How to Use Pipe (the Pipeline Operator) in JavaScript

Nick Scialli April 19, 2021🚀 3 minute read

The pipeline operator is common in functional programming. There’s no built-in JavaScript pipeline operator (yet), but we can easily roll our own.

What is Piping?

Piping is taking the output of one function and sending it directly into another function. In pseudocode, this can be represented as:

output = input -> func1 -> func2 -> func3

In this case, the input is piped into func1, the output of of func1 is piped into func2, and the output of func2 is piped into func3.

In JavaScript, we might do this without piping by doing the following:

const output = func3(func2(func1(input)));

This is hard to read and unintuitive! While it’d be great if we could use the actual pipeline operator (|>) in JavaScript, it’s not actually available to us… yet. It is coming, but more on that later!

Rolling Your Own

The good news is that we can roll our own pretty quickly while we’re waiting. In fact, it can be written as a handy one-liner!

const pipe = (...args) => args.reduce((acc, el) => el(acc));

const output = pipe(input, func1, func2, func3);

…and that’s it! But how does this work? Well, first, we use rest parameters (...args) to allow for any number of parameters to be passed into our pipe function and those parameters will be in the array args.

Next, we use the Array.reduce method to iterate though the array of args. As we reduce, the accumulator becomes the result of passing the previous accumulator to the current element!

A Practical Example

Let’s look at a practical example: converting a blog post title into a slug. We’re going to start our with a string that’s title-cased (e.g., "10 Weird Facts About Dogs") and convert it into a slug (e.g., "10-weird-facts-about-dogs"). To do this, we’ll wan’t to pipe through a couple functions:

title |> lowercase |> addHyphens

In JavaScript, we can do this with our custom pipe function:

const pipe = (...args) => args.reduce((acc, el) => el(acc));

const title = '10 Weird Facts About Dogs';
const toLowerCase = (str) => str.toLowerCase();
const addHyphens = (str) => str.replace(/\s/g, '-');

const slug = pipe(title, toLowerCase, addHyphens);

// 10-weird-facts-about-dogs

The Actual Pipeline Operator

At the time of writing this post (April 19, 2021), the actual pipeline operator (|>) is in draft/stage 1 of TC39 consideration. If you’re really itching to use it, There is a Pipeline Proposal Babel Plugin you can experiment with!

Nick Scialli is a software engineer at the U.S. Digital Service.