Object.prototype.inspect ?

P T Withington ptw at pobox.com
Thu Mar 12 13:54:08 PDT 2009

On 2009-03-12, at 16:31EDT, Brendan Eich wrote:

> On Mar 12, 2009, at 11:57 AM, P T Withington wrote:
>> Same here, but I bet I did it differently.  Which makes me think  
>> this is _not_ an area for standardization.  As long as there is a  
>> standard way to enumerate the properties of an Object and a  
>> standard way to determine an Object's 'class' (i.e., constructor,  
>> which you can only do in ES3 if you annotate each object yourself),  
>> you can write your own inspect and this is a dandy place to allow  
>> innovation, IMO.
> This was Rok's argument against standardizing toSource/uneval in ES3  
> timeframe, and it's a good one if the intention is to serialize and  
> deserialize all cases preserving private state, non-enumerable  
> properties, etc.

I think we are a long way from needing serialize/deserialize arbitrary  
Objects.  Having JSON should suffice.

> On the other hand, if the intention is to provide an easily  
> inspected string representation that gives obvious or overt property  
> values, e.g.,
> uneval([0,1,[2,3]]) => "[0, 1, [2, 3]]" instead of the muddled  
> toString result "0,1,2,3", then there's benefit in a common standard.

And I agree that toString is next to useless as a debugging tool.   
Which is why I wrote my own.  In my experience of writing my own, I  
have found that I've changed what I want the 'representation' of an  
object to be, and continue to change that.  (Since my output is  
intended to help the human programmer, and not be eval-ed, I continue  
to adjust how attributes of an object are sorted, labelled,  
abbreviated, hidden/revealed, re-inspected, etc.  Since my users are  
programming in a language above Javascript, I'm starting to change the  
representation to be more like the high-level language they write in,  
rather than display the Javascript "assembly language".)  Those are  
some of the reasons I'm not in a rush to standardize what inspecting  
an object means.

But, I would very much like to see a standard way to discover an  
Object's constructor, and a way to enumerate _all_ the properties of  
an object.  I know there is a tension between security and  
introspection.  I don't know if this is something that can be handled  
by the presumably already-overloaded strict mode.

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