DEV Community 👩‍💻👨‍💻

Jens K Vyff
Jens K Vyff

Posted on

Checking if a Variable Exists

For an interview this week, I was doing an online technical interview and under pressure, I quickly used a check to see if a value existed.

if (x) {
    numberArray.push(x);
};

However, the data I was filtering contained values of 0 and null that needed to be treated differently and intentionally undeclared values that I would usually catch in my own code base or with a linter.

The rules I was trying to filter to could be summarized a such:

const v = 'abc'     // exists
const w = 0         // exists
const x = null      // nope
const y = undefined // nope
// const z          // nope

My first attempt was equivalent to:

if (x == true) { 
    //Do stuff
}

'x' is cast to its boolean equivalent type, but 0 in javascript is the only number that casts to false.

The second area where it deviated is for cases like 'z' where a variable is unassigned or undefined and a comparison is being made, JavaScript will error out. This is not a great user experience.

Here are the results of a few of my tests until I eventually arrived at a way of checking a values existence that I needed.

Tests

The quick and dirty with some pitfalls

console.log(v ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(w ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(x ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(y ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(z ? 'exists': 'nope'); // ReferenceError: z is not defined

Captures 0, but now also null values and still errors out

console.log(v !== undefined ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(w !== undefined ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(x !== undefined ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(y !== undefined ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(z !== undefined ? 'exists': 'nope'); // ReferenceError: z is not defined

Closer, but now we are casting types again, and still doing the comparison that breaks on undeclared variables

console.log(v != null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(w != null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(x != null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(y != null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(z != null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // ReferenceError: z is not defined

The recommended safe way for most applications

console.log(typeof v !== 'undefined' ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(typeof w !== 'undefined' ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(typeof x !== 'undefined' ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(typeof y !== 'undefined' ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(typeof z !== 'undefined' ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope

Extended version of the recommended method for the filter I needed

console.log(typeof v !== 'undefined' && v !== null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(typeof w !== 'undefined' && w !== null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // exists
console.log(typeof x !== 'undefined' && x !== null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(typeof y !== 'undefined' && y !== null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope
console.log(typeof z !== 'undefined' && z !== null ? 'exists': 'nope'); // nope

TLDR:

use (typeof value !== 'undefined')

if (typeof value !== 'undefined') { 
    //Do stuff
}

Bonus:

While every number but 0 casts to true, booleans cast to a number are:
true -> 1
false -> 0
This leads to fun cases like:

-1 == true;          // false
-1 == false          // false
-1 ? true : false;   // true

This is because after casting to types the equivalent expressions are:

-1 == 1;             // false
-1 == 0;             // false
true ? true : false; // true

Reference

*Bonus from Stackoverflow

Top comments (0)

Find what you were looking for? Sign up so you can:

 
🌚 Enable dark mode
🔠 Change your default font
📚 Adjust your experience level to see more relevant content