debug typescript mocha and server in vscode

We recently are developing a graphql api using apollo server and Typeorm on top of Aws Lambda. Code-wise is kind of straightforward with schema defined, then resolvers then service layer then dao layer then model defined typeorm with its annotations/decorators. However there are 2 issues related to debugging, unit test and run graphql local.

unit test

For unit test, our ci/cd pipeline uses nyc/mocha as runner. Those are good for running all test suites and generating reports on coverages etc. However when it comes to debugging we need to go to ide. And as we are using typescript, there is one more layer of transpile rather than vanilla es5/6 which is this a bit more complicated.

Good news is vscode comes with a powerful built-in node debugger, with the blow config, we can just open a ts​ file with mocha tests, set break point and start debug,

  "name": "TS Mocha Tests File",
  "type": "node",
  "request": "launch",
  "program": "${workspaceRoot}/node_modules/mocha/bin/_mocha",
  "args": ["-r", "ts-node/register", "${relativeFile}"],
  "cwd": "${workspaceRoot}",
  "protocol": "inspector",
  "env": { "TS_NODE_PROJECT": "${workspaceRoot}/tsconfig.json"}
  • Sets up a node task, that launches mocha
  • Passes a -r argument, that tells mocha to require ts-node
  • Passes in the currently open file – ${relativeFile}
  • Sets the working directory to the project root – ${workspaceRoot}
  • Sets the node debug protocol to V8 Inspector mode
  • The last TS_NODE_PROJECT I have to set it as I am using Typeorm which uses annotation/decorator which requires emitDecoratorMetadata set to true which is not default.

Local Run with nodemon

Another issue is as we are using aws lambda, it is not easy to run our graphql server locally.
Need to set up a local Koa server with the schema that the Apollo lambda also uses. This way we can access our the graphiql service from the  localhost:8080/graphiql​.

import 'reflect-metadata';
import * as Koa from 'koa';
import { initDatabase } from '../../dao/data-source';
import * as Router from 'koa-router';
import * as koaBody from 'koa-bodyparser';
import {
} from 'apollo-server-koa';
import { schema } from '../../gq-schema';
import { localConf } from '../../config/config';

export const routes = new Router();

// API entrypoint
const apiEntrypointPath = '/graphql';
const graphQlOpts = graphqlKoa({
    context: {msg: 'hello context'}

// routes.get(apiEntrypointPath, graphQlOpts);, koaBody(), graphQlOpts);

// GraphiQL entrypoint
routes.get('/graphiql', graphiqlKoa({ endpointURL: apiEntrypointPath }));

(async () => {
  const app = new Koa();

Now we can have nodemon run this server so every time we make any code change, the server will reload with the new content. Put below content in the nodemon.json in the project root.

  "watch": ["./src"],
  "ext": "ts",
  "exec": "ts-node --inspect= ./path/to/above/server.ts"

Notice we run ts-node with 9229 port flag which is the default debug port for chrome so that we can later do debug in the chrome’s built-in node-debugger which is a green cube icon in the chrome’s dev tool console.

Now we can run local server by adding command into package.json:

"local": "npm run build && nodemon"

Then run npm run local OR ​yarn local.

Option2 debug server with vscode

To debug the above  server with vscode, we need to add some config into the launch.json.

      "name": "Local Graphql Server",
      "type": "node",
      "request": "launch",
      "args": [
      "runtimeArgs": [
      "sourceMaps": true,
      "cwd": "${workspaceRoot}",
      "protocol": "inspector",

  • Sets up a node task that starts the currently open file in VS Code (the${relativeFile} variable contains the currently open file)
  • Passes in the --nolazy arg for node, which tells v8 to compile your code ahead of time, so that breakpoints work correctly
  • Passes in -r ts-node/register for node, which ensures that ts-node is loaded before it tries to execute your code
  • Sets the working directory to the project root – ${workspaceRoot}
  • Sets the node debug protocol to V8 Inspector mode (see above)

Now we can set break point in vscode and start debugging.

PS: No Enum in x.d.ts

One thing I notice today is in the xxx.d.ts file which is the module definition file, never define thing like Enum inside as this file is used for type/interface definition only and the content will NOT compile to js hence will not available in the run time. So if you defined anything like enum here it will compile fine but when you run the application, as long as you use these enums​, you get runtime error.

One alternative solution is to use custom type and define the list of strings:

export type MessageLevel = "Unknown" | "Fatal" | "Critical" | "Error";

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