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Cover image for Arrays, any way you slice it

Arrays, any way you slice it

terabytetiger profile image Tyler V. (he/him) ・3 min read

Intro

Arrays have a variety of built in methods which can be quite powerful, but also very intimidating for beginners. In this post, we will break down the Array.slice() method into bite-sized pieces to help conquer a useful array method.

Let's knead that bread

For this breakdown, we will be looking at the array bread = ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f"]. You may be asking yourself:

"Why are we assigning the array to a variable bread?"

The reason is that we will be using a loaf of bread as our mental image of the array, where each slice of bread is an element from our bread array and each comma is a point where we could cut our bread.

Bread with array elements a through f assigned to bread slices

Note that the numbers below each element of the array are the index of that element.

Sharpen your blade

With the slice() method, you are able to manipulate an array by indicating at which comma you would like to 'cut' your array. There are 3 scenarios we will be looking at with passing arguments into slice().

One Argument

When you pass one argument into slice(), you are indicating the point where you will slice your bread loaf. The first argument will remove from the beginning of the array until the designated slicing point. So by using bread.slice(3), we are indicating that we would like to cut at the 3rd comma and remove everything before that comma.

var bread = ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f"];
var slicedBread = bread.slice(3);

// slicedBread is ["d", "e", "f"]

Slicing:
Array over slices of bread. Knife cutting between c and d

slicedBread:
Array over slices of bread, but only d, e, and f

Two Arguments - Both less than array length

When passing two arguments to slice(), the first argument works the same as when passing one argument, but what about the second argument? The second argument also indicates the comma where you would like to cut your bread, but this time instead of removing what comes before that comma, we remove what comes after that comma. So if we use bread.slice(2,4), we are cutting our bread at the second comma and fourth comma and discarding everything not between those cut points.

var bread = ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f"];
var slicedBread = bread.slice(2,4);

// slicedBread is ["c", "d"]

Slicing:
Array over slices of bread. One knife cutting between b and c, another between d and e.

slicedBread:
Array over slices of bread, but only c and d

Two Arguments - 2nd argument larger than array length

What if we were to pass in something large as the second argument like 100? Well, that would be like counting out 94 invisible/non-existent pieces of bread and cutting at that point - It will work the same as passing in a single argument!

var bread = ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f"];
var slicedBread = bread.slice(2,100);

// slicedBread is ["c", "d","e", "f"]

Slicing:
Array over slices of bread. One knife cutting between b and c, another after the end of the array.

slicedBread:
Array over slices of bread, but only c, d, e, and f

Other ways to slice it

0 as an argument

When you pass in 0, that's the equivalent of slicing the air before your bread - it does nothing.

var bread = ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f"];
var slicedBread = bread.slice(0);

// slicedBread is ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f"]

Array over slices of bread. Full array a through f.

First argument >= Second argument

When you pass in the same argument (bread.slice(4,4)) or the second argument is smaller than your first argument (bread.slice(4,2)) the same rules as above apply, you cut and discard everything before the first argument, then cut and discard everything after the second argument. This will always result in an empty array.

Closing

Hopefully this analogy helps clear up any confusion around Array.slice() and makes arrays easier to understand moving forward. If you have any questions about arrays or the slice method, feel free to reach out!

Posted on by:

terabytetiger profile

Tyler V. (he/him)

@terabytetiger

He/Him. A developer that loves to teach others and spread my passion for Mathematics and coding! In love with Vue.js Feel free to reach out if you have questions about HTML, CSS, JS, or Vue!

Discussion

markdown guide
 

Nice article. I have just a little addition, negative slice cuts from the end:

[0, 1, 2, 3, 4].slice(-2) // => [3, 4]

and slice returns a copy and does not mutate the initial array like some other function do.

 

Good points, I really should have explained that slice doesn't mutate!

 

Very nice article! Love the bread!

 

Thanks for reading!

The bread was made w/ Gravit.io's awesome library of icons!

 

I personally always try to explain programming concepts by drawing objects so the others could understand them easier. It's more important to make them understand and (maybe) see "programming" as something friendly than to make myself a cool smart guy.
Anyway, have a productive Monday!

Same! Just because programming is magic doesn't mean I want to keep the magic all to myself!