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pure-assign

Drop-in replacement for Object.assign() for "updating" immutable objects.

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Pure Assign

Drop-in replacement for Object.assign() for "updating" immutable objects. Unlike Object.assign(), pureAssign() will not mutate the base object, nor will it create a new object if no properties change.

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Installation

With Yarn:

yarn add pure-assign

With NPM:

npm install pure-assign

Usage in Brief

pureAssign(object, ...updates);

is equivalent to

Object.assign({}, object, ...updates);

except that it returns the original instance object if the result would have the same values as the original.

Usage in Detail

pureAssign() takes one or more arguments. The first argument is a base object, and the remaining arguments are any number of objects whose properties should be merged with those of the base object to produce a new object. Unlike Object.assign(), the first argument is not modified. For example:

import pureAssign from "pure-assign";

const user = { firstName: "Anastasia", lastName: "Steele" };
const updatedUser = pureAssign(user, { firstName: "Ana" });
console.log(user); // -> { firstName: "Anastasia", lastName: "Steele" }
console.log(updatedUser); // -> { firstName: "Ana", lastName: "Steele" }

If the resulting object would differ from the original, then a new object is created and returned. Otherwise, the original instance is returned. For example:

const user = { firstName: "Anastasia", lastName: "Steele" };
const updatedUser = pureAssign(user, { firstName: "Anastasia" });
console.log(user === updatedUser); // -> true

For TypeScript users, pureAssign has an additional advantage in that it catches type errors of the following form, which would be uncaught if using Object.assign() or object spread:

const user = { firstName: "Anastasia", lastName: "Steele" };
const updatedUser = pureAssign(userObject, { firstNarm: "Ana" });
// Type error because "firstNarm" is not a property of user.

Motivation

Many JavaScript programs treat objects as immutable data. For instance, this is recommended by React and required by Redux. Such programs typically replace object mutation:

const user = { firstName: "Anastasia", lastName: "Steele" };
user.firstName = "Ana";

with calls to Object.assign(), creating a new object with the updated values:

const updatedUser = Object.assign({}, user, {
    firstName: "Ana",
});

or alternatively with ES7's spread operator and an appropriate transpiler:

const updatedUser = { ...user, firstName: "Ana" };

A drawback of this approach is that a new object is created even if the new properties are identical to the old ones. This may have performance implications if certain updates are triggered by data "changes." For example, React developers may attempt to avoid unnecessary re-renders by using PureComponent or React.memo(), which only performs an update if its props have "changed" according to a shallow-equality check. This means that if your updates create new objects with the same values, they will trigger unnecessary rerenders since the old props do not have object-equality with the new props, despite being functionally identical.

This is where pureAssign() comes in. By returning the same instance in cases where the values haven't changed, pureAssign avoids triggering unnecessary updates which use object-equality to determine whether the state has changed.

Copyright © 2017 David Philipson

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