Array

Summary

The JavaScript Array global object is a constructor for arrays, which are high-level, list-like objects.

Syntax

[element0, element1, ..., elementN]
new Array(element0, element1, ..., elementN)
new Array(arrayLength)
element0, element1, ..., elementN
A JavaScript array is initialized with the given elements, except in the case where a single argument is passed to the Array constructor and that argument is a number. (See below.) Note that this special case only applies to JavaScript arrays created with the Array constructor, not with array literals created with the bracket syntax.
arrayLength
If the only argument passed to the Array constructor is an integer between 0 and 232-1 (inclusive), a new, empty JavaScript array and its length is set to that number. If the argument is any other number, a RangeError exception is thrown.

Description

Arrays are list-like objects that come with a several built-in methods to perform traversal and mutation operations. Neither the size of a JavaScript array nor the types of its elements are fixed. Since an array's size can grow or shrink at any time, JavaScript arrays are not guaranteed to be dense. In general, these are convenient characteristics; but if these features are not desirable for your particular use case, you might consider using WebGL typed arrays.

Note that you shouldn't use an array as an associative array. You can use plain objects instead, although doing so comes with its own caveats. See the post Lightweight JavaScript dictionaries with arbitrary keys as an example.

Accessing array elements

JavaScript arrays are zero-indexed; the first element of an array is actually at index 0, and the last element is at the index equal to the value of the array's length property minus 1.

var arr = ["this is the first element", "this is the second element"];
console.log(arr[0]);              // prints "this is the first element"
console.log(arr[1]);              // prints "this is the second element"
console.log(arr[arr.length - 1]); // prints "this is the second element"

Array elements are just object properties, in the way that toString is a property. However, note that trying to access the first element of an array as follows will throw a syntax error:

console.log(arr.0);

Note that there is nothing unique about JavaScript arrays and their properties that causes this. JavaScript properties that begin with a digit cannot be referenced with dot notation. They must be accessed using bracket notation. For example, if you had an object with a property "3d", it too would have to be referenced using bracket notation, not dot notation. This similarity is exhibited in the following two code samples:

var years = [1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010];
try {
  console.log(years.0);
}
catch (ex) {
  console.log("Using bracket notation");
  console.log(years[0]);
}
try {
  renderer.3d.setTexture(model, "character.png");
}
catch (ex) {
  console.log("Using bracket notation");
  renderer["3d"].setTexture(model, "character.png");
}

Note that in the 3d example, "3d" had to be quoted. It's possible to quote the JavaScript array indexes as well (e.g., years["2"] instead of years[2]), although it's not necessary. The 2 in years[2] eventually gets coerced into a string by the JavaScript engine, anyway, through an implicit toString conversion. It is for this reason that "2" and "02" would refer to two different slots on the years object and the following example logs true:

console.log(years["2"] != years["02"]);

Relationship between length and numerical properties

A JavaScript array's length property and numerical properties are connected. Several of the built-in array methods (e.g., join, slice, indexOf, etc.) take into account the value of an array's length property when they're called. Other methods (e.g., push, splice, etc.) also result in updates to an array's length property.

var fruits = [];
fruits.push("banana", "apple", "peach");

console.log(fruits.length); // 3

When setting a property on a JavaScript array when the property is a valid array index and that index is outside the current bounds of the array, the array will grow to a size large enough to accommodate an element at that index, and the engine will update the array's length property accordingly:

fruits[3] = "mango";
console.log(fruits[3]);
console.log(fruits.length); // 4

Setting the length property, directly, also results in special behavior.

fruits.length = 10;
console.log(fruits);        // The array gets padded with undefined
console.log(fruits.length); // 10

This is explained further on the length page.

Creating an array using the result of a match

The result of a match between a regular expression and a string can create a JavaScript array. This array has properties and elements that provide information about the match. An array is the return value of RegExp.exec, String.match, and String.replace. To help explain these properties and elements, look at the following example and then refer to the table below:

// Match one d followed by one or more b's followed by one d
// Remember matched b's and the following d
// Ignore case

var myRe = /d(b+)(d)/i;
var myArray = myRe.exec("cdbBdbsbz");

The properties and elements returned from this match are as follows:

Property/Element Description Example
input A read-only property that reflects the original string against which the regular expression was matched. cdbBdbsbz
index A read-only property that is the zero-based index of the match in the string. 1
[0] A read-only element that specifies the last matched characters. dbBd
[1], ...[n] Read-only elements that specify the parenthesized substring matches, if included in the regular expression. The number of possible parenthesized substrings is unlimited. [1]: bB
[2]: d

Properties

For properties available on Array instances, see Properties of Array instances.

prototype
Allows the addition of properties to all objects.
Properties inherited from Function:

Methods

For methods available on Array instances, see Methods of Array instances.
isArray Requires JavaScript 1.8.5
Return true if a variable is an array, if not false.

Array instances

Array instances inherit from Array.prototype. As with all constructors, you can change the constructor's prototype object to make changes to all JavaScript Array instances.

Properties

Array.prototype.constructor
Specifies the function that creates an object's prototype.
Array.prototype.length
Reflects the number of elements in an array.

Methods

Mutator methods

These methods modify the array:

Array.prototype.pop()
Removes the last element from an array and returns that element.
Array.prototype.push()
Adds one or more elements to the end of an array and returns the new length of the array.
Array.prototype.reverse()
Reverses the order of the elements of an array -- the first becomes the last, and the last becomes the first.
Array.prototype.shift()
Removes the first element from an array and returns that element.
Array.prototype.sort()
Sorts the elements of an array in place and returns the array.
Array.prototype.splice()
Adds and/or removes elements from an array.
Array.prototype.unshift()
Adds one or more elements to the front of an array and returns the new length of the array.

Accessor methods

These methods do not modify the array and return some representation of the array.

Array.prototype.concat()
Returns a new array comprised of this array joined with other array(s) and/or value(s).
Array.prototype.join()
Joins all elements of an array into a string.
Array.prototype.slice()
Extracts a section of an array and returns a new array.
Array.prototype.toSource()
Returns an array literal representing the specified array; you can use this value to create a new array. Overrides the Object.prototype.toSource() method.
Array.prototype.toString()
Returns a string representing the array and its elements. Overrides the Object.prototype.toString() method.
Array.prototype.toLocaleString()
Returns a localized string representing the array and its elements. Overrides the Object.prototype.toLocaleString() method.
Array.prototype.indexOf()
Returns the first (least) index of an element within the array equal to the specified value, or -1 if none is found.
Array.prototype.lastIndexOf()
Returns the last (greatest) index of an element within the array equal to the specified value, or -1 if none is found.

Iteration methods

Several methods take as arguments functions to be called back while processing the array. When these methods are called, the length of the array is sampled, and any element added beyond this length from within the callback is not visited. Other changes to the array (setting the value of or deleting an element) may affect the results of the operation if the method visits the changed element afterwards. While the specific behavior of these methods in such cases is well-defined, you should not rely upon it so as not to confuse others who might read your code. If you must mutate the array, copy into a new array instead.

Array.prototype.forEach()
Calls a function for each element in the array.
Array.prototype.entries()
Returns a new Array Iterator object that contains the key/value pairs for each index in the array.
Array.prototype.every()
Returns true if every element in this array satisfies the provided testing function.
Array.prototype.some()
Returns true if at least one element in this array satisfies the provided testing function.
Array.prototype.filter()
Creates a new array with all of the elements of this array for which the provided filtering function returns true.
Array.prototype.find()
Returns the found value in the array, if an element in the array satisfies the provided testing function or undefined if not found.
Array.prototype.findIndex()
Returns the found index in the array, if an element in the array satisfies the provided testing function or -1 if not found.
Array.prototype.keys()
Returns a new Array Iterator that contains the keys for each index in the array.
Array.prototype.map()
Creates a new array with the results of calling a provided function on every element in this array.
Array.prototype.reduce()
Apply a function against an accumulator and each value of the array (from left-to-right) as to reduce it to a single value.
Array.prototype.reduceRight()
Apply a function against an accumulator and each value of the array (from right-to-left) as to reduce it to a single value.

Array generic methods

Sometimes you would like to apply array methods to strings or other array-like objects (such as function arguments). By doing this, you treat a string as an array of characters (or otherwise treat a non-array as an array). For example, in order to check that every character in the variable str is a letter, you would write:

function isLetter(character) {
  return (character >= "a" && character <= "z");
}

if (Array.prototype.every.call(str, isLetter))
  alert("The string '" + str + "' contains only letters!");

This notation is rather wasteful and JavaScript 1.6 introduced a generic shorthand:

if (Array.every(isLetter, str))
  alert("The string '" + str + "' contains only letters!");

Generics are also available on String.

These are currently not part of ECMAScript standards (though the ES6 Array.from() can be used to achieve this). The following is a shim to allow its use in all browsers:

/*globals define*/
// Assumes Array extras already present (one may use shims for these as well)
(function () {
    'use strict';

    var i,
        // We could also build the array of methods with the following, but the
        //   getOwnPropertyNames() method is non-shimable:
        // Object.getOwnPropertyNames(Array).filter(function (methodName) {return typeof Array[methodName] === 'function'});
        methods = [
            'join', 'reverse', 'sort', 'push', 'pop', 'shift', 'unshift',
            'splice', 'concat', 'slice', 'indexOf', 'lastIndexOf',
            'forEach', 'map', 'reduce', 'reduceRight', 'filter',
            'some', 'every', 'isArray'
        ],
        methodCount = methods.length,
        assignArrayGeneric = function (methodName) {
            var method = Array.prototype[methodName];
            Array[methodName] = function (arg1) {
                return method.apply(arg1, Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments, 1));
            };
        };

    for (i = 0; i < methodCount; i++) {
        assignArrayGeneric(methods[i]);
    }
}());

Examples

Example: Creating an array

The following example creates an array, msgArray, with a length of 0, then assigns values to msgArray[0] and msgArray[99], changing the length of the array to 100.

var msgArray = new Array();
msgArray[0] = "Hello";
msgArray[99] = "world";

if (msgArray.length == 100)
   print("The length is 100.");

Example: Creating a two-dimensional array

The following creates chess board as a two dimensional array of strings. The first move is made by copying the 'p' in 6,4 to 4,4. The old position 6,4 is made blank.

var board = 
[ ['R','N','B','Q','K','B','N','R'],
  ['P','P','P','P','P','P','P','P'],
  [' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' '],
  [' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' '],
  [' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' '],
  [' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' ',' '],
  ['p','p','p','p','p','p','p','p'],
  ['r','n','b','q','k','b','n','r']];
print(board.join('\n') + '\n\n');

// Move King's Pawn forward 2
board[4][4] = board[6][4];
board[6][4] = ' ';
print(board.join('\n'));

Here is the output:

R,N,B,Q,K,B,N,R
P,P,P,P,P,P,P,P
 , , , , , , , 
 , , , , , , , 
 , , , , , , , 
 , , , , , , , 
p,p,p,p,p,p,p,p
r,n,b,q,k,b,n,r

R,N,B,Q,K,B,N,R
P,P,P,P,P,P,P,P
 , , , , , , , 
 , , , , , , , 
 , , , ,p, , , 
 , , , , , , , 
p,p,p,p, ,p,p,p
r,n,b,q,k,b,n,r

Browser compatibility

Feature Chrome Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari (WebKit)
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes)
Feature Android Firefox Mobile (Gecko) IE Phone Opera Mobile Safari Mobile
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes)

See also

Document Tags and Contributors

Contributors to this page: jryans
Last updated by: jryans,