All JavaScript apps from server-side Node.js to client-side code, there are many time when you need to work with JavaScript Arrays. Arrays are useful to store multiple values within a single variale. You can build them directly within your code, pass them to another function, or even receive them as part of a JSON payload from a REST API response. Arrays are a very useful construct in any programming language; certainly including JavaScript. This article takes a look at a few of the top tips and methods for working with and looping through JavaScript arrays.

For reference, here’s a simple JavaScript array that will be referenced in the following code tips:

var myArray = ['one','two','three'];

Use forEach to loop through Array

The Array prototype (aka “object”) in JavaScript contains the forEach() function on it. You can use this to execute specific code on each element in the array. It works by passing in a function (or Callback) that will be called for each element in the Array, with the first argument being the value from the Array.

Here’s a simple example of using the Array.prototype.forEach() method to loop through an Array:

  // do something with item from the array
  // `item` will contain the value from the Array

The forEach methods Callback also supports a couple additional arguments that can be passed in to give you a little more power in it’s usage. The first argument is the currentValue that will be the actual value from the Array. Here’s a list of the additional arguments supported by the forEach function:

  callback(currentValue, index, array), thisArg

When passing a Callback function to the forEach function, the minimum required argument is the currentValue, and you can optionally specify the rest as needed. Here’s the definitions of what all the arguments are:

  • currentValue: The current element being processed in the array.
  • index: The index of the current element being processed in the array. (optional)
  • array: The array the forEach was called on, so you can reference the original array the element being processed is from as necessary. (optional)

When calling the forEach functions and passing in a Callback function, you can also pass in a second argument to the forEach function itself. You can pass in a value for the thisArg argument. The thisArg argument is used as the value of what this will be set to when the Callback is executed as forEach iterates through each element in the Array. Normally, you probably wont use the thisArg argument, but it’s there in case you need to curry a specific value for this; as can be necessary at times.

Process Array elements using map function

The Array prototype (aka “Object”) in JavaScript also supports the map method. If you’re familiar with Functional programming languages, then you may be familiar with the idea of a map function. In JavaScript, you can also use the map function as an alternative to the forEach functions. The map function accepts a Callback function to use for processing each element in the Array, as well as a thisArg argument that can be used to assign a desired value to this when executing the Callback function.

Basically, the map function works identically to the forEach function with the same argument support for currentValue, index, and array arguments on the Callback function. Here’s a similar example of using the map function to loop through and handle all the lements of an Array:, index, arr) {
  // do something with item from the array

Loop Sequentially using for

The for keyword can be used to loop through an array sequentially. It will help you loop through each of the elements in the array, one at a time, from the beginning of the array (or zero index) to the last elemnt in the array.

Before you use the for keyboard to create a “for loop”, you need to know how long, or how many items are in the array. You can do this with the following code:

var len = myArray.length;

Once you have the length of the array, you can create a for loop to iterate through the array:

for(var i = 0; i < len; i++) {
  var item = myArray[i];
  // do something with item from the array

Within the for loop, in the example above, the i variable will contain the Index of the item in the Array. You can use the Index property of the array to retreive that specific element of the Array by it’s i Index. Then you can execute your code to do something with that element / value of the Array.

Tip: The for loop works in any environment JavaScript code runs. This includes the web browser, client-side, server-side, IoT, and other runtimes!

for ... in loop through Elements in Array

Rather than inspecting the Array and identifying the length of how many elements exist, you can also use the for ... in loop to just loop through all element indexes in the Array for you. This enables you to skip the .length call, and even skip incrementing an index counter (such as i++ as in the previous for example).

Here’s an example of looping through the Array using a for loop without the use of an incrementor:

for(var index in myArray) {
  var item = myArray[index];
  // do something with item from the array

As you can see, this example is relatively similar to the previous for loop example. The difference is that the JavaScript runtime will increment an indexer value for you, and go through all the element indexes within the array. This enables you to more easily loop through an array without the need to care about how many items are in the array.

Happy coding!