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Published Oct 19, 2023 ⦁ 10 min read
JavaScript Full Course: Your Guide to Conquering the Language

JavaScript Full Course: Your Guide to Conquering the Language

Introduction to JavaScript

JavaScript is one of the core technologies of the web, enabling interactive web pages and powerful web applications. In this section, we'll cover a brief history of JavaScript, an overview of its key features, modern ES6+ syntax, how it interacts with browsers, and some of the popular frameworks and tools commonly used alongside it.

A Brief History of JavaScript

JavaScript was created in 1995 by Brendan Eich at Netscape as a way to add dynamic interactivity and logic to web pages. Originally called LiveScript, it was later renamed to JavaScript as a marketing decision to capitalize on the popularity of Java at the time.

Despite the name, JavaScript is unrelated to Java. JavaScript quickly became essential for web developers wanting to create interactive buttons, form validations, animations, and more. It enabled web pages to respond to user input without requiring page refreshes.

Over the years, new ECMAScript standards have added major improvements to the language. ES6, released in 2015, introduced important features like classes, arrow functions, promises, and destructuring that streamlined development. The latest ES2022 standard brings pattern matching and other capabilities.

Today, JavaScript remains the most widely used programming language in web development. It powers complex web applications from companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Core Language Fundamentals

JavaScript provides core programming language fundamentals like:

  • Variables for storing data values like numbers, strings, booleans
  • Operators like arithmetic, comparison, and logical operators
  • Control flow constructs like if/else statements and for/while loops
  • Functions for encapsulating reusable logic and behavior
  • Objects and arrays for structured data access
  • Events and DOM manipulation for adding interactivity and effects

With these building blocks, JavaScript enables adding logic and dynamism to web pages in the browser.

Modern JavaScript Features

While JavaScript provides the core fundamentals, modern standards like ES6+ have added many improvements:

  • Arrow functions - Concise syntax for writing functions
  • Classes - Support for object-oriented code
  • Promises - Asynchronous programming model
  • let/const - Block scoping of variables
  • Template literals - Embedded expressions in strings
  • Destructuring - Easily access object/array values

These features streamline development and prevent common bugs.

JavaScript Execution Model

JavaScript uses a single-threaded, non-blocking execution model. Code executes line by line during the call stack, while asynchronous actions get sent to a callback queue handled by the event loop.

This event loop coordination enables non-blocking asynchronous behavior critical for dynamic web apps. Understanding this model is key for effective architecture.

JavaScript Beyond the Browser

While JavaScript rose to prominence as a browser scripting language, today it powers software engineering far beyond the browser. The runtime environment Node.js enabled running JavaScript on servers. This allowed building full stack JavaScript apps and opened the doors to using it for back end development.

JavaScript now provides full application platform capabilities spanning web, mobile, desktop, IoT devices, databases, machine learning, and more. Its versatility and ubiquity make it a highly valuable skill.

Variables, Data Types and Operators in JavaScript

Variables and data types are building blocks in any language. Let's explore how they work in JavaScript.

Using let and const

The let and const keywords allow declaring block scoped variables in JavaScript:

// Declare variable with let
let myVariable = 'Hello'; 

// Declare constant with const
const myConstant = 42;
  • let declares a variable that can be reassigned later
  • const declares a constant that cannot be reassigned

Prefer using const by default for better code. let and const fix issues with global scope in var.

JavaScript Data Types

JavaScript provides data types for:

  • Numbers - Includes integers, floats, Infinity, NaN
  • Strings - Text delimited with single or double quotes
  • Booleans - Logical values of true and false
  • null and undefined - Empty value placeholders
  • Symbols - Unique identifiers added in ES6

JavaScript dynamically allows assigning these data types to variables at runtime.

Operators

Operators perform actions on values and variables:

  • Arithmetic - Math operators like add (+), subtract (-), multiply (*), divide (/)
  • Assignment - Assign values with =, compound assignment like +=
  • Comparison - Compare values with <, >, <=, >=, ==, ===
  • Logical - Boolean logic with &&, ||, !

Dynamic and Weak Typing

A key aspect of JavaScript is its flexible dynamic typing system. Variables can hold values of any data type and seamlessly change types on the fly.

JavaScript is also weakly typed regarding conversions and comparisons, meaning it coerces types during operations. This provides flexibility but can also lead to subtle bugs.

Equality Operators: == vs ===

In JavaScript, == and === both check equality between values or variables. The key difference is that:

  • == coerces type conversion during comparison
  • === checks equality without type coercion

The == operator with type coercion can have unintended consequences leading to bugs, so === is preferred in most cases for safety and explicitness.

Functions, Scope and Conditionals in JavaScript

Functions, scope, and conditionals are core programming concepts that JavaScript provides familiar semantics for.

JavaScript Functions

Functions are blocks of reusable code that can accept parameters, execute logic, and return values. In JavaScript they can be declared with function or => arrow syntax.

// Regular function declaration
function add(x, y) {
  return x + y;
}

// Arrow function expression
const add = (x, y) => {
  return x + y;
}

JavaScript functions are first-class objects, meaning they can be assigned to variables, passed to other functions, and returned from functions. This enables powerful functional programming patterns.

Function Scope

Variables declared within a JavaScript function are locally scoped to that function and are not accessible from the outside scope. Functions can access variables in the outer scope through closures.

Immediately invoked function expressions (IIFEs) are often used to create locally scoped blocks without polluting the global namespace.

Conditionals

Conditionals execute different code paths based on Boolean logic:

  • if and else statements check specific conditions
  • switch statements match cases
  • Ternary operator provides inline concise condition checking

Conditionals rely on the concept of truthy and falsy values in JavaScript, where values have an inherent Boolean nature when assessed in conditional contexts.

Objects, Arrays and Iteration in JavaScript

Objects and arrays enable working with structured data, while loops allow iterating over them.

Working with Objects

Objects store data in key-value pairs and can be created either with object literals {} or the Object() constructor.

// Object literal
const person = {
  name: 'John',
  age: 30 
};

// Accessing properties
person.name; // 'John'
person.age; // 30

// Adding properties
person.job = 'Teacher';

Objects support dynamically adding, removing, and accessing properties. Useful methods like Object.assign() and the spread operator make copies of objects.

Destructuring is a convenient way to declare variables mapped to object properties.

Arrays in JavaScript

Arrays represent ordered lists of data and create sequence-based data structures. Standard array methods like push, pop, unshift, shift make adding and removing elements easy.

const fruits = ['Apple', 'Banana'];

// Array operations:
fruits.push('Orange'); // ['Apple', 'Banana', 'Orange']
fruits.pop(); // 'Orange'
fruits.unshift('Strawberry'); // ['Strawberry', 'Apple', 'Banana'] 

// Iterating an array:
for (let i = 0; i < fruits.length; i++) {
  console.log(fruits[i]); 
}

Arrays have a length property and are accessed via zero-based numeric indexes. Loops like for are well-suited for iterating over arrays.

Looping and Iteration

Common looping keywords like for, while, do-while enable iterating through arrays, objects, and other data structures.

for..in loops through the keys of an object, while for..of loops through the values of any iterable like arrays.

Being able to iterate collections and strings is vital for practical JavaScript code.

Object Oriented Programming and Classes

While JavaScript takes a unique approach to object-oriented code, familiar OOP patterns can be implemented via constructor functions and prototypes. ES6 added syntactic sugar making inheritance implementation more ergonomic.

Inheritance and Prototype Chain

Instead of classes, JavaScript uses a prototype-based inheritance model. Objects inherit directly from other objects via the internal [[Prototype]] property. This enables dynamic inherited behavior while still preserving object flexibility.

Constructor Functions

Before ES6, JavaScript implemented OOP style patterns through constructor functions. Constructor functions create object instances. Methods and properties can be attached to the constructor's prototype object to be shared across instances.

ES6 Classes

ES6 introduced class syntax on top of the prototypal inheritance model as mostly syntactic sugar. The class keyword and extends make inheritance clearer. Under the hood, they still use constructor functions and prototypes.

class Vehicle {
  constructor() {
    this.speed = 0;
  } 
  
  accelerate() {
    this.speed++;  
  }
}

class Car extends Vehicle {
  // Inherits accelerate()
  constructor() {
    super();
    this.wheels = 4;
  }
}

Static Methods and Accessors

The static keyword defines methods called directly on the class constructor rather than instances. Getters/setters control access to properties. Private properties can be implemented via closures or WeakMaps.

Asynchronous Programming

JavaScript uses an asynchronous, event-driven programming model critical for handling I/O operations and delivering reactive user experiences.

Asynchronous Callbacks

Callbacks are functions passed as arguments to other functions that start async actions. The callback fires upon completion so code executes non-linearly. Callback-heavy code risks pyramid "callback hell".

Promises

Promises represent the result of future operations and improve callback-driven async code. They can resolve with a value or reject with an error. Promises enable chaining with .then()/.catch() instead of nested callbacks.

function delay(time) {
  return new Promise((resolve) => {
    setTimeout(resolve, time);
  });
}

delay(500)
  .then(() => {
    console.log('500 ms passed');
    return delay(200);
  })
  .then(() => {    
    console.log('200 ms passed');
  }); 

async and await

The async/await syntax allows writing Promise-based async code as if it were synchronous, pausing execution until Promises resolve. Error handling is also cleaner using try/catch.

Async/await provides sequential async workflows. The async keyword must be present on enclosing functions.

JavaScript in the Real World

Beyond language fundamentals, JavaScript underpins complex applications and delivers robust user experiences at scale across industries.

JavaScript Frameworks and Libraries

Many frameworks and libraries build on vanilla JavaScript:

  • React - Component model for declarative UIs
  • Angular - Full MVC-style framework
  • jQuery - DOM manipulation and AJAX calls
  • Vue, Ember, Backbone - Alternate frameworks
  • Express - Web application framework for Node.js

Node.js

Node.js enabled running JavaScript on servers outside browsers by implementing the Chrome V8 engine in a standalone runtime. This allowed building server-side applications with JavaScript.

Node's simple APIs, cross-platform nature, and expansive ecosystem via NPM fueled widespread back end adoption. Node.js facilitated full stack JavaScript.

Other Uses of JavaScript

Beyond front end and back end web development, JavaScript sees expanded use cases like:

  • Databases MongoDB, CouchDB, and Elasticsearch using JS
  • Machine learning with TensorFlow.js and Brain.js
  • IoT programming via Johnny-Five and ESP8266 boards
  • Adding interactivity to Office documents and PDFs

The flexibility and maturity of JavaScript make it a versatile language well-suited for many domains.

Conclusion and Summary

We've explored JavaScript from its historical roots to modern ES6+ features, core language fundamentals, web and server-side programming models, asynchronous patterns, and real-world use cases.

JavaScript remains an essential language for any web developer as the underpinning of interactive web experiences. Its popularity and support across environments make JavaScript a valuable skill for any engineer aiming to build robust full stack or cross-platform applications.

For those looking to dive deeper, the Learn JavaScript site offers interactive lessons, challenges, and projects tailored for all levels to master JavaScript at your own pace.

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