JavaScript: var, let and const

JavaScript: var, let and const

I. Introduction

ECMAScript6 (abbr. ES6) is the second major revision to JavaScript and also known as ECMAScript2015. This is a JavaScript standard meant to ensure the interoperability of web pages across different web browsers.

ECMAScript is commonly used for client-side scripting on the World Wide Web, and it is increasingly being used for writing server applications and services using Node.js.

This update adds significant new syntax for writing complex applications, including:

  • Class declarations (class Foo{...} ),
  • ES6 modules (import * as moduleName from "..."; export const Foo),
  • for..of loops,
  • Python-style generator,
  • Arrow function expression (() => {...}),
  • And let keyword for local declarations, const keyword for constant local declarations,
  • ...

Browser Support for ES6 (2015)

Safari 10 and Edge 14 were the first browsers to fully support ES6:

II. What different between var, let, const ?

1 - Var

Scope: globally scoped or function/locally scoped

The scope is global when var variable is declared outside a function. Any variable that is declared with var outside a function block can be used in the whole window.

Within a function, var is function scoped, this means that this variable is available and can be accessed only within that function.

Example:

var hello = "Hello from Shift Asia";

function sayHi() {
    var hi = "Hi!";
}

console.log(hi); //error: hi is not defined

In this example, hello is globally scoped while hi is function scoped. So, if we try to use hi, we'll get an error.

Re-declared and updated: var can be re-declared and updated

This means that we can reassign these variables within the same scope and won't get any errors.

var hello = "Hello";
var hello = "Hello from Shift Asia";
hello = "Say hello once again";

Hoisting

This Javascript mechanism is tend to move all variables and function declarations to top of their scope before code execution. So, if we do as following:

console.log(hello);
var hello = "Say hello from Shift Asia";

Above block will be interpreted as:

var hello;
console.log(hello);
hello = "Say hello from Shift Asia";

This means, var variables are hoisted to the top of their scope and initialized with a value of undefined

Problem with var ?

There's a weakness that comes with var.

var hello = "Hi";
var times = 4;

if (times > 3) {
    var hello = "say Hello from Shift Asia instead";
}
console.log(hello); // say Hello from Shift Asia instead

So, when times > 3, hello is redefined. Imagine if you have used hello in other parts of your project, you might be surprised at the output, right ? This may cause a lot of bugs in your code. That's why let and const appear.

2 - Let

let is now preferred for variable declaration. Let's consider why this is so.

Scope: let is block scoped

Chunk of code bounded by {} is called block. So a variable declared inside a block with let is only accessible within that block.

Example:

let times = 4;

if (times > 3) {
    let hello = "say Hello inside block";
    console.log(hello); // say Hello inside block;
}
console.log(hello); // hello is undefined

Re-declared and updated: let can be updated within its scope but cannot be re-declared within its scope.

So while this one will work fine:

let hello = "say hello";
hello = "updated say hello";

...but this one will return an error:

let hello = "say hello";
let hello = "updated say hello"; // error: Indentifer 'hello' has already been declared

However, in different scopes, it looks good:

let hello = "say Hi";

if (true) {
	let hello = "say Hello inside condition block";
    console.log(hello); // say Hello inside condition block
}
console.log(hello); // say Hi

So, when using let instead of var you don't need to bother if you have used this variable's name before outside, just need to care only within its scope.

Hoisting

Just like var, let declaration are hoisted to the top, but var is initialized with undefined, let won't be initialized. So if you try to use a let variable before declaration, you'll get a Reference Error.

3 - Const

The const keyword allows you to declare a constant (a JavaScript variable with a constant value). Constants are similar to let variables, except that the value cannot be changed.

const hello = "say Hi";
hello = "Say Hello"; // error: Assignment to constant variable.
const hello = "say Hello instead"; // error: Identifier 'greeting' has already been declared

While a const object cannot be updated, but the properties of this object can be updated.

const objectA = {
    name: 'Object A',
    value: 10
}

objectA = {
	name: 'Object B',
    value: 5
} // error: Assignment to constant variable

// But we can do this
objectA.name = 'Object B';

So just in case you need a summary, this is it:

Thank you for reading.