A dead simple JavaScript inheritance implementation. A tool, not a framework.


A dead simple JavaScript inheritance implementation.

Inheritance is done exactly the same way it would be done manually so instanceof will still work and there is no speed reduction. It's all just wrapped up in some helper methods so the repetative boilerplate can be avoided.

This is a library, even though it looks a little like a framework. See the "Notes" section for more information.

  • Do multiple inheritance.
    • Can of worms.
    • This library is designed to make it easier to use existing language features, not add new ones.
    • See the "Notes" section if you think JavaScript does support multiple inheritance.
  • Handle, promote, or propagate any specific means of making methods/properties private/protected.
    • Useful constructs, but enforcement is not useful overhead. Agree to a pattern such as "_ prefixed methods are protected", and move on.
  • Add _super/_superApply methods.
    • It does add a static reference to the parent prototype of a constructor, but it's passive and reasonably non-invasive.
  • Wrap any methods.
    • "What about the constructor?" nope
    • "What about ..." NO
    • Any wrapping of anything would create overhead and side effects. Do it yourself if you want to.
  • Break if you modify your classes outside of its pervue.
    • Feel free to modify prototypes, attach properties willy-nilly, or extend StdClass classes any way you want.
  • Break instanceof or require a third-party way of checking pedigree.
  • Use Object.create or anything that is only in ECMAScript "newer than your environment supports" Edition.
  • Use any deprecated ECMAScript features.
  • Use any reserved words.
  • Juggle.
    • This was a tough decision, but in the end I had to conclude it wasn't worth the effort.

Install With NPM

$ npm install stdclass

Unit Testing (optional)

$ npm install --dev stdclass
$ npm test stdclass

Require It

#!/usr/bin/env node
var StdClass = require( 'stdclass' );
<script src="/path/to/stdclass.js"></script>

There are no dependencies and the source is small, so feel free to copy the source into your own project if adding a seperate file seems cumbersome. Remember to include the license. I recommend just grabbing the source between /* BEGIN CLASS: StdClass */ and /* END CLASS: StdClass */.

StdClass and any derivative constructors it creates/modifies, have the following static methods that do all the magic.

  • extend( [ Function constructor ] )
    • Creates a child class of the constructor it is attached to.
    • Takes an optional constructor function as an argument.
      • If no argument is given, then the parent constructor will be inherited. See the examples section if you're not sure what that means.
      • Useful when you just want to create a child with overridden methods.
    • Copies extend, implement, and neo static methods to the new child class.
    • Returns constructor, or if the constructor argument is omitted, it returns a new inherited constructor.
  • implement( [ Object, ... ] )
    • Add properties to the prototype of the constructor it is attached to.
    • All non-null/non-undefined properties on all objects passed to implement will be added to the class constructor prototype.
    • Takes 0 or more objects as arguments.
      • Passing no objects is silly, but allowed.
    • Returns the constructor it's attached to.
  • neo( ... )
    • A static shortcut for new.
    • Class.neo( ... ) is equivalent to new Class( ... ).
    • Prettier when you want to immediately chain methods on a new instance or if you're using instantiation for side effects.
    • Does introduce a teeeeensy bit of overhead. I mean really teensy. Statistically insignificant.
    • Returns a new instance of the constructor it's attached to.

StdClass also has the following static methods which it does not pass along to the constructors that it creates/modifies.

  • StdClass.mixin( Function constructor )
    • Takes a required constructor function argument.
    • Attaches the extend, implement, and neo static methods to constructors that were not created by StdClass.
    • Useful for adding StdClass tools to classes that cannot directly inherit from StdClass.
    • Returns the constructor.
  • StdClass.cleanup( Function constructor )
    • Removes extend, implement, and neo from the constructor.
    • Will only remove these properties if the are strictly equal to the original methods on StdClass.
    • This is just here for completeness sake. No overhead should be added by leaving the tools in place.
    • This does not affect the prototype, so any derivatives that have already been created will also be un-affected.
    • Returns the constructor.

All of the above methods are completely portable. You can attach any of them to any function and they will just work.

A reference to the parent class prototype is also statically attached to child constructors for convenience.

  • parent
    • Child.parent === Parent.prototype

This quite literally (in the literal sense) does not add any extra overhead. Not even in the extend method.

Having a reference to the parent prototype on the child constructor, allows parent methods to be referenced without referring to the parent by name. That's a good thing if your parent class changes or is renamed, because you won't have to refactor your child classes. You can of course still use the parent class name if you prefer.

The parent property also allows for a universally accessible inheritance chain like this.

constructor.parent.constructor.parent.constructor.parent ...

See the "Notes" section about why that's noteworthy.

Parent Class

var MyParent = StdClass.extend( function( args, go, here )
    // Do parent constructor stuff
    instanceMethod: function( and, here )
        // Do method stuff

Child Class

var MyChild = MyParent.extend( function( args, go, here, too )
    // Call the parent constructor this, args, go, here );

    // The above is equivalent the following, but has the advantage of
    // not using the parent name. This can save time refactoring should the
    // parent class change or be renamed.
    // this, args, go, here );
    //   OR
    // this, args, go, here );

    // Do child constructor stuff
    this.too = too;
    instanceMethod: function( and, here, too )
        // Call the parent method this, and, here );

        // Once again, the above is equivalent to the following except that
        // you don't need to use the parent class name.
        // this, and, here );

        // Do child method stuff
        this.too = too;
    newMethod: function()
        // Do new method stuff

No explicit constructor means inherit the parent constructor.

Inheriting a constructor means automatically creating a constructor function that does nothing except call the parent constructor, passing through all arguments.

var InheritedConstructor = MyChild.extend();

// Which is the same as...
var Equivalent = MyChild.extend( function()
    return Equivalent.parent.constructor.apply( this, arguments );

Implement can be passed multiple arguments.

        foo: 'foo', // Replaced below
        bar: 'bar', // Not replaced below
        foo: 'foo2', // Replaces above 'foo' value
        bar: null // Does not replace above 'bar' value

StdClass helper methods can be mixed-in to any class.

var DumbClass = function()
    // Assume this is somebody elses class that you've included in your
    // project. It doesn't have any built in way of extending it! You'll
    // have to do it the old fashioned way... or will you?

StdClass.mixin( DumbClass );

// Woot!
var Extended = DumbClass.extend();

Turn it back into a dumb class.

StdClass.cleanup( DumbClass );

DumbClass.hasOwnProperty( 'extend' ); // false
DumbClass.hasOwnProperty( 'implement' ); // false
DumbClass.hasOwnProperty( 'neo' ); // false

// Awww, it's dumb again.

How about making it just a little smart? Remember, the StdClass static methods are portable. You can attach them to any constructor and they work.

DumbClass.extend = StdClass.extend;

// Well isn't he just a chip off the ol' block.
var SonOfDumbClass = DumbClass.extend();

The hallmark of a framework is Inversion of Control. It looks like there's some IoC going on because of the StdClass base class, and what seems like a factory pattern in the neo method. But it only seems that way at first glance.

Inheriting from StdClass is completely optional and is simply an alternative to the StdClass.mixin method. StdClass is not a template or abstract class, and therefore does not use any dependency injection. In fact, it does not have any instance methods at all.

The neo method also does not really create a factory pattern since the instance it returns is of the class it's statically attached to. There's nothing abstract about it, and therefore it's not a factory pattern.

Just in case library status is still in doubt, StdClass.mixin and StdClass.cleanup are provided so that the utility methods can be added and removed from existing classes without side effects. This makes it sort of a persistant toolkit if anything ;).

I'm not against frameworks, but IoC flow can be a little hard to follow (and maintain) due to JavaScript's extremely flexible runtime object oriented features. Therefore, I prefer to constrain my use of the IoC pattern to my application logic (usually an MV* framework), rather than have layers of frameworks as dependencies.

The extend method adds a parent property to child constructors which is a reference to the parent's prototype object. Useful when calling parent methods, but there's another useful side effect.

You would think since there is a prototype chain, traversing it to get parent class prototypes and constructors would already be possible in all JavaScript environments. You would be wrong if you thought so and you will probably end up going in loops if you try to walk that chain.

Given a class Class, the following approaches will not work!

Class.prototype.constructor.prototype; // loop
Class.prototype.prototype; // undefined - Only functions have prototypes.
Class.constructor; // You just found the function constructor, Function.

As you might guess given the above, your chances don't get any better with an instance.

var instance = new Class();
instance.constructor; // You just got back to Class. See above.
instance.prototype; // undefined - Only functions have prototypes.

Some environments do expose the real prototype chain in a property named __proto__ or similar, but this is not a universal feature.

I debated with myself long and hard (that's what she said) about whether to have extend add the parent property. On the one hand, it's sort of adding a feature to the language that would not normally exist. That's something I wanted to avoid like adding _super methods or multiple inheritance. On the other hand, it's a property containing a reference. No functions required, no overhead incurred, no relying on emergent behavior not explicitly stated in the language specification.

I decided to add it because it requires no maintanence. Once it's set, it doesn't need to be updated on class instantiation, when a member function is called, and if you extend the class without using extend, it will simply not exist on the child constructor rather than existing incorrectly.

JavaScript does not support it. Mixins are not it. It's a prototype chain, not a prototype tree or graph.

If someone tells you that JavaScript supports it, here is why they are wrong:

C instanceof A and C instanceof B


A instanceof B or B instanceof A

If someone still insists that multiple inheritance is possible and that the above is just an instanceof operator limitation, then have them setup a scenario where a change to A.prototype cannot affect B.prototype, and a change to B.prototype cannot affect A.prototype, but a modification to either can affect C.prototype.

The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright (c) 2013 Christopher Ackerman

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.