How to Access Object Properties in JavaScript in Three Ways

How to Access Object Properties in JavaScript in Three Ways feature image

Objects are one area every JavaScript developer must know very well. Accessing object properties belongs to this area as well. In this tutorial, you will learn how to access object properties in three ways. You will learn how to use dot notation, bracket notation and destructuring.

Introduction to how to access object properties

Objects are one of the data types in JavaScript. They allow you to store data in key-value pairs. Those “keys” in those pairs are also called properties. If you are not familiar with objects yet, you can think about them as variables. These variables exist only on the object that contains them, not anywhere outside these objects.

In JavaScript there are multiple ways you can use to access one of those properties. These are dot notation, bracket notation and destructuring. Dot notation is sometimes also called dot property accessor. Another name for bracket notation is square brackets property access. There is one important thing to mention.

All these ways assume you know the name of the property you want to access. If you don’t know it, nothing is lost. You can loops to iterate over the object to get all properties, including the one you want. But now, let’s take a look at those three ways you can use to access object properties.

Dot notation

Dot notation, or dot property accessor, is probably the most popular way to access object properties in JavaScript. This method is very easy to learn and just as easy to use. The syntax is as follows. First, you specify some object. Second, you specify the name of the property. Between the object and property name goes a dot (.).

You can use the same process also to access deeper properties. In this case, you chain multiple properties together. You chain them in the way they are nested. So, the most shallow property will come as first, right after the object name. The deepest property will come as the last one: obj.shallowProp.deeperProp.DeepestProp.

Let’s say you want to access property whose value is an array. You want to access specific item in that array. In this case, you can do what you would normally do if the array was a variable. You use the dot notation to access the property you want. After that, you use square brackets and index to get the item in the array you want.

// Create an object using object literal:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Anthony Edward Stark',
  alias: 'Iron Man',
  gender: 'male',
  education: 'MIT',
  affiliation: {
    current: 'Avengers'
  },
  creators: ['Stan Lee', 'Larry Lieber', 'Don Heck', 'Jack Kirby'],
  status: {
    alignment: 'good'
  }
}


// Accessing object properties with dot notation:
// First: name of the object.
// Second: name of the property to access.
// Third: dot character between the object and property.
console.log(myObj.name)
// Output:
// 'Anthony Edward Stark'

console.log(myObj.alias)
// Output:
// 'Iron Man'


// Accessing deeper object properties:
// Access the "current" property that exists
// in nested object assigned to "affiliation" property
console.log(myObj.affiliation.current)
// Output:
// 'Avengers'


// Accessing array items in objects:
// Access the first item inside the array
// assigned to "creators" property.
console.log(myObj.creators[0])
// Output:
// 'Stan Lee'

Dot notation and valid property names

In JavaScript, there are rules saying what is and what is not a valid identifier. A valid identifier can contain Unicode letters, $, _, and digits 0-9. However, it can’t start with a digit. Following these rules is necessary especially when you want to declare new variables.

These rules are also important for when you want to access object properties. This is especially true for dot notation. Dot notation works only with valid identifiers. It will not work if the property at hand violates these rules. For example, if it starts with number, or contains only number. Or, if it contains -.

If you want to access some property that violates these rules, don’t use dot notation. Instead, use bracket notation. This way, you will still be able to work with that property as usual. You will learn about bracket notation in the next section.

// Create an object:
myObj = {
  1: 'First property',
  'first-name': 'Bruce',
}

// Try to use dot notation
// to access properties on "myObj".
console.log(myObj.1)
// Output:
// SyntaxError: Unexpected token

console.log(myObj.first-name)
// Output:
// NaN


// Try to use bracket notation
// to access properties on "myObj".
console.log(myObj['1'])
// Output:
// 'First property'

console.log(myObj[1])
// Output:
// 'First property'

console.log(myObj['first-name'])
// Output:
// 'Bruce'

Bracket notation

The second way you can use to access object properties is bracket notation. The main characteristic of method this method are square brackets. The syntax is similar to the dot notation. However, there are some important differences. You again start with the name of the object you are working with.

As second comes the name of the property. Here, you have to wrap the name of the property with quotes and square brackets. It doesn’t matter if you use single or double quotes. What matters is that you use them to wrap the name of the property. Then, you wrap this with square brackets and put it after the object. No dot between them.

Bracket notation also allows you to access deeper properties. This works similarly to dot notation. All properties are chained together, from the most shallow to the deepest. In case of brackets, there are no dots between properties. Furthermore, you must wrap all properties with quotes and square brackets.

Accessing items inside arrays assigned to properties works similarly. First, specify the property name and wrap it with quotes and square brackets. Then, add additional pair of square bracket with the index of the item you want to access.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Bruce Thomas Wayne',
  alias: 'Batman',
  affiliation: ['Batman Family', 'Justice League', 'Outsiders', 'Guild of Detection'],
  status: {
    alignment: 'good',
    occupation: 'businessman'
  }
}


// Accessing object properties with bracket notation:
// First: name of the object.
// Second: name of the property to access.
// Note: property name must be wrapped with quotes
// and then with square brackets.
console.log(myObj['name'])
// Output:
// 'Bruce Thomas Wayne'


// Accessing deeper object properties:
// Access the "alignment" property that exists
// in nested object assigned to "status" property
console.log(myObj['status']['alignment'])
// Output:
// 'good'


// Accessing array items in objects:
// Access the second item inside the array
// assigned to "affiliation" property.
console.log(myObj['affiliation'][1])
// Output:
// 'Justice League'

Bracket notation and computed object properties

One interesting thing bracket notation allows is to use computed property names. These property names might not be known at the beginning, but later, or at runtime. One example can be a property name stored inside a variable. You can reference this variable to access property that matches the variable value.

This variable might be undefined at the beginning and assigned later. That doesn’t matter if you use it at the right time. Using computed object properties with bracket notation is similar to what you would normally do. The difference is that, now, you omit the quotes. You put the variable name between the brackets without them.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'James Howlett',
  alias: 'Wolverine',
  status: {
    alignment: 'good'
  }
}

// Assign a property you want to access to a variable:
const myProp = 'alias'

// Use the variable to access specific property ("alias"):
// Referencing "myProp" will return value "alias",
// which will be used to access the same property ("alias").
// I.e.: myObj[myProp] => myObj['alias']
console.log(myObj[myProp])
// Output:
// 'Wolverine'

Object destructuring

Object destructuring is the last way to access object properties. It is also the newest. Dot and bracket notation have been around for a long time. Destructuring was added to JavaScript quite recently as part of the ES6 specification. Nonetheless, it quickly became very popular among JavaScript developers due to simplicity and usability.

You use it when you declare new variable. On the left side of the assignment, you specify the name of the property and wrap it with curly brackets. On the right side, you reference the object you want to work with. This will assign the variable with the value of the property you specified.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Unknown',
  alias: 'The Joker',
  affiliation: ['Black Glove', 'Injustice Gang', 'Injustice League', 'Joker League of Anarchy', 'Justice League of Arkham'],
  status: {
    alignment: 'bad',
    occupation: 'criminal'
  }
}


// Extract the value of "alias" property:
const { alias } = myObj

// Log the value of new "alias" variable:
console.log(alias)
// Output:
// 'The Joker'


// Extract the value of "affiliation" property:
const { affiliation } = myObj

// Log the value of new "affiliation" variable:
console.log(affiliation)
// Output:
// [
//   'Black Glove',
//   'Injustice Gang',
//   'Injustice League',
//   'Joker League of Anarchy',
//   'Justice League of Arkham'
// ]


// Extract the value of "status" property:
const { status } = myObj

// Log the value of new "status" variable:
console.log(status)
// Output:
// { alignment: 'bad', occupation: 'criminal' }

Destructuring multiple properties

You can use object destructuring to “destructure” multiple properties. Put another way, to assign multiple variables at the same time. To do this, you add additional properties inside the curly braces on the left side of the assignment. These properties have to be separated by commas.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Dr. Reed Richards',
  alias: 'Mister Fantastic',
  affiliation: 'Fantastic Four',
  status: {
    alignment: 'good'
  }
}


// Use object destructuring to assign multiple variables:
// Desctructure "name", "alias", "affiliation" and "status".
const { name, alias, affiliation, status } = myObj

// Log the values of new variables:
console.log(name)
// Output:
// 'Dr. Reed Richards'

console.log(alias)
// Output:
// 'Mister Fantastic'

console.log(affiliation)
// Output:
// 'Fantastic Four'

console.log(status)
// Output:
// { alignment: 'good' }

Custom variable names and aliases

Assigning values to variables with object destructuring is very easy. What if you want to use different variable name than is the name of the property? You can. Object destructuring allows you to specify an alias for the variable. You can use this alias to reference the variable using different name than the property.

When you want to create an alias, you specify it inside the curly brackets on the left side of the assignment. You add colons (:) followed by the new alias right after the property name. From now on, you can use this alias when you want to reference that variable.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Bruce Banner',
  alias: 'Hulk',
  affiliation: ['S.H.I.E.L.D.'],
  status: {
    alignment: 'good'
  }
}


// Extract the value of "name" property
// and assign it to variable called "realName" (new alias).
const { name: realName } = myObj

// Use new alias "realName" to get the value
console.log(realName)
// Output:
// 'Bruce Banner'


// Extract the value of "alias" property
// and assign it to variable called "heroName" (new alias).
const { alias: heroName } = myObj

// Use new alias "heroName" to get the value
console.log(heroName)
// Output:
// 'Hulk'

Custom variable names (aliases) for multiple properties

Just like you can change the variable name for one property you can change it for multiple. The process is the same. You have to add additional colons and new alias inside the curly brackets. Do this for each property for which you want to change the variable name.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Oliver Jonas Queen',
  alias: 'Green Arrow',
  affiliation: ['Justice League', 'Justice Society International'],
  status: {
    alignment: 'good'
  }
}

// Change multiple variable names:
// Change variable for "name" to "realName".
// Change variable for "alias" to "heroName".
// Change variable for "affiliation" to "connection".
const { name: realName, alias: heroName, affiliation: connection } = myObj

// Log all values using new variable names:
console.log(realName)
// Output:
// 'Oliver Jonas Queen'

console.log(heroName)
// Output:
// 'Green Arrow'

console.log(connection)
// Output:
// [ 'Justice League', 'Justice Society International' ]

Object destructuring, aliases and default values

Object destructuring might be cool, but what if the property you want to access doesn’t exist? One thing you can do with object destructuring is to provide some default value. If the property doesn’t exist, the variable will be assigned this default value. Otherwise, it will be assigned the existing value.

When you want to specify default value for any property, you do it also inside the curly brackets. You specify the default value after the property name. You also have to separate those two with equal sign (=). If there is an alias, then, the default value comes after the alias, as last.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Richard John Grayson',
  alias: 'Nightwing',
  status: {
    alignment: 'good'
  }
}

// Deconstruct the "name" property
// and add default value in case it doesn't exist.
const { name = 'Anonymous' } = myObj

// Log the value of name
console.log(name)
// Output:
// 'Richard John Grayson'


// Deconstruct the "gender" property
// and add default value in case it doesn't exist.
const { gender = 'Unknown' } = myObj

// Log the value of "name":
console.log(gender)
// Output:
// 'Unknown'


// Deconstruct the "name" property
// and "affiliation" property,
// change it to "connections" and add default value
// in case "affiliation" property doesn't exist.
const { name, affiliation: connections = 'No connections' } = myObj

// Log the value of new variable "connections":
console.log(connections)
// Output:
// 'No connections'

Object destructuring and computed properties

Similarly to bracket notation, object destructuring also allows to use computed property names. The way to use it is following. Wrap the variable name, that contains the property name, with square brackets and put it inside the curly brackets. One thing to remember is that you have to specify an alias. Otherwise, you will get SyntaxError.

// Create an object:
const myObj = {
  name: 'Max Eisenhardt',
  alias: 'Magneto',
  status: {
    alignment: 'bad'
  },
  creators: ['Stan Lee', 'Jack Kirby']
}

// Assign a property you want to access to a variable:
const myProp = 'name'

// Use the variable to access specific property ("name")
// and also create alias for it:
// Referencing "myProp" will now return value "name",
// which will be used to access the "name" property.
const { [myProp]: name } = myObj

// Log the value of new variable "name":
console.log(name)
// Output:
// 'Wolverine'


// Use computed property name with default value:
const myProp = 'powers'

// Use the variable to access specific property ("powers")
// and create alias "abilities" for it.
// If the property doesn't exist, use 'Unknown'
// as the default value for the new variable.
const { [myProp]: abilities = 'Unknown' } = myObj

// Log the value of new variable "abilities":
console.log(abilities)
// Output:
// 'Unknown'

Conclusion: How to access object properties in JavaScript in three ways

These are three ways to access object properties in JavaScript: dot and bracket notation and object destructuring. I hope this tutorial helped you understand how all they all work and how to use them. Now, find the one you feel the most comfortable with and start using it. Remember, there are no good or bad ways to access properties.

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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