Front End Engineering June 2015


While working with for loops to iterate over every item in an array is fairly common, this isn't particularly optimized and is really fragile. Just one mistake in your for loop or referencing your array instead of array[i] can make for a terrible mess to debug. Not to mention, this leads to an extra variable that we have to keep up with and there's not much you can do as far as code reuse.

Instead arrays provide a forEach function that allows us to do work on each element in the array via a callback.

How it works

The forEach method on an array takes one argument: a callback function to be run. This callback will receive three arguments:

  • currentValue: The current element being processed in the array. (similar to arr[x] in a for loop)
  • index: The index of the current element being processed in the array. (similar to your var x in a for loop)
  • array: The array that forEach is being applied to.

Of course in your callback you will probably want to name these to what makes sense for your code. It's a fairly common practice to have your callback's first argument be either current or the singular version of the array name.

Replacing a for loop with forEach

For this example we'll have an array of students:

var students = [

And now to log out each one, we could use a standard for loop:

for (var x = 0; x < students.length; x++) {

Or we could write this using forEach:

students.forEach(function (student) {


Right now not everything that acts like an array is actually an array. Therefore there are a lot of Javascript objects running around that seem like they should have a forEach on them but don't. This is pretty unfortunate, but it's true.

One big way that you will see this is from the results of document.getElementsByTagName or document.querySelectorAll. These functions return an HTML Node List which still allows you to write a regular for loop, but does not have a forEach function.

We'll talk about ways around this in the next few days. But for now: