jscodeshift - the find and replace of your dreams

What is refactoring?

Fixing bugs and refactoring take up much more of our time than typing code. Typing is not the problem: the problems of software are in complexity, imperfection, and iteration.

Refactoring is a broad term: it can mean improving code structure by rearranging and renaming functionality, or adopting design patterns. It can also include non-functional changes like style changes or replacing lengthy patterns with more idiomatic code.

Automated refactoring has long been a feature of IDEs for established languages like Java and C++. With a right-click and a few menus, an editor like Eclipse can rename a function and simultaneously find all the places that reference its old name, and update them all.

Automatic or assisted refactoring is useful when you’re working on large projects. Without the ability to find and fix all dependent parts of code when you make a change to one section, the time required and risk involved in change becomes restrictive, promoting inaction even when a refactor is appropriate.

Refactoring JavaScript

JavaScript is an unusually dynamic and progressive language and is only now gaining an ecosystem of smart tools that help developers work.

Refactoring JavaScript without specialized tools is time-consuming, risky, or both. Usually it hinges on some kind of traditional find and replace. Regardless of whether you’re using Microsoft Word or vim, find & replace is a familiar tool. You specify a specific bit of text, or a pattern, and then define the replacement. So if you’re replacing the method add with addTwo, you might search for “add” and automatically replace with “addTwo”.

If you’ve been through this struggle, you probably know what happens next. Find & replace doesn’t know about JavaScript, so it’ll replace the word “add” in your documentation even when it’s referring to something else. If you aren’t careful, it’ll also replace add when it’s in the middle of another word, like a method called addAnother becomes addTwoAnother.1

And then there are always cases you’ll miss: if you want to replace a require function call in node.js with a require of a different package, searching for require('foo') will miss the equally-valid require("foo"), and especially miss anything with whitespace, like require ('foo') - even though all three styles do the same thing.

jscodeshift: the find and replace of your dreams

jscodeshift is variously described as a “JavaScript codemod toolkit” and “A wrapper around recast, providing a different API.” In practice, it is:

Okay, so how you use jscodeshift:

  1. You write a “codemod” - a JavaScript file that defines what you’re looking for and what to replace it with.
  2. You use the jscodeshift command on your command line to run that codemod against your files, changing them when appropriate.

This is what a codemod looks like:

var regexIdentifierNameES5 = /^(?:[\$A-Z_a-z\xAA\xB5\xBA\xC0-\xD6\xD8-\xF6\xF8-\u02C1\u02C6-\u02D1\u02E0-\u02E4\u02EC\u02EE\u0370-\u0374\u0376\u0377\u037A-\u037D\u037F\u0386\u0388-\u038A\u038C\u038E-\u03A1\u03A3-\u03F5\u03F7-\u0481\u048A-\u052F\u0531-\u0556\u0559\u0561-\u0587\u05D0-\u05EA\u05F0-\u05F2\u0620-\u064A\u066E\u066F\u0671-\u06D3\u06D5\u06E5\u06E6\u06EE\u06EF\u06FA-\u06FC\u06FF\u0710\u0712-\u072F\u074D-\u07A5\u07B1\u07CA-\u07EA\u07F4\u07F5\u07FA\u0800-\u0815\u081A\u0824\u0828\u0840-\u0858\u08A0-\u08B2\u0904-\u0939\u093D\u0950\u0958-\u0961\u0971-\u0980\u0985-\u098C\u098F\u0990\u0993-\u09A8\u09AA-\u09B0\u09B2\u09B6-\u09B9\u09BD\u09CE\u09DC\u09DD\u09DF-\u09E1\u09F0\u09F1\u0A05-\u0A0A\u0A0F\u0A10\u0A13-\u0A28\u0A2A-\u0A30\u0A32\u0A33\u0A35\u0A36\u0A38\u0A39\u0A59-\u0A5C\u0A5E\u0A72-\u0A74\u0A85-\u0A8D\u0A8F-\u0A91\u0A93-\u0AA8\u0AAA-\u0AB0\u0AB2\u0AB3\u0AB5-\u0AB9\u0ABD\u0AD0\u0AE0\u0AE1\u0B05-\u0B0C\u0B0F\u0B10\u0B13-\u0B28\u0B2A-\u0B30\u0B32\u0B33\u0B35-\u0B39\u0B3D\u0B5C\u0B5D\u0B5F-\u0B61\u0B71\u0B83\u0B85-\u0B8A\u0B8E-\u0B90\u0B92-\u0B95\u0B99\u0B9A\u0B9C\u0B9E\u0B9F\u0BA3\u0BA4\u0BA8-\u0BAA\u0BAE-\u0BB9\u0BD0\u0C05-\u0C0C\u0C0E-\u0C10\u0C12-\u0C28\u0C2A-\u0C39\u0C3D\u0C58\u0C59\u0C60\u0C61\u0C85-\u0C8C\u0C8E-\u0C90\u0C92-\u0CA8\u0CAA-\u0CB3\u0CB5-\u0CB9\u0CBD\u0CDE\u0CE0\u0CE1\u0CF1\u0CF2\u0D05-\u0D0C\u0D0E-\u0D10\u0D12-\u0D3A\u0D3D\u0D4E\u0D60\u0D61\u0D7A-\u0D7F\u0D85-\u0D96\u0D9A-\u0DB1\u0DB3-\u0DBB\u0DBD\u0DC0-\u0DC6\u0E01-\u0E30\u0E32\u0E33\u0E40-\u0E46\u0E81\u0E82\u0E84\u0E87\u0E88\u0E8A\u0E8D\u0E94-\u0E97\u0E99-\u0E9F\u0EA1-\u0EA3\u0EA5\u0EA7\u0EAA\u0EAB\u0EAD-\u0EB0\u0EB2\u0EB3\u0EBD\u0EC0-\u0EC4\u0EC6\u0EDC-\u0EDF\u0F00\u0F40-\u0F47\u0F49-\u0F6C\u0F88-\u0F8C\u1000-\u102A\u103F\u1050-\u1055\u105A-\u105D\u1061\u1065\u1066\u106E-\u1070\u1075-\u1081\u108E\u10A0-\u10C5\u10C7\u10CD\u10D0-\u10FA\u10FC-\u1248\u124A-\u124D\u1250-\u1256\u1258\u125A-\u125D\u1260-\u1288\u128A-\u128D\u1290-\u12B0\u12B2-\u12B5\u12B8-\u12BE\u12C0\u12C2-\u12C5\u12C8-\u12D6\u12D8-\u1310\u1312-\u1315\u1318-\u135A\u1380-\u138F\u13A0-\u13F4\u1401-\u166C\u166F-\u167F\u1681-\u169A\u16A0-\u16EA\u16EE-\u16F8\u1700-\u170C\u170E-\u1711\u1720-\u1731\u1740-\u1751\u1760-\u176C\u176E-\u1770\u1780-\u17B3\u17D7\u17DC\u1820-\u1877\u1880-\u18A8\u18AA\u18B0-\u18F5\u1900-\u191E\u1950-\u196D\u1970-\u1974\u1980-\u19AB\u19C1-\u19C7\u1A00-\u1A16\u1A20-\u1A54\u1AA7\u1B05-\u1B33\u1B45-\u1B4B\u1B83-\u1BA0\u1BAE\u1BAF\u1BBA-\u1BE5\u1C00-\u1C23\u1C4D-\u1C4F\u1C5A-\u1C7D\u1CE9-\u1CEC\u1CEE-\u1CF1\u1CF5\u1CF6\u1D00-\u1DBF\u1E00-\u1F15\u1F18-\u1F1D\u1F20-\u1F45\u1F48-\u1F4D\u1F50-\u1F57\u1F59\u1F5B\u1F5D\u1F5F-\u1F7D\u1F80-\u1FB4\u1FB6-\u1FBC\u1FBE\u1FC2-\u1FC4\u1FC6-\u1FCC\u1FD0-\u1FD3\u1FD6-\u1FDB\u1FE0-\u1FEC\u1FF2-\u1FF4\u1FF6-\u1FFC\u2071\u207F\u2090-\u209C\u2102\u2107\u210A-\u2113\u2115\u2119-\u211D\u2124\u2126\u2128\u212A-\u212D\u212F-\u2139\u213C-\u213F\u2145-\u2149\u214E\u2160-\u2188\u2C00-\u2C2E\u2C30-\u2C5E\u2C60-\u2CE4\u2CEB-\u2CEE\u2CF2\u2CF3\u2D00-\u2D25\u2D27\u2D2D\u2D30-\u2D67\u2D6F\u2D80-\u2D96\u2DA0-\u2DA6\u2DA8-\u2DAE\u2DB0-\u2DB6\u2DB8-\u2DBE\u2DC0-\u2DC6\u2DC8-\u2DCE\u2DD0-\u2DD6\u2DD8-\u2DDE\u2E2F\u3005-\u3007\u3021-\u3029\u3031-\u3035\u3038-\u303C\u3041-\u3096\u309D-\u309F\u30A1-\u30FA\u30FC-\u30FF\u3105-\u312D\u3131-\u318E\u31A0-\u31BA\u31F0-\u31FF\u3400-\u4DB5\u4E00-\u9FCC\uA000-\uA48C\uA4D0-\uA4FD\uA500-\uA60C\uA610-\uA61F\uA62A\uA62B\uA640-\uA66E\uA67F-\uA69D\uA6A0-\uA6EF\uA717-\uA71F\uA722-\uA788\uA78B-\uA78E\uA790-\uA7AD\uA7B0\uA7B1\uA7F7-\uA801\uA803-\uA805\uA807-\uA80A\uA80C-\uA822\uA840-\uA873\uA882-\uA8B3\uA8F2-\uA8F7\uA8FB\uA90A-\uA925\uA930-\uA946\uA960-\uA97C\uA984-\uA9B2\uA9CF\uA9E0-\uA9E4\uA9E6-\uA9EF\uA9FA-\uA9FE\uAA00-\uAA28\uAA40-\uAA42\uAA44-\uAA4B\uAA60-\uAA76\uAA7A\uAA7E-\uAAAF\uAAB1\uAAB5\uAAB6\uAAB9-\uAABD\uAAC0\uAAC2\uAADB-\uAADD\uAAE0-\uAAEA\uAAF2-\uAAF4\uAB01-\uAB06\uAB09-\uAB0E\uAB11-\uAB16\uAB20-\uAB26\uAB28-\uAB2E\uAB30-\uAB5A\uAB5C-\uAB5F\uAB64\uAB65\uABC0-\uABE2\uAC00-\uD7A3\uD7B0-\uD7C6\uD7CB-\uD7FB\uF900-\uFA6D\uFA70-\uFAD9\uFB00-\uFB06\uFB13-\uFB17\uFB1D\uFB1F-\uFB28\uFB2A-\uFB36\uFB38-\uFB3C\uFB3E\uFB40\uFB41\uFB43\uFB44\uFB46-\uFBB1\uFBD3-\uFD3D\uFD50-\uFD8F\uFD92-\uFDC7\uFDF0-\uFDFB\uFE70-\uFE74\uFE76-\uFEFC\uFF21-\uFF3A\uFF41-\uFF5A\uFF66-\uFFBE\uFFC2-\uFFC7\uFFCA-\uFFCF\uFFD2-\uFFD7\uFFDA-\uFFDC])(?:[\$0-9A-Z_a-z\xAA\xB5\xBA\xC0-\xD6\xD8-\xF6\xF8-\u02C1\u02C6-\u02D1\u02E0-\u02E4\u02EC\u02EE\u0300-\u0374\u0376\u0377\u037A-\u037D\u037F\u0386\u0388-\u038A\u038C\u038E-\u03A1\u03A3-\u03F5\u03F7-\u0481\u0483-\u0487\u048A-\u052F\u0531-\u0556\u0559\u0561-\u0587\u0591-\u05BD\u05BF\u05C1\u05C2\u05C4\u05C5\u05C7\u05D0-\u05EA\u05F0-\u05F2\u0610-\u061A\u0620-\u0669\u066E-\u06D3\u06D5-\u06DC\u06DF-\u06E8\u06EA-\u06FC\u06FF\u0710-\u074A\u074D-\u07B1\u07C0-\u07F5\u07FA\u0800-\u082D\u0840-\u085B\u08A0-\u08B2\u08E4-\u0963\u0966-\u096F\u0971-\u0983\u0985-\u098C\u098F\u0990\u0993-\u09A8\u09AA-\u09B0\u09B2\u09B6-\u09B9\u09BC-\u09C4\u09C7\u09C8\u09CB-\u09CE\u09D7\u09DC\u09DD\u09DF-\u09E3\u09E6-\u09F1\u0A01-\u0A03\u0A05-\u0A0A\u0A0F\u0A10\u0A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module.exports = function (file, api) {
  const j = api.jscodeshift;
  return j(file.source)
    .find(j.AssignmentExpression)
    .filter(p => {
      return p.value.computed === true &&
      p.value.property.type === 'Literal' &&
      regexIdentifierNameES5.test(p.value.property.value);
    })
    .forEach(p => {
      p.value.property.type = 'Identifier';
      p.value.property.name = p.value.property.value;
      p.value.computed = false;
    })
    .toSource();
};

Any guesses what this is doing? Here I was working on a codebase that was automatically ported from another language to JavaScript, and every time that the code referred to a member of an object, it would quote the member name.

var member = object['prop'];

This codemod looks for that pattern, and replaces it with:

var member = object.prop;

The codemod demonstrates a few perks of this approach. You aren’t writing a regular expression for a section of code, though we do have one for identifier names in this case, instead codemods interact with an abstract syntax tree.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of abstract syntax trees, playing around with astexplorer is a great first step. Abstract syntax trees are parsed, normalized representations of source code. They keep the structure of the code and make it easy to find specific functionality or transform the source code to something else.

Abstract syntax trees are the basis of cutting-edge transpilers like Babel and they’re one of the main focuses of my documentation.js project. They let JavaScript understand itself and interact with source code in a natural, safe way.

But usually abstract syntax trees are abstract: they don’t contain all of your formatting, tabs or spaces, single or double quotes, and so on. They are software as computers see it - meaning, not style.

So jscodeshift is smart enough to only replace relevant parts of your source code, patching in modifications while keeping the rest of a file’s formatting exactly the same as it was before. This means that your refactoring results in concise changes and short diffs rather than a big project-wide reformatting.

Another advantage of using codemods instead of manual refactoring is that you can keep them. Just like you can store database migrations, applications can have a codemods directory with the codemods used for different refactors, creating a paper trail around big changes and making it easy to quickly refactor similar changes.

Applications

jscodeshift is catching on as a way for libraries to automatically upgrade their users: you can automatically upgrade your Ember changes, and the same with React.

I’ve been using jscodeshift for refactoring: to fix systematic bugs in Turf, across 40+ packages, and refactoring WebP rendering code. I plan to use it more on larger projects wherever changes can be done in one pass, and for larger libraries, it’d make sense to start distributing codemods along with version-breaking releases as a favor to users.

Footnotes

Posted Jul 12, 2016 Tweet / Follow me on Twitter

Tom MacWright

I'm . I work on tools for creativity at Mapbox. This is where I write about technology and everything else.