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Javascript: Arrays

If you are coming from another language, arrays are linear allocations of memory which are quite fast, Javascript arrays are not like this.
Instead Javascript provides an object which is array-like. It is slower than "real" arrays but it can be more convenient to use.

Creating arrays

Array literals are the easiest way to create an array. A literal is a pair of square brackets surrounding zero or more values separated by commas.

    //Aray literal
    var empty = []
    var carBrands = ["Ferrari", "Volvo", "Ford"]

    //Object literal
    var carBrands_object = {'0': 'Ferrari', '1': 'Volvo', '2': 'Ford'}

The array and object literal produce very similar results. Both are objects containing 3 values and those properties have the same names and values. There is significant difference however as 'carBrands' inherits from Array.prototype while 'carBrands_object' inherits from Object.prototype, so 'numbers' inherits some useful methods along with the length property.

Length property

Unlike other languages, you don't need to know the size of your array when you are defining it. The length property however is not defined by the amount of items in your array, it is the largest integer property name plus one.

    var sillyArray = []
    sillyArray.length       //0

    sillyArray[999] = true
    sillyArray.length       //1000

The [ ] postfix subscript converts the expression to a string which is used as the property name. If that string looks like a positive integer which is greater than or equal to the array's current length then the length of the array is set to the new value plus one.
The length can be set explicitly. Making the length larger does not allocate more memory making it smaller will cause all properties with a key greater than the new value will be deleted

    carBrands.length = 2
    //['Ferrari', 'Volvo']

Knowing you have an array

Arrays in JS are objects which are array-like, as such, the typeof method on an array returns 'object'. The core language does not have a good means of distinguishing between arrays and objects so you need to write your own method to work it out.

    var is_array = function(value) {
        return Object.prototype.toString.apply(value) === '[object Array]'

Useful methods


Creates a new array with the items appended to it individually.

    var a = ['Ferrari', 'Volvo']
    var b = ['Skoda', 'Seat']
    var c = a.concat(b)
    //c is ['Ferrari', 'Volvo', 'Skoda', 'Seat']


Turns each item in the array to a string and joins them together with the separator. If no separator is supplied then ',' is used.

    var a = ['Its', 'just', 'like', 'a', 'stringbuilder']
    var c = a.join(' ')
    //Its just like a stringbuilder

array.splice(start, length, item...)

This is most commonly used to remove elements from an array. If there are additional items these will be inserted

    var a = ['Its', 'just', 'like', 'a', 'stringbuilder']
    var c = a.splice(1, 1, 'not')
    //Its not like a stringbuilder

pop() and push(item...)

Turn your arrays into stacks! pop() removes and returns the last element in the array.
push(item...) will add items to the end of your array. Unlike concat(item...) it will add arrays into the array rather than its individual objects.

    var a = ['Ferrari', 'Volvo', 'Mercedes']
    var b = a.pop()
    //a is ['Ferrari', 'Volvo'] 
    //b is 'Mercedes'

    var c = a.push('BMW')
    //a is ['Ferrari', 'Volvo', 'BMW']
    //c is the length of the new array - 3