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You can pass --comments to retain certain comments in the output. By default it will keep comments starting with "!" and JSDoc-style comments that contain "@preserve", "@copyright", "@license" or "@cc_on" (conditional compilation for IE). You can pass --comments all to keep all the comments, or a valid JavaScript regexp to keep only comments that match this regexp. For example --comments /^!/ will keep comments like /*! Copyright Notice */.

Note, however, that there might be situations where comments are lost. For example:

function f() {
/** @preserve Foo Bar */
function g() {
// this function is never called
return something();

Even though it has "@preserve", the comment will be lost because the inner function g (which is the AST node to which the comment is attached to) is discarded by the compressor as not referenced.

The safest comments where to place copyright information (or other info that needs to be kept in the output) are comments attached to toplevel nodes.

The unsafe compress option

It enables some transformations that might break code logic in certain contrived cases, but should be fine for most code. It assumes that standard built-in ECMAScript functions and classes have not been altered or replaced. You might want to try it on your own code; it should reduce the minified size. Some examples of the optimizations made when this option is enabled:

  • new Array(1, 2, 3) or Array(1, 2, 3)[ 1, 2, 3 ]
  • Array.from([1, 2, 3])[1, 2, 3]
  • new Object(){}
  • String(exp) or exp.toString()"" + exp
  • new Object/RegExp/Function/Error/Array (...) → we discard the new
  • "foo bar".substr(4)"bar"

Conditional compilation

You can use the --define (-d) switch in order to declare global variables that Terser will assume to be constants (unless defined in scope). For example if you pass --define DEBUG=false then, coupled with dead code removal Terser will discard the following from the output:

if (DEBUG) {
console.log("debug stuff");

You can specify nested constants in the form of --define env.DEBUG=false.

Another way of doing that is to declare your globals as constants in a separate file and include it into the build. For example you can have a build/defines.js file with the following:

var DEBUG = false;
var PRODUCTION = true;
// etc.

and build your code like this:

terser build/defines.js js/foo.js js/bar.js... -c

Terser will notice the constants and, since they cannot be altered, it will evaluate references to them to the value itself and drop unreachable code as usual. The build will contain the const declarations if you use them. If you are targeting < ES6 environments which does not support const, using var with reduce_vars (enabled by default) should suffice.

Conditional compilation API

You can also use conditional compilation via the programmatic API. With the difference that the property name is global_defs and is a compressor property:

var result = await minify(fs.readFileSync("input.js", "utf8"), {
compress: {
dead_code: true,
global_defs: {
DEBUG: false

To replace an identifier with an arbitrary non-constant expression it is necessary to prefix the global_defs key with "@" to instruct Terser to parse the value as an expression:

await minify("alert('hello');", {
compress: {
global_defs: {
"@alert": "console.log"
// returns: 'console.log("hello");'

Otherwise it would be replaced as string literal:

await minify("alert('hello');", {
compress: {
global_defs: {
"alert": "console.log"
// returns: '"console.log"("hello");'


Annotations in Terser are a way to tell it to treat a certain function call differently. The following annotations are available:

  • /*@__INLINE__*/ - forces a function to be inlined somewhere.
  • /*@__NOINLINE__*/ - Makes sure the called function is not inlined into the call site.
  • /*@__PURE__*/ - Marks a function call as pure. That means, it can safely be dropped.
  • /*@__KEY__*/ - Marks a string literal as a property to also mangle it when mangling properties.
  • /*@__MANGLE_PROP__*/ - Opts-in an object property (or class field) for mangling, when the property mangler is enabled.

You can use either a @ sign at the start, or a #.

Here are some examples on how to use them:



const x = /*#__PURE__*/i_am_dropped_if_x_is_not_used()

function lookup(object, key) { return object[key]; }
lookup({ i_will_be_mangled_too: "bar" }, /*@__KEY__*/ "i_will_be_mangled_too");

ESTree / SpiderMonkey AST

Terser has its own abstract syntax tree format; for practical reasons we can't easily change to using the SpiderMonkey AST internally. However, Terser now has a converter which can import a SpiderMonkey AST.

For example Acorn is a super-fast parser that produces a SpiderMonkey AST. It has a small CLI utility that parses one file and dumps the AST in JSON on the standard output. To use Terser to mangle and compress that:

acorn file.js | terser -p spidermonkey -m -c

The -p spidermonkey option tells Terser that all input files are not JavaScript, but JS code described in SpiderMonkey AST in JSON. Therefore we don't use our own parser in this case, but just transform that AST into our internal AST.

spidermonkey is also available in minify as parse and format options to accept and/or produce a spidermonkey AST.

Use Acorn for parsing

More for fun, I added the -p acorn option which will use Acorn to do all the parsing. If you pass this option, Terser will require("acorn").

Acorn is really fast (e.g. 250ms instead of 380ms on some 650K code), but converting the SpiderMonkey tree that Acorn produces takes another 150ms so in total it's a bit more than just using Terser's own parser.

Terser Fast Minify Mode

It's not well known, but whitespace removal and symbol mangling accounts for 95% of the size reduction in minified code for most JavaScript - not elaborate code transforms. One can simply disable compress to speed up Terser builds by 3 to 4 times.

d3.jssizegzip sizetime (s)
terser@3.7.5 mangle=false, compress=false316,60085,2450.82
terser@3.7.5 mangle=true, compress=false220,21672,7301.45
terser@3.7.5 mangle=true, compress=true212,04670,9545.87

To enable fast minify mode from the CLI use:

terser file.js -m

To enable fast minify mode with the API use:

await minify(code, { compress: false, mangle: true });

Source maps and debugging

Various compress transforms that simplify, rearrange, inline and remove code are known to have an adverse effect on debugging with source maps. This is expected as code is optimized and mappings are often simply not possible as some code no longer exists. For highest fidelity in source map debugging disable the compress option and just use mangle.

When debugging, make sure you enable the "map scopes" feature to map mangled variable names back to their original names.
Without this, all variable values will be undefined. See for more details.


Compiler assumptions

To allow for better optimizations, the compiler makes various assumptions:

  • .toString() and .valueOf() don't have side effects, and for built-in objects they have not been overridden.
  • undefined, NaN and Infinity have not been externally redefined.
  • arguments.callee, arguments.caller and Function.prototype.caller are not used.
  • The code doesn't expect the contents of Function.prototype.toString() or Error.prototype.stack to be anything in particular.
  • Getting and setting properties on a plain object does not cause other side effects (using .watch() or Proxy).
  • Object properties can be added, removed and modified (not prevented with Object.defineProperty(), Object.defineProperties(), Object.freeze(), Object.preventExtensions() or Object.seal()).
  • document.all is not == null
  • Assigning properties to a class doesn't have side effects and does not throw.

Build Tools and Adaptors using Terser

Replacing uglify-es with terser in a project using yarn

A number of JS bundlers and uglify wrappers are still using buggy versions of uglify-es and have not yet upgraded to terser. If you are using yarn you can add the following alias to your project's package.json file:

  "resolutions": {
"uglify-es": "npm:terser"

to use terser instead of uglify-es in all deeply nested dependencies without changing any code.

Note: for this change to take effect you must run the following commands to remove the existing yarn lock file and reinstall all packages:

$ rm -rf node_modules yarn.lock
$ yarn