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Creating a deep copy of an object or array with the structuredClone() method in vanilla JavaScript

Today, I want to look at a newer JavaScript method that you can use to create a deep copy of an array or object: structuredClone().

Let’s dig in!

Arrays, objects, and variables

In JavaScript, when you assign an existing array or object to a new variable, it does not create a new array or object with the same properties.

Instead, it creates a reference to the original.

// Original object
let lunch = {
	sandwich: 'turkey',
	chips: 'cape cod',
	drink: 'soda'

// This creates a reference to the original
let moreLunch = lunch;

// Remove "chips" from lunch
delete lunch.chips;

// logs {sandwich: "turkey", drink: "soda"}

Here’s a demo.

Creating a copy of an array or object

To prevent this from happening, you need to create a copy of your array or object.

For objects, you can use the Object.assign() method, with an empty object as the first argument.

let moreLunch = Object.assign({}, lunch);

For arrays, you can use the Array.from() or Array.slice() methods.

// Original array
let sandwiches = ['turkey', 'tuna', 'ham', 'pb&j'];

// Create a copy
let moreSandwiches = Array.from(sandwiches);
let alsoMoreSandwiches = sandwiches.slice();

And for either one, you can use the spread operator.

let evenMoreLunch = {...lunch};
let evenMoreSandwiches = [...sandwiches];

Here’s another demo.

Now, if you modify the originals, the copies remain unchanged (and vice versa).

These methods don’t work with nested or multidimensional arrays and objects

These approaches work great for simple arrays and objects. But they have some shortcomings when working with multidimensional arrays and objects.

A multidimensional array or object is one that has one or more nested arrays or objects as property values.

// A multidimensional array
let wizards = [{
	name: 'Radagast',
	color: 'brown'
}, {
	name: 'Gandalf',
	color: 'gray'

// A multidimensional object
let movies = {
	studio: 'Pixar',
	films: ['Soul', 'Onward', 'Up', 'WALL-E'],
	directors: ['Brad Bird', 'Pete Docter', 'Andrew Stanton'],
	details: {
		founded: '1986',
		founders: ['Edwin Catmull', 'Alvy Ray Smith']

With multidimensional arrays and objects, Array.from(), Array.slice(), Object.assign(), and the spread operator all create a copy of the parent array or object only. Any nested arrays or objects inside it still reference the original.

This is what’s called a shallow copy or shallow clone.

// Create a copy of the wizards array
let wizardsCopy = Array.from(wizards);

// Update a nested property
wizards[0].druid = true;

// logs {name: "Radagast", color: "brown", druid: true}

Here’s a demo with multidimensional objects.

Fortunately, there’s a newer JavaScript method that addresses this issue!

The structuredClone() method

The structuredClone() method accepts an array or object as an argument, and returns a deep copy or deep clone.

That means that any nested arrays or objects in it are also copies and not references to the original.

// Create a copy of the wizards array
let wizardsCopy = structuredClone(wizards);

// Update a nested property
wizards[0].druid = true;

// The copy is not updated

Here’s one last demo showing the structuredClone() method.

Browser support was spotty for a while, but this method now works in all major browsers on both desktop and mobile.