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Embedding JSON Typedef in other tools

JSON Type Definition, aka RFC 8927, is an easy-to-learn, standardized way to define a schema for JSON data. You can use JSON Typedef to portably validate data across programming languages, create dummy data, generate code, and more.

JSON Typedef is explicitly designed to be easy to use as a “sub-routine” inside other data formats or other tooling. This article goes over some techniques you can use to “embed” JSON Typedef schemas inside your own tooling.

What does it mean to “embed” JSON Typedef?

“Embedding” JSON Typedef refers to the practice of defining your own file or message format, and some part of that format is a JSON Typedef schema. For example, one of the most common ways JSON Typedef gets embedded in other systems when you want to make a custom Interface Description Language for your organization.

Embedding jtd-codegen

The jtd-codegen tool generates code in many programming languages from a JSON Typedef schema. If you’re embedding JSON Typedef in a custom file format, it’s often useful to be able to use jtd-codegen's generated types as part of your own code generation tooling.

For example, if you’re embedding JSON Typedef in a custom Interface Description Language, maybe you want to handle generating code that deals with the specifics of your interface, such as generating the basic structure of an HTTP handler or Kafka consumer. But in order to generate that code, you need to have types for the inputs (HTTP requests, Kafka messages consumed) and outputs (HTTP responses, Kafka messages produced) of your interface.

If you’re using JSON Typedef in your custom file format to describe those inputs and outputs, you can use jtd-codegen to generate types for those inputs/outputs, and jtd-codegen can tell you what names it generated for each of those inputs/outputs.

Whenever you invoke jtd-codegen, in the output you’ll get the names of generated types in human-friendly format. For example, if you generate code from this schema:

  "definitions": {
    "location": {
      "properties": {
        "lat": { "type": "float32" },
        "lng": { "type": "float32" }
  "properties": {
    "user_location": { "ref": "location" },
    "server_location": { "ref": "location" }

Then you’ll get output that looks like this from jtd-codegen:

jtd-codegen location_pair.jtd.json --typescript-out=src/user
📝 Writing TypeScript code to: src/user
📦 Generated TypeScript code.
📦     Root schema converted into type: LocationPair
📦     Definition "location" converted into type: Location

This is exactly the sort of information we need if we want to re-use the jtd-codegen-generated types (in this case, LocationPair and Location) in our own code. To make this information easier to parse, jtd-codegen can output instead in JSON. For example:

jtd-codegen --log-format=json location_pair.jtd.json --typescript-out=src/user | jq
  "TypeScript": {
    "out_dir": "src/user",
    "root_name": "LocationPair",
    "definition_names": {
      "location": "Location"

So what you can do is call jtd-codegen with --log-format=json from your own code generation program, parse the JSON output, and then use the generated names in your generated code.

Keep in mind you don’t have to create a JSON Typedef schema file in order to use jtd-codegen. As mentioned in “Integrating jtd-codegen”, you can pass jtd-codegen a schema through stdin, and you can use --root-name to give jtd-codegen a hint of what name you’d like to give the generated root datatype.