In 2015 the ECMAScript 6 (ES6) standard introduced classes.

Before that, JavaScript only had a quite unique way to implement inheritance. Its prototypal inheritance, while in my opinion great, was different from any other popular programming language.

People coming from Java or Python or other languages had a hard time understanding the intricacies of prototypal inheritance, so the ECMAScript committee decided to introduce a syntactic sugar on top of them, and resemble how classes-based inheritance works in other popular implementations.

This is important: JavaScript under the hoods is still the same, and you can access an object prototype in the usual way.

A class definition

This is how a class looks.

class Person {
  constructor(name) {
    this.name = name
  }

  hello() {
    return 'Hello, I am ' + this.name + '.'
  }
}

A class has an identifier, which we can use to create new objects using new ClassIdentifier().

When the object is initialized, the constructor method is called, with any parameters passed.

A class also has as many methods as it needs. In this case hello is a method and can be called on all objects derived from this class:

const flavio = new Person('Flavio')
flavio.hello()

Classes inheritance

A class can extend another class, and objects initialized using that class inherit all the methods of both classes.

If the inherited class has a method with the same name as one of the classes higher in the hierarchy, the closest method takes precedence:

class Programmer extends Person {
  hello() {
    return super.hello() + ' I am a programmer.'
  }
}

const flavio = new Programmer('Flavio')
flavio.hello()

(the above program prints “Hello, I am Flavio. I am a programmer.”)

Classes do not have explicit class variable declarations, but you must initialize any variable in the constructor.

Inside a class, you can reference the parent class calling super().

Static methods

Normally methods are defined on the instance, not on the class.

Static methods are executed on the class instead:

class Person {
  static genericHello() {
    return 'Hello'
  }
}

Person.genericHello() //Hello

Private methods

JavaScript does not have a built-in way to define private or protected methods.

There are workarounds, but I won’t describe them here.

Getters and setters

You can add methods prefixed with get or set to create a getter and setter, which are two different pieces of code that are execute based on what you are doing: accessing the variable, or modifying its value.

class Person {
  constructor(name) {
    this.name = name
  }

  set name(value) {
    this.name = value
  }

  get name() {
    return this.name
  }
}

If you only have a getter, the property cannot be set, and any attempt at doing so will be ignored:

class Person {
  constructor(name) {
    this.name = name
  }

  get name() {
    return this.name
  }
}

If you only have a setter, you can change the value but not access it from the outside:

class Person {
  constructor(name) {
    this.name = name
  }

  set name(value) {
    this.name = value
  }
}