Loops

JavaScript offers four for loops and two while loops. What's the difference?

For Loops

For

The classic for loop might be a bit long to write, but it has a lot of excellent properties:

  • Available in each JavaScript version.
  • Works with break and continue statements for better looping control.
  • Both initial and increment expressions can do multiple things.
  • Condition is not limited to iterable size.
  • Fast across various scenarios.
Example of for loop iterating over an array
for (let i = 0; i < array.length; i++) {
console.log(array[i]);
}

Let's break the script down to five steps each for loop follows:

  1. Execute initial expression (let i = 0 in the above example).
  2. Evaluate the condition (i < array.length). If it is false - the loop terminates. If true:
  3. The statement within the loop is executed (console.log(array[i])).
  4. Finally, the increment expression will evaluate (i++).
  5. The loop goes back to step 2 until it is false.

If in doubt of which loop to use, pick the classic. To optimize speed, cache the length used for condition:

Initial expression assigns array.length to a variable to cache it
for (let i = 0, arrayLength = array.length; i < arrayLength; i++) {
console.log(array[i]);
}

For of

For...of loop came to JavaScript in ES6 (as many good things have). It loops over iterables: strings, arrays, NodeLists, maps, sets and other array-like objects.

Example of for...of loop iterating over letters of a string
for (const letter of name) {
console.log(letter);
}

This loop is blazing fast for very small iterables. From martech perspective, it is a fantastic tool to iterate over NodeLists/HTMLCollections when working with DOM. Works great for working with outputs of API calls. Worth also using for operating on split-string-arrays (for example comma-separated strings).

It has many qualities that set it apart from the classic for loop:

Key-Value Pair of Object

It can iterate over key-value paired iterators (for example map or even object - thanks to Object.entries()):

for (const [key, value] of Object.entries(object)) {
console.log(key, value);
}

Index-Value Pair of Array

It can catch array values along with indexes:

for (const [index, value] of array.entries()) {
console.log(index, value);
}

In-place Destructuring

It can destructure object on the go:

const persons = [{ name: 'John Smith' }, { name: 'Jane Doe' }];
for (const { name } of persons) {
console.log(name); // returns: 'John Smith' \n 'Jane Doe'
}

In this example, for...of loop not only iterates over objects within an array but also automatically destructures them by getting the value of the name key. Thanks to it, the console.log will be printing the names in one line.

Iterating over Function Arguments

Thanks to existance of special function variable arguments, for...of can loop over undefined amount of arguments.

Function will return sum of any number of integers provided thanks to for-of loop
function sum() {
let sum = 0;
for (const number of arguments) {
sum += number;
}
return sum;
}
sum(1, 2, 3); // returns: 6

For in

for...in loop is a good idea when you want to loop over object prototype methods and properties. Any other scenario? Not worth it. Don't use it. Just don't.

for (const key in object) {
console.log(key);
}

forEach

forEach iterates directly over an array. It applies function to each item but does not return anything.

array.forEach((item, index, array) => {
console.log(`${item} has index ${index}`);
if (index === array.length - 1) {
console.log('Last iteration!');
}
});

It differs from other loops:

  • No need to define an iteration variable.
  • continue or break won't work.
  • In the callback function, we can leverage up to three optional parameters for an array: item, index, array.
  • Because it uses a callback function, the logic is block scoped.

In most scenarios, the for...of loop will be a better choice.


While Loops

While

A while loop executes its statement as long as the condition evaluates to true.

Infinite while loop
let run = true
while (run === true) {
console.log('To the infinity and beyond!');
}

To break out of while loop, there must be logic within it that will change the condition to false (or a break statement):

let run = true;
let i = 0;
while (run === true) {
console.log('To the infinity and beyond!');
i++;
if (i > 10) {
run = false;
}
}

or just:

This loop has the same outcome as the one above
let run = true;
let i = 0;
while (i <= 10) {
console.log('To the infinity and beyond!');
i++;
}

while loop is the best option for iterating over big arrays.

Do While

Same as while, but the code runs once before evaluating the condition.

do {
console.log('Running!');
} while (run === true)

Perfect when you need to run an API call, check whether there are more pages of outcomes and act accordingly.

You Should Know

JavaScript support labels for loops. It allows you to name each loop for even better control with both continue and break statements.

Labelled loop example using a nested for loops
MainLoopLabel:
for (let i = 0; i < array.length; i++) {
// Logic
SecondaryLoopLabel:
for (let j = 0; j < array[i].length; j++) {
// Logic
if (array[i][j] === 'important') {
break MainLoopLabel;
};
};
};

As you can see, in the first line we added a label for the first for loop. Then, in the statement within the second for loop, we used break followed by the label. Once executed, it will break both for loops, even if there were still iterations in the main one. The same approach works with the continue statement.

Last updated on by Mateusz Dąbrowski