Week 5: objects

Dr Charles Martin

Semester 2, 2020


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functions: packaging up a bunch of operations

arrays: packaging up a bunch of values

syntax recap: functions

function drawEye(x, y, eyeSize){
  // first, the whites of the eye
  ellipse(x, y, eyeSize*4, eyeSize*2);
  // now the pupils
  ellipse(x, y, eyeSize, eyeSize);

syntax recap: functions

function biggerThanFour(value){
  return value > 4; // return a boolean value

syntax recap: arrays

let xValues = [5, 15, 55]; // declare & initialise

// get stuff out: use the *first* value in
// the array as a parameter for random()

// change the value in the 3rd "slot" in the array
// remember that the index starts at zero!
xValues[2] = 544;

// add the number 75 to the end of the array

recap: adding & removing things from arrays

let things = [1, 2, 3];
  add remove
front things.unshift(value) things.shift()
back things.push(value) things.pop()

code theory

time to get into objects!

what's an object?

name a thing that exists

how you would describe it to someone who has never seen it before?

Adriano Pucciarelli



often, you need multiple “attributes” to fully describe a thing

  • a student: name, age, uni course
  • an address: street name, street number, perhaps unit number?
  • a pet: name, species, breed, owner

javascript has Objects to keep related bits of data together

some definitions

object (noun): something mental or physical toward which thought, feeling, or action is directed https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/object

object (noun): a data structure in object-oriented programming that can contain functions as well as data, variables, and other data structures https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/object

let's make a Pokemon


what properties does a Pokemon have?



hit points



as a javascript Object

// declare and initialise in one go
let sally = {
  species: "Pikachu",
  level: 1,
  hp: 100,
  owner: "Ash",
  captured: true

object vocabulary

the components of an object are called properties, each property has a name and a value

let sally = {
// prop name: value
          hp: 42

try not to get confused between the name of the object (sally in this case) and the name of its properties (just one property in this case: hp)

more jargon

in everyday language, we’ve got a bunch of “interchangeable” terms: property, attribute, characteristic, trait, aspect

but in programming they mean different things! 🤷

so, be careful, and remember that objects have properties

object syntax

for an object we use the { and } squiggly braces

the spaces don’t matter, only the braces

// these are all exactly the same
let sally = {hp: 50};

let sally = { hp: 50 };

let sally = {
  hp: 50

designer data

let’s return to some of the things you talked about earlier—can we represent them as javascript objects?

what can you do with an object?

just like with arrays, there are a few main things you want to do with your object

  • get the value of a property (this is often called accessing a property)
  • set/update the value of a property
  • add a new property & value (sometimes)

getting the value of a property

there are two main ways to access (get) the value of a property

sally.species    // "Pikachu"
sally["species"] // "Pikachu"

both the “dot” version and the “square brackets” version are equivalent—they return the same value

when to use the dot (.) syntax

pros: a bit easier to type

cons: doesn’t work if the property name isn’t a String

// here, the property name is actually a number
let benObject = {5: "howdy"};

benObject.5  // Uncaught SyntaxError: Unexpected number
benObject[5] // "howdy"

setting the value of a property

just like with arrays, you can assign a new value to a property with =

these two lines of code are exactly equivalent

sally.species = "Raichu"
sally["species"] = "Raichu"

updating the value of a property

there’s even a syntax for doing the get and set all in one line

these two lines of code are exactly equivalent

sally.hp = sally.hp - 10;
sally.hp -= 10; // a bit quicker to type

adding new properties to an object

if a property with that name doesn’t exist, you can create it by just assigning a new value to that property name

these two lines of code are exactly equivalent

sally.hat = true;
sally["hat"] = true;

using the new property

then, you can use it in your code from that point on

  // draw a hat, or something

how can things go wrong?

what happens if we try to access (get) a property which the object doesn’t have?

everyone knows that Pikachu don’t wear pants (except when they do)

sally.pants // undefined

your program might not break completely (undefined is an actual thing in javascript) but it probably won’t do what you want it to

why should I care?

p5 is making objects (under the bonnet)

for example the color() function

let magenta = color(220,0,220);

moar p5 objects

or loadImage(), or createVector(), or…

let img = loadImage("assets/kangaroo.jpg");
let position = createVector(40, 52);

nested object examples

// nested objects
let car = {
  make: "toyota",
  paint: {
    colour: "red",
    metallic: true

car.paint.colour; // what's the value?

arrays and objects together!

// array of objects
let myAnts = [{species: "fire", size: 100},
              {species: "giant", size: 500}]

// object of arrays
let pokerHand = {hearts: [2, 5, 7],
                 diamonds: [8, "Q", "K"],
                 clubs: [5, 6],
                 spades: []}

pokerHand.clubs[1] // what's the value?

objects vs arrays

how does this relate to the arrays stuff from last week? a lot of this stuff looks really familiar…

arrays are objects, the property names are just the numbers 0, 1, …, N-1 (where N is the length of the array)

which should I use?

a rule of thumb:

  • use an object when you have several related values with different types
  • use an array when you have a bunch of values with the same type

don’t be afraid to have an array of objects (and vice versa)

navigating the javascript jungle

the way I’ve presented objects in this lecture (and in this course) is just one way to do it

but it’s a jungle out there (on the web)

don’t despair—the most important thing is to understand the concepts, and to practice


// this seems legit
let point = {x: 100, y: 200};
// what about this?
let point = {
  x: 100,
  redBackground: function() {
    background(255, 0, 0);

methods: what if the property is a function?

in javascript, a function is a value just like a number, so the value of a property can be a function

in this case, the property is called a method

another name? oh my.

methods are really similar to functions, but this time the function is “attached” to a particular object (and can refer to the other properties of the same object)

you call the function it just like any other property (using the .), but with the addition of the parameters in brackets at the end () (just like a regular function).

example: p5.Vector object

let position, momentum;
function setup() {
  createCanvas(400, 400);
  // createVector() creates a p5.Vector object
  position = createVector(width/2, height/8);
  momentum = createVector(0, 0);

function draw() {
  ellipse(position.x, position.y, 40,40);

  if(position.y > height - 20){

further reading/watching

Shiffman on Objects

MDN article on Objects