Javascript Intro To Looping

Objectives

  • Build a for loop
  • Build a while loop
  • Build a do-while loop
  • Explain the purpose of a loop
  • Explain the difference between each type of loop in JS

Introduction

Sometimes, we need to do things repeatedly in life - our daily routines, for example. We wake up every morning. We got to work or school repeatedly. We repeatedly decide what to watch next on YouTube/Netflix.

In programming, we also often need to complete tasks repeatedly. Say we wanted to count from one to five using console.log. We could write:

console.log(1)
console.log(2)
console.log(3)
console.log(4)
console.log(5)

This logs:

1
2
3
4
5

This works, but it is very repetitive. Its also 'hardcoded' - that is to say, it will only work if we want to log the numbers 1 through 5. We could instead make this code a bit more abstract and replace the numbers with a variable, incrementing the variable after each log:

let num = 1
console.log(num)
num += 1
console.log(num)
num += 1
console.log(num)
num += 1
console.log(num)
num += 1
console.log(num)

This produces the same result as the previous logs, but we now have the ability to change what number we start counting from. If we assigned num to 5 at the beginning, we would get:

5
6
7
8
9

Cool, but we still have an issue - this code is way too repetitive. In fact, abstracting the code made it even more repetitive!

Instead of having to write the same lines over and over, we can use a loop. Loops are used to execute the same block of code a specified number of times.

In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at loops and see how they can clean up and simplify our code. This is a code-along, so follow along with the instructions in each section. There are tests to make sure you are coding your solutions correctly.

Another Example

Let's imagine we have a bunch of gifts to wrap and want to use code to keep track of the process. The gifts all happen to be the same size and shape, so for every gift, we need to cut a similarly sized piece of wrapping paper, fold it up over the edges of the gift, tape it together, and add a nice little card. Then we set the wrapped gift aside and moved onto the next gift.

In programming terms, we can think of the gifts as an array and the act of wrapping them as a function. We could, of course, write the following code:

let gifts = ["teddy bear", "drone", "doll"];

function wrapGift(gift) {
  console.log(`Wrapped ${gift} and added a bow!`);
}

We could then call wrapGift() on each gift individually:

wrapGift(gifts[0]);
wrapGift(gifts[1]);
wrapGift(gifts[2]);

But if we had more gifts, we'd have to write out more calls to wrapGift() — it would probably get tiring after a while.

This is where loops come in handy! With a loop, we can just write the repeated action once and perform the action on every item in the collection.

About Loops

JavaScript loops come in a few different flavors — namely, for, while, and do-while. We'll cover each of these kinds of loop below.

The for Loop

Of the loops in JavaScript, the for loop is the most common. The for loop is made up of four statements and has the following structure:

Syntax

for ([initialization]; [condition]; [iteration]) {
  [loopBody];
}
  • initialization
    • An expression (including assignment expressions) or variable declaration. Typically used to initialize a counter variable. This expression may optionally declare new variables with the let keyword
  • Condition
    • An expression evaluated before each loop iteration. If this expression evaluates to true, statement is executed
  • Iteration
    • A statement executed at the end of each iteration. Typically, this will involve incrementing or decrementing a counter, bringing the loop ever closer to its end
  • loopBody
    • Code which runs on every iteration as long as the condition evaluates to true

Use a for loop when you know how many times you want the loop to run (for example, when you have an array of known size).

Examples

Going back to the original counting example, we could use a for loop to count numbers:

for (let num = 1; num < 6; num += 1) {
  console.log(num)
}

The above loop will produce:

1
2
3
4
5

The same results as our initial code! In this loop design, we declare a variable, let num = 1, as the initialization. Then, we establish the condition, that num is less than 6. The third thing we do is define the iteration - num += 1. Combined, these three statements indicate that, starting at num = 1, this loop will execute over and over until the condition is no longer met. After each loop, num is incremented by 1.

With these configured, all we need to provide inside the loop is a single console.log(num). If we wanted to, we could change the initial value, the condition and/or the iteration, giving us good abstraction and flexibility.

Let's take a look at another, more complex example. The code below will print the string "Hello World!" 99 times:

// i is set equal to 1
// as long as i is less than 100 execute the code in the loopBody
// - which is print "Hello World"; increment i each time the code in loopBody is executed

for (let i = 1; i < 100; i++) {
  console.log("Hello World the " + i + " time");
}

// The above prints:
// Hello World the 1 time
// Hello World the 2 time
// Hello World the 3 time

You'll encounter for loops again when you learn about iterating through object literals.

Now, let's revisit our gift wrapping example. Given the following array:

let gifts = ["teddy bear", "drone", "doll"];

If we wanted to write a function that logged a message for each gift in the array, we would need to access each element one after the other. Sounds loopy!

let gifts = ["teddy bear", "drone", "doll"];

for (let i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
  console.log(`Wrapped ${gifts[i]} and added a bow!`);
}

The above loop will log:

Wrapped teddy bear and added a bow!
Wrapped drone and added a bow!
Wrapped doll and added a bow!

This isn't exactly what we want. If we added another gift to the array, we would have a problem. Since the conditional is i < 3, this loop will only increment i from 0 to 1 to 2 and wouldn't log the extra gift. However, if we change the condition to be based off the length of our array, we'll be in great shape:

let gifts = ["teddy bear", "drone", "doll", "bike"];

for (let i = 0; i < gifts.length; i++) {
  console.log(`Wrapped ${gifts[i]} and added a bow!`);
}

Now, no matter the length of the array, our loop will be able to iterate over every element.

To finally wrap up, we can wrap the loop in a function:

let gifts = ["teddy bear", "drone", "doll"];

function wrapGift(gifts) {
  for (let i = 0; i < gifts.length; i++) {
    console.log(`Wrapped ${gifts[i]} and added a bow!`);
  }
}

wrapGift(gifts)

TODO: Build a function forLoop. It takes an array as an argument. Start counting from 0, and, using a for loop, add a string to the array 25 times. Your for loop could look something like this:

for (let i = 0; i < 25; i++) {
  // ...
}

We don't want just any string.

  • If your i value is 1, add the string "I am 1 strange loop."
  • If your i value is anything else, add the string "I am ${i} strange loops."

Remember flow control with if and else? And how do we interpolate i?

Once the loop has finished, return the array full of strings.

The while Loop

The while loop is similar to an if statement, except that its body will keep executing until the condition evaluates to false. It has the following structure:

Syntax

while ([condition]) {
  [loopBody];
}

A while loop is often used when we don't know how many times a loop needs to run - that is, the condition is dependent on a dynamic function/return value. However, we can actually write any for loop as a while loop if we choose.

Examples

Here is our counting example as a while loop:

let num = 1

while (num < 6) {
  console.log(num)
  num += 1
}

Notice that in a for loop, the initialization, condition and iteration statements are all contained in the loop syntax. In a while loop, all three statements still exist, but the initialization is outside the loop and the iteration is inside. Only the condition is contained in the loop syntax.

One common mistake when writing while loops - we must always remember to include the iteration statement (num += 1). Otherwise, the loop will run forever!

Here is another example, this time, counting down:

let countdown = 100;

while (countdown > 0) {
  console.log(--countdown);
}

In a more complex example, we can see how while loops are handy when we don't know exactly how many times we need to loop:

function maybeTrue() {
  return Math.random() >= 0.5; // Returns a random number between 0 (inclusive) and 1 (exclusive)
}

// run until `maybeTrue()` returns `false`
// (so the body of the loop might _never_ run!)
while (maybeTrue()) {
  console.log("And I ran; I ran so far away!");
}

In this example, maybeTrue() returns true 50% of the time, and our loop runs until maybeTrue() returns false. We've used a while loop because we don't have any specific number to count up or down to in our loop — we just want it to run until the condition is no longer met. In this example, it is possible the condition will be met immediately, causing the loop to never run.

TODO: Create a function called whileLoop in loops.js. The function should take a number as an argument. Using a while loop, count down (using console.log) from the passed in number to 0. Then return the string 'done'.

The Do-While Loop

The do-while loop is almost exactly the same as the while loop, except for the fact that the loop's body is executed at least once before the condition is tested.

Syntax

The do-while loop has the following structure:

do {
  [loopBody];
} while ([condition]);

You will rarely see do-while used since very few situations require a loop that blindly executes at least once. That being said, take a look at the example below:

Example

let i = 0;

function incrementVariable() {
  i = i + 1;
  return i;
}

do {
  console.log("doo-bee-doo-bee-doo");
} while (incrementVariable() < 5);

Remember how we couldn't be sure with the plain while loop above that the body would run using maybeTrue()? With do, we can be sure that the body will run!

TODO: Define a function called doWhileLoop in loops.js. The function should take an integer as an argument. Use the incrementVariable() function (you can copy it from this README) in the condition, and console log "I run once regardless." while incrementVariable() returns a number less than the parameter received. (Your condition might look something like incrementVariable() < num.) Remember that it should also console log when receiving 0 as a parameter because the do-while runs before the condition is checked.

Conclusion

If seeing all of these new loops all at once is freaking you out, take a deep breath. Remember, 98% of the time you will want to use a for loop. A general heuristic for choosing which loop, is try a for. If using for doesn't serve your purposes, then go ahead and try a different loop. Also remember that you can always refer to documentation on these loops at any time. After some time coding in JavaScript, writing a for loop will come as naturally to you as wrapping one gift after another.

Resources

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