Planet London Python

January 18, 2020

Peter Bengtsson

JavaScript destructuring like Python kwargs with defaults

In Python

I'm sure it's been blogged about a buncha times before but, I couldn't find it, and I had to search too hard to find an example of this. Basically, what I'm trying to do is what Python does in this case, but in JavaScript:

def do_something(arg="notset", **kwargs):
    print(f"arg='{arg.upper()}'")

do_something(arg="peter")
do_something(something="else")
do_something()

In Python, the output of all this is:

arg='PETER'
arg='NOTSET'
arg='NOTSET'

It could also have been implemented in a more verbose way:

def do_something(**kwargs):
    arg = kwargs.get("arg", "notset")
    print(f"arg='{arg.upper()}'")

This more verbose format has the disadvantage that you can't quickly skim it and see and what the default is. That thing (arg = kwargs.get("arg", "notset")) might happen far away deeper in the function, making it hard work to spot the default.

In JavaScript

Here's the equivalent in JavaScript (ES6?):

function doSomething({ arg = "notset", ...kwargs } = {}) {
  return `arg='${arg.toUpperCase()}'`;
}

console.log(doSomething({ arg: "peter" }));
console.log(doSomething({ something: "else" }));
console.log(doSomething());

Same output as in Python:

arg='PETER'
arg='NOTSET'
arg='NOTSET'

Notes

I'm still not convinced I like this syntax. It feels a bit too "hip" and too one-liner'y. But it's also pretty useful.

Mind you, the examples here are contrived because they're so short in terms of the number of arguments used in the function.
A more realistic thing like be a function that lists, upfront, all the possible parameters and for some of them, it wants to point out some defaults. E.g.

function processFolder({
  source,
  destination = "/tmp",
  quiet = false,
  verbose = false
} = {}) {
  console.log({ source, destination, quiet, verbose });
  // outputs
  // { source: '/user', destination: '/tmp', quiet: true, verbose: false }
}

console.log(processFolder({ source: "/user", quiet: true }));

One could maybe argue that arguments that don't have a default are expected to always be supplied so they can be regular arguments like:

function processFolder(source, {
  destination = "/tmp",
  quiet = false,
  verbose = false
} = {}) {
  console.log({ source, destination, quiet, verbose });
  // outputs
  // { source: '/user', destination: '/tmp', quiet: true, verbose: false }
}

console.log(processFolder("/user", { quiet: true }));

But, I quite like keeping all arguments in an object. It makes it easier to write wrapper functions and I find this:

setProfile(
  "My biography here",
  false,
  193.5,
  230,
  ["anders", "bengt"],
  "South Carolina"
);

...harder to read than...

setProfile({
  bio: "My biography here",
  dead: false,
  height: 193.5,
  weight: 230,
  middlenames: ["anders", "bengt"],
  state: "South Carolina"
});

January 18, 2020 02:59 AM