Understanding the difference between replace() and replaceAll() in JavaScript


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JavaScript, a language central to web development, offers various methods to manipulate strings, an essential aspect of handling web content. Two such methods are replace() and replaceAll(), which, while similar in name and purpose, have distinct functionalities. This article delves into the differences between these two methods, providing examples to illustrate their unique uses.

What is replace()?

The replace() method in JavaScript is a versatile tool for string manipulation, offering several features that make it suitable for a wide range of applications. Here, we'll explore these features with relevant code examples to demonstrate its functionality.

1. Replacement of Substrings

The most basic use of replace() is to search for a substring within a string and replace it with another substring. By default, it only replaces the first occurrence of the specified substring.


let text = "Hello World. Welcome to coding."; let newText = text.replace("Hello", "Hi"); console.log(newText); // Output: "Hi World. Welcome to coding."

In this example, replace() changes the first "Hello" to "Hi".

2. Use of Regular Expressions

replace() can accept a regular expression as its first argument, allowing for more complex pattern matching and replacements.


let text = "Cats are great, cats are fun."; let newText = text.replace(/cats/gi, "dogs"); console.log(newText); // Output: "Dogs are great, dogs are fun."

Here, the regular expression /cats/gi is used to replace all occurrences of "cats" (case-insensitive due to the i flag) with "dogs".

3. Dynamic Replacement Using Functions

A powerful feature of replace() is its ability to accept a function as its second argument. This function is called for each match, and its return value is used as the replacement string.


let text = "I have 15 apples and 12 oranges."; let newText = text.replace(/\d+/g, (match) => { return parseInt(match) * 2; }); console.log(newText); // Output: "I have 30 apples and 24 oranges."

In this example, the function takes each number (matched by the regular expression \d+), doubles it, and uses this value as the replacement.

4. Accessing Match Information

When using a function for replacement, you can access detailed information about each match, such as the matched substring, its position, and the original string.


let text = "Hello World"; let newText = text.replace(/(\w+)/g, (match, p1, offset, string) => { return `[${match} at position ${offset} in '${string}']`; }); console.log(newText); // Output: "[Hello at position 0 in 'Hello World'] [World at position 6 in 'Hello World']"

In this example, the function replaces each word with a string that includes the matched word (match), its position (offset), and the original string (string).

What is replaceAll()?

Introduced in ES2021, replaceAll() is a string method designed to replace all occurrences of a specified substring.

Key Features of replaceAll():

  1. Literal String Replacement: Unlike replace(), replaceAll() only accepts a literal string as its search parameter, not a regular expression.

  2. Global Replacement Without Regex: It replaces all instances of the substring without the need for a regular expression or the global flag.

  3. Simplicity and Readability: This method is straightforward, making the code more readable, especially for those unfamiliar with regular expressions.

Example of replaceAll():

let text = "Hello World. Hello JavaScript."; let newText = text.replaceAll("Hello", "Hi"); console.log(newText); // Output: "Hi World. Hi JavaScript."

Here, replaceAll() conveniently replaces every instance of "Hello" with "Hi", without needing a regular expression.

Comparing replace() and replaceAll()

The primary difference lies in their approach to handling replacements:

  • replace(): Offers more flexibility and is suitable for complex patterns and dynamic replacements, thanks to its compatibility with regular expressions.

  • replaceAll(): Provides a simpler, more direct way to replace all occurrences of a substring, beneficial for straightforward string replacements.


Both replace() and replaceAll() serve important roles in string manipulation in JavaScript. The choice between them depends on the specific requirements of the task. replace() is the go-to for more complex patterns and when using regular expressions. At the same time, replaceAll() is ideal for simple, global replacements without the intricacies of regex. Understanding the nuances of each method empowers developers to write more efficient and readable JavaScript code.

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