so 404 needs to be in quotes
        if (party.owner !== me.userId) // we are using `me` here for type checking
          throw new Meteor.Error('404', "No such party"); // Meteor.Error actually expects 2 strings, so 404 needs to be in quotes
        if (party.public)
          throw new Meteor.Error('400', // Meteor.Error actually expects 2 strings, so 400 needs to be in quotes
            "That party is public. No need to invite people.");

      if (userId !== party.owner && ! _.contains(party.invited, userId)) {
        Parties.update(partyId, { $addToSet: { invited: userId } });

        var from = contactEmail(Meteor.users.findOne(me.userId)); // one more time `me`
        var to = contactEmail(Meteor.users.findOne(userId));
        // ... the rest doesn't change ...
      }
    }
  });

As you can see, the changes were actually minimal, but targeted. And for somebody without a concept of bind and apply, they might seem like magic. As it is written in one of the first posts on the Google search

JavaScript’s Apply, Call, and Bind Methods are Essential for JavaScript Professionals

But the tutorial isn’t for professionals, still you need to understand something so complex, in order to translate it on the fly to TypeScript. Let’s make it a bit more complicated to see the actual problem. Let’s assume, I want to have a class with all my Meteor methods to structure the code better.

class MyMethods {
    invite(partyId: string, userId: string) {
        ...
        this. ... // Question: what is the value of this?
        ...
    }
}
var m = new MyMethods();

Depending on how we will use it now, this inside our invite method will change:

m.invite('asdf', 'qwer'); // `this` is `m`, as it's supposed to be

Meteor.Methods({
    invite1: m.invite, // `this` is the special object, provided by Meteor with properties like the userId (IMeteorMethodThis from above)
    invite2: (partyId: string, userId: string) => { m.invite(partyId, userId); }, // `this` is again `m`
    invite3: m.invite.bind(m) // `this` is again `m`
});

The problem here is, that you can only keep one this, either the instance of MyMethods, or the object provided by Meteor. The only solution, I’ve found to make code like above work (having a class with all the methods), would be having invite2 as a normal function and than modifying either the object m or having another function, where the current userId (this.userId) could be passed on. Here an example:

class MyMethods {
    invite(currentUserId: string, partyId: string, userId: string) {
        ...
    }
}
var m = new MyMethods();

Meteor.Methods({
    invite: function (partyId: string, userId: string) {
        var me = <IMeteorMethodThis>this;
        m.invite(me.userId, partyId, userId);
    }
});

Another option would be, creating the object only inside the invite function and passing this.userId as a parameter to the constructor:

class MyMethods {
    constructor(private currentUserId: string)

    invite(currentUserId: string, partyId: string, userId: string) {
        ... // user this.currentUserId here
    }
}

Meteor.Methods({
    invite: function (partyId: string, userId: string) {
        var me = <IMeteorMethodThis>this;

        var m = new MyMethods(me.userId);
        m.invite(partyId, userId);
    }
});

Which one of these methods is better and more appropriate will for sure depend on the implementation of MyMethods.

Additionally I’ve also created a small script, where you can see the confusing behavior of this, as I’ve been just describing it, in practice. You can find it on GitHub. After downloading just run

npm install
npm start

to see it running. npm start compiles the index.ts and runs it immediately after. You can also see the generated JavaScript code in the compiled index.js. You can find the explanations on why, which line prints what as comments in the TypeScript code. Have fun with it, and hopefully it will save you some trouble.

Happy Coding!
Peter