Understanding JavaScript array length property

Last Updated Jul 06, 2022

Use the JavaScript array length property to find the total number of elements in an array

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The JavaScript array length property returns a number that represents how many elements (or values) are currently stored in a JavaScript array.

To use it, you just need to access the property like any other object properties:

let students = ["Joseph", "Marco", "Sarah", "Lisa"];
console.log(students.length);

// output is 4

This property is immediately available for all array objects that you declare in your script.

You don’t even need to assign your array object into a variable to use it:

["Joseph", "Marco", "Sarah", "Lisa"].length;

// 👆 returns 4 too

Iterate over an array with for loop and length

By utilizing the length property, you can iterate over an array and perform operations on its elements. Here’s an example where every element of the array is doubled:

let myNumbers = [1, 2, 3];
for (let i = 0; i < myNumbers.length; i++) {
  myNumbers[i] = myNumbers[i] * 2;
}
console.log(myNumbers);

// output is [2, 4, 6]

Since the array index starts from 0, you can start the for loop at 0 too by using let i = 0;.

Set the length property manually

The array length property can also be used to set the size of an array by assigning a new number to it.

Consider the following example:

// 👇 truncate an array
let students = ["Joseph", "Marco", "Sarah", "Lisa"];
students.length = 1;

console.log(students); // ['Joseph']

When you set the array length property to be lower than the number of elements present, then the array will be truncated.

But you can’t set length to a negative number value. It will cause an error:

let students = ["Joseph", "Marco", "Sarah", "Lisa"];
students.length = -4;

// Error: Invalid array length

You can also extend the length of the array by assigning a higher number to the property.

The empty slot created by this assignment will return undefined as its value:

let students = ["Joseph", "Marco"];
students.length = 4;
console.log(students);

// output is ["Joseph", "Marco", undefined, undefined]

If you push a new element into the array, it won’t replace the undefined elements. JavaScript will place the new element after those undefined elements instead:

let students = ["Joseph", "Marco"];
students.length = 4;
students.push("Martha");
console.log(students);

// ["Joseph", "Marco", undefined, undefined, "Martha"]

You need to replace the undefined elements using the index:

let students = ["Joseph", "Marco"];
students.length = 4;
students[2] = "Martha";
console.log(students);

// ["Joseph", "Marco", "Martha", undefined]

Finally, when you loop over the array with forEach method, the undefined elements will be skipped:

let students = ["Joseph", "Marco"];
students.length = 4;
students.push("Martha");

students.forEach(element => console.log(element));

// "Joseph"
// "Marco"
// "Martha"

But when you do a manual loop with for and length, the undefined elements will be included:

let students = ["Joseph", "Marco"];
students.length = 4;
students.push("Martha");

for (let i = 0; i < students.length; i++) {
  console.log(students[i]);
}

// "Joseph"
// "Marco"
// undefined
// undefined
// "Martha"

This is one of the weird parts about JavaScript, but don’t worry too much because you will rarely need to assign the length property manually like this.

Now you’ve learned how the JavaScript array length property works. Nice work!

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