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How to check for an item in an array with vanilla JS

Let’s say you have an array of wizards, like this.

var wizards = ['Hermoine', 'Neville', 'Harry Potter', 'Dumbledore'];

You want to check if the array has Neville in it. How would you do that?

Today, we’re going to look at two ways to check for an item inside an array.

(If today’s article reminds you a lot of yesterday’s, that’s on purpose.)

The Array.includes() method

ES6 introduced a new method for checking for an item inside an array: Array.includes().

Call the includes() method on your array, and pass in the item you’re looking for as an argument. It returns a boolean (true/false).

// returns true

// returns false

Here’s a demo.

The Array.includes() method works in all modern browsers, but not IE. You can push support back to at least IE9 with a polyfill.

The Array.indexOf() method

The Array.indexOf() method is an older approach that tells you the index of the first matching item inside an array. If the item doesn’t exist, it returns -1 instead.

// returns 1

// returns -1

You can use the indexOf() method to check if an item exists or not by checking if the returned value is greater than -1.

// This logs to the console
if (wizards.indexOf('Neville') > -1) {
	console.log('The surprise hero');

// This does not
if (wizards.indexOf('Gandalf') > -1) {
	console.log('This is not Lord of the Rings, you idiot!');

Here’s another demo for you.

The Array.indexOf() method works in all modern browsers, and IE9 and above.

Which one should you use?

I generally find Array.indexOf() more useful. If I’m looking for an item in an array, I typically want to know what its index is so that I can use it for something.