Javascript – Are there legitimate uses for JavaScript’s “with” statement

javascriptlanguage-featureswith-statement

Alan Storm's comments in response to my answer regarding the with statement got me thinking. I've seldom found a reason to use this particular language feature, and had never given much thought to how it might cause trouble. Now, I'm curious as to how I might make effective use of with, while avoiding its pitfalls.

Where have you found the with statement useful?

Best Solution

Another use occurred to me today, so I searched the web excitedly and found an existing mention of it: Defining Variables inside Block Scope.

Background

JavaScript, in spite of its superficial resemblance to C and C++, does not scope variables to the block they are defined in:

var name = "Joe";
if ( true )
{
   var name = "Jack";
}
// name now contains "Jack"

Declaring a closure in a loop is a common task where this can lead to errors:

for (var i=0; i<3; ++i)
{
   var num = i;
   setTimeout(function() { alert(num); }, 10);
}

Because the for loop does not introduce a new scope, the same num - with a value of 2 - will be shared by all three functions.

A new scope: let and with

With the introduction of the let statement in ES6, it becomes easy to introduce a new scope when necessary to avoid these problems:

// variables introduced in this statement 
// are scoped to each iteration of the loop
for (let i=0; i<3; ++i)
{
   setTimeout(function() { alert(i); }, 10);
}

Or even:

for (var i=0; i<3; ++i)
{
   // variables introduced in this statement 
   // are scoped to the block containing it.
   let num = i;
   setTimeout(function() { alert(num); }, 10);
}

Until ES6 is universally available, this use remains limited to the newest browsers and developers willing to use transpilers. However, we can easily simulate this behavior using with:

for (var i=0; i<3; ++i)
{
   // object members introduced in this statement 
   // are scoped to the block following it.
   with ({num: i})
   {
      setTimeout(function() { alert(num); }, 10);
   }
}

The loop now works as intended, creating three separate variables with values from 0 to 2. Note that variables declared within the block are not scoped to it, unlike the behavior of blocks in C++ (in C, variables must be declared at the start of a block, so in a way it is similar). This behavior is actually quite similar to a let block syntax introduced in earlier versions of Mozilla browsers, but not widely adopted elsewhere.