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What are the Different Data Types in JavaScript

Published on Oct 18,2019 47 Views

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JavaScript is a scripting language for the web. Like any other programming language, it has its own data types. A data type in a language defines the type of data a variable can hold. In this article, we will discuss the various data types in JavaScript in detail:

 

JavaScript has seven types. Types are values that JavaScript can have. Below is a list of data types that JavaScript can have:

  1. Number
  2. String
  3. Boolean
  4. Undefined
  5. Null
  6. Object
  7. Symbol

data-types-in-javascript

The ‘Symbol’ data type is new in JavaScript. It has been included in the ES6 version. We can find the type of value or data by using the ‘typeof’ JavaScript operator. The above data types in JavaScript are divided into two broad categories, primitive and non-primitive.

  • The Primitive Data types in JavaScript include Number, String, Boolean, Undefined, Null and Symbol.

  • The Non-Primitive data type has only one member i.e. the Object.

 

Difference Between Primitive and Non-Primitive Data Types in JavaScript

JavaScript primitive data types are data types that refer to a single value.

E.g. var a =5;

Here the variable ‘a’ is an integer data type and has a single integer value. The variable ‘a’ refers to a single value in memory. If we want to change the value of a, we would have to assign a new value to a.  Primitive data types are not mutable.

When we create a variable, it reserves a space for itself in the memory. The variable ‘a’ has space in memory which holds its value. When we try to change the value of ‘a’ by assigning another value like var a = 6, it doesn’t alter the value of the original a, it just creates a new variable ‘a’ with the new value 6.

We can assign the value of ‘a’ to another variable like this:

var a1=a;

Here the variable ‘a1’ is assigned the value of ‘a’, not the address of ‘a’ in memory.

Thus ‘a1’ now holds the same value as ‘a’.

We can compare the two variables ‘a’ and ‘a1’ as the two variables refer to the same value now.

Using the comparison operator will return a Boolean value of ‘true’.

a===a1 // equals to ‘true’ as ‘===’  checks both the value and type of these two variables are true.

 

JavaScript non-primitive types are objects. An object holds a reference/address of a single key-value pair or many key-value pairs. Whenever we refer to an object, we refer to an address in memory which contains the key-value pair. If we assign an object ‘object1’ to another object ‘object2’, we are actually assigning the address of ‘object1’ to ‘object2’ instead of the key-value pair which the ‘object1’ contains in memory. Let’s see below”.

var object1= {a:5, a1:6};

var object2 = object1;

The above statement assigns the address of object2 to object1, and not the value {a:5, a1:6}. Thus with this assignment ‘object1’ and ‘object2’ refer to the same address in memory.

When we compare these two objects, we find that both of them refer to the same address in memory.

object1===object2 //will return true, as both refer to the same address. If we compare two separate objects like below:

var object1= {a:5, a1:6};

var object2 = {a:5, a1:6};

This statement object1===object2 // would return a false because both the objects refer to two separate addresses in memory. When we compare two objects, we compare their addresses, not their values.

We have seen above in case of primitive data types, that when we assign the variable ‘a’ to variable ‘a1’, the value of ‘a’ is copied to ‘a1’, and not its address which happens in non-primitive data types.

Thus primitive data types refer to a ‘single value’ in an address in memory whereas non-primitive data types refer to the ‘address’ in memory which contains single or multiple key-value pair/s.

 

Primitive Data Types

Primitive data types are number, string, boolean, NULL, Infinity and symbol. Non-primitive data types is the object. The JavaScript arrays and functions are also objects.

 

Numbers:

A number data type can be an integer, a floating point value, an exponential value, a ‘NaN’ or a ‘Infinity’.

var a=250;  // integer value
var b=25.5;  // a number containing a decimal 
var c = 10e4 //  an exponential value which evaluates to 10*10000;

 

There are special numeric values e.g. NaN and Infinity.

If a number is divided by 0, the resulting value is infinity.

5/0;    // results in infinity
The type of infinity is a number
typeof(infinity);   // returns number

 

A ‘NaN’ results when we try to perform an operation on a number with a non-numeric value

‘hi’ * 5; // returns NaN
typeof(NaN);  // returns a number

 

We can also create a number literal by using the Number() function:

var c = Number(5); 
console.log(c);  // This will return 5

 

We can create a number object using the ‘new’ operator and the Number() constructor:

var num1= new Number(5);
console.log(num1); // This will return 5
typeof(num1); // This will return ‘number’

 

String:

The string data type in JavaScript can be any group of characters enclosed by a single or double-quotes or by backticks.

var str1 = “This is a string1”;  // This is a string primitive type or string literal
var str2= ‘This is a string2’;
var str3 = `This is a string3`;

 

Alternatively, we can use the String() function to create a new string.

var str4 = String(‘hi’);  // This creates a string literal with value ‘hi’

 

The String() function is also used to convert a non-string value to a string.

String(4); // This statement will create a string ‘4’

Like the ‘number’ and the ‘boolean’ data types, a ‘String’ object can be created using the ‘new’ operator:

var str5= new String(“hello”);  // This is a string object
console.log(str4); // This will return the string ‘hello’

 

Boolean:

The boolean data type has only two values, true and false. It is mostly used to check a logical condition. Thus Booleans are logical data types which can be used for comparison of two variables or to check a condition. The true and false implies a ‘yes’ for ‘true’ and a ‘no’ for ‘false in some places when we check a condition or the existence of a variable or a value.

When we check the data type of ‘true’ or ‘false’ using typeof operator, it returns a boolean.

typeof(true) // returns boolean
typeof(false) // returns boolean

 

Let’s see an example of comparison statement:

var a =5;
var b=6;
a==b // returns false

 

A boolean value is also used to check a condition in an expression:

If(a<b){
alert(a is a smaller number than b);
}

If the above condition ‘a<b’ is true, the alert will pop on the screen.

 

We can create a new Boolean variable using the Boolean() function.

var check = Boolean(expression);  // If the expression evaluates to true, the value of &lsquo;check&rsquo; will be true or else it will be false.
var check = Boolean(a<b); // the expression evaluates to true, thus the value of check will be true.

The Boolean() function converts a non-boolean value to a boolean value.

var mystring = ‘hi there’;
Boolean(mystring); // This will result in true because the ‘mystring’ value exists.

 

 

A Boolean object can be created using the new operator.

var booleanobj = new Boolean(true);

Here ‘boolleanobj’ is a Boolean object.

Though we can create an object of the primitive data types, ‘number’,’boolean’ and ‘number’ it is advisable or good practice to use the primitive version of these types.

 

Undefined:

Undefined data type means a variable that is not defined. The variable is declared but doesn’t contain any value.

var a;
console.log(a); // This will return undefined.

The variable ‘a’ has been declared but hasn’t been assigned a value yet.
We can assign a value to a:

a=5;
console.log(a); // This will return 5

 

Null:

The null in JavaScript is a data type that is represented by only one value, the ‘null’ itself. A null value means no value.

Something like this:

var a = null;
console.log(a);   // This returns null

If we check the data type of a using the typeof operator, we get:

typeof(a);         // This returns object

This means the type of a null value is an object, not null.

 

Symbol:

The ‘symbol’ data type is new in es6. It is one of the new features of es6. The symbol data type defines a property of an object which is private to the object. It refers to the ‘key’ of the key-value pair of an object.

var object1 = {
   name: ‘Shalini’,
   age: 25,
   city: ‘Mumbai’
}
var occupation=Symbol(‘engineer’);

The function Symbol() is used to create a new symbol. Here we have created a symbol ‘occupation’ with the value ‘engineer’ for the above object ‘object1’.

Every symbol is unique. Two Symbols even with the same key values are not same.

var occupation=Symbol(‘engineer’); 
var occupation=Symbol();

occupation===occupation // returns false. Thus both the above ‘occupation’ symbols are different. Each one is a unique property of the object.

 

We cannot create a symbol object using the ‘new’ operator because the Symbol() cannot be used as a constructor.

The string description inside Symbol() function is optional.
Checking the type of ‘occupation’ symbol:

typeof(occupation);  // returns symbol

 

The Non-Primitive Data Types

The ‘object’ is a non-primitive data type in JavaScript. Arrays and Functions in JavaScript belong to the ‘object’ data type.

Object:

Let’s create an object literal. An object in JavaScript contains key-value pairs in its address. When we refer to obj1, we are actually referring to the address in memory which contains the value {a: 5, b: 6}, instead of the value {a: 5, b: 6} directly.

var obj1 = { a: 5, b: 6 };

We can change or mutate the value of obj1. 

obj1[a] =7;
console.log(obj1) // will return the value {a: 7, b: 6}

 

Thus the value has changed successfully.

When we check the value of obj1 using the typeof operator, it returns an object.

typeof (obj1) // will return the data type ‘object’.

 

Array:

An array in JavaScript is an object data type. An array contains more than one value with a numerical index, where the index starts from 0. Thus it holds its value in a key-value pair.

var arr1= [1, 2, 3];

We cannot mutate or change the above array arr1.

Suppose we try to change its value.

arr1[0] =4;
console.log(arr1) // This will return the array [4, 2, 3]
typeof (arr1) // will return the data type ‘object’.

The array ‘arr1’ refers to the address in memory which contains the value [4, 2, 3].

 

Function:

JavaScript doesn’t have a function data type but when we find the data type of a function using the typeof operator, we find that it returns a function. This is because a function is an object in JavaScript. Ideally the data type of a function should return an object but instead, it returns a function. This is an error in JavaScript.

Let’s define a function named a:

function a(){ }

Now let’s find the data type of a by using the typeof operator:

typeof(a); // This will return data type function 

 

Difference Between Undefined and Null

These are two different data types of JavaScript. When a variable is declared but has not been assigned a value yet, the data type of that variable is undefined.

Null is a data type in JavaScript but it is mainly used as a value that is assigned to a variable. Assigning a null to a variable means that the variable contains no value, similar to the meaning of ‘undefined’ which also means empty value.

The two differences between null and undefined:

  • null’ can be assigned as a value to a variable whereas undefined can also be assigned as a value to a variable but it is not recommended or a good practice.  

A variable with no value simply means it is undefined.

var a;
console.log(a); // returns undefined

‘a’ doesn’t contain any value, the data type is undefined.

var a=undefined; // possible but not recommended
console.log(a) // returns undefined

Let’s take another variable:

var b=null;

 

  • The data type of a variable which doesn’t contain a value is ‘undefined’, but the data type of a variable which contains a ‘null’ value is ‘object’ instead of ‘null’. This is an error in JavaScript which we will discuss in the next section.

 

Two discrepancies of Data Types in JavaScript

We know null is a data type in JavaScript. If we find out the data type of null it should return null but actually it returns an object data type.

Confusing isn’t it, the data type of ‘null’ is an object instead of null. Well technically it should be null, but this is a discrepancy in JavaScript which we will have to accept and abide by.

The other talking point is the data type of a function in JavaScript. When we find the data type of a JavaScript function it returns a function. We know that JavaScript does not have a function data type, then why it shows function data type.

The point is a function data type is actually an object. All functions in JavaScript has properties of an object. It is only a discrepancy in JavaScript that the data type of a function is returning a function, instead of an object. This too we have to accept and remember.

 

With this, we come to the end of Data Types in JavaScript article. Summing up, JavaScript has different data types, primitive and non-primitive. There are seven primitive data types, Number, String, Boolean, NULL, Undefined and Symbol and one non-primitive data type ‘object’.

There are differences between NULL and undefined data types though both contain the same value. Like other programming languages, JavaScript also has some in-built language errors or discrepancies which is found in the NULL data type and the data type of JavaScript functions.

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