# Optimize/Refactor Javascript Unique Array function

This is one idea of implementation:

 Array.prototype.unique = function () {
unique_array = [];
for (var i = 0, l = this.length; i < l; i++) {
if(unique_array.indexOf(this[i]) == -1){
unique_array.push(this[i]);
}
}
return unique_array;
}


This version uses Object.keys which is a ECMAScript 5 only feature, as you can see on this website http://kangax.github.com/es5-compat-table/

Array.prototype.unique_e5 = function () {
unique_object = {};
for (var i = 0, l = this.length; i < l; i++) {
unique_object[this[i]] = 1;
}
return Object.keys(unique_object);
}


And this is how is done in prototype.js https://github.com/sstephenson/prototype/blob/master/src/prototype/lang/array.js

 /**
*  Array#uniq([sorted = false]) -> Array
*  - sorted (Boolean): Whether the array has already been sorted. If true,
*    a less-costly algorithm will be used.
*
*  Produces a duplicate-free version of an array. If no duplicates are
*  found, the original array is returned.
*
*  On large arrays when sorted is false, this method has a potentially
*  large performance cost.
*
*  ##### Examples
*
*      [1, 3, 2, 1].uniq();
*      // -> [1, 2, 3]
*
*      ['A', 'a'].uniq();
*      // -> ['A', 'a'] (because String comparison is case-sensitive)
**/
function uniq(sorted) {
return this.inject([], function(array, value, index) {
if (0 == index || (sorted ? array.last() != value : !array.include(value)))
array.push(value);
return array;
});
}


Also not that the prototype version uses the Prototype enumerable method include, which is:

 /**
*  Enumerable#include(object) -> Boolean
*  - object (?): The object to look for.
*
*  Determines whether a given object is in the enumerable or not,
*  based on the == comparison operator (equality with implicit type
*  conversion).
*
*  ##### Examples
*
*      $R(1, 15).include(10); * // -> true * * ['hello', 'world'].include('HELLO'); * // -> false ('hello' != 'HELLO') * * [1, 2, '3', '4', '5'].include(3); * // -> true ('3' == 3) **/ function include(object) { if (Object.isFunction(this.indexOf)) if (this.indexOf(object) != -1) return true; var found = false; this.each(function(value) { if (value == object) { found = true; throw$break;
}
});
return found;
}


Is there a better way to do it? faster or "better" cross browser compatible?

• I'm not entirely sure, but I think you're asking a similar question to mine, on SO. I was trying to get people to close-vote it, but as luck would have it, it hasn't been closed yet. It's not that good of a fit for SO, and I have my answer and a couple of ppl suggested it to be moved to this site, but I haven't gotten round to that either. – Elias Van Ootegem Sep 11 '12 at 21:05
• The issue with using an object is that you won't be able to recognize "proto". (ES6 Map solves this issue.) But it's the best algorithm in term of big-o cost so it could be interesting if you're going to have laaaarge arrays. – Quentin Pradet Sep 13 '12 at 9:29
• (I meant __proto__.) – Quentin Pradet Sep 20 '12 at 9:52

For me, I'd always avoid methods that require lots of includes to things get working - and in my mind, the more code used.. the slower things will be (unless some form of caching is used). Which is why I would opt for a simple JavaScript solution. Your idea will work, but I think this one is faster:

Array.prototype.unique = function () {
var a = this, b = [], c, i = a.length;
again: while ( i-- ) {
c = a[i];
k = i; while( k-- ){ if (a[k] == c){ continue again; } }
b.unshift( a[i] );
}
return b;
}


There are probably other improvements that can be made, for example it might be faster to find a way to use .push() rather than .unshift().

I haven't tested the above excessively, but it seems to work in all my tests so far. The reason why it gets a speed increase is because it reduces the area it is checking each time; it is also using subtle other speed increases like a decrementing while loop (means there are less conditional statements to check on each iteration), and creating shortcut vars that cut down access time.

As proof here is a jsPerf... albeit only tested on my set-up so far ;)

http://jsperf.com/compare-array-unique-versions

side note: -- the downside to my method is that it will only include the last found occurance of a duplicate (not the first as your's will). So if that ordering is important to you, then you'll have to refactor the code.

revision: -- after a few jsPerfs it seems clear that the while(i--) no longer holds a speed difference (at least not for FireFox 16 Mac OSX). Whilst on Chrome Mac OSX i--; seems slower than i++;

http://jsperf.com/compare-a-dec-while-against-a-for-loop

So taking in to account BillyBarry's comments the improved version should be:

Array.prototype.unique8 = function () {
var a = this, b = [], c, i, l = a.length, j, k = 0;
again: for ( i = 0; i < l; i++ ) {
c = a[i];
for ( j = 0; j < k; j++ ) { if (b[j] === c){ continue again; } }
b[k++] = c;
}
return b;
}


Working from b, rather than a improves things quite a lot. Plus using k++; rather than .length for the internal loop makes quite a bit of difference for FireFox (Mac OSX) but has no affect on Chrome.

• It would be slightly faster to use b.push() than unshift, but it will be significantly faster to change the inner loop to loop over b instead of a if you know that it has many repetitions. see: jsperf.com/compare-array-unique-versions/2 – Bill Barry Sep 12 '12 at 18:02
• +1 Yep, I was pretty certain .push() would be better - and from looking at your jsPerf I'm surprised the for loop version seems to win out (I guess that while trick is no longer true in recent interpreters - need to refresh my assumptions ;). Good point about interating over b instead - I was trying to cut down on variable usage and length checks but it seems these don't impact so much. – Pebbl Sep 13 '12 at 0:03
• Ah, actually, have just added another revision not using .length (keeping track of the length by incrementing a var instead) and that made quite a bit of difference jsperf.com/compare-array-unique-versions/4 – Pebbl Sep 13 '12 at 0:17

Here's my version, however there are three major downsides.

• Requires more memory.
• Only works with primitive datatypes or objects with a string method that returns unique values. In other words, this doesn't work with objects or object literals.
• Harder to read and maintain

## Code:

Array.prototype.getUnique = function () {
var arr = this;
var newArr = [],
i = 0,
j = 0,
obj = {},
len = arr.length;
while (len--) {
if (!obj[arr[i]]) {
obj[arr[i]] = 1;
newArr[j] = arr[i];
j++;
}
i++;
}
return newArr;
};


## Update

Here's the same code but revised to make it easier to read.

Array.prototype.getUnique_simple = function () {
var arr = this, newArr = [], obj = {};
for(var i = 0, len = arr.length; i < len; i++){
if (obj[arr[i]]) {
continue;
}
obj[arr[i]] = 1;
newArr.push(arr[i]);
}
return newArr;
};