Chris Pietschmann

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JavaScript: Null Coalesce using the || Operator

I recently purchased "JavaScript: The Good Parts" by Douglas Crockford, and I found this little gem on page 21, although he listed in in the section Objects - Retrieval.

It is possible to use Null Coalescing in JavaScript by using the || operator!

// Note: only this code example is quoted from the book
var middle = stooge["middle-name"] || "(none)";
var status = flight.status || "unknown";

Since JavaScript returns a boolean value of true when your looking at a variable that is not set to null or undefined, you can use the || (or) operator to do null coalescing. Basically, as long as the first value is not null or undefined it's returned, otherwise the second value is returned. This really simplifies the process of getting object property values when you need to use a default value if it's not set yet, and keeps you from needing to use an if statement.

Below is an example of what I used to do Previous to learning this trick:

var middle = (stooge["middle-name"] != null ? stoog["middle-name"] : "(none)");
var status = (flight.status != null ? flight.status : "unknown");

This new trick makes the code much easier to read, and checks for undefined also so I no longer need to worry about the value being equal to undefined in some rare circumstance.

 

Reference:
JavaScript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford. Copyright 2008 Yahoo! inc., 978-0-596-51774-8.

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