The JavaScript unescape() Function

In the vast and dynamic world of JavaScript, various built-in functions help in manipulating, processing, and dealing with data. One of these functions, though a bit less common but still useful, is the unescape() function. This function provides an easy way to decode encoded URI components in your JavaScript code. But before we jump headfirst into how to use it, let's start by understanding what exactly it does.

Note: The unescape() function in JavaScript is used to decode a string that has been encoded by the escape() function. The escape() function encodes special characters and returns a new string where these characters are replaced with unique escape sequences. It's important to mention, though, that these two functions are deprecated in the current JavaScript standard (ECMAScript).

However, they are still widely supported across many browsers for backward compatibility.

Here's a basic usage example of the unescape() function:

let escapedString = escape('Hello, World!');
console.log(escapedString);  // 'Hello%2C%20World%21'

let unescapedString = unescape(escapedString);
console.log(unescapedString);  // 'Hello, World!'

In the example above, the string 'Hello, World!' gets encoded using the escape() function. The space and the exclamation mark become %20 and %21, respectively, in the encoded string. We can then use the unescape() function to decode this encoded string back to its original form.

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Now, let's imagine a scenario where you might want to use the unescape() function. Suppose you're working on a web project, and you have a URL string that has been previously escaped using escape(). Now, you want to display the URL in a human-readable form on your webpage. Here's how you could use unescape():

let escapedUrl = escape(', World!');
console.log(escapedUrl);  // 'https%3A//'

let unescapedUrl = unescape(escapedUrl);
console.log(unescapedUrl);  // ', World!'

Again, the unescape() function turns the encoded URL back into its original form.

While unescape() is useful and easy to use, you should know that the modern approach is to use decodeURI() or decodeURIComponent(). These functions provide more comprehensive support for UTF-8 encoding, which is important for supporting internationalized domain names and URLs.

If you're writing new JavaScript code, you should generally prefer decodeURI() or decodeURIComponent() over unescape()!


The unescape() function is a valuable tool in the JavaScript arsenal, especially when dealing with legacy code or systems that still use escape() for encoding. While it is not the modern way of decoding URI components due to its lack of full support for UTF-8 encoding, its simple usage and broad browser support can make it a good choice when backward compatibility is a priority.

Last Updated: July 27th, 2023
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