Recently on Twitter I noticed Eric Elliott saying this:

I thought I would explore this a little bit, as I almost never use for() loops, but I often use .forEach().

There will always be nay-sayers, who point out that for() is faster than .forEach() (this is actually not true, see UPDATE below).

Speed is important, but you have to consider other things, especially as code scales.

This is a great article, that explains some of the gotcha’s of for() loops. It also points out something that you would not notice if merely viewing a for() vs .forEach() test like this. for() uses more memory than .forEach()!

So which is more important? Speed or memory?

Both are important, of course. Firstly, none of these are going to be the bottleneck in your code. Secondly, micro-optimizations aren’t the way to win the war, which is more readable/hackable/maintainable?

Let’s take a look at a really basic example:

Consider this array:

var arr = [1, 2, 3];

.map():

arr.map(function(i) {
  console.log(i);
});

43 characters

.forEach():

arr.forEach(function(i) {
  console.log(i);
});

47 characters

for():

for (var i = 0, l = arr.length; i < l; i++) {
  console.log(arr[i]);
}

70 characters

.map() and .forEach() are significantly less typing, they are also clearer to read, and they create their own scope, whereas the for() loop leaves us with i and l hanging around after everything is done, so we would need to write even more code to clean up after our for() loop!

In other words, do yourself and your friends a favor:

Use .forEach() or .map().

Which leads us to the next argument. Why is .map() better than .forEach()?

First point for .map(), is that it is faster than .forEach(). Although I noted earlier that speed is not the only consideration, in this case neither have the inherent issues of for loops.

Secondly, the un-intended side effect you will run into with .forEach() is that it doesn’t return an array. So if you want to be the coolest, functional JavaScript programmer on the block, .map() is your friend. In other words, .forEach() terminates chains, while .map() allows you to chain even more calls. Making you the coolest cat around town. Thanks to Ross Allen for some tips on explaining this. Here is a terrible example of method chaining:

var arr = [1, 3, 2];

console.log(
  // This one works:
  arr
  .map(function (i) {
    return i + i;
  })
  // Chaining!
  .sort()
);
// => [ 2, 4, 6 ]

console.log(
  // This one does not:
  arr
  .forEach(function (i) {
    return i + i;
  })
  // This is where forEach breaks:
  .sort()
);
// => TypeError: Cannot read property 'sort' of undefined

Fiddle

Although this is a lame example, it does show the limitations of .forEach() as opposed to .map().

Let me know in the comments what you prefer and why, thanks for reading!

TL;DR

.map() > .forEach() > for()

UPDATE 2016.05.24: .map() is actually the fastest of all 3 in certain JavaScript engines (like Mozilla’s SpiderMonkey). I advise always using map.