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Merging JS: Objects

Merge is an operation for combining objects allowing you to pass data from one object to another.

Merge is often used when working with web forms. For example, when a user changes their personal data in the account settings, the data that has been changed is sent to the application as an object. Now we need to move this data from the initial object to the user object. This is how the user is updated:

// This user exists in the system
const user = { name: 'Tirion', email: 'support@hexlet.io', age: 44 };

// Data from form
const data = { name: 'Tirion 2', age: 33 };

// The result should be
// { name: 'Tirion 2', email: 'support@hexlet.io', age: 33 };

The solution is to move each property by hand:

user.name = data.name;
user.age = data.age;

// Somewhere here we save the user in the database

Direct assign works well when the data is small and its structure does not change. If there is a lot of data or different data can come in at different points, it can turn into a pile of duplicate code:

if (Object.hasOwn(data, 'name')) {
  user.name = data.name;
}

// So we need to list all the possible properties

Using merge, we can reduce this to a single line:

Object.assign(user, data);
console.log(user);
// => { name: 'Tirion 2', email: 'support@hexlet.io', age: 33 };

The Object.assign() method takes the object from the first parameter and fills it with the content from the objects in the following parameters. In our case, we have just one source object in the second parameter.

Merging works as follows. If a property was only in the first object, it will stay unchanged. If the property is present in the second (third, fourth etc.) object, it is written to the first object no matter if it was there or not. Therefore, if the property was present in both the first object and the second object, it will be overwritten by the value from the second object:

const obj1 = { a: 'a', b: 'b' };
const obj2 = { c: 'c', b: 'v' };
Object.assign(obj1, obj2);
console.log(obj1);
// => { a: 'a', b: 'v', c: 'c' }

The Object.assign() method has one limitation, it only carries out a shallow merge. Nested objects are not compared, but simply replaced:

const obj1 = { a: { a: 1 } }
const obj2 = { a: { b: 1 } }
Object.assign(obj1, obj2);
console.log(obj1);
// => { a: { b: 1 } }

Like any other powerful mechanism, merging needs to be used carefully. There are fields in objects that should not be overwritten when merging, such as the amount of money in the user's account. If you do not control the second object's data structure, important properties may end up being rewritten (accidentally or maliciously) if properties are allowed in that shouldn't be.

When it comes to web forms, it's technically always possible to send more data than the form expects.


Recommended materials

  1. has() function from the Lodash library

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