Array methods in ECMAScript 6

I’ve written at length about some of the new features coming to JavaScript with ES6, including arrow functions, classes, modules and destructuring. Today I’d like to explore some of the smaller additions, starting with new methods that are being added to arrays. This isn’t a comprehensive list, rather a selection of some that I’ve found really useful.

Rather that list compatability information here about what is and what isn’t supported across transpilers and browsers, you should refer to the relevant section of the Kangax compat table. Paul Miller’s ES6 Shim includes polyfills for a number of the methods I’m going to mention today, too. All code examples below were run through Babel.

We’ll start with methods defined on the prototype before looking a couple of new static Array methods.

Array.prototype.find mdn

find lets you iterate through an array and get the first element back that causes the given callback function to return true. Once an element has been found, the function immediately returns. It’s an efficient way to get at just the first item that matches a given condition:

let numbers = [1, 2, 3];
let oddNumber = numbers.find((x) => x % 2 == 1);
console.log(oddNumber); // 1

You might think this is similar to filter (an ES5 method), but whereas filter always returns an array of matches (and will return multiple matches), find always returns the actual element.

Array.prototype.findIndex mdn

findIndex behaves very similarly to find, but instead of returning the element that matched, it returns the index of that element.

let people = ['jamie', 'jack', 'isaac'];
let jackIndex = people.findIndex((x) => x === 'jack');
console.log(jackIndex); // 1

Array.prototype.entries mdn

entries is a function that returns an Array Iterator (mdn docs for interators) that can be used to loop through the array’s keys and values. entries will return an array of arrays, where each child array is an array of [index, value].

let people = ['jamie', 'jack', 'isaac'];
let entries = people.entries();
console.log(entries.next().value); // [0, 'jamie']
console.log(entries.next().value); // [1, 'jack']
console.log(entries.next().value); // [2, 'isaac']

We can also use the spread operator to get back an array of the entries in one go:

let people = ['jamie', 'jack', 'isaac'];
let entries = people.entries();
console.log([...entries]); // [[0, 'jamie'], [1, 'jack'], [2, 'isaac']]

Although I won’t mention them in any detail here, we also have the new keys (mdn) and values (mdn) methods, which return an iterator of the array keys and the array values respectively.

Array.from mdn

Array.from takes many forms, as the ES6 compat table shows, but its general function is to enable the creation of a new array from an array like object. As its first argument it can accept something that’s array like (has length and indexed items), along with iterable objects, like the newly added Set and Map in ES6.

Array.from('hello'); // ['h', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o']

Array.from([1, 2, 3]); // [1, 2, 3]

let namesSet = new Set(['jamie', 'jack']);
Array.from(namesSet); // ['jamie', 'jack']

from can also take a second argument, which is a map function to be applied to each element:

Array.from([1, 2, 3], (x) => x * x); // [1, 4, 9]

Because the method can take array like objects, we can use it to generate arrays of values too:

Array.from({ length: 4 }, (val, key) => key); // [0, 1, 2, 3]

Each time the mapping function gets called, the val argument will be undefined, as this object has no actual values, but the key argument will be 0, then 1 and so on. This lets us generate arrays of numbers, but we can also return whatever we’d like from the mapping function:

Array.from({ length: 2 }, () => 'jack'); // ['jack', 'jack']

With its ability to take array like objects along with iterators, and a custom mapping function, Array.from is incredibly versatile.

Conclusion

It’s the addition of smaller methods like the ones I’ve mentioned above, along with the larger features, that make ES6 such a pleasure to work with. Get familiar with the above methods, and similar additions across other JS built-ins, and you’ll find yourself wondering how you ever coped without them.