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Maintainable JavaScript

Cover of Maintainable JavaScript by Nicholas C. Zakas Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. Maintainable JavaScript
  2. SPECIAL OFFER: Upgrade this ebook with O’Reilly
  3. Introduction
  4. Preface
    1. Conventions Used in This Book
    2. Using Code Examples
    3. Safari® Books Online
    4. How to Contact Us
  5. I. Style Guidelines
    1. 1. Basic Formatting
      1. Indentation Levels
      2. Statement Termination
      3. Line Length
      4. Line Breaking
      5. Blank Lines
      6. Naming
      7. Literal Values
    2. 2. Comments
      1. Single-Line Comments
      2. Multiline Comments
      3. Using Comments
      4. Documentation Comments
    3. 3. Statements and Expressions
      1. Brace Alignment
      2. Block Statement Spacing
      3. The switch Statement
      4. The with Statement
      5. The for Loop
      6. The for-in Loop
    4. 4. Variables, Functions, and Operators
      1. Variable Declarations
      2. Function Declarations
      3. Function Call Spacing
      4. Immediate Function Invocation
      5. Equality
      6. eval()
      7. Primitive Wrapper Types
  6. II. Programming Practices
    1. 5. Loose Coupling of UI Layers
      1. What Is Loose Coupling?
      2. Keep JavaScript Out of CSS
      3. Keep CSS Out of JavaScript
      4. Keep JavaScript Out of HTML
      5. Keep HTML Out of JavaScript
    2. 6. Avoid Globals
      1. The Problems with Globals
      2. Accidental Globals
      3. The One-Global Approach
      4. The Zero-Global Approach
    3. 7. Event Handling
      1. Classic Usage
      2. Rule #1: Separate Application Logic
      3. Rule #2: Don’t Pass the Event Object Around
    4. 8. Avoid Null Comparisons
      1. Detecting Primitive Values
      2. Detecting Reference Values
      3. Detecting Properties
    5. 9. Separate Configuration Data from Code
      1. What Is Configuration Data?
      2. Externalizing Configuration Data
      3. Storing Configuration Data
    6. 10. Throw Your Own Errors
      1. The Nature of Errors
      2. Throwing Errors in JavaScript
      3. Advantages of Throwing Errors
      4. When to Throw Errors
      5. The try-catch Statement
      6. Error Types
    7. 11. Don’t Modify Objects You Don’t Own
      1. What Do You Own?
      2. The Rules
      3. Better Approaches
      4. A Note on Polyfills
      5. Preventing Modification
    8. 12. Browser Detection
      1. User-Agent Detection
      2. Feature Detection
      3. Avoid Feature Inference
      4. Avoid Browser Inference
      5. What Should You Use?
  7. III. Automation
    1. 13. File and Directory Structure
      1. Best Practices
      2. Basic Layout
    2. 14. Ant
      1. Installation
      2. The Build File
      3. Running the Build
      4. Target Dependencies
      5. Properties
      6. Buildr
    3. 15. Validation
      1. Finding Files
      2. The Task
      3. Improving the Target
      4. Other Improvements
      5. Buildr Task
    4. 16. Concatenation and Baking
      1. The Task
      2. Line Endings
      3. Headers and Footers
      4. Baking Files
    5. 17. Minification and Compression
      1. Minification
      2. Compression
    6. 18. Documentation
      1. JSDoc Toolkit
      2. YUI Doc
    7. 19. Automated Testing
      1. YUI Test Selenium Driver
      2. Yeti
      3. PhantomJS
      4. JsTestDriver
    8. 20. Putting It Together
      1. Missing Pieces
      2. Planning the Build
      3. Using a CI System
  8. A. JavaScript Style Guide
    1. Indentation
    2. Line Length
    3. Primitive Literals
    4. Operator Spacing
    5. Parentheses Spacing
    6. Object Literals
    7. Comments
      1. Single-Line Comments
      2. Multiline Comments
      3. Comment Annotations
    8. Variable Declarations
    9. Function Declarations
    10. Naming
    11. Strict Mode
    12. Assignments
    13. Equality Operators
    14. Ternary Operator
    15. Statements
      1. Simple Statements
      2. return Statement
      3. Compound Statements
      4. if Statement
      5. for Statement
      6. while Statement
      7. do Statement
      8. switch Statement
      9. try Statement
    16. White Space
    17. Things to Avoid
  9. B. JavaScript Tools
    1. Build Tools
    2. Documentation Generators
    3. Linting Tools
    4. Minification Tools
    5. Testing Tools
  10. Index
  11. About the Author
  12. Colophon
  13. SPECIAL OFFER: Upgrade this ebook with O’Reilly
  14. Copyright
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Chapter 8. Avoid Null Comparisons

A common yet still problematic pattern in JavaScript is testing a variable against null, presumably to determine whether the variable has been filled in with an appropriate value. For example:

var Controller = {
    process: function(items) {
        if (items !== null) {     // Bad
            items.sort();
            items.forEach(function(item) {
                // do something
            });
        }
    }
};

Here, the process() method is clearly expecting that items will be an array, as indicated by the use of sort() and forEach(). The intention of this code is clear: don’t continue processing unless the items argument contains an array. The problem with this approach is that the comparison against null doesn’t actually prevent future errors. The value of items could be 1, or a string, or some random object. All of these are technically not equal to null and would therefore cause the process() method to fail once sort() executes.

Comparing a variable against only null typically doesn’t give you enough information about the value to determine whether it’s safe to proceed. Fortunately, JavaScript gives you a number of ways to determine the true value of a variable.

Detecting Primitive Values

There are five primitive types in JavaScript: string, number, boolean, null, and undefined. If you are expecting a value to be a string, number, boolean, or undefined, then the typeof operator is your best option. The typeof operator works on a variable and returns a string indicating the type of value:

  • For strings, typeof returns “string.” ...

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