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Please, always use const

June 05, 2016

Say hello to new friends let & const

ES6 among other very useful features, introduced block-scoped delcarations. A block is basically a piece of code delimited by a pair of curly brackets, so function body is a block and also if, while, switch statements. Once you understand how const and let work, you can use them to improve readability and performance of your code. The first one: let is a safer replacement for var, the difference is that var is function scoped.

This example from MDN shows the the diffrence between var and let:

function varTest() {
  var x = 1;
  if (true) {
    var x = 2;  // same variable!
    console.log(x);  // 2
  console.log(x);  // 2

function letTest() {
  let x = 1;
  if (true) {
    let x = 2;  // different variable
    console.log(x);  // 2
  console.log(x);  // 1

Const is an immutable reference. If you assign a primitive type(Boolean, Null, Undefined, Number, String, Symbol) value to a const is behaves like a real constant. JavaScript object is a reference type, so even if you assign an object to a const variable you can still change it’s properties, you just can’t change the assignment.

const clients = [];
clients.push('John Smith'); // no error
clients.push('Michael Brown'); // no error
clients = []; // Error

A recommended practice:

Always use const - change to let only when a IDE or Linter complains about it. As a result about 95% of your declarations should be const. In many compiled languages the compiler will use constants to optimize code by removing dead - unreachable blocks. The good news is that the JavaScript runtime Node.js uses the V8, compiles JavaScript to machine code using JIT - just in time compiler. Soon new versions of JIT will optimize the usage of const. So by applying to the always const rule you are gaining performance in the future for free. Another benefit is that it increases the readability of your code, it’s easier to reason about references that do not change. If you see a let declaration you will expect a reassignment somewhere inside the same block.

Further read:

Jan Grzesik- a Team Lead, Full Stack Engineer, maker - living in Kraków, Poland

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