2011-06-17

ECMAScript.next: the “TXJS” update by Eich

Updates: Brendan Eich held a talk [1] at the TXJS conference in which he detailed the latest updates on ECMAScript.next. This post lists the highlights of his slides and adds a few explanations.

Approved for ECMAScript.next (look at the ECMAScript Wiki [2] for details):

  • let, const, function are block-scoped [3]
  • Destructuring assignment:
        let {x,y} = myPoint;
        let [s,v,o] = myTriple;
    
  • Parameter default values:
        function f(x, y=1, z=0) { ... }
    
  • Rest parameter:
        function g(i, j, ...r) {
            return r.slice(i, j);
        }
    
  • Spread operator:
        let arr = [0,1,2,3];
        let obj = new MyConstructor(57, ...a);
    
  • Proxies: A proxy is an object with an attached handler. The object itself is completely empty, but the handler is informed of any access (getting a property, setting a property, invoking a method, etc.). That is useful for many applications: logging method invocations, data binding, invoking remote services, etc.
        var obj = Proxy.create(handler, proto);
    
  • Weak maps: new WeakMap()
  • Modules [4]:
        module NewMath {
            export function fast_sin(x) { ... }
        }
    
  • Iterators, generators:
        function* gen() {
            yield 1;
            yield 2;
        }
    
  • Array comprehensions:
        return [a+b for a of A for b of B];
    
  • Binary data:
        const Point2D = new StructType({ x: uint32, y: uint32 });
        const Triangle = new ArrayType(Point2D, 3);
        new Triangle([
            {x:0, y:10}, {x:20: y:3}, {x:10, y:255}
        ]);
    
  • Class literals have been accepted. They are syntactic sugar for creating a prototype and a constructor. Eich mentions that he in principle likes that class literals were accepted, but is still not completely happy, because in addition to making some things easier, they also add new complexity and don’t really feel “JavaScript-y” [this is me very freely paraphrasing him]. An alternative proposal has been made [5], but is not a candidate, any more.
        class SkinnedMesh extends THREE.Mesh {
            constructor(geometry, materials) {
                super(geometry, materials);
     
                this.identityMatrix = new THREE.Matrix4();
                this.bones = [];
                this.boneMatrices = [];
                ...
            }
     
            update(camera) {
                ...
                super.update();
            }
        }
    
    New and helpful things: extends for subclassing, super calls for the constructor and methods, having a single construct for defining a class (instead of piecing things together).
  • Quasi-literals [6]: enable embedded domain-specific languages. The basic idea is to make it easy to enter custom syntax which is parsed by a function (the quasi handler) to produce data. This custom syntax is entered as text, but expressions can be inserted. The text is given to the handler as a sequence of tokens. For each token, one can determine whether it came from literal text or from an expression. These tokens are thus very similar so a syntax tree, but there is no nesting. One can nest quasis, by putting them inside ${}, but then they will be evaluated before being passed to a handler. Having two types of tokens gives the handler the option to transform inserted values, e.g. to escape special characters. Example quasi literals:
    • Secure content generation (handler safehtml): safehtml`<a href="${url}">${text}</a>`
    • Text localization: var message = msg`Welcome to ${siteName}, you are visitor number ${visitorNumber}:d!`;
    • Query languages, e.g. one using CSS selectors: $`a.${className}[href=~'//${domain}/']`
    • Inserting literal text into regular expressions: re`\d+(${localeSpecificDecimalPoint}\d+)?`
    • Raw strings: raw`In JavaScript '\n' is a line-feed.`
Related reading:
  1. ECMA TC39: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  2. harmony:proposals [all proposals that have been accepted for ECMAScript.next]
  3. JavaScript variable scoping and its pitfalls
  4. A first look at the upcoming JavaScript modules
  5. Prototypes as the new class declaration
    More information on this idea: Prototypes as classes – an introduction to JavaScript inheritance
  6. Quasi-literals: embedded DSLs in ECMAScript.next

No comments: