JavaScript idioms

JavaScript is a powerful and sometimes weird language and it has a lot of interesting idioms (about what is programming idiom). My intention in this article is just to show some of the most popular and widely used javascript idioms. I won’t focus on whether it is good or bad to use some or any of them.

Double exclamation

Prefixing anything with !! converts it to a boolean.

var foo = 0
//> false

Essentially it is a shorter way to write Boolean(foo).

Converting arguments to array

The arguments object can be used to access the arguments passed to the function. However, it is not an Array so it doesn’t have Array properties except length. The idiom is used very frequently to convert the argument’s object to an actual array.

(function() {
  console.log(arguments instanceof Array)
  //> false

  var args =
  console.log(args instanceof Array)
  //> true

Assigning default values

function foo(opts) {
  var msg = opts.message || 'Hello world!'

// instead of
function foo(opts) {
  var msg = opts.message ? opts.message : 'Hello world!'

More examples of interesting || and && usages can be found in the 12 Simple (Yet Powerful) JavaScript Tips article.

Converting to array if not already

var totallyArray = [].concat(value)

//instead of
var totallyArray = value instanceof Array ? value : [value]

Converting strings to number

var foo = +'12.2'
var bar = +'12'

// instead of
var foo = parseFloat('12.2')
var bar = parseInt('12')

Checking if an array includes an element

if (~[1, 2, 3].indexOf(2)) { console.log('includes') }

// instead of
if ([1, 2, 3].indexOf(2) > -1) { console.log('includes') }

There are some other usage examples for the tilde operator as well in The Great Mystery of the Tilde(~).

Writing multi-line strings

var multiStr = [
  "This is the first line",
  "This is the second line",
  "This is more..."

// instead of
var multiStr = "This is the first line\n" +
  "This is the second line\n" +
  "This is more...";

Looping through an array

It can be used if order is not important

for (var i = arr.length; i--;) {
  // ...

// instead of
for (var i = 0; i < arr.length; i++) {
  // ...

setTimeout(func, 0)

JavaScript code runs on one thread. Calling setTimeout with 0 allows to schedule a function to run after the current event loop tick.

setTimeout(function() {
  console.log('log message from next tick')
}, 0)

console.log('Hello world!')
//> Hello world!
//> log message from next tick

void 0 instead of undefined

Frequently minifiers substitute undefined usages with void 0, which will return undefined. It is just a shorter way to get undefined.

Spotted a mistake in this article? Why not suggest an edit!