Home What techniques can be used to define a class in JavaScript, and what are their trade-offs?
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What techniques can be used to define a class in JavaScript, and what are their trade-offs?

Karim
1#
Karim Published in 2008-12-22 23:07:04Z

I prefer to use OOP in large scale projects like the one I'm working on right now. I need to create several classes in JavaScript but, if I'm not mistaken, there are at least a couple of ways to go about doing that. What would be the syntax and why would it be done in that way?

I would like to avoid using third-party libraries - at least at first.
Looking for other answers, I found the article Object-Oriented Programming with JavaScript, Part I: Inheritance - Doc JavaScript that discusses object-oriented programming in JavaScript. Is there a better way to do inheritance?

Triptych
2#
Triptych Reply to 2017-08-01 14:06:53Z

Here's the way to do it without using any external libraries:

// Define a class like this
function Person(name, gender){

   // Add object properties like this
   this.name = name;
   this.gender = gender;
}

// Add methods like this.  All Person objects will be able to invoke this
Person.prototype.speak = function(){
    alert("Howdy, my name is" + this.name);
};

// Instantiate new objects with 'new'
var person = new Person("Bob", "M");

// Invoke methods like this
person.speak(); // alerts "Howdy, my name is Bob"

Now the real answer is a whole lot more complex than that. For instance, there is no such thing as classes in JavaScript. JavaScript uses a prototype-based inheritance scheme.

In addition, there are numerous popular JavaScript libraries that have their own style of approximating class-like functionality in JavaScript. You'll want to check out at least Prototype and jQuery.

Deciding which of these is the "best" is a great way to start a holy war on Stack Overflow. If you're embarking on a larger JavaScript-heavy project, it's definitely worth learning a popular library and doing it their way. I'm a Prototype guy, but Stack Overflow seems to lean towards jQuery.

As far as there being only "one way to do it", without any dependencies on external libraries, the way I wrote is pretty much it.

Hearaman
3#
Hearaman Reply to 2013-05-28 07:12:25Z

If you're going for simple, you can avoid the "new" keyword entirely and just use factory methods. I prefer this, sometimes, because I like using JSON to create objects.

function getSomeObj(var1, var2){
  var obj = {
     instancevar1: var1,
     instancevar2: var2,
     someMethod: function(param)
     {  
          //stuff; 
     }
  };
  return obj;
}

var myobj = getSomeObj("var1", "var2");
myobj.someMethod("bla");

I'm not sure what the performance hit is for large objects, though.

Peter Mortensen
4#
Peter Mortensen Reply to 2013-08-03 06:26:54Z

JavaScript is object-oriented, but it's radically different than other OOP languages like Java, C# or C++. Don't try to understand it like that. Throw that old knowledge out and start anew. JavaScript needs a different thinking.

I'd suggest to get a good manual or something on the subject. I myself found ExtJS Tutorials the best for me, although I haven't used the framework before or after reading it. But it does give a good explanation about what is what in JavaScript world. Sorry, it seems that that content has been removed. Here's a link to archive.org copy instead. Works today. :P

orip
5#
orip Reply to 2008-12-22 23:33:03Z

The simple way is:

function Foo(a) {
  var that=this;

  function privateMethod() { .. }

  // public methods
  that.add = function(b) {
    return a + b;
  };
  that.avg = function(b) {
    return that.add(b) / 2; // calling another public method
  };
}

var x = new Foo(10);
alert(x.add(2)); // 12
alert(x.avg(20)); // 15

The reason for that is that this can be bound to something else if you give a method as an event handler, so you save the value during instantiation and use it later.

Edit: it's definitely not the best way, just a simple way. I'm waiting for good answers too!

Jörg W Mittag
6#
Jörg W Mittag Reply to 2008-12-23 17:51:29Z

I think you should read Douglas Crockford's Prototypal Inheritance in JavaScript and Classical Inheritance in JavaScript.

Examples from his page:

Function.prototype.method = function (name, func) {
    this.prototype[name] = func;
    return this;
};

Effect? It will allow you to add methods in more elegant way:

function Parenizor(value) {
    this.setValue(value);
}

Parenizor.method('setValue', function (value) {
    this.value = value;
    return this;
});

I also recommend his videos: Advanced JavaScript.

You can find more videos on his page: http://javascript.crockford.com/ In John Reisig book you can find many examples from Douglas Crockfor's website.

annakata
7#
annakata Reply to 2008-12-28 22:11:29Z

Because I will not admit the YUI/Crockford factory plan and because I like to keep things self contained and extensible this is my variation:

function Person(params)
{
  this.name = params.name || defaultnamevalue;
  this.role = params.role || defaultrolevalue;

  if(typeof(this.speak)=='undefined') //guarantees one time prototyping
  {
    Person.prototype.speak = function() {/* do whatever */};
  }
}

var Robert = new Person({name:'Bob'});

where ideally the typeof test is on something like the first method prototyped

Ryan Florence
8#
Ryan Florence Reply to 2009-05-30 02:22:36Z

MooTools (My Object Oriented Tools) is centered on the idea of classes. You can even extend and implement with inheritance.

When mastered, it makes for ridiculously reusable, powerful javascript.

liammclennan
9#
liammclennan Reply to 2009-07-23 04:46:05Z
var Animal = function(options) {
    var name = options.name;
    var animal = {};

    animal.getName = function() {
        return name;
    };

    var somePrivateMethod = function() {

    };

    return animal;
};

// usage
var cat = Animal({name: 'tiger'});
Daniel X Moore
10#
Daniel X Moore Reply to 2010-09-16 22:14:51Z

I prefer to use Daniel X. Moore's {SUPER: SYSTEM}. This is a discipline that provides benefits such as true instance variables, trait based inheritance, class hierarchies and configuration options. The example below illustrates the use of true instance variables, which I believe is the biggest advantage. If you don't need instance variables and are happy with only public or private variables then there are probably simpler systems.

function Person(I) {
  I = I || {};

  Object.reverseMerge(I, {
    name: "McLovin",
    age: 25,
    homeState: "Hawaii"
  });

  return {
    introduce: function() {
      return "Hi I'm " + I.name + " and I'm " + I.age;
    }
  };
}

var fogel = Person({
  age: "old enough"
});
fogel.introduce(); // "Hi I'm McLovin and I'm old enough"

Wow, that's not really very useful on it's own, but take a look at adding a subclass:

function Ninja(I) {
  I = I || {};

  Object.reverseMerge(I, {
    belt: "black"
  });

  // Ninja is a subclass of person
  return Object.extend(Person(I), {
    greetChallenger: function() {
      return "In all my " + I.age + " years as a ninja, I've never met a challenger as worthy as you...";
    }
  });
}

var resig = Ninja({name: "John Resig"});

resig.introduce(); // "Hi I'm John Resig and I'm 25"

Another advantage is the ability to have modules and trait based inheritance.

// The Bindable module
function Bindable() {

  var eventCallbacks = {};

  return {
    bind: function(event, callback) {
      eventCallbacks[event] = eventCallbacks[event] || [];

      eventCallbacks[event].push(callback);
    },

    trigger: function(event) {
      var callbacks = eventCallbacks[event];

      if(callbacks && callbacks.length) {
        var self = this;
        callbacks.forEach(function(callback) {
          callback(self);
        });
      }
    },
  };
}

An example of having the person class include the bindable module.

function Person(I) {
  I = I || {};

  Object.reverseMerge(I, {
    name: "McLovin",
    age: 25,
    homeState: "Hawaii"
  });

  var self = {
    introduce: function() {
      return "Hi I'm " + I.name + " and I'm " + I.age;
    }
  };

  // Including the Bindable module
  Object.extend(self, Bindable());

  return self;
}

var person = Person();
person.bind("eat", function() {
  alert(person.introduce() + " and I'm eating!");
});

person.trigger("eat"); // Blasts the alert!

Disclosure: I am Daniel X. Moore and this is my {SUPER: SYSTEM}. It is the best way to define a class in JavaScript.

Amol M Kulkarni
11#
Amol M Kulkarni Reply to 2018-01-03 09:12:52Z

Following are the ways to create objects in javascript, which I've used so far

Example 1:

obj = new Object();
obj.name = 'test';
obj.sayHello = function() {
    console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
}

Example 2:

obj = {};
obj.name = 'test';
obj.sayHello = function() {
    console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
}
obj.sayHello();

Example 3:

var obj = function(nameParam) {
    this.name = nameParam;
}
obj.prototype.sayHello = function() {
    console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
}

Example 4: Actual benefits of Object.create(). please refer [this link]

var Obj = {
    init: function(nameParam) {
        this.name = nameParam;
    },
    sayHello: function() {
        console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
    }
};
var usrObj = Object.create(Obj);  // <== one level of inheritance

usrObj.init('Bob');
usrObj.sayHello();

Example 5 (customised Crockford's Object.create):

Object.build = function(o) {
   var initArgs = Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments,1)
   function F() {
      if((typeof o.init === 'function') && initArgs.length) {
         o.init.apply(this,initArgs)
      }
   }
   F.prototype = o
   return new F()
}
MY_GLOBAL = {i: 1, nextId: function(){return this.i++}}  // For example

var userB = {
    init: function(nameParam) {
        this.id = MY_GLOBAL.nextId();
        this.name = nameParam;
    },
    sayHello: function() {
        console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
    }
};
var bob = Object.build(userB, 'Bob');  // Different from your code
bob.sayHello();


To keep answer updated with ES6/ ES2015

A class is defined like this:

class Person {
    constructor(strName, numAge) {
        this.name = strName;
        this.age = numAge;
    }

    toString() {
        return '((Class::Person) named ' + this.name + ' & of age ' + this.age + ')';
    }
}

let objPerson = new Person("Bob",33);
console.log(objPerson.toString());
Chris Nash
12#
Chris Nash Reply to 2013-04-07 00:43:50Z

You probably want to create a type by using the Folding Pattern:

    // Here is the constructor section.
    var myType = function () {
        var N = {}, // Enclosed (private) members are here.
            X = this; // Exposed (public) members are here.

        (function ENCLOSED_FIELDS() {
            N.toggle = false;
            N.text = '';
        }());

        (function EXPOSED_FIELDS() {
            X.count = 0;
            X.numbers = [1, 2, 3];
        }());

        // The properties below have access to the enclosed fields.
        // Careful with functions exposed within the closure of the
        // constructor, each new instance will have it's own copy.
        (function EXPOSED_PROPERTIES_WITHIN_CONSTRUCTOR() {
            Object.defineProperty(X, 'toggle', {
                get: function () {
                    var before = N.toggle;
                    N.toggle = !N.toggle;
                    return before;
                }
            });

            Object.defineProperty(X, 'text', {
                get: function () {
                    return N.text;
                },
                set: function (value) {
                    N.text = value;
                }
            });
        }());
    };

    // Here is the prototype section.
    (function PROTOTYPE() {
        var P = myType.prototype;

        (function EXPOSED_PROPERTIES_WITHIN_PROTOTYPE() {
            Object.defineProperty(P, 'numberLength', {
                get: function () {
                    return this.numbers.length;
                }
            });
        }());

        (function EXPOSED_METHODS() {
            P.incrementNumbersByCount = function () {
                var i;
                for (i = 0; i < this.numbers.length; i++) {
                    this.numbers[i] += this.count;
                }
            };
            P.tweak = function () {
                if (this.toggle) {
                    this.count++;
                }
                this.text = 'tweaked';
            };
        }());
    }());

That code will give you a type called myType. It will have internal private fields called toggle and text. It will also have these exposed members: the fields count and numbers; the properties toggle, text and numberLength; the methods incrementNumbersByCount and tweak.

The Folding Pattern is fully detailed here: Javascript Folding Pattern

Dale
13#
Dale Reply to 2017-08-01 15:27:13Z

ES2015 Classes

In the ES2015 specification, you can use the class syntax which is just sugar over the prototype system.

class Person {
  constructor(name) {
    this.name = name;
  }
  toString() {
    return `My name is ${ this.name }.`;
  }
}

class Employee extends Person {
  constructor(name, hours) {
    super(name);
    this.hours = hours;
  }
  toString() {
    return `${ super.toString() } I work ${ this.hours } hours.`;
  }
}

Benefits

The main benefit is that static analysis tools find it easier to target this syntax. It is also easier for others coming from class-based languages to use the language as a polyglot.

Caveats

Be wary of its current limitations. To achieve private properties, one must resort to using Symbols or WeakMaps. In future releases, classes will most likely be expanded to include these missing features.

Support

Browser support isn't very good at the moment (supported by nearly everyone except IE), but you can use these features now with a transpiler like Babel.

Resources

  • Classes in ECMAScript 6 (final semantics)
  • What? Wait. Really? Oh no! (a post about ES6 classes and privacy)
  • Compatibility Table – Classes
  • Babel – Classes
Ulad Kasach
14#
Ulad Kasach Reply to 2016-04-05 15:23:45Z

Object Based Classes with Inheritence

var baseObject = 
{
     // Replication / Constructor function
     new : function(){
         return Object.create(this);   
     },

    aProperty : null,
    aMethod : function(param){
      alert("Heres your " + param + "!");
    },
}


newObject = baseObject.new();
newObject.aProperty = "Hello";

anotherObject = Object.create(baseObject); 
anotherObject.aProperty = "There";

console.log(newObject.aProperty) // "Hello"
console.log(anotherObject.aProperty) // "There"
console.log(baseObject.aProperty) // null

Simple, sweet, and gets 'er done.

Mick
15#
Mick Reply to 2016-09-02 20:58:33Z
var Student = (function () {
    function Student(firstname, lastname) {
        this.firstname = firstname;
        this.lastname = lastname;
        this.fullname = firstname + " " + lastname;
    }

    Student.prototype.sayMyName = function () {
        return this.fullname;
    };

    return Student;
}());

var user = new Student("Jane", "User");
var user_fullname = user.sayMyName();

Thats the way TypeScript compiles class with constructor to JavaScript.

Community
16#
Community Reply to 2017-05-23 12:18:27Z

Code golf for @liammclennan's answer.

var Animal = function (args) {
  return {
    name: args.name,

    getName: function () {
      return this.name; // member access
    },

    callGetName: function () {
      return this.getName(); // method call
    }
  };
};

var cat = Animal({ name: 'tiger' });
console.log(cat.callGetName());

Mikael Dúi Bolinder
17#
Mikael Dúi Bolinder Reply to 2017-07-18 11:28:01Z

A base

function Base(kind) {
    this.kind = kind;
}

A class

// Shared var
var _greeting;

(function _init() {
    Class.prototype = new Base();
    Class.prototype.constructor = Class;
    Class.prototype.log = function() { _log.apply(this, arguments); }
    _greeting = "Good afternoon!";
})();

function Class(name, kind) {
    Base.call(this, kind);
    this.name = name;
}

// Shared function
function _log() {
    console.log(_greeting + " Me name is " + this.name + " and I'm a " + this.kind);
}

Action

var c = new Class("Joe", "Object");
c.log(); // "Good afternoon! Me name is Joe and I'm a Object"
Roland
18#
Roland Reply to 2017-08-23 08:39:38Z

Based on the example of Triptych, this might even be simpler:

    // Define a class and instantiate it
    var ThePerson = new function Person(name, gender) {
        // Add class data members
        this.name = name;
        this.gender = gender;
        // Add class methods
        this.hello = function () { alert('Hello, this is ' + this.name); }
    }("Bob", "M"); // this instantiates the 'new' object

    // Use the object
    ThePerson.hello(); // alerts "Hello, this is Bob"

This only creates a single object instance, but is still useful if you want to encapsulate a bunch of names for variable and methods in a class. Normally there would not be the "Bob, M" arguments to the constructor, for example if the methods would be calls to a system with its own data, such as a database or network.

I am still too new with JS to see why this does not use the prototype thing.

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