The beast that is `Array.prototype.reduce`

reduce() is an absolute beast of a method when it comes to functional style programming in JavaScript. The more you use it, the more you see use cases popping everywhere for it.

I recently realized, that it has become my goto method, whenever I have to deal with arrays. So I looked through bunch of my code and found a lot of examples, some of which I will list in this post. But before that - lets start with a short review the method itself.

Signature

arr.reduce((acc, current, index, array) => {
  // work goes here
}, initial);

reduce() takes two parameters. - A callback function, would be the first. reduce() will go through every element of the array and pass callback the following values. - acc or accumulator, this value is like state that gets updated on every call to keep track of the result - For the first call, it is equal to initial value provided as second parameter. - And in subsequent calls, acc will be the value returned by the previous callback call. - current, the element of the array we are dealing with. - index, the current index of array - array, the array itself - The second parameter is initial, the first value of acc. This is optional and in case it is not provided, acc will be the first element of the array.

Simple example

A very common example of reduce() is to calculate the sum of an array of integers.

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5].reduce((sum, integer) => sum + integer, 0);

In this example, we don’t need index and array, which is a case in general with reduce(). And sum, integer and 0 play the parts of acc, current and initial respectively.

Now some practical examples

I mentioned above that I went through some of my code to find examples of reduce(). I have listed below some of those, which were different enough to represent a new use case.

I have trimmed the project specific code from these examples to keep the short

1. Reducing to a boolean

I have a file path (id) and I want to know, if the path belongs to any of the directories or files from the watching array.

return watching.reduce((acc, curr) => {
  return acc || id.startsWith(path.join(__dirname, curr));
}, false);

2. Converting an array of objects into a map using a specific property / key of the objects

I have an array of objects that I received from a database. But I want to convert them into a simple map for later processing. All these objects have a common structure and a key that stores a unique identifier (primary key).

Example of data,

// docs array
const docs = [{
  id: 'id-1',
  name: 'K Dilkington',
  style: 'orange',
}, {
  id: 'id-2',
  name: 'Lanky Fellow',
  style: 'googly',
}];

// result
const result = {
  'id-1': {
    id: 'id-1',
    name: 'K Dilkington',
    style: 'orange',
  },
  'id-2': {
    id: 'id-2',
    name: 'Lanky Fellow',
    style: 'googly',
  },
};
function makeMap(docs, key) {
  return docs.reduce((map, doc) => {
    map[doc[key]] = doc;
    return map;
  }, {});
}

We can now call the this function using makeMap(docs, 'id'), to build the map we desire.

3. Flatten an array of arrays

A very common case. I have an array of arrays and I want to combine them into a single array.

function flatten(arr) {
  return arr.reduce((acc, current) => {
    return acc.concat(current);
  }, []);
}


flatten([['1', '2'], ['3', 4], [{}, []]]) // => [ '1', '2', '3', 4, {}, [] ]

4. Doing the job of filter() - quite unnecessary :)

From an array of players, filter those with with valid ids (mongoId here).

game.players.reduce((acc, val) => {
  if (is.existy(val.mongoId)) {
    acc.push(val.mongoId);
  }
  return acc;
}, []);

5. A deep Object.assign

Object.assign copies values from source objects to given object, but it does a shallow copy and also mutates the given object.

I want a function (deepAssign), that would do a deep copy and would not mutate the given object.

const source = {
  l1: {
    inside: true,
    prop: 'in',
  },
  prop: 'value',
};
const target = {
  prop: 'out',
  l1: {
    prop: 'inisde',
  },
}

const shallow = Object.assign(source, target);
/*
shallow = {
  "l1": {
    "prop": "inisde"
  },
  "prop": "out"
}
*/

const deep = deepAssign(source, target);
/*
deep = {
  "l1": {
    "inside":true,
    "prop": "inisde"
  },
  "prop": "out"
}
function deepAssign(object, update, level = 0) {
  if (level > 5) {
    throw new Error('Deep Assign going beyound five levels');
  }

  return Object.keys(update).reduce((acc, key) => {
    const updatewith = update[key];
    if (is.not.existy(updatewith)) {
      return acc;
    }

    // lets just suppose `is` exists
    if (is.object(updatewith) && is.not.array(updatewith)) {
      acc[key] = deepAssign(object[key], updatewith, level + 1);
      return acc;
    }

    acc[key] = updatewith;
    return acc;
  }, Object.assign({}, object));
}

We are using recursion here and don’t want to kill the stack, hence a simple check for - how many levels deep inside the source object we should care about.

6. Chaining Promises

I have four async functions that have to be executed in series, feeding the result of the previous function into next.

const arr = [fetchData, updateData, postData, showData];
const response = arr.reduce((acc, current) => {
  // (cue alarm sirens) no error handling
  return acc.then(current));
}, Promise.resolve(userId));

response.then(data => {
  // data is final response
});

That’s pretty much it folks.

I found several more examples, however they were following more or less the same storylines with a twist or two of their own.

Finally, thanks for reading and if you have any magical use case of reduce() or if I have made any mistake in this post, I would love to know.