ECMAScript 2017, edition 8 of the ECMA-262 Standard (also commonly called ES2017 or ES8), was finalized in June 2017.

Compared to ES6, ES8 is a tiny release for JavaScript, but still it introduces very useful features:

  • String padding
  • Object.values
  • Object.entries
  • Object.getOwnPropertyDescriptors()
  • Trailing commas in function parameter lists and calls
  • Async functions
  • Shared memory and atomics

String padding

The purpose of string padding is to add characters to a string, so it reaches a specific length.

ES2017 introduces two String methods: padStart() and padEnd().

padStart(targetLength [, padString])
padEnd(targetLength [, padString])

Sample usage:

padStart()
‘test’.padStart(4) 'test'
‘test’.padStart(5) ' test'
‘test’.padStart(8) ' test'
‘test’.padStart(8, ‘abcd’) 'abcdtest'
padEnd()
‘test’.padEnd(4) 'test'
‘test’.padEnd(5) 'test '
‘test’.padEnd(8) 'test '
‘test’.padEnd(8, ‘abcd’) 'testabcd'

Object.values()

This method returns an array containing all the object own property values.

Usage:

const person = { name: 'Fred', age: 87 }
Object.values(person) // ['Fred', 87]

Object.values() also works with arrays:

const people = ['Fred', 'Tony']
Object.values(people) // ['Fred', 'Tony']

Object.entries()

This method returns an array containing all the object own properties, as an array of [key, value] pairs.

Usage:

const person = { name: 'Fred', age: 87 }
Object.entries(person) // [['name', 'Fred'], ['age', 87]]

Object.entries() also works with arrays:

const people = ['Fred', 'Tony']
Object.entries(people) // [['0', 'Fred'], ['1', 'Tony']]

getOwnPropertyDescriptors()

This method returns all own (non-inherited) properties descriptors of an object.

Any object in JavaScript has a set of properties, and each of these properties has a descriptor.

A descriptor is a set of attributes of a property, and it’s composed by a subset of the following:

  • value: the value of the property
  • writable: true the property can be changed
  • get: a getter function for the property, called when the property is read
  • set: a setter function for the property, called when the property is set to a value
  • configurable: if false, the property cannot be removed nor any attribute can be changed, except its value
  • enumerable: true if the property is enumerable

Object.getOwnPropertyDescriptors(obj) accepts an object, and returns an object with the set of descriptors.

In what way is this useful?

ES6 gave us Object.assign(), which copies all enumerable own properties from one or more objects, and return a new object.

However there is a problem with that, because it does not correctly copies properties with non-default attributes.

If an object for example has just a setter, it’s not correctly copied to a new object, using Object.assign().

For example with

const person1 = {
    set name(newName) {
        console.log(newName)
    }
}

This won’t work:

const person2 = {}
Object.assign(person2, person1)

But this will work:

const person3 = {}
Object.defineProperties(person3,
  Object.getOwnPropertyDescriptors(person1))

As you can see with a simple console test:

person1.name = 'x'
"x"

person2.name = 'x'

person3.name = 'x'
"x"

person2 misses the setter, it was not copied over.

The same limitation goes for shallow cloning objects with Object.create().

Trailing commas

This feature allows to have trailing commas in function declarations, and in functions calls:

const doSomething = (var1, var2,) => {
  //...
}

doSomething('test2', 'test2',)

This change will encourage developers to stop the ugly “comma at the start of the line” habit.

Async functions

Check the dedicated post about async/await

ES2017 introduced the concept of async functions, and it’s the most important change introduced in this ECMAScript edition.

Async functions are a combination of promises and generators to reduce the boilerplate around promises, and the “don’t break the chain” limitation of chaining promises.

Why they are useful

It’s a higher level abstraction over promises.

When Promises were introduced in ES6, they were meant to solve a problem with asynchronous code, and they did, but over the 2 years that separated ES6 and ES2017, it was clear that promises could not be the final solution. Promises were introduced to solve the famous callback hell problem, but they introduced complexity on their own, and syntax complexity. They were good primitives around which a better syntax could be exposed to the developers: enter async functions.

A quick example

Code making use of asynchronous functions can be written as

function doSomethingAsync() {
    return new Promise((resolve) => {
        setTimeout(() => resolve('I did something'), 3000)
    })
}

async function doSomething() {
    console.log(await doSomethingAsync())
}

console.log('Before')
doSomething()
console.log('After')

The above code will print the following to the browser console:

Before
After
I did something //after 3s

Multiple async functions in series

Async functions can be chained very easily, and the syntax is much more readable than with plain promises:

function promiseToDoSomething() {
    return new Promise((resolve)=>{
        setTimeout(() => resolve('I did something'), 10000)
    })
}

async function watchOverSomeoneDoingSomething() {
    const something = await promiseToDoSomething()
    return something + ' and I watched'
}

async function watchOverSomeoneWatchingSomeoneDoingSomething() {
    const something = await watchOverSomeoneDoingSomething()
    return something + ' and I watched as well'
}

watchOverSomeoneWatchingSomeoneDoingSomething().then((res) => {
    console.log(res)
})

Shared Memory and Atomics

WebWorkers are used to create multithreaded programs in the browser.

They offer a messaging protocol via events. Since ES2017, you can create a shared memory array between web workers and their creator, using a SharedArrayBuffer.

Since it’s unknown how much time writing to a shared memory portion takes to propagate, Atomics are a way to enforce that when reading a value, any kind of writing operation is completed.

Any more detail on this can be found in the spec proposal, which has since been implemented.