A proper way to handle optional arguments in Javascript
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argspec.js is a simple optional argument handling library for Javascript.

The problem

Javascript has no great way of dealing with optional arguments, unless they are optional arguments at the end of the argument list:

function myFun(a, b, optC) {
  if(optC === undefined) optC = 0;


myFun(1, 2, 3);
myFun(1, 2); // optC will be 0

But what if you require optional arguments in the beginning of the argument list? In the following example session and tx are both optional arguments, but callback is required. Dealing with that is annoying, as the example shows:

function list(session, tx, callback) {
  if(session.call) { // check if first arg is callback function -> first two args were left out
    callback = session;
    tx = null;
    session = null;
  } else if(session.executeSql) { // check if first arg is transaction object -> first arg was left out
    callback = tx; 
    tx = session;
    session = null;



The solution

argspec.js offers a declarative way of dealing with optional arguments:

function list(session, tx, callback) {
  var args = argspec(arguments, [
    { name: 'session', optional: true, check: argspec.hasProperty('closeConn') },
    { name: 'tx', optional: true, check: argspec.hasProperty('executeSql') },
    { name: 'callback', optional: false, check: argspec.isCallback() }
  session = args.session;
  tx = args.tx;
  callback = args.callback;


The argspec(args, spec) method has two arguments:

  • args An Javascript argument list (typically arguments, the built-in Javascript argument list)
  • spec An array of objects, defining each of the arguments. Each object has the following properties:
    • name: defines the argument name, is used as the name of the argument in the object returned by the call to the argspec function.
    • optional (optional): defines whether the argument is optional (true) or not (false), default is false.
    • check (optional for required arguments): a function that will be passed the argument value and will check if it fits all the requirements. You can pass any function here, argspec.js comes with a number of utilty check-function producing functions:
      • hasProperty(propname): checks if the object has the given property or not
      • hasType(typeStr): checks if the object has the given type (as given by typeof obj)
      • isCallback(): checks if the object is callable
    • defaultValue (optional): a default value, if the argument is left out

The object returned by argspec(..) has a property for each argument.

Note that you can use argspec.js to do declarative argument value validation, even if you do not require optional arguments:

function addNums(a, b) {
  var args = argspec(arguments, [
    { name: 'a', check: argspec.hasType('number') },
    { name: 'b', check: argspec.hasType('number') }
  return args.a + args.b; // or return a + b; would also be fine in this case


The argspec.js library is used (and included in) the persistence.js Javascript ORM library.