Talking about ES2015: destructuring

2015-08-1912 Min Read — In code

Destructuring is a new feature in ES2015 which allows us to declare or assign values to variables. It's a very powerful way of doing that. It might sound a little confusing at first, but it really is very simple once you tried a few times.

Update: I have also recorded a video about destructuring, if you want to watch it in adition to reading this post.

Arrays

Let's start with a simple example using arrays.

When using destructuring we always follow the formula 'pattern' <= 'value'

let arr = [1, 2];
let [x, y] = arr;
console.log(x); // 1
console.log(y); // 2

When destructuring arrays, we always use [] to declare or assign values to variables. In the example given above we're declaring two variables x and y. Also, we're assigning the values of the array arr to those variables. Given that x was the first variable in the pattern, the first value from array was assigned to it. The same goes for y which was the second variable in the pattern and got the second value from the array assigned to it.

It works in the same way as the code below:

let arr = [1, 2];
let x = arr[0];
let y = arr[1];
console.log(x); // 1
console.log(y); // 2

That's very useful when there's a function that returns multiple values.

function demo() {
    return ["Thiago", "Temple"];
}
let [firstName, lastName] = demo();
console.log(firstName); // Thiago
console.log(lastName); // Temple

Destructuring is also practical for swapping values.

let a = 1;
let b = 2;
[a, b] = [b, a];
console.log(a); // 2
console.log(b); // 1

What happens if I don't want to declare a variable for each element of the array? No problem, if there are more values in the array, those will be ignored.

let [a, b] = [1, 2, 3];
console.log(a); // 1
console.log(b); // 2

We can't just ignore de end of the array, we can ignore any element in any order.

let [, a, b] = [1, 2, 3];
console.log(a); // 2
console.log(b); // 3

let [x, , y] = [4, 5, 6];
console.log(x); // 4
console.log(y); // 6

What if the array does not have all the elements we are expecting? In that case, the variable would have the undefined value assigned to it.

let [a, b] = [];
console.log(a); // undefined
console.log(b); // undefined

Objects

Object destructuring is a little more complex than arrays. First, the syntax change and instead of using [] we use {}.

let { firstName: x, lastName: y } = { firstName: "Thiago", lastName: "Temple" };
console.log(x); // Thiago
console.log(y); // Temple

In the above code, we're declaring two variables x and y, and we're looking for properties firstName and lastName inside the object value. What might be confusing is the fact that the name of the variables are in the right side of the pattern. But in the end, is just a matter of getting used to it.

As with the arrays, if a property is not informed, the value undefined is assigned to the variable.

let { firstName: x, lastName: y } = { firstName: "Thiago" };
console.log(x); // Thiago
console.log(y); // undefined

Shorthands

Instead of naming our variables x and y we could name them something more meaningful.

let { firstName: firstName, lastName: lastName } = {
    firstName: "Thiago",
    lastName: "Temple"
};
console.log(firstName); // Thiago
console.log(lastName); // Temple

As you may imagine, now we're declaring two variables firstName and lastName and looking for properties with the same name in the object being assigned. Whenever this is the case, we can omit the naming part of pattern, so the above code could be written like this:

let { firstName, lastName } = { firstName: "Thiago", lastName: "Temple" };
console.log(firstName); // Thiago
console.log(lastName); // Temple

Nested objects

We can also have nested assignments when destructuring.

let {
    name: n,
    contact: { twitter: t }
} = { name: "Thiago", contact: { twitter: "@vintem12" } };
console.log(n); // Thiago
console.log(t); // @vintem12

Now, we're looking for a property named contact that is an object and which contains a property called twitter and we're assigning its value to a variable called t.

Default values

In both cases (arrays and objects) we can have default values, so to be sure a variable is always initialized. The syntax for declaring default values when destructuring is very simple, the name of the variable = a value.

let [a = 1, b = 2, c = 999] = [3, 4];
console.log(a); // 3
console.log(b); // 4
console.log(c); // 999

In this case we have default values for the three variables being declared, but because the array with the values has two elements, their values get assigned. The last variable, c, is initialized with its default value.

It's the same case for objects.

let { username, isAdmin: admin = false } = { username: "user" };
console.log(username); // user
console.log(admin); // false

Now we're using the shorthand to declare a variable called username and look for a property with the same name. Also, we're looking for a property called isAdmin and declaring a variable admin with the default value of false.

Destructuring in function parameters.

The use of destructuring with default values is a great use case for initializing parameters in a function. So in ES5aif one wanted to make have default values in a function, something like this had to be made:

function ajaxCall(options) {
    var opts = options || {};
    opts.method = opts.method || "POST";
    opts.dataType = opts.dataType || "json";
    // ...
}
ajaxCall({ method: "GET" });

It's ok, it works, but with ES15 it's lot more ellegant.

function ajaxCall(url, { method = "POST", dataType = "json" } = {}) {
    console.log(url); // http://templecoding.com
    console.log(method); // GET
    console.log(dataType); // json
}

ajaxCall("http://templecoding.com", { method: "GET" });

One important thing to note, is at end of the parameter's declaration there's a ' = {}'. This is important because without that when we call the ajaxCall function without an object in the second parameter it will assign undefined to it and we'll have an error. So, with this syntax we're saying that the default value of the second parameter is an empty object, so to avoid the error.

function ajaxCall(url, { method = "POST", dataType = "json" }) {
    console.log(url);
    console.log(method);
    console.log(dataType);
}

ajaxCall("http://templecoding.com"); // TypeError: can't convert undefined to object

We can also achieve the same results using array destructuring.

function ajaxCall(url, [method = "POST", dataType = "json"]) {
    console.log(url); // http://templecoding.com
    console.log(method); // GET
    console.log(dataType); // json
}

ajaxCall("http://templecoding.com", ["GET"]);

For of iteration

Destructuring is a new feature in ES2015 which allows us to declare or assign values to variables. It's a very powerful way of doing that. It might sound a little confusing at first, but it really is very simple once you tried a few times.

Update: I have also recorded a video about destructuring, if you want to watch it in addition to reading this post.

Arrays

Let's start with a simple example using arrays.

When using destructuring we always follow the formula 'pattern' <= 'value'

let arr = [1, 2];
let [x, y] = arr;
console.log(x); // 1
console.log(y); // 2

When destructuring arrays, we always use [] to declare or assign values to variables. In the example given above we're declaring two variables x and y. Also, we're assigning the values of the array arr to those variables. Given that x was the first variable in the pattern, the first value from array was assigned to it. The same goes for y which was the second variable in the pattern and got the second value from the array assigned to it.

It works in the same way as the code below:

let arr = [1, 2];
let x = arr[0];
let y = arr[1];
console.log(x); // 1
console.log(y); // 2

That's very useful when there's a function that returns multiple values.

function demo() {
    return ["Thiago", "Temple"];
}
let [firstName, lastName] = demo();
console.log(firstName); // Thiago
console.log(lastName); // Temple

Destructuring is also practical for swapping values.

let a = 1;
let b = 2;
[a, b] = [b, a];
console.log(a); // 2
console.log(b); // 1

What happens if I don't want to declare a variable for each element of the array? No problem, if there are more values in the array, those will be ignored.

let [a, b] = [1, 2, 3];
console.log(a); // 1
console.log(b); // 2

We can't just ignore de end of the array, we can ignore any element in any order.

let [, a, b] = [1, 2, 3];
console.log(a); // 2
console.log(b); // 3

let [x, , y] = [4, 5, 6];
console.log(x); // 4
console.log(y); // 6

What if the array does not have all the elements we are expecting? In that case, the variable would have the undefined value assigned to it.

let [a, b] = [];
console.log(a); // undefined
console.log(b); // undefined

Objects

Object destructuring is a little more complex than arrays. First, the syntax change and instead of using [] we use {}.

let { firstName: x, lastName: y } = { firstName: "Thiago", lastName: "Temple" };
console.log(x); // Thiago
console.log(y); // Temple

In the above code, we're declaring two variables x and y, and we're looking for properties firstName and lastName inside the object value. What might be confusing is the fact that the name of the variables is in the right side of the pattern. But in the end, is just a matter of getting used to it.

As with the arrays, if a property is not informed, the value undefined is assigned to the variable.

let { firstName: x, lastName: y } = { firstName: "Thiago" };
console.log(x); // Thiago
console.log(y); // undefined

Shorthands

Instead of naming our variables x and y we could name them something more meaningful.

let { firstName: firstName, lastName: lastName } = {
    firstName: "Thiago",
    lastName: "Temple"
};
console.log(firstName); // Thiago
console.log(lastName); // Temple

As you may imagine, now we're declaring two variables firstName and lastName and looking for properties with the same name in the object being assigned. Whenever this is the case, we can omit the naming part of pattern, so the above code could be written like this:

let { firstName, lastName } = { firstName: "Thiago", lastName: "Temple" };
console.log(firstName); // Thiago
console.log(lastName); // Temple

Nested objects

We can also have nested assignments when destructuring.

let {
    name: n,
    contact: { twitter: t }
} = { name: "Thiago", contact: { twitter: "@vintem12" } };
console.log(n); // Thiago
console.log(t); // @vintem12

Now, we're looking for a property named contact that is an object and which contains a property called twitter and we're assigning its value to a variable called t.

Default values

In both cases (arrays and objects) we can have default values, so to be sure a variable is always initialized. The syntax for declaring default values when destructuring is very simple, the name of the variable = a value.

let [a = 1, b = 2, c = 999] = [3, 4];
console.log(a); // 3
console.log(b); // 4
console.log(c); // 999

In this case, we have default values for the three variables being declared, but because the array with the values has two elements, their values get assigned. The last variable, c, is initialized with its default value.

It's the same case for objects.

let { username, isAdmin: admin = false } = { username: "user" };
console.log(username); // user
console.log(admin); // false

Now we're using the shorthand to declare a variable called username and look for a property with the same name. Also, we're looking for a property called isAdmin and declaring a variable admin with the default value of false.

Destructuring in function parameters.

The use of destructuring with default values is a great use case for initializing parameters in a function. So in ES5aif one wanted to make have default values in a function, something like this had to be made:

function ajaxCall(options) {
    var opts = options || {};
    opts.method = opts.method || "POST";
    opts.dataType = opts.dataType || "json";
    // ...
}
ajaxCall({ method: "GET" });

It's ok, it works, but with ES15 it's a lot more elegant.

function ajaxCall(url, { method = "POST", dataType = "json" } = {}) {
    console.log(url); // http://templecoding.com
    console.log(method); // GET
    console.log(dataType); // json
}

ajaxCall("http://templecoding.com", { method: "GET" });

One important thing to note is at the end of the parameter's declaration there's a ' = {}'. This is important because without that when we call the ajaxCall function without an object in the second parameter it will assign undefined to it and we'll have an error. So, with this syntax we're saying that the default value of the second parameter is an empty object, so to avoid the error.

function ajaxCall(url, { method = "POST", dataType = "json" }) {
    console.log(url);
    console.log(method);
    console.log(dataType);
}

ajaxCall("http://templecoding.com"); // TypeError: can't convert undefined to object

We can also achieve the same results using array destructuring.

function ajaxCall(url, [method = "POST", dataType = "json"]) {
    console.log(url); // http://templecoding.com
    console.log(method); // GET
    console.log(dataType); // json
}

ajaxCall("http://templecoding.com", ["GET"]);

For of iteration

One last use case I want to show is the use of destructuring in a for of loop.

let users = [
    {
        username: "user1",
        contact: { twitter: "@user1" }
    },
    {
        username: "user2",
        contact: { twitter: "@user2" }
    }
];

for (let {
    username,
    contact: { twitter: t }
} of users) {
    console.log(username); // user1, user2
    console.log(t); // @user1, @user2
}

In the example given above we're looping through the users array and assigning a username variable and a t variable. One last use case I want to show is the use of destructuring in a for of loop.

let users = [
    {
        username: "user1",
        contact: { twitter: "@user1" }
    },
    {
        username: "user2",
        contact: { twitter: "@user2" }
    }
];

for (let {
    username,
    contact: { twitter: t }
} of users) {
    console.log(username); // user1, user2
    console.log(t); // @user1, @user2
}

In the example given above we're looping through the users array and assigning a username variable and a t variable.

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