YDKJS Types & Grammar

Chapter 2 “Values”

Javascript has some interesting aspects to arrays, strings and numbers! In this chapter we explore them in a little more detail.

Arrays

Javascript arrays are not type-enforced. They can contain strings, numbers, objects, even other arrays aka multi-dimensional array.

var myArray = [ 1, "1", {1:"One"}, ["Juan"] ];

 

Arrays also do not need to have their size predefined. You can just declare and add willy nilly. There is some care when using delete on an array because it will remove the slot, but even if that slot is the last element it does not update the length property of that array. Also watch out for “sparse” arrays by creating empty or missing slots. This can lead to some unintended consequences when dealing with the array values.

Another odd thing is that since arrays are also objects you can have string key/property values added to them, but this does not change the value of the length of that array, unless that value can be coerced into a base-10 number!

var myArray = [ ];
myArray[0] = 1;
myArray["crazytown"] = 42;

myArray.length == 1; //true
myArray["crazytown"] == 42; //true
myArray.crazytown; //42

//watch out for numbers!

var myOtherArray = [ ];
myOtherArray["42"] = "crazytown";
myOtherArray.length == 43; //true 

 

Interesting ES6 built-in called Array.from(…) It can do more that I will have to learn about!

var arr = Array.from( arguments );

 

Strings

At first glance one might think that strings are just arrays of characters. Strings have a length property, an indexOf method and even a concat method. So they are the same right? Not so fast! JavaScript strings are immutable, while arrays are! Look at the following:

myString = "ramen";
myArray = [ "r", "a", "m", "e", "n" ];

myString.length == myArray.length; //true

myString.indexOf( "e" ) == myArray.indexOf("e"); //true

//however watch this

myString[1] = "X";
myArray[1] = "X";

myString; // "ramen"
myArray; // myArray = [ "r", "X", "m", "e", "n" ];

 

If you find yourself treating strings as arrays, consider using just an array. You can always join the array back up if you need to use it as a string.

Numbers

Unlike many other programming languages javascript has only one flavor of numeric datatype. number. This number contains integer(ish) numbers and fractional decimal numbers. The ish above is because the integers are just not exactly as you would expect. Google has a ton of examples, here is one. Trailing and leading 0’s are removed from decimals 0.42 becomes .42 and 4.200 becomes 4.2 etc.

Another interesting thing is that numbers get access to the Number.prototype methods, like toPrecision() and and toString(). Some caveats when using them. If you tried 42.toString() returns invalid because the initial . is considered to be a part of the 42, you can get around this by using parentheses (42).toString() or 42..toString(). Things have changed a bit for octal literals in ES6 and/or strict mode so that 0363 no longer equates to 243 instead you would use 0o363… very fun.

You can also get whonky stuff like 0.1 + 0.2 === 0.3 returning false… There are ways around this, ES6 has some specific tools for this (see Number.EPSILON). ES6 also has Number.MAX_SAFE_INTEGER (9007199254740991) and Number.MIN_SAFE_INTEGER (-9007199254740991) it also has an isInteger test that you can polyfill by checking typeof num is “number” and its % 1 is 0. It gets deeper with ES6 as you can use .isSafeInteger

Numbers are strange, mmmkay.

Special Values

I like these. They are special! They are null, undefined, and void . null being an empty value and undefined being a missing value. null is a keyword making it have a sort of protection field around it so you can assign null to something. undefined can be, at least in non-strict mode, you can do bad things like setting undefined to equal something! Just don’t do it!

Void is an interesting one, I have dug around and I don’t think I know why I would use this. I am sure as I get deeper into javascript I will figure it out.

Special Numbers

NaN, not a number… even though the typeof for a NaN is a number… mmm bad naming conventions. I have learned to think of it as just being a bad number. It happens when you try a mathematical expression using something that is not a number. Another interesting quirk about NaN is that it is not equal to itself! so NaN !== NaN… kooky. Using this we can create an interesting┬ápolyfill to check to see if something is NaN.

if (!Number.isNaN) { //if the browser does not have access to this
    Number.isNaN = function (n) {
        return n !== n;
    }

 

Cool! I will have to make sure I start putting this in!

To Infinities and beyond! Okay not beyond, but right to them! Basically this means you can make a value that is just too big (or too small) for JS to deal with and it assigns it Infinity or -Infinity. This leads us to another special case in javascript…

Zero or 0 or -0?

Javascript has both a 0 and a -0. What makes it even more difficult is that 0 == -0. Another helper function pops up!

function isNegZero(n) {
    n = Number( n );
    return (n === 0) && (1 / n === -Infinity);
}

 

Again I think I need to get deeper into code to see why this would matter. For now I will just keep it in the back of my mind.

Special Equality

When we need to check for these special equalities ES6 gives us a tool to help. Object.is() to the rescue. So now Object.is( 0, -0); returns false! Wahoo! Save Object.is for special occasions where you might need to check this!

Value vs. Reference

A reference in javascript points to a space in memory so if you have multiple references to this space in memory they do not reference each other. Only the type of the value designates whether the value is assigned by copy or by reference.

Scalar Primitives are always assigned by copy: null, undefined, string, number, boolean and symbol.

Compound values such as objects and functions always create a reference copy on assignment or when passed.