Why and when to use angular.copy? (Deep Copy)

I've been saving all the data received from services direct to local variable, controller, or scope. What I suppose would be considered a shallow copy, is that correct?


.then(function(response) {
  $scope.example = response.data;

Recently I was told to use angular.copy in order to create a deep copy.

$scope.example = angular.copy(response.data);

However, the deep copy information seems to be working in the same way when used by my Angular application. Are there specific benefits to using a deep copy (angular.copy) and can you please explain them to me?



Use angular.copy when assigning value of object or array to another variable and that object value should not be changed.

Without deep copy or using angular.copy, changing value of property or adding any new property update all object referencing that same object.

var app = angular.module('copyExample', []);
app.controller('ExampleController', ['$scope',
  function($scope) {
    $scope.printToConsole = function() {
      $scope.main = {
        first: 'first',
        second: 'second'

      $scope.child = angular.copy($scope.main);
      console.log('Main object :');
      console.log('Child object with angular.copy :');

      $scope.child.first = 'last';
      console.log('New Child object :')
      console.log('Main object after child change and using angular.copy :');
      console.log('Assing main object without copy and updating child');

      $scope.child = $scope.main;
      $scope.child.first = 'last';
      console.log('Main object after update:');
      console.log('Child object after update:');

// Basic object assigning example

var main = {
  first: 'first',
  second: 'second'
var one = main; // same as main
var two = main; // same as main

console.log('main :' + JSON.stringify(main)); // All object are same
console.log('one :' + JSON.stringify(one)); // All object are same
console.log('two :' + JSON.stringify(two)); // All object are same

two = {
  three: 'three'
}; // two changed but one and main remains same
console.log('main :' + JSON.stringify(main)); // one and main are same
console.log('one :' + JSON.stringify(one)); // one and main are same
console.log('two :' + JSON.stringify(two)); // two is changed

two = main; // same as main

two.first = 'last'; // change value of object's property so changed value of all object property 

console.log('main :' + JSON.stringify(main)); // All object are same with new value
console.log('one :' + JSON.stringify(one)); // All object are same with new value
console.log('two :' + JSON.stringify(two)); // All object are same with new value
<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/angularjs/1.2.23/angular.min.js"></script>

<div ng-app="copyExample" ng-controller="ExampleController">
  <button ng-click='printToConsole()'>Explain</button>


In that case, you don't need to use angular.copy()

Explanation :

  • = represents a reference whereas angular.copy() creates a new object as a deep copy.

  • Using = would mean that changing a property of response.data would change the corresponding property of $scope.example or vice versa.

  • Using angular.copy() the two objects would remain seperate and changes would not reflect on each other.


I would say angular.copy(source); in your situation is unnecessary if later on you do not use is it without a destination angular.copy(source, [destination]);.

If a destination is provided, all of its elements (for arrays) or properties (for objects) are deleted and then all elements/properties from the source are copied to it.



When using angular.copy, instead of updating the reference, a new object is created and assigned to the destination(if a destination is provided). But there's more. There's this cool thing that happens after a deep copy.

Say you have a factory service which has methods which updates factory variables.

angular.module('test').factory('TestService', [function () {
    var o = {
        shallow: [0,1], // initial value(for demonstration)
        deep: [0,2] // initial value(for demonstration)
    o.shallowCopy = function () {
        o.shallow = [1,2,3]
    o.deepCopy = function () {
        angular.copy([4,5,6], o.deep);
    return o;

and a controller which uses this service,

angular.module('test').controller('Ctrl', ['TestService', function (TestService) {
     var shallow = TestService.shallow;
     var deep = TestService.deep;

     console.log('****Printing initial values');


     console.log('****Printing values after service method execution');

     console.log('****Printing service variables directly');

When the above program is run the output will be as follows,

****Printing initial values

****Printing values after service method execution

****Printing service variables directly

Thus the cool thing about using angular copy is that, the references of the destination are reflected with the change of values, without having to re-assign the values manually, again.


I know its already answered, still i am just trying to make it simple. So angular.copy(data) you can use in case where you want to modify/change your received object by keeping its original values unmodified/unchanged.

For example: suppose i have made api call and got my originalObj, now i want to change the values of api originalObj for some case but i want the original values too so what i can do is, i can make a copy of my api originalObj in duplicateObj and modify duplicateObj this way my originalObj values will not change. In simple words duplicateObj modification will not reflect in originalObj unlike how js obj behave.


        console.log('---------After update-------')

Result is like....

manageProfileController.js:1183 {fname: "sudarshan", country: "India"}
manageProfileController.js:1184 -----------duplicateObj---------------
manageProfileController.js:1185 {fname: "sudarshan", country: "India"}
manageProfileController.js:1189 ---------After update-------
manageProfileController.js:1190 ----------originalObj--------------
manageProfileController.js:1191 {fname: "sudarshan", country: "India"}
manageProfileController.js:1192 -----------duplicateObj---------------
manageProfileController.js:1193 {fname: "SUD", country: "USA"}

I am just sharing my experience here, I used angular.copy() for comparing two objects properties. I was working on a number of inputs without form element, I was wondering how to compare two objects properties and based on result I have to enable and disable the save button. So I used as below.

I assigned an original server object user values to my dummy object to say userCopy and used watch to check changes to the user object.

My server API which gets me data from the server:

var req = {
    method: 'GET',
    url: 'user/profile/' + id,
    headers: { 'Content-Type': 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded' }
$http(req).success(function(data) {
    $scope.user = data;
    $scope.userCopy = angular.copy($scope.user);
}).error(function(data) {

//initially my save button is disabled because objects are same, once something 
//changes I am activating save button

$scope.btnSts = true;
$scope.$watch('user', function(newVal, oldVal) {

    if ($scope.userCopy.name !== $scope.user.name || $scope.userCopy.email !== $scope.user.email) {
        $scope.btnSts = false;
    } else {
        $scope.btnSts = true;
}, true);

I am not sure but comparing two objects was really headache for me always but with angular.copy() it went smoothly.


Javascript passes variables by reference, this means that:

var i = [];
var j = i;
i.push( 1 );

Now because of by reference part i is [1], and j is [1] as well, even though only i was changed. This is because when we say j = i javascript doesn't copy the i variable and assign it to j but references i variable through j.

Angular copy lets us lose this reference, which means:

var i = [];
var j = angular.copy( i );
i.push( 1 );

Now i here equals to [1], while j still equals to [].

There are situations when such kind of copy functionality is very handy.


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