What are the Differences Between substr() and substring() in JavaScript?

Find out the differences between the two substring methods in JavaScript

The main differences between substring() and substr() methods are as follows:

  1. They have different second arguments;
  2. Negative starting index has a different meaning in both;
  3. They have differences in return values if start index is greater.

Please note that the substr() method is considered a legacy feature in ECMAScript and might be removed in future versions. Therefore, it is best to avoid using it whenever possible.

Different Second Arguments

They both have a different second argument:

  • substring(startIndex[, endIndex]): takes the starting index as the first argument and an optional end index as the second argument;
  • substr(startIndex[, length]): takes the starting index as the first argument and an optional second argument to specify the number of characters to extract after the start index.

To illustrate these differences, let's consider the following examples:

'foobar'.substring(3, 6); // output: 'bar'
'foobar'.substr(3, 3); // output: 'bar'

'foobar'.substring(1, 3); // output: 'oo'
'foobar'.substr(1, 2); // output: 'oo'

Using Negative Indexes as the Start Index

  • If the start index of substring() is a negative number, then it is ignored and treated as 0;
  • If the start index of substr() is a negative number, then the index starts counting from the end of the string (and its value is capped at -str.length).

For example:

'foobar'.substring(-3, 3); // output: 'foo'
'foobar'.substr(-3, 3); // output: 'bar'

'foobar'.substring(-3); // output: 'foobar'
'foobar'.substr(-3); // output: 'bar'

If the second argument is negative for either of the methods, it is treated as 0.

Handling of Start Index Being Greater

Both methods handle the start index (i.e. the first argument) being greater than the second argument differently:

  • In substring(), if the start index is greater than the end index, then it is treated as if the two arguments were swapped;
  • In substr(), since the second argument is the number of characters to extract after the start index, it does not matter if the start index is greater or lesser than the second argument.

For example:

'foobar'.substring(3, 0); // output: 'foo'
'foobar'.substr(3, 0); // output: ''

'foobar'.substring(3, 1); // output: 'oo'
'foobar'.substr(3, 1); // output: 'b'

'foobar'.substring(3, 3); // output: ''
'foobar'.substr(3, 3); // output: 'bar'

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