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Use hash tables for efficient lookups

Thread Starter: Karamasoft   Started: 09-18-2007 12:43 PM   Replies: 0
 Karamasoft Support Forums » General Discussions » JavaScript Tips » Use hash tables for efficient lookups
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  18 Sep 2007, 12:43 PM
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Use hash tables for efficient lookups

Hash tables provide a way of efficient addition of new entries and the time spent searching for a specified key is independent of the number of items stored, which is O(1). Before explaining how to create a hash table in JavaScript, let’s begin with a quick background about the associative arrays in JavaScript.

An associative array (hash) is an abstract data type composed of a collection of keys and a collection of values, where each key is associated with one value. In JavaScript, all objects are associative arrays. You can reach the object properties as follows:




JavaScript objects do not provide a length property like Array object but you can iterate through the object properties using the following construct:

for (var prop in object)

For example, UltimateEditor component provides an associative array called UltimateEditors in the client-side API. Each UltimateEditor client-side object is defined as the property of UltimateEditors associative array. If you have multiple UltimateEditor components in your page, the following JavaScript code will iterate through all your UltimateEditor objects and display their HTML contents:

for (var ueObj in UltimateEditors) {



We can now create our HashTable object using the associative array functionality. Our HashTable object will have two properties: hashArr property that stores key/value pairs and length property that keeps track of the number of items in the hash table. It will provide four methods: get method to retrieve the value for a given key, put method to add a key/value pair to the hash table, remove method to remove a key/value pair from the hash table and has method to return whether given key value exists in the hash table.

function HashTable(){

this.hashArr = new Array();

this.length = 0;


HashTable.prototype.get = function(key) {

return this.hashArr[key];


HashTable.prototype.put = function(key, value) {

if (typeof(this.hashArr[key]) == 'undefined') {



this.hashArr[key] = value;


HashTable.prototype.remove = function(key) {

if (typeof(this.hashArr[key]) != 'undefined') {


var value = this.hashArr[key];

delete this.hashArr[key];

return value;



HashTable.prototype.has = function(key) {

return (typeof(this.hashArr[key]) != 'undefined');


Now let’s create a sample hash table for an efficient phone lookup:

var phoneLookup = new HashTable();

phoneLookup.put('Jane', '111-222-3333');

phoneLookup.put('John', '444-555-6666');


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