Replacing JavaScript switch statement with object literals

Angelos Chalaris · Apr 1, 2021 ·

JavaScript, Object

JavaScript's switch statement is one of the few things I find hard to remember the syntax for (so glad VS Code has autocomplete). It also feels a little bit out of place syntactically, as it's the only thing that doesn't use curly braces and you need to remember to break for every case. Moreover, its performance is less than stellar as its control flow is procedural.

Luckily, JavaScript provides another alternative for most use-cases I can think of for switch statements - object literals. The idea is to define an object with a key for each case you would have in a switch statement, then access its value directly using the expression you would pass to the switch statement.

let fruit = 'oranges';

switch (fruit) {
  case 'apples':
    console.log('Apples');
    break;
  case 'oranges':
    console.log('Oranges');
    break;
}
// Logs: 'Oranges'

const logFruit = {
  'apples': () => console.log('Apples'),
  'oranges': () => console.log('Oranges')
};

logFruit[fruit](); // Logs: 'Oranges'

While this is infinitely more readable and less verbose, it's also significantly faster. However, we haven't yet addressed the elephant in the room: the default case. To handle it, we can just add a 'default' key and check if the expression's value exists in our object.

let fruit = 'strawberries';

switch (fruit) {
  case 'apples':
    console.log('Apples');
    break;
  case 'oranges':
    console.log('Oranges');
    break;
  default:
    console.log('Unknown fruit');
}
// Logs: 'Unknown fruit'

const logFruit = {
  'apples': () => console.log('Apples'),
  'oranges': () => console.log('Oranges'),
  'default': () => console.log('Unknown fruit')
};

(logFruit[fruit] || logFruit['default'])(); // Logs: 'Unknown fruit'

Finally, our object literal replacement should be able to handle falling through cases, similar to what happens when there's no break statement. This is a matter of simply extracting and reusing logic in the object literal.

let fruit = 'oranges';

switch (fruit) {
  case 'apples':
  case 'oranges':
    console.log('Known fruit');
    break;
  default:
    console.log('Unknown fruit');
}
// Logs: 'Known fruit'

const knownFruit = () => console.log('Known fruit');
const unknownFruit = () => console.log('Unknown fruit');

const logFruit = {
  'apples': knownFruit,
  'oranges': knownFruit,
  'default': unknownFruit
};

(logFruit[fruit] || logFruit['default'])(); // Logs: 'Known fruit'

To wrap this all up, we can generalize and extract this logic into a simple reusable function, which we will supply with the lookup object and an optional name for the default case (we'll default to _default to avoid any conflicts). This function will in turn return a function with the appropriate lookup logic and we can use it to replace any switch statement.

const switchFn = (lookupObject, defaultCase = '_default') =>
  expression => (lookupObject[expression] || lookupObject[defaultCase])();

const knownFruit = () => console.log('Known fruit');
const unknownFruit = () => console.log('Unknown fruit');

const logFruit = {
  'apples': knownFruit,
  'oranges': knownFruit,
  'default': unknownFruit
};

const fruitSwitch = switchFn(logFruit, 'default');

fruitSwitch('apples'); // Logs: 'Known fruit'
fruitSwitch('pineapples'); // Logs: 'Unknown fruit'

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