Create and Retrieve Nested Objects with jQuery

By on  

The ability to create and retrieve nested objects by objectified string path is incredibly useful.  Not only do you not need to do the manual string of object/property checks to avoid "{x} is not defined" errors, but if you create your method properly, you can also set an empty object in its given place (or namespace, some would call it.    Here's how you can add this functionality to the jQuery object.

The jQuery JavaScript

Since jQuery's philosophy is to use the same method for getting and setting, we'll be doing this same for creating and retrieving objects;  in this case, we'll use the obj method:

(function() {

	// Utility method to get and set objects that may or may not exist
	var objectifier = function(splits, create, context) {
		var result = context || window;
		for(var i = 0, s; result && (s = splits[i]); i++) {
			result = (s in result ? result[s] : (create ? result[s] = {} : undefined));
		return result;

	// Gets or sets an object
	jQuery.obj = function(name, value, create, context) {
		// Setter
		if(value != undefined) {
			var splits = name.split("."), s = splits.pop(), result = objectifier(splits, true, context);
			return result && s ? (result[s] = value) : undefined;
		// Getter
		else {
			return objectifier(name.split("."), create, context);


As with the MooTools alternative, the objectifier function is enough to handle both getting and setting, as well as doing both within a given context (existing object).  Here are a few examples of how you can use the new jQuery.obj method:

// Check for existence
var moduleNameExists = jQuery.obj("mynamespace.widget.moduleName"); // undefined

// Create the obj
jQuery.obj("mynamespace.widget.moduleName", { prop: 1 }); // mynamespace.widget.moduleName.prop returns 1

// Create an object on existing object
jQuery.obj("subnamespace.subModuleName", { someProp: 8 }, true, mynamespace.widget);
	// mynamespace.widget.subnamespace.subModuleName = { someProp: 8 }

As I work more with jQuery, both with its provided methods and other third party tools, accessing arbitrary objects by string and sometimes context allows me to avoid the dance of manual object and property existence checks.  Of course the essence of this script is really the objectifier method, which can be added to any framework or toolkit, but with a framework as popular as jQuery, why not just put it out there for everyone?

Treehouse Learning

Recent Features

  • CSS @supports

    Feature detection via JavaScript is a client side best practice and for all the right reasons, but unfortunately that same functionality hasn't been available within CSS.  What we end up doing is repeating the same properties multiple times with each browser prefix.  Yuck.  Another thing we...

  • Create a CSS Flipping Animation

    CSS animations are a lot of fun; the beauty of them is that through many simple properties, you can create anything from an elegant fade in to a WTF-Pixar-would-be-proud effect. One CSS effect somewhere in between is the CSS flip effect, whereby there's...

Incredible Demos

  • Hot Effect: MooTools Drag Opacity

    As you should already know, the best visual features of a website are usually held within the most subtle of details. One simple trick that usually makes a big different is the use of opacity and fading. Another awesome MooTools functionality is...

  • Face Detection with jQuery

    I've always been intrigued by recognition software because I cannot imagine the logic that goes into all of the algorithms. Whether it's voice, face, or other types of detection, people look and sound so different, pictures are shot differently, and from different angles, I...


  1. Any chance that there is a demo or functional example of this available? I’m trying to use this to create nested dropdown boxes based on jQuery UI’s nested menu, and I’m having some difficulty understanding how to apply the objectifier function.

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!