selfcontained[web development]

Scoping Javascript closures in loops

Friday January 23, 2009
By Brad Harris

It must have been something I ate, cause this is like the third post in 2 days I think! This is a quick one, but super handy to know if you don't already. There is semi-common problem I run into, and it has to do with scoping of closures inside of loops. Lets get straight to the code so its easier to understand what I'm talking about:

<script type="text/javascript" src="" ></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
    var values = [0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9];
    for(var idx in values) {
        //First Test - will have incorrent scoping
        YAHOO.util.Event.addListener(window, 'load', function() {
            YAHOO.util.Dom.get('wrong-scope').innerHTML += ' '+values[idx]+' ';
        //Second Test - scoping will be correct
        YAHOO.util.Event.addListener(window, 'load', function(scopedValue) {
            return function() {
                YAHOO.util.Dom.get('right-scope').innerHTML += ' '+scopedValue+' ';


<div id="wrong-scope">
<h1>Wrong Scope</h1>
<div id="right-scope">
<h1>Right Scope</h1>


In this example, there is a simple array of ordered values, and then a loop over those values. For each iteration of the loop, there is an onload listener added that will dump that value into a div. You'll see the first loop always dumps 9, because the scoping is wrong when the closure executes, and the last time through the loop sets the scope of values[idx].

The second section does some unique handy-work to correct the scoping. A listener is added like before, but the closure is created in a specific fashion in order to get the scope to be the way we want at runtime. For the closure in the second section, we create a self-executing function, passing in a parameter that is the current value in our array of numbers. That function runs, and returns another function that does the appending to the div of the value. This second, inner-function is what will execute on page load. Because of the outer-function we immediately called, the variable passed into it, the current value from our array, will be available, and properly scoped for our inner-function.


This is a handy trick when you have a situation where you are looping over a collection, and are providing some type of callback/closure for each entry, but need some proper scoping.

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