Testing to see if a variable exists...

Discussion in 'Javascript' started by Ivan Marsh, Nov 11, 2003.

  1. Ivan Marsh

    Ivan Marsh Guest

    Hey Folks,

    Anyone know how to test for the existance of a variable in javascript?

    I'm looking for the equivalent of IsSet() from PHP. I'm having trouble
    finding it.

    Ivan Marsh, Nov 11, 2003
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  2. Check the 'typeof' operator:

    <script type="text/javascript">
    alert( typeof foo );
    if(typeof foo == "undefined") {
    // do stuff...

    It's a good idea, when learning this property, to iterate over many
    js/html types, in different user agents, to check the returned value.
    You might be surprised sometimes (especially for "null" in js, and HTML
    elements in Mozilla/IE).

    Yann-Erwan Perio, Nov 11, 2003
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  3. Not quite the same as isset in PHP but the JavaScript way is usually
    if (typeof varname != 'undefined') {
    // use varName
    However that approach doesn't allow you to distinguish whether a
    variable has not been declared or has been declared but not intialized,
    that is if you declare
    var varname;
    typeof varname
    is still 'undefined'. But that usually doesn't bother you as you only
    want to check whether something useful is stored in the variable.
    Martin Honnen, Nov 11, 2003
  4. on 11/11/2003:
    Use this function:

    function isSet( variable )
    return( typeof( variable ) != 'undefined' );

    It will work if a variable is defined, but not assigned to yet. For

    var a;
    var b = 'used';

    isSet( a ); // false
    isSet( b ); // true

    If you want to test for variables that have not been declared at all,
    you have to test directly, or an error will occur. Continuing from

    if( typeof( c ) == 'undefined' )
    // this will execute in this example
    // c is not defined or has not been assigned to...
    // c has been defined...

    Michael Winter, Nov 11, 2003
  5. Anyone know how to test for the existance of a variable in javascript?

    Runtime is not generally a good time to be checking that variables exist. It is
    better to do it early with jslint. It produces a report that identifies
    undeclared variables. It also reports declared but unused variables.

    Douglas Crockford, Nov 11, 2003
  6. <snip>

    It is interesting that you have used parenthesise in the way you have in
    the code above. They make typeof look like a function when it is an
    operator that operates on an expression and return look like a function
    call when it is a statement that may return an expression. That isn't
    important for the execution of the code because JavaScript is very
    tolerant of the presence (or absence) of white space, So:-


    - is treated as if it was:-

    typeof (variable)

    - and - (variable) - is just a parenthesised expression. The parentheses
    are serving no purpose so the effect is exactly the same as:-

    typeof variable


    return( ... );

    - is treated as:-

    return ( ... );

    - and - ( ... ) - is another parenthesised expression, though in this
    case parenthesising - typeof (variable ) != 'undefined' - would make it
    clear that it is the result of evaluating the expression that is
    returned and I would probably have done so myself (but I would have
    placed a space before the "(").

    No harmful consequences follow from the formulation of the original
    code. Except possibly to blur the distinction between function calls and
    the use of operators/statements, and maybe causing some confusion in the
    minds of readers of the code.

    Richard Cornford, Nov 11, 2003
  7. 11/11/2003:
    I prefer to use parentheses wherever I can. I realise that typeof is
    an operator, and is perfectly acceptable with, or without,
    parentheses. I tend to surround all expressions and sub-expressions
    with parentheses as I like not having to remember the operator
    precedence table. I have enough to remember as it is, and not all
    languages use the same precedence order. When I'm writing in C, C++
    or Java, I even write return( true/false ), though I know it's not
    necessary. It's part habit and part consistency.

    Everyone has their own style, I suppose...

    Michael Winter, Nov 11, 2003
  8. Ivan Marsh

    Ivan Marsh Guest

    Yea, I know. What I was trying to do was get POST data easily into
    JavaScript using PHP. Since the POST data isn't sent if the variable isn't
    set I needed a way to check for unassigned variables. Instead I just
    decided to add a default value if it's unassigned.

    I originaly was doing:

    print("<SCRIPT LANGUAGE='JavaScript'>\n");
    foreach ($_POST as $key_var => $value_var) {
    print("var " . $key_var . " = '" . $value_var . "';\n");

    Which worked fine for everything that's posted. But if you try to use a
    variable that wasn't assigned from post data it would crash that
    javascript you were referencing it from.

    This is what I ended up with:

    function JSPostVar($postvar, $postvarval = "") {
    print("<SCRIPT LANGUAGE='JavaScript'>\n");
    if (IsSet($_POST[$postvar])) {
    print("var " . $postvar . " = '" . $_POST[$postvar] . "';\n");
    else {
    print("var " . $postvar . " = '" . $postvarval . "';\n");

    Maybe not as pretty as it could be but it serves its purpose.
    Ivan Marsh, Nov 11, 2003
  9. I bet that you wouldn't claim that if you stopped and thought about it
    ;-) Given how liberally you could insert parentheses into JavaScript
    source code, especially as you can re-parenthesis any existing
    parenthesised expression so inserting them "wherever you can" would
    become recursive, you would be unlikely to ever manage to complete the
    code for your first function.
    The parenthesising of (and within) expressions is not really the subject
    of my quibble (and it is no more than that). I also do not bother to
    memorise operator precedence in languages and instead use nested
    parentheses to force (and express) my desired precedence (JavaScript's
    automatic type conversion often makes that doubly desirable).

    My comments were more aimed at the expression of the distinction between
    a function call, in which the tradition is that the opening parenthesis
    is not separated from the identifier or property accessor for the
    function reference (even though it could be), and the nature of typeof
    and void as operators and return as a statement. Which might be better
    expressed by separating the expression from the operator/statement with
    at least one space.

    I mentioned it mostly because I often encounter people talking of "the
    typeof function", "the void function" and (though very rarely) "the
    return function". That is a misconception that could not easily arise
    from reading the language documentation (or books on the subject) and I
    suspect that it arises in the minds of authors new to JavaScript as a
    result of seeing code that uses typeof (etc) in a function call-like
    And so long as the resulting code executes nobody can stop you. But,
    when posting in a group where some of the readers may reasonably be
    expected to not be that experienced, would the cost of putting in the
    odd extra space character to make code that represent function calls
    distinct from code that is not a function call really be too much of an

    Richard Cornford, Nov 11, 2003
  10. on 11/11/2003:
    I see your point (I saw it the first time), and it's a good one. I'll
    try to take it into consideration in future.

    Michael Winter, Nov 11, 2003
  11. I recommend against adding variables dynamically, mostly because it
    makes it harder to reason about the program.

    If anything, I would make an object that is always created, and then
    add the value as a property of that object. Javascript has methods for
    checking whether a property is set, e.g.:
    if ("propertyName" in objectRef) {...

    Lasse Reichstein Nielsen, Nov 11, 2003
  12. Ivan Marsh

    Jim Ley Guest

    Except of course that in an unknown execution environment where your
    code can be modified before it's executed, runtime is the only time
    you can ensure that it's been declared, any time earlier you're only
    checking that the code you wrote - if it runs declares it, that's a
    very different thing.

    Jim Ley, Nov 12, 2003
  13. Although there may be rare occasions where the above is useful, it is
    better to "do stuff" if `foo' is _not_ undefined (i.e. typeof foo !=
    "undefined"). The gauntlet usually *prevents* access to undefined
    variables, objects and properties.

    Thomas 'PointedEars' Lahn, Nov 29, 2003
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