Lodash – difference between .extend() / .assign() and .merge()

Lodash – difference between .extend() / .assign() and .merge()

In the Lodash library, can someone provide a better explanation of merge and extend / assign.
Its a simple question but the answer evades me nonetheless.

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

Here’s how extend/assign works: For each property in source, copy its value as-is to destination. if property values themselves are objects, there is no recursive traversal of their properties. Entire object would be taken from source and set in to destination.

Here’s how merge works: For each property in source, check if that property is object itself. If it is then go down recursively and try to map child object properties from source to destination. So essentially we merge object hierarchy from source to destination. While for extend/assign, it’s simple one level copy of properties from source to destination.

Here’s simple JSBin that would make this crystal clear:
http://jsbin.com/uXaqIMa/2/edit?js,console

Here’s more elaborate version that includes array in the example as well:
http://jsbin.com/uXaqIMa/1/edit?js,console

Solution 2:

Lodash version 3.10.1

Methods compared

  • _.merge(object, [sources], [customizer], [thisArg])
  • _.assign(object, [sources], [customizer], [thisArg])
  • _.extend(object, [sources], [customizer], [thisArg])
  • _.defaults(object, [sources])
  • _.defaultsDeep(object, [sources])

Similarities

  • None of them work on arrays as you might expect
  • _.extend is an alias for _.assign, so they are identical
  • All of them seem to modify the target object (first argument)
  • All of them handle null the same

Differences

  • _.defaults and _.defaultsDeep processes the arguments in reverse order compared to the others (though the first argument is still the target object)
  • _.merge and _.defaultsDeep will merge child objects and the others will overwrite at the root level
  • Only _.assign and _.extend will overwrite a value with undefined

Tests

They all handle members at the root in similar ways.

_.assign      ({}, { a: 'a' }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: "bb" }
_.merge       ({}, { a: 'a' }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: "bb" }
_.defaults    ({}, { a: 'a' }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: "a"  }
_.defaultsDeep({}, { a: 'a' }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: "a"  }

_.assign handles undefined but the others will skip it

_.assign      ({}, { a: 'a'  }, { a: undefined }) // => { a: undefined }
_.merge       ({}, { a: 'a'  }, { a: undefined }) // => { a: "a" }
_.defaults    ({}, { a: undefined }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: "bb" }
_.defaultsDeep({}, { a: undefined }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: "bb" }

They all handle null the same

_.assign      ({}, { a: 'a'  }, { a: null }) // => { a: null }
_.merge       ({}, { a: 'a'  }, { a: null }) // => { a: null }
_.defaults    ({}, { a: null }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: null }
_.defaultsDeep({}, { a: null }, { a: 'bb' }) // => { a: null }

But only _.merge and _.defaultsDeep will merge child objects

_.assign      ({}, {a:{a:'a'}}, {a:{b:'bb'}}) // => { "a": { "b": "bb" }}
_.merge       ({}, {a:{a:'a'}}, {a:{b:'bb'}}) // => { "a": { "a": "a", "b": "bb" }}
_.defaults    ({}, {a:{a:'a'}}, {a:{b:'bb'}}) // => { "a": { "a": "a" }}
_.defaultsDeep({}, {a:{a:'a'}}, {a:{b:'bb'}}) // => { "a": { "a": "a", "b": "bb" }}

And none of them will merge arrays it seems

_.assign      ({}, {a:['a']}, {a:['bb']}) // => { "a": [ "bb" ] }
_.merge       ({}, {a:['a']}, {a:['bb']}) // => { "a": [ "bb" ] }
_.defaults    ({}, {a:['a']}, {a:['bb']}) // => { "a": [ "a"  ] }
_.defaultsDeep({}, {a:['a']}, {a:['bb']}) // => { "a": [ "a"  ] }

All modify the target object

a={a:'a'}; _.assign      (a, {b:'bb'}); // a => { a: "a", b: "bb" }
a={a:'a'}; _.merge       (a, {b:'bb'}); // a => { a: "a", b: "bb" }
a={a:'a'}; _.defaults    (a, {b:'bb'}); // a => { a: "a", b: "bb" }
a={a:'a'}; _.defaultsDeep(a, {b:'bb'}); // a => { a: "a", b: "bb" }

None really work as expected on arrays

Note: As @Mistic pointed out, Lodash treats arrays as objects where the keys are the index into the array.

_.assign      ([], ['a'], ['bb']) // => [ "bb" ]
_.merge       ([], ['a'], ['bb']) // => [ "bb" ]
_.defaults    ([], ['a'], ['bb']) // => [ "a"  ]
_.defaultsDeep([], ['a'], ['bb']) // => [ "a"  ]

_.assign      ([], ['a','b'], ['bb']) // => [ "bb", "b" ]
_.merge       ([], ['a','b'], ['bb']) // => [ "bb", "b" ]
_.defaults    ([], ['a','b'], ['bb']) // => [ "a", "b"  ]
_.defaultsDeep([], ['a','b'], ['bb']) // => [ "a", "b"  ]

Solution 3:

Another difference to pay attention to is handling of undefined values:

mergeInto = { a: 1}
toMerge = {a : undefined, b:undefined}
lodash.extend({}, mergeInto, toMerge) // => {a: undefined, b:undefined}
lodash.merge({}, mergeInto, toMerge)  // => {a: 1, b:undefined}

So merge will not merge undefined values into defined values.

Solution 4:

It might be also helpful to consider what they do from a semantic point of view:

_.assign

   will assign the values of the properties of its second parameter and so on,
   as properties with the same name of the first parameter. (shallow copy & override)

_.merge

   merge is like assign but does not assign objects but replicates them instead.
  (deep copy)

_.defaults

   provides default values for missing values.
   so will assign only values for keys that do not exist yet in the source.

_.defaultsDeep

   works like _defaults but like merge will not simply copy objects
   and will use recursion instead.

I believe that learning to think of those methods from the semantic point of view would let you better “guess” what would be the behavior for all the different scenarios of existing and non existing values.

Solution 5:

If you want a deep copy without override while retaining the same obj reference

obj = _.assign(obj, _.merge(obj, [source]))