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Use .indexOf() to find a String in a String in JavaScript

Let’s take an example String:

const location =  'Regent Street, London, England';

We want to search our String to see if 'London' exists in it, and perhaps do something with it if there’s a match.

For this, we can use indexOf (which exists on String.prototype):

const index = location.indexOf('London');
// 15

Here we’ve used indexOf('London') to search our String for a match!

Our logged result is 15, which means there was a match. The indexOf method will always return -1 if there was no match. IndexOf always returns a number.

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IndexOf allows us to search a string in JavaScript for a match.

So what is this number being returned to us? It’s the index of the first character’s position when there is a match. So how do we use it?

Typically we would use indexOf combined with a conditional statement - but before we go there, consider this example:

const string = 'abcdef';
const index = string.indexOf('a');
// 0

It returns zero! That means if we did this:

if (index) {...}

… and fatefully assumed this would work across all numbers, we would be greeted with a nice bug - because 0 is a falsy value whereas all other numbers, even negative, are truthy values.

To filter out this behaviour, and lock in some safety, it’s common that we’d do something like this:

if (index !== -1) {...}

You could also be more fancy and use the bitwise operator ~ which ensures any 0 values are coerced to -1 meaning they result in false. This gives us a way of calculating whether something is true - meaning _all indexOf matches will now result to true and -1 will result in false - yay:

if (!!~index) {...}

Personally I would use the second approach on personal projects because I like the syntax, it’s clean and I get it. On a bigger project you may want to standardise usage with your team.

Altogether our code can look like so:

const location = 'Regent Street, London, England';
// 15
const index = location.indexOf('London');
// true
const existsInString = !!~index;

if (existsInString) {
  console.log(`Yes, "London" exists in "${location}"`);

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Todd Motto

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