JavaScript for impatient programmers (beta)
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30. Maps (Map)

Before ES6, JavaScript didn’t have a data structure for dictionaries and (ab)used objects as dictionaries from strings to arbitrary values. ES6 brought Maps, which are dictionaries from arbitrary values to arbitrary values.

30.1. Using Maps

An instance of Map maps keys to values. A single key-value mapping is called an entry. Maps record in which order entries were created and honor that order when returning, e.g., keys or entries.

30.1.1. Creating Maps

There are three common ways of creating Maps.

First, you can use the constructor without any parameters to create an empty Map:

const emptyMap = new Map();
assert.equal(emptyMap.size, 0);

Second, you can pass an iterable (e.g. an Array) over key-value “pairs” (Arrays with 2 elements) to the constructor:

const map = new Map([
  [ 1, 'one' ],
  [ 2, 'two' ],
  [ 3, 'three' ], // trailing comma is ignored

Third, the .set() method adds entries to a Map and is chainable:

const map = new Map()
.set(1, 'one')
.set(2, 'two')
.set(3, 'three');

30.1.2. Working with single entries

.set() and .get() are for writing and reading values (given keys).

const map = new Map();

map.set('foo', 123);

assert.equal(map.get('foo'), 123);
// Unknown key:
assert.equal(map.get('bar'), undefined);
// Use the default value '' if an entry is missing:
assert.equal(map.get('bar') || '', '');

.has() checks if a Map has an entry with a given key. .delete() removes entries.

const map = new Map([['foo', 123]]);

assert.equal(map.has('foo'), true);
assert.equal(map.delete('foo'), true)
assert.equal(map.has('foo'), false)

30.1.3. Determining the size of a Map and clearing it

.size contains the number of entries in a Map. .clear() removes all entries of a Map.

const map = new Map()
  .set('foo', true)
  .set('bar', false)

assert.equal(map.size, 2)
assert.equal(map.size, 0)

30.1.4. Getting the keys and values of a Map

.keys() returns an iterable over the keys of a Map:

const map = new Map()
  .set(false, 'no')
  .set(true, 'yes')

for (const key of map.keys()) {
// Output:
// false
// true

We can use spreading (...) to convert the iterable returned by .keys() to an Array:

  [false, true]);

.values() works like .keys(), but for values instead of keys.

30.1.5. Getting the entries of a Map

.entries() returns an iterable over the entries of a Map:

const map = new Map()
  .set(false, 'no')
  .set(true, 'yes')

for (const entry of map.entries()) {
// Output:
// [false, 'no']
// [true, 'yes']

Spreading (...) converts the iterable returned by .entries() to an Array:

  [[false, 'no'], [true, 'yes']]);

Map instances are also iterables over entries. In the following code, we use destructuring to access the keys and values of map:

for (const [key, value] of map) {
  console.log(key, value);
// Output:
// false, 'no'
// true, 'yes'

30.2. Example: Counting characters

countChars() returns a Map that maps characters to numbers of occurrences.

function countChars(chars) {
  const charCounts = new Map();
  for (let ch of chars) {
    ch = ch.toLowerCase();
    const prevCount = charCounts.get(ch) || 0;
    charCounts.set(ch, prevCount+1);
  return charCounts;

const result = countChars('AaBccc');
    ['a', 2],
    ['b', 1],
    ['c', 3],

30.3. A few more details about the keys of Maps (advanced)

Any value can be a key, even an object:

const map = new Map();

const KEY1 = {};
const KEY2 = {};

map.set(KEY1, 'hello');
map.set(KEY2, 'world');

assert.equal(map.get(KEY1), 'hello');
assert.equal(map.get(KEY2), 'world');

30.3.1. What keys are considered equal?

Most Map operations need to check whether a value is equal to one of the keys. They do so via the internal operation SameValueZero, which works like ===, but considers NaN to be equal to itself.

As a consequence, you can use NaN as a key in Maps, just like any other value:

> const map = new Map();

> map.set(NaN, 123);
> map.get(NaN)

Different objects are always considered to be different. That is something that can’t be configured (yet – TC39 is aware that this is important functionality).

> new Map().set({}, 1).set({}, 2).size

30.4. Missing Map operations

30.4.1. Mapping and filtering Maps

You can .map() and .filter() Arrays, but there are no such operations for Maps. The solution is:

  1. Convert the Map into an Array of [key,value] pairs.
  2. Map or filter the Array.
  3. Convert the result back to a Map.

I’ll use the following Map to demonstrate how that works.

const originalMap = new Map()
.set(1, 'a')
.set(2, 'b')
.set(3, 'c');

Mapping originalMap:

const mappedMap = new Map( // step 3
    [...originalMap] // step 1
    .map(([k, v]) => [k * 2, '_' + v]) // step 2
  [[2,'_a'], [4,'_b'], [6,'_c']]);

Filtering originalMap:

const filteredMap = new Map( // step 3
    [...originalMap] // step 1
    .filter(([k, v]) => k < 3) // step 2
  [[1,'a'], [2,'b']]);

Step 1 is performed by the spread operator (...).

30.4.2. Combining Maps

There are no methods for combining Maps, which is why the approach from the previous section must be used to do so.

Let’s combine the following two Maps:

const map1 = new Map()
  .set(1, '1a')
  .set(2, '1b')
  .set(3, '1c')

const map2 = new Map()
  .set(2, '2b')
  .set(3, '2c')
  .set(4, '2d')

To combine map1 and map2, we turn them into Arrays via the spread operator (...) and concatenate those Arrays. Afterwards, we convert the result back to a Map. All of that is done in line A.

const combinedMap = new Map([...map1, ...map2]); // (A)
  [...combinedMap], // convert to Array for comparison
  [ [ 1, '1a' ],
    [ 2, '2b' ],
    [ 3, '2c' ],
    [ 4, '2d' ] ]

  Exercise: Combining two Maps


30.5. Quick reference: Map<K,V>

Note: For the sake of conciseness, I’m pretending that all keys have the same type K and that all values have the same type V.

30.5.1. Constructor

30.5.2. Handling single entries


30.5.3. Handling all entries


30.5.4. Iterating and looping

Both iterating and looping happen in the order in which entries were added to a Map.


30.5.5. Sources

30.6. FAQ

30.6.1. When should I use a Map, when an object?

If you map anything other than strings to any kind of data, you have no choice: you must use a Map.

If, however, you are mapping strings to arbitrary data, you must decide whether or not to use an object. A rough general guideline is:

30.6.2. When would I use an object as a key in a Map?

Map keys mainly make sense if they are compared by value (the same “content” means that two values are considered equal, not the same identity). That excludes objects. There is one use case – externally attaching data to objects, but that use case is better served by WeakMaps where entries don’t prevent garbage collection (for details, consult the next chapter).