leebyron / iterall


Minimal zero-dependency utilities for using Iterables in all JavaScript environments.

JavaScript Iterators for all!

Build Status Coverage Status 568 bytes minified and gzipped

iterall provides a few crucial utilities for implementing and working with Iterables and Array-likes in all JavaScript environments, even old versions of Internet Explorer, in a tiny library weighing well under 1KB when minified and gzipped.

This is a library for libraries. If your library takes Arrays as input, accept Iterables instead. If your library implements a new data-structure, make it Iterable.

When installed via npm, iterall comes complete with flow and TypeScript definition files. Don't want to take the dependency? Feel free to copy code directly from this repository.

// Limited to only Arrays 😥
if (Array.isArray(thing)) {
  thing.forEach(function (item, i) {
    console.log('Index: ' + i, item)

// Accepts all Iterables and Array-likes, in any JavaScript environment! 🎉
var isCollection = require('iterall').isCollection
var forEach = require('iterall').forEach

if (isCollection(thing)) {
  forEach(thing, function (item, i) {
    console.log('Index: ' + i, item)

Why use Iterators?

For most of JavaScript's history it has provided two collection data-structures: the Object and the Array. These collections can conceptually describe nearly all data and so it's no suprise that libraries expecting lists of things standardized on expecting and checking for an Array. This pattern even resulted in the addition of a new method in ES5: Array.isArray().

As JavaScript applications grew in complexity, moved to the server where CPU is a constrained resource, faced new problems and implemented new algorithms, new data-structures are often required. With options from linked lists to HAMTs developers can use what is most efficient and provides the right properties for their program.

However none of these new data-structures can be used in libraries where an Array is expected, which means developers are often stuck between abandoning their favorite libraries or limiting their data-structure choices at the cost of efficiency or usefulness.

To enable many related data-structures to be used interchangably we need a protocol, and luckily for us ES2015 introduced the Iteration Protocols to describe all list-like data-structures which can be iterated. That includes not just the new-to-ES2015 Map and Set collections but also existing ones like arguments, NodeList and the various TypedArray, all of which return false for Array.isArray() and in ES2015 implement the Iterator protocol.

While Iterators are defined in ES2015, they do not require ES2015 to work correctly. In fact, Iterators were first introduced in 2012 in Firefox v17. Rather than using Symbol.iterator, they used the property name "@@iterator" (in fact, the ECMAScript spec still refers to well-known Symbols using this @@ shorthand). By falling back to use "@@iterator" when Symbol.iterator is not defined, Iterators can be both safely defined and used by any version of JavaScript.

Not only were Iterables defined in ES2015, they were also implemented by the built-in data-structures including Array. Older JavaScript environments do not implement Array.prototype[@@iterator](), however this is only a minor problem. JavaScript has another related and much older protocol: Array-like. An value is "Array-like" if it has a numeric length property and indexed access, but does not necessarily have methods like .push() or .forEach(). Much like Array.from, iterall's forEach() and createIterator() methods also accept collections which are not Iterable but are Array-like. This means that iterall can be used with Array, arguments, NodeList, TypedArray and other Array-like collections regardless of the JavaScript environment.

When libraries only accept Arrays as input, they stick developers with a tough choice: limit which data-structures can be used or limit the ability to use that library. Accepting Iterables removes this false dichotomy, and allows libraries to be more generally useful. There's no need to limit to ES2015 environments and bleeding-edge browsers to accept Iterable.

Only using Arrays can limit the efficiency and usefulness of your application code, but custom data-structures can often feel like a fish out of water in JavaScript programs, only working with code written specifically for it. Protocols like Iterable helps these new data-structures work with more libraries and built-in JavaScript behavior. There's no need to limit to ES2015 environments and bleeding-edge browsers to implement Iterable.


Aren't Iterables slower than Arrays? I want the highest performance possible.

Arrays are Iterables. Iterable is a protocol that Array's adhere to in ES2015. It's true that creating an Iterator and stepping through it can present some overhead compared to a simple for-loop or array.forEach. However iterall's forEach will delegate directly to array.forEach and will use a for-loop for Array-like objects, ensuring the best performance for Arrays while still maintaining support for all Iterables.

Should my library functions also return Iterables instead of Arrays? Won't that be limiting?

That could definitely be limiting if you return some generic Iterable where you could have returned an Array, and (depending on context) I wouldn't recommend you stop returning Arrays from functions if that's what you're doing today. However if your functions are returning some collection data-structure that is not an Array, you should certainly consider having them implement the Iterable protocol so they can be more widely useful.

Here are a few examples:

In React, render functions are expected to return view trees, where any node (e.g. a <ul>) can have many children (e.g. many <li>). While it could expect those children to always be represented as an Array, that would limit React's usefulness - other data-structures couldn't be used. Instead, React expects those children to be represented as an Iterable. That allows it to continue to accept Arrays, but also accept many other data-structures.

Immutable.js implements many new kinds of data-structures (including HAMT) all of which implement Iterable, which allows them to be used in many of JavaScript's built-in functions, but also allows them to be used by many libraries which accept Iterables, including React. Also, similar to Array.from, Immutable.js's constructors accept not only Arrays, by any Iterable, allowing you to build any of these new data-structures from any other data-structure.

Where are all the other functions like map, filter, and reduce?

Those "higher order" collection functions are awesome, but they don't belong in this library. Instead this library should be used as a basis for building such a library (as it should be used for many other libraries). The forEach function provided by iterall can be used as the underpinning for these.

As an example:

function reduce (collection, reducer, initial) {
  var reduced = initial
  forEach(collection, function (item) {
    reduced = reducer(reduced, item)
  return reduced



A property name to be used as the name of an Iterable's method responsible for producing an Iterator. Typically represents the value Symbol.iterator.

Symbol is defined in ES2015 environments, however some transitioning JavaScript environments, such as older versions of Node define Symbol, but do not define Symbol.iterator. Older versions of Mozilla Firefox, which originally introduced the Iterable protocol, used the string value "@@iterator". This string value is used when Symbol.iterator is not defined.

Use $$ITERATOR for defining new Iterables instead of Symbol.iterator, but do not use it for accessing existing Iterables, instead use getIterator() or isIterable().


var $$ITERATOR = require('iterall').$$ITERATOR

function Counter (to) {
  this.to = to

Counter.prototype[$$ITERATOR] = function () {
  return {
    to: this.to,
    num: 0,
    next () {
      if (this.num >= this.to) {
        return { value: undefined, done: true }
      return { value: this.num++, done: false }

var counter = new Counter(3)
for (var number of counter) {
  console.log(number) // 0 ... 1 ... 2


Returns true if the provided object implements the Iterator protocol via either implementing a Symbol.iterator or "@@iterator" method.


  • obj A value which might implement the Iterable protocol.


var isIterable = require('iterall').isIterable
isIterable([ 1, 2, 3 ]) // true
isIterable('ABC') // true
isIterable({ length: 1, 0: 'Alpha' }) // false
isIterable({ key: 'value' }) // false
isIterable(new Map()) // true

Returns boolean true if Iterable.


Returns true if the provided object implements the Array-like protocol via defining a positive-integer length property.


  • obj A value which might implement the Array-like protocol.


var isArrayLike = require('iterall').isArrayLike
isArrayLike([ 1, 2, 3 ]) // true
isArrayLike('ABC') // true
isArrayLike({ length: 1, 0: 'Alpha' }) // true
isArrayLike({ key: 'value' }) // false
isArrayLike(new Map()) // false

Returns boolean true if Array-like.


Returns true if the provided object is an Object (i.e. not a string literal) and is either Iterable or Array-like.

This may be used in place of Array.isArray() to determine if an object should be iterated-over. It always excludes string literals and includes Arrays (regardless of if it is Iterable). It also includes other Array-like objects such as NodeList, TypedArray, and Buffer.


  • obj An Object value which might implement the Iterable or Array-like protocols.


var isCollection = require('iterall').isCollection
isCollection([ 1, 2, 3 ]) // true
isCollection('ABC') // false
isCollection({ length: 1, 0: 'Alpha' }) // true
isCollection({ key: 'value' }) // false
isCollection(new Map()) // true
var forEach = require('iterall').forEach
if (isCollection(obj)) {
  forEach(obj, function (value) {

Returns boolean true if Iterable or Array-like Object.


If the provided object implements the Iterator protocol, its Iterator object is returned. Otherwise returns undefined.


  • iterable Iterable<T> An Iterable object which is the source of an Iterator.


var getIterator = require('iterall').getIterator
var iterator = getIterator([ 1, 2, 3 ])
iterator.next() // { value: 1, done: false }
iterator.next() // { value: 2, done: false }
iterator.next() // { value: 3, done: false }
iterator.next() // { value: undefined, done: true }

Returns Iterator<T> new Iterator instance.


If the provided object implements the Iterator protocol, the method responsible for producing its Iterator object is returned.

This is used in rare cases for performance tuning. This method must be called with obj as the contextual this-argument.


  • iterable Iterable<T> An Iterable object which defines an @@iterator method.


var getIteratorMethod = require('iterall').getIteratorMethod
var myArray = [ 1, 2, 3 ]
var method = getIteratorMethod(myArray)
if (method) {
  var iterator = method.call(myArray)

Returns function (): Iterator<T> @@iterator method.


Given an object which either implements the Iterable protocol or is Array-like, iterate over it, calling the callback at each iteration.

Use forEach where you would expect to use a for ... of loop in ES6. However forEach adheres to the behavior of Array#forEach described in the ECMAScript specification, skipping over "holes" in Array-likes. It will also delegate to a forEach method on collection if one is defined, ensuring native performance for Arrays.

Similar to Array#forEach, the callback function accepts three arguments, and is provided with thisArg as the calling context.

Note: providing an infinite Iterator to forEach will produce an error.


  • collection (Iterable<T> | {length: number}) The Iterable or array to iterate over.
  • callback function (T, number, object) Function to execute for each iteration, taking up to three arguments
  • thisArg Optional. Value to use as this when executing callback.


var forEach = require('iterall').forEach

forEach(myIterable, function (value, index, iterable) {
  console.log(value, index, iterable === myIterable)
// ES6:
for (let value of myIterable) {

// Any JavaScript environment:
forEach(myIterable, function (value) {


Similar to getIterator(), this method returns a new Iterator given an Iterable. However it will also create an Iterator for a non-Iterable Array-like collection, such as Array in a non-ES2015 environment.

createIterator is complimentary to forEach, but allows a "pull"-based iteration as opposed to forEach's "push"-based iteration.

createIterator produces an Iterator for Array-likes with the same behavior as ArrayIteratorPrototype described in the ECMAScript specification, and does not skip over "holes".


  • collection (Iterable<T> | {length: number}) An Iterable or Array-like object to produce an Iterator.


var createIterator = require('iterall').createIterator

var myArraylike = { length: 3, 0: 'Alpha', 1: 'Bravo', 2: 'Charlie' }
var iterator = createIterator(myArraylike)
iterator.next() // { value: 'Alpha', done: false }
iterator.next() // { value: 'Bravo', done: false }
iterator.next() // { value: 'Charlie', done: false }
iterator.next() // { value: undefined, done: true }

Returns Iterator<T> new Iterator instance.


Contributions are welcome and encouraged!

Remember that this library is designed to be small, straight-forward, and well-tested. The value of new additional features will be weighed against their size. This library also seeks to leverage and mirror the ECMAScript specification in its behavior as much as possible and reasonable.

This repository has far more documentation and explanation than code, and it is expected that the majority of contributions will come in the form of improving these.

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