JavaScript Christmas

Removing duplicates from an array

A 3 minute read written by
Svein Petter Gjøby
03.12.2019

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Knowing more than one way to solve a given problem can help you write more readable code. Let's look at three different ways to remove duplicates elements from an array.

Never underestimate the importance of code quality. As a developer it is key to clearly communicate the implementation of any solution you are working on through readable code. Knowing more than one way to solve a given problem can help you write more readable code. Let's look at three different ways to remove duplicate primitive values from an array.

const array = [1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 2, 2];

// Method 1: Using a Set
const unique = [...new Set(array)];

// Method 2: Array.prototype.reduce
const unique = array.reduce((result, element) => {
  return result.includes(element) ? result : [...result, element];
}, []);

// Method 3: Array.prototype.filter
const unique = array.filter((element, index) => {
  return array.indexOf(element) === index;
});

Set

A Set is an object that lets you store unique values. Repeated calls of Set.add(value) with the same value don’t do anything.

const uniqueNames = new Set();

uniqueNames.add("Dasher"); // {"Dasher"}
uniqueNames.add("Dasher"); // {"Dasher"}

By exploiting the fact that a Set cannot contain duplicate values, then use a spread operator to transform the Set back to an array we are able to remove duplicate elements from the array.

const array = [1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 2, 2];

const uniqueSet = new Set(array); // {1, 3, 2}

const uniqueArray = [...uniqueSet]; // [1, 3, 2]

Reduce

The reduce method executes a reducer function (provided by you) on each element of the array, resulting in a single output value. The value returned from a reducer function is assigned to the accumulator, which is passed as the first argument of the subsequent execution of the reducer function and ultimately becomes the final resulting value.

To remove duplicate elements from an array, we can provide a function that checks if the accumulated array includes the current element. If not we add the current element to the array.

const array = [1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 2, 2];

const reducerFunction = (result, element) => {
  return result.includes(element) ? result : [...result, element];
}

const unique = array.reduce(reducerFunction);

Filter

The key to understand this method is to understand how indexOf and filter works.

  • indexOfreturns the first index of a given element in an array.
  • filter creates a new array with all the elements that passes a test. You can provide the test as the first argument of filter.

If we combine these two methods, by providing a test that checks if each element is the first occurrence of the given element in the array, we can remove duplicate elements from arrays.

const isFirst = (element, index) => {
  // Checks if a given element is the first occurrence of it.
  return array.indexOf(element) === index;
}

const unique = array.filter(isFirst);

Which method should I choose?

We saw three different methods to remove duplicate elements from an array. It's easy to imagine a fourth method that would improve the readability. Namely, by creating a proposal to add Array.prototype.unique to EcmaScript.

In terms of readability, I prefer the first method. By using a Set your code is both short and easy to understand.

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