JavaScript variable definition: Commas vs. Semicolons

What are the differences and/or advantages, if any, of using commas when declaring a group of variables rather than semicolons.

For example:

var foo = 'bar', bar = 'foo';

versus

var foo = 'bar';
var bar = 'foo';

I know that if you specify the var keyword on the first variable in the first example it persists across all of the variables, so they both produce the same end result regarding scope. Is it just personal preference, or is there a performance benefit to doing it either way?

Answers:

Answer

No performance benefit, just a matter of personal choice and style.

The first version is just more succinct.


Update:

In terms of the amount of data going over the wire, of course less is better, however you would need a hell of a lot of removed var declarations in order to see a real impact.

Minification has been mentioned as something that the first example will help with for better minification, however, as Daniel Vassallo points out in the comments, a good minifier will automatically do that for you anyways, so in that respect no impact whatsoever.

Answer

After reading Crockford and others, I started to chain my variables with comma exclusively. Then later, I really got annoyed by the Chrome DevTools debugger that wouldn't stop at variable definitions with comma. For the debugger, variable definitions chained with comma are a single statement, while multiple var statements are multiple statements at which the debugger can stop. Therefore, I switched back from:

var a = doSomethingA,
    b = doSomethignB,
    c = doSomethingC;

To:

var a = doSomethingA;
var b = doSomethignB;
var c = doSomethingC;

By now, I find the second variant much cleaner, not to mention its advantage of solving the debugger issue.

The "less code through the wire" argument is not persuasive, as there are minifiers.

Answer

I prefer the var-per-variable notation:

var a = 2
var b = 3

because the other comma-instead-of-another-var notation have these three shortcomings:

1. Hard to maintain
Consider this code:

var a = 1,
    b = mogrify(2),
    c = 3

But hey, what does the mogrify do? Let's print b to find out:

var a = 1,
    b = mogrify(2),
    console.log(b)
    c = 3

breaks stuff

2. Hard to read

The var in the begging of the line clearly communicates that there will be a new variable initiated.

var get_all_unicorn_promise = db.get_all_unicorns((unicorn) => {
        unicorn.legs.map((leg) => {
            leg.log('yes')
        })
    }).sort(),
    c = 3

What the hell is the c = 3 doing there right?

3. Not consistent

Consider this:

var a = 1,
    b = 2,
    c = 3

With var-per-variable every declaration follow the same structure. With comma-instead-of-another-var the first variable is declared in different way than others. If you decide to, say, move the first variable inside a for cycle, you will have to add var to the middle of declarations

Other than preference, it seems like majority of notable projects use the var-per-variable notation

Answer

I agree with the other answerers that this is mainly a matter of personal style. But to bring an "Authoritative" opinion into the discussion, this is what Douglas Crockford says on the website of the popular JSLint tool:

But because JavaScript does not have block scope, it is wiser to declare all of a function's variables at the top of the function. It is recommended that a single var statement be used per function. This can be enforced with the onevar option.

Answer

As others have noted, it is a style preference. JSLint might tell you to only have one var per function (if you use the "Good Parts"). Thus if using JSLint to check your code (not a bad idea, IMHO), you'll end up using the first format more than the latter.

On the other hand, the same author, Douglas Crockford, says to put each variable in its own line in his coding conventions. So you may want to uncheck the "All one var per function" checkbox in JSLint if you use it. ;-)

Answer

Since I don't see any references to it, here is a link to the ECMA-262 specification, which is the underlying spec for JavaScript. The grammar from that page says:

12.2 Variable Statement

Syntax

  VariableStatement :
    var VariableDeclarationList ;

  VariableDeclarationList :
    VariableDeclaration
    VariableDeclarationList , VariableDeclaration

  VariableDeclarationListNoIn :
    VariableDeclarationNoIn
    VariableDeclarationListNoIn , VariableDeclarationNoIn

  VariableDeclaration :
    Identifier Initialiseropt

  VariableDeclarationNoIn :
    Identifier InitialiserNoInopt

  Initialiser :
    = AssignmentExpression
  InitialiserNoIn :
    = AssignmentExpressionNoIn

What you can glean from this is using commas or not doesn't matter. Either way, it ends up being parsed as a VariableDeclaration and is treated exactly the same. There should be no difference to how the script engine treats the two declarations. The only differences would be ones already mentioned in other answers - saving more space and practically immeasurable differences in the amount of time it takes to apply the grammar to find all the VariableDeclarations when the script is compiled.

Answer

The first saves a few characters--so there is a very small saving in terms of the JS filesize and therefore bandwidth consumption. The only time this would become noticable would be in extreme cases.

Answer

I prefer the second version (each has its own var). I think that's because I come from a C++ background. In C++, you can declare variables like you do in your first example, but it is frowned upon (it easily leads to mistakes when you're trying to create pointers that way).

Answer

If you are minifying your javascript, there is a fairly large benefit:

var one, two, three, four;

becomes

var a, b, c, d;

Where as

var one;
var two;
var three;
var four;

becomes

var a;
var b;
var c;
var d;

That's an additional three instances of var, which can add up over time.

See The "A List Apart" article series "Better Javascript Minification" Part 1 and Part 2

Answer

I don't think there's any noticeable difference, as far as I'm concerned it's just personal preference.

I hate having multiple var declarations so I usually do:

var 
   one
  ,two
  ,three
  ,four
;

As it's shorter and arguably more readable, no var noise to look at.

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