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Javascript Variable Scope and Lifecycle

Variables are fundamental building blocks of any programming language. For better understanding any programming language we first have to understand variables. In Javascript, we can define a variable using these three keyword var, let, const. These three keywords behave differently in a different scenario. In this blog, we will look into the lifecycle and scope of the variable.


Basic Understanding of Javascript, hoisting , scope, scope chain in javascript

javascript engine

  • Before getting into the variables scope and Lifecycle we need to first understand what is javascript engine and javascript engine lifecycle.
  • Javascript engines are programs that convert JavaScript code into a lower level or machine code.
  • Compilation and Interpretation are some general approaches used in code implementation by programming languages.
  • JavaScript is usually categorized as interpreted although it is technically compiled. Modern JavaScript compilers actually perform Just-in-time Compilation which occurs during run-time.
  • JavaScript engines are embedded in browsers and web servers, such as Node.js to allow run-time compilation and execution of JavaScript code.
    these are some Popular JavaScript Engines
    1)Google V8(used in chrome)
    2)Spidermonkey(used in Mozilla )
    3)Chakra(used in Internet Explorer)

Javascript Engine phases

When a global code/function is executed it goes through the below phase,
1)Creation Phase or Compilation
2)Execution Phase
Creation Phase
The compiler runs through the entire code for 2 times before actually executing the code
1)In the first run, It picks all function declarations and stores them in memory with their reference.
2)In the second run, It picks all variables.
Execution Phase
In execution phase code is executed

Javascript Variable Lifecycle

Under the hood When the engine works with variables, their lifecycle consists of the following phases

  1. Declaration phase is registering a variable in the scope.In declaration phase variable is not defined.
  2. Initialization phase is allocating memory and creating a binding for the variable in the scope. At this step, the variable is automatically initialized with undefined.
  3. Assignment phase is assigning a value to the initialized variable. For example, let’s see how this really works.
var x=2

1)In the declaration phase, variable x is registered. When any variable is registered it add that variable in scope chain of that scope.
2)in the initialization phase, it’s initialized x with undefined in the scope. Now x will look like this
var x=undefined;
3)In Assignment phase 2 is assigned to variable x . Now x will look like this.
var x=2;

we discussed the Javascript engine phase and variable lifecycle.if you haven’t understood this don’t worry we will discuss these things in detail.

let’s see some weird behavior of code

console.log(a);// variable is used before it is defined
var a=2;

Do you have any idea what output we will see?
The output is undefined.
The output is undefined because var is hoisted.

Now let’s take the above example again but this time we declare our variable using let instead of Var.

console.log(a);// variable is used before it is defined
let a=2;

Now if we run the above code we will get the following error
Uncaught ReferenceError: a is not defined
if we declare our variable using const we will get the same error, which we get in let. We are getting an error because let and const are not hoisted
Why var is hoisted and let , const is not hoisted. Let’s understand this

Var Lifecycle

Above diagram will demonstrate the life cycle of var. For understanding this , let’s use the same example which we used previously

console.log(a);//variable is used before it is defined
var a=2;
  1. When we give this code to the javascript engine, its creation phase is started. In the creation phase , only the variable is created. In this phase is only sees variable or function declaration. So in the first line when it sees console.log(a) it skips this.
  2. In line 2 it sees variable declaration for the variable a.
  3. variable a declared with var is declared and initialized in the creation phase.
  4. After the initialization phase variable, a is initialized with undefined in the scope.
  5. After completion of the Creation phase, the Execution phase starts. In the execution phase, it executes code line by line.
  6. In line 1, it sees console.log(a). current value of a in the scope is undefined, so it logs undefined. That’s why Var is hoisted
  7. After line 1 it goes to line 2 and value 2 is assigned to that variable.

Let Lifecycle

Now understand this diagram

  1. when a variable is declared with let, in the creation phase only Declaration phase of the variable run. In the Declaration phase variable a is registered in scope but not defined.
  2. In the execution phase initially, Initialization phase of variable executes. After Initialization phase variable is defined in memory with undefined.
  3. After Initialization, Assignment phase of variable a executes and value is assigned to variable.
//Now lets understand why blow code throw error
console.log(a);//throw error
let a=2;
  1. a is defined with let so, in the creation phase, only variable Declaration phase runs. Here a is registered but not defined
  2. When Execution phase of javascript engine runs, it executes code line by line and goes to line 1 and executes line.
  3. Javascript engine starts finding in the scope where a is defined.but it doesn’t find a, so it throws an error. That’s why let and const are not Hoisted
    Uncaught ReferenceError: a is not defined

Const Lifecycle

In the case of const, everything happens the same as let except one thing.

In the case of let after Initialization phase, assignment phase executes.
But in the case of const Initialization and assignment phase happen together. And this makes sense because we can assign single value time to const. If both phases don’t happen together then initially undefined in assigned after that 2 will assign, which will break const basic definition

Difference Between var, let, const

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