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    1.0.4 • Public • Published

    Δ dffptch.js

    A micro library for diffing and patching JSON objects using a compact diff format.


    If your JavaScript client is sending a lot of updates to your backend – as it might in a collaborative app, a real-time game or a continously saving app – transfering the entire changed JSON wastes a lot of bandwidth. dffptch.js makes sending only the changes in a compact format very easy.


    var rabbit = {
      name: 'Thumper',
      color: 'grey',
      age: 2,
      bestFriend: 'bambi',
      foodNotes: {
        grassHay: 'his primary food'
    // We make some changes to our rabbit
    var updatedRabbit = {
      name: 'Thumper', // Still the same name
      color: 'grey and white', // He is white as well
      age: 3, // He just turned three!
      // we delete `bestFriend` – Thumper has many friends and he likes them equally
      foodNotes: {
        grassHay: 'his primary food', // Grass hay is still solid food for a rabbit
        carrots: 'he likes them a lot' // He also likes carrots
    var delta = diff(rabbit, updatedRabbit);
    // Delta is now a compact diff representing 1 deletion, 2 modifications and 1
    // nested added property. The diff format might look odd, but is actually very
    // simple as explained below.
                     {"d": ["1"],
                      "m": {"0": 3, "2": "grey and white"},
                      "r": {"3": {"a": {"carrots": "he likes them a lot"}}}


    • What you expect – Handles all types of changes. Added, modified and deleted properties. Nested objects and arrays.
    • Compact one way diffs – No needless verbosity. Property names are shortened to single characters while still remaining unambiguous.
    • Performant – Sane choices of algorithms. For instance, when generating the delta the keys of the old and new object are sorted, and then all changes are found in a single pass over both objects at the same time.
    • Very small – Too many huge libraries claim to be lightweight! This one is not among them. By having a tight focus on its targeted use case and a carefull implementation dffptch.js is barely 600B minified. Gzipped it's only 420B.
    • Readable source code – Well commented and less than 50 sloc. UglifyJS2 takes care of almost all golfing.
    • Availability: Available both as a CommonJS module, a AMD module and a plain old global export.
    • Tested: The test suite covers every feature.

    Compared to other diff & patch libraries

    • It is significantly smaller. Ten times smaller than some alternatives.
    • In common cases dffptch.js generates smaller diffs because it only patches one way and thus can shorten property name.
    • It doesn't handle complex array changes as well as others. See the section on limitations below.


    bower install dffptch


    npm install dffptch

    How the diff format works

    The diff format is an object with up to four properties. a is an object representing added properties. Each key is the name of a property and each value is the value assigned to the property. m is a similar object but for modified properties and with shortened keys. d is an array with deleted properties as elements. r contains all changes to nested objects and arrays, it recursively contains the four properties as well for the nested object.

    An example

      a: {foo: 'bar'}, // One added property
      m: {'3': 'hello'}, // One modified property
      d: ['5'], // One deleted property
      r: {'3': { ... }} Changes to one nested object

    In m, d and r the property names are shortened to single characters. The algorithm works like this: The keys in the original object are sorted, giving each key a unique number. The number is converted to a character using JavaScripts String.fromCharCode with an offset so the first key is assigned to the char '1' (this avoids the characters '/' and '' that require escaping in JSON.

    So for this object

      foo: 'bar',
      sample: 'object',
      an: 'example'

    we'd get the sorted keys ['an', 'foo', 'sample'] and thus an whould be shortened to '1', foo to '2' and sample to 3. There are a lot of unicode characters so this approach is safe no matter how many properties your objects have.

    Browser support

    dffptch.js is environment independent (neither Node nor a browser is required). It does however use the two ECMAScript 5 functions Object.keys and If you require support for < IE9 you should polyfill those functions (splendid polyfills are included in the MDN links above).


    The differences generated by dffptch.js can only take you from a to b. Not from b to a. This is by design and is necessary for the compact format.

    dffptch.js handles arrays as it handles objects. Order is not taken into account. If you're changing elements or append to an array this is not an issue. However, if you're reordering or inserting elements the diffs will be suboptimal. Finding the shortest edit distance in an ordered and possibly nested collection whould complicate dffptch.js significantly with little benefit. Simply flattening your data before feeding it to dffptch.js avoids the problem.


    dffptch.js is made by Simon Friis Vindum. But copyright declarations wastes bandwidth. thus dffptch.js is public domain or WTFPL or CC0. Do what you want but please follow me on Twitter or give a GitHub star if you feel like it.




    npm i dffptch

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