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Closures & Lambdas

A closure is the combination of a function and the lexical environment within which that function was declared.

Remember that functions (UDFs) in CFML are objects, closures are objects as well. So are closures and functions the same? The answer is yes and no. The main difference between a UDF and a closure is that closures have access to their lexical environment in which they are declared. Both functions and closures can be manipulated at runtime and can be passed around to other functions and closures or can be returned from other functions and closures. Phew!

A closure can be used in any of the following ways:

  • Defined inline without giving a name.
  • They can be assigned to a variable, array item, struct, and variable scope.
  • It can be returned directly from a function.

Assigned Closures

function hello(){
    var name = "luis";

    var display = function(){
        systemOutput( name );
    };

    display();
}

hello();

If we execute this template via CommandBox our output will be luis. Meaning the display closure has access to its surroundings in order to display the name variable. It can manipulate it, add to it, remove from it and more.

Returned Closures

We can also have a function return a closure that can leverage the function's variable environment.

function makeAdder( required x ){
    return function( required y ){
        return x + y;
    };
}

add = makeAdder( 1 );
systemOutput( add( 2 ) );

In this case the makeAdder creates a function that will add the passed in variable with another via a delay of execution. You can then execute the resultant closures add with another number to get your calculation of 3 in this case.

Funky!!

Passed Closures

CFML also has the concept of functional programming using several modern operations like map(), reduce(), filter(), each(), etc where you can pass closures into other functions for operating on different data structures.

fruitArray = [
    { fruit='apple', rating=4 }, 
    { fruit='banana', rating=1 }, 
    { fruit='orange', rating=5 }, 
    { fruit='mango', rating=2 }, 
    { fruit='kiwi', rating=3 }
];

favoriteFruits = fruitArray.filter( function( item ){
     return item.rating >= 3;
} );
systemOutput( favoriteFruits );

Please note that you can construct your very own functional member functions on your objects and generate very functional custom DSL (Domain Specific Languages) by being creative.

Delayed Execution

Another big advantage of leveraging closures for functional programming is that closures are the blueprint of a function and are not executed until you want to. Meaning they are useful for delaying execution and great for design patterns like: observer, filters, iterators and much more.

var observe = function( val ){
    // manipulate the val and return it

    return val;
}

describe( "A spec suite", function(){

    it( "can do funky stuff", function(){
        // I can do funky stuff here

    } );

} );

Closure Scopes

A closure retains a copy of variables visible at the time of its creation. The global variables (like ColdFusion specific scopes) and the local variables (including declaring or outer function's local and arguments scope) are retained at the time of a closure creation. Functions are static.

The following details the scope of closure based on the way they are defined:

Scenario Scope
In a CFC function Closure argument scope, enclosing function local scope and argument scope, this scope, variable scope, and super scope
In a CFM function Closure argument scope, enclosing function local scope and argument scope, this scope, variable scope, and super scope
As function argument Closure argument scope, variable scope, and this scope and super scope (if defined in CFC component).

In a closure, the following is the order of search for an unscoped variable:

  • Closure's local scope
  • Closure's arguments scope
  • Outer function' local scope if available
  • Owner function's local scope if available
  • ColdFusion built-in scope

isClosure()

CFML has a built in function called isClosure() that allows you to evaluate if a variable is a closure or not:

if( isClosure( arguments.body ) ){
    arguments.body();
}

Lambda Expressions (Lucee Only)

At the moment, only the Lucee CFML engine supports lambda expressions, which basically are a shorthand notation for defining closures.

Lambda expressions reduce much of the syntax around creating closures. In its simplest form, you can eliminate the function keyword, curly braces and return statement. Lambda expressions implicitly return the results of the expression body.

// Using a traditional closure
makeSix = function(){ return 5 + 1; }

// Using a lambda expression
makeSix = () => 5 + 1;

// returns 6
systemOutput( makeSix() );

A simple lambda expression with multiple arguments:

// Takes two numeric values and adds them
add = ( numeric x, numeric y ) => x + y;

// returns 4
systemOutput( add( 1, 3 ) );

A complex lambda expression with an argument:

// Takes a numeric value and returns a string
isOdd = ( numeric n ) => {
  if( n % 2 == 0 ){
    return 'even';
  } else {
    return 'odd';
  }
};

// returns 'odd'
SystemOutput( isOdd( 1 ) );

// returns 'even'
SystemOutput( isOdd( 10 ) );