Array.prototype.groupBy to the rescue!

December 15, 2021

3 min read

Array.prototype.groupBy to the rescue!

Have you ever wondered how to do array grouping properly with JavaScript? And let me guess, you were not quite satisfied with the outcome?

Array grouping is an extremely common operation and there are multiple ways to achieve this, but until recently, there was no native implementation and all the ways to accomplish this were kinda of... verbose and difficult to read?

Well, good news, as of December 2021, the Array Grouping proposal, which is introducing Array.prototype.groupBy, was promoted to Stage 3! 🎉

We will explore how to group by until now and then how the proposal will simplify everything.

Setup

Let's say we have the following array items:

const items = [
  {
    type: 'fruit',
    value: '🍎',
  },
  {
    type: 'fruit',
    value: '🍇',
  },
  {
    type: 'fruit',
    value: '🍊',
  },
  {
    type: 'vegetable',
    value: '🥦',
  },
  {
    type: 'vegetable',
    value: '🥕',
  },
  {
    type: 'vegetable',
    value: '🌶️',
  },
];

And from that array, we would like to group those items by type. So, we would expect the following output:

{
  "fruit": [
    {
      "type": "fruit",
      "value": "🍎"
    },
    {
      "type": "fruit",
      "value": "🍇"
    },
    {
      "type": "fruit",
      "value": "🍊"
    }
  ],
  "vegetable": [
    {
      "type": "vegetable",
      "value": "🥦"
    },
    {
      "type": "vegetable",
      "value": "🥕"
    },
    {
      "type": "vegetable",
      "value": "🌶️"
    }
  ]
}

Previous ways to Group By

Scroll directly to the bottom if you are here to see the best solution (the proposal mentioned above).

Reduce

Using Array.protoype.reduce, even though thoughts on reducers are often mitigated as the syntax tends to make it harder to read.

items.reduce(
  (acc, item) => ({
    ...acc,
    [item.type]: [...(acc[item.type] ?? []), item],
  }),
  {},
);

Edit: Some people mentioned that using {...spread} could be an anti-pattern and a bad idea, so let's propose another solution using reduce:

items.reduce((acc, item) => {
  if (acc[item.type]) {
    acc[item.type].push(item);
  } else {
    acc[item.type] = [item];
  }

  return acc;
}, {});

for...of statement

const groupedBy = {};

for (const item of items) {
  if (groupedBy[item.type]) {
    groupedBy[item.type].push(item);
  } else {
    groupedBy[item.type] = [item];
  }
}

Filter

Using multiple Array.prototype.filters like this was probably the easiest solution to read, but it wasn't really performant as it would be a lot of work to filter the array multiple times and you had to manually do it for each group.

const groupedBy = {
  fruit: items.filter((item) => item.type === 'fruit'),
  vegetable: items.filter((item) => item.type === 'vegetable'),
};

Chaining pure functions

⚠️ Please don't do this! This is purely for demonstration purposes.

It could get ridiculous quickly if we want to stay with functional programming while avoiding reducers. Even GitHub Copilot: Labs has trouble explaining this.

Let's say we want to grab all the possible types for items, turn that into an object, then iterate over the object's values to turn the value into a key and to fill the value with items grouped by that type with a filter. 😵‍💫

Object.fromEntries(
  Array.from(new Set(items.map(({ type }) => type))).map((type) => [
    type,
    items.filter((item) => item.type === type),
  ]),
);

Array.prototype.groupBy

TC39 committee is introducing the Array Grouping proposal (⚠️ Stage 3). 🎉

To start using this today, you will need a spec-compliant shim/polyfill for the Array.prototype.groupBy method: https://github.com/es-shims/Array.prototype.groupBy. It should also soon be available as part of stage-3 preset.

items.groupBy(({ type }) => type);

Simple, isn't it? What else to say. I can't wait for this to be released as part of ES2022 and adopted by TypeScript and browsers.