The reason to use JS .call() method?


I'm interested what's the reason to have call() method in JS. It seems it duplicates usual method of calling this.

For example, I have a code with call().

var obj = {
    objType: "Dog"
}

f = function(did_what, what) {
    alert(this.objType + " " + did_what + " " + what);
}

f.call(obj, "ate", "food");

The output is "Dog ate food". But the same result I can get assigning the function to the object.

var obj = {
    objType: "Dog"
}

f = function(did_what, what) {
    alert(this.objType + " " + did_what + " " + what);
}

obj.a = f;
obj.a("ate", "food");

The result is the same. But this way is more understandable and convenient to use. Why call() is needed?

call is used when you want to control the scope that will be used in the function called. You might want the this keyword to be something else than the scope you assigned the function to, in those cases you can use call or apply to call the function with your own scope.

F.ex, it also allows you to call utility methods outside the scope, like when using "private" functions:

var obj = (function() {
    var privateFn = function() {
        alert(this.id);
    }
    return {
        id: 123,
        publicFn: function() {
            privateFn.call(this);
        }
    };
}());

obj.publicFn();

In the example above, privateFn is not exposed in obj but it can still be constructed as if it was a part of the public scope (using this in the same way).


2017 Update

All functions by way of Function.prototype have the .call method. The reason to use .call() is to specify what the variable "this" refers to.

MDN specifies:

The call() method calls a function with a given this value and arguments provided individually.

Consider the following:

function x() {
    return this;
}

x()

In strict mode x() returns undefined in non strict mode it returns the Global object, Window in a browser context.

Example with .call() we tell it what "this" refers to:

function x() {
    return this;
}

var obj = {
    myName      : 'Robert',
    myLocation  : 'Earth'
}

x.call(obj);

Result: {myName: "Robert", myLocation: "Earth"}. In the above example we are specifying the obj object as the value of this inside the function x()

It can be used to emulate inheritance in OOP.

Example:

var Robert = {
    name: "Robert Rocha",
    age: 12,
    height: "5,1",
    sex: "male",
    describe: function() {
        return "This is me " + this.name + " " + this.age + " " + this.height + " " + this.sex;
    }
};

Lets say that the above is a master object(prototype) and you want to inherit the function describe in another object:

var Richard = {
    name: "Richard Sash",
    age: 25,
    height: "6,4",
    sex: "male",
}

The Richard object does not have the describe function and you want to simply inherit ,so to speak, the function. You would do it like so:

console.log( Robert.describe.call( Richard ) );

Output: This is me Richard Sash 25 6,4 male


You would probably use the second way in your example, but sometimes you want to use one object's functions on another object. An example would be using Array methods on Array-like objects like NodeLists

var el = document.getElementById("foo");
[].forEach.call(el.children, function(child, index) {
    //Iterate over an element's children, performing an action on each one
});

It's to do with the concept of a first class function. Basically languages like Javascript allow you to treat functions as things their own right. Functions can be stored in variables or passed to other functions.

call() provides a way to execute a free standing function not attached to any other object.