How can I use optional chaining and nullish coalescing in my JavaScript project?

Angelos Chalaris · Aug 19, 2020 ·

JavaScript, Type

JavaScript ES2020 introduced some new features that help us write cleaner code. Let's take a quick look at two of them that aim to make working with objects and variables a lot easier.

Optional chaining

The optional chaining operator (?.) allows us to access deeply nested object properties without having to validate each reference in the nesting chain. In case of a reference being nullish (null or undefined) the optional chaining operator will short-circuit, returning undefined. The optional chaining operator can also be used with function calls, returning undefined if the given function does not exist.

The resulting code is shorter and simpler, as you can see below:

const data = getDataFromMyAPI();

// Without optional chaining
const userName = data && data.user && data.user.name;
const userType = data && data.user && data.user.type;
data && data.showNotifications && data.showNotifications();

// With optional chaining
const userName = data?.user?.name;
const userType = data?.user?.type;
data.showNotifications?.();

Nullish coalescing

In the same spirit, the nullish coalescing operator (??) is a logical operator that allows us to check for nullish (null or undefined) values, returning the right-hand side operand when the value is non-nullish, otherwise returning the left-hand side operand.

Apart from cleaner code, this operator might spare us some headaches related to falsey values:

const config = getServerConfig();

// Without nullish coalescing
const port = config.server.port || 8888;
// Oops! This will be true even if we pass it false
const wrongkeepAlive = config.server.keepAlive || true;
// We'll have to explicitly check for nullish values
const keepAlive =
  (config.server.keepAlive !== null & config.server.keepAlive !== undefined)
  ? config.server.keepAlive : true;

// With nullish coalescing
const port = config.server.port ?? 8888;
// This works correctly
const keepAlive = config.server.keepAlive ?? true;

Note: Keep in mind that both features are quite new, so their support might not be great just yet (around 80% at the time of writing [1][2]).

Image credit: Hybrid on Unsplash

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