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JavaScript

Basics

Introduction

JavaScript is the most widely used client-side programming language that lets you supercharge your HTML with interactivity, animation and dynamic visual effect for better User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX). It is:

  • a small, lightweight, object-oriented, cross-platform, special-purpose scripting language meant to be run under a host environment (typically a web browser).
  • a client-side scripting language to enrich web user-interfaces and create dynamic web pages (e.g., form input validation, and immediate response to user's actions).
  • the engine that supports AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), which generate renew interest in JavaScript.

JavaScript works together with HTML/CSS. HTML provides the contents (or structure); CSS specifies the presentation; and JavaScript programs the behavior. Together, they enrich the UI/UX of the web users.

History and Versions

JavaScript, originally called LiveScript, was created by Brendan Eich at Netscape in 1995. Soon after, Microsoft launched its own version of JavaScript called JScript. Subsequently, Netscape submitted it to ECMA (formerly "European Computer Manufacturers Association", now "Ecma International - European association for standardizing information and communication systems") for standardization, together with Microsoft's JScript.

The ECMA Specification is called "ECMA-262 ECMAScript Language Specification" (also approved as "ISO/IEC 16262"):

Meanwhile, the Mozilla Project (@ https://developer.mozilla.org/en/JavaScript) continues to upgrade the JavaScript with these major versions:

  • 1.0 (1996)
  • 1.3 (1998): ECMA-262 version 1 compliance
  • 1.5 (1999): ECMA-262 version 3 compliance
  • 1.6, 1.7:
  • 1.8 (2008), Latest 1.8.5 (2010): ECMA-262 version 5 compliance
JavaScript vs. Java

Java is a full-fledged general-purpose programming language created by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle), released in Aug 1995. JavaScript is created by Brendan Eich at Netscape in 1995. Originally called LiveScript, it is a small and lightweight special-purpose language for writing client-side program running inside the web browser to create active user-interface and generate dynamic web pages. Java also supports client-side programming via the so-called Java applets.

JavaScript is not a general-purpose nor a stand-alone programming language (it has to be run inside the browser). It was originally called LiveScript and was renamed to JavaScript in an ill-fated marketing decision to try to capitalize on the popularity of Java language, when Netscape released it Navigator 2 in 1996 (Navigator 2 also runs the Java applets). Java and JavaScript are totally different languages for different programming purposes. However, in the early days, some efforts were made to adopt Java syntaxes and conventions into JavaScript, such that JavaScript seems to be a subset of Java. In reality, they have very little in common. But, if you know Java, you should find JavaScript easier to learn because of these common syntaxes.

What JavaScript CANNOT Do?

Remember that JavaScript is a client-side program that you downloaded from a server, and run inside the browser of your (client) machine. What to stop someone from writing a JavaScript that wipes out your hard disk, or triggers a denial-of-service attack to another server? As a result, for security purpose,

  1. It cannot read file from the client's machine.
  2. It can only connect to the server that it come from. It can read file from the server that it come from. It cannot write file into the server machine.
  3. It cannot connect to another server.
  4. It cannot close a window that it does not open.
JavaScript is Now Everywhere!

JavaScript was originally created as a client-side web programming language, running in a web browser, to supercharge HTML. It has grown beyond the client-side programming.

The popular Node.js is a standalone JavaScript engine that lets you run JavaScripts in a standalone manner (i.e., without a browser). Node.js also enables you to write server-side programs in JavaScript, i.e., you can now write both your client-side programs and server-side programs in the same language. Many front-end web development tools, such as Gulp.js and Bower, are built upon Node.js and programmed in JavaScript.

JavaScript is also used for writing scripts for Software such as Acrobat, Dreamweaver and Google Apps.

jQuery

jQuery is a cross-browser JavaScript Library. It is reported that more than 64% of the production websites are written in jQuery nowadays (as in May 2015). jQuery is JavaScript (but having its own extension syntax), hence, you need to understand JavaScript. I suggest you read through the JavaScript syntax (and pay particular attention to objects), and then switch into jQuery for your production. Read "jQuery Basics".

JavaScript by Examples

I shall assume that you know HTML and CSS (read my HTML/CSS articles otherwise). I shall also assume that you understanding some programming basics such as variables, if-else and for-loop constructs.

You need a text editor to write your JavaScript. You could use a plain text editor such as NotePad. But to improve your productivity, a good programming text editor is essential. There are many freeware/shareware available, such as Sublime Text (@ http://www.sublimetext.com/), NotePad++ (http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net), PSPad (www.pspad.com), TextPad (www.textpad.com). You can also use a full-scale IDE such as NetBeans or Eclipse, which provides content-assist (auto-complete) feature that greatly enhances your productivity.

JavaScripts run inside a browser. There are standards on JavaScript. But the Big-5 (Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari and Opera), in particular the IE, does not adhere to all the standards strictly. Furthermore, they create their own extensions. Hence, the behavior of JavaScript could be different in different browsers. You may need to test your JavaScripts on more than one browsers. [That's where jQuery comes in handy, as jQuery provides cross-browser support.]

Example 1: Functions alert() and document.write()

Let us write our first JavaScript to print the message "Hello, world".

Start with a new file and enter the following codes. Do not enter the line numbers, which is used to aid in explanation. Take note that:

  • JavaScript is case sensitive. A rose is NOT a ROSE and is NOT a Rose.
  • "Extra" white spaces (blanks, tabs and newlines) are ignored. That is, multiple white spaces is treated as a single blank character. You could use them liberally to make your program easier to read.

Save the file as "JSExAlertWrite.html" (or any filename that you prefer, with file extension of ".html" or ".htm"). Run the script by loading the HTML file into a JavaScript-enabled browser (e.g., One of the BIG FIVE - Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Opera).

How it Works?
  1. JavaScripts are programming codes that are embedded inside an HTML document. The codes are contained between a pair of <script> and </script> tags, as follows:
    <script>
      // Your JavaScript programming codes here!
    </script>
    NOTE: In HTML4/XHTML, you need to include attribute type="text/javascript" to the <script> opening tag.
  2. You could place the scripts in either the HEAD section (called header script) or BODY section (called body script) of an HTML document. You are free to embed as many scripts into a single document as you like, using multiple <script>...</script> element. Lines 7-9 and Line 13-17 are two pieces of JavaScripts, placed in the HEAD and BODY sections, respectively.
  3. JavaScript statements are terminated by a semicolon ';'.
  4. The alert(aString) function (Line 8) pops out a dialog box displaying the sString and a OK button. Strings are enclosed by a pair of double quotes or single quotes.
  5. The current web page is represented by the so-called document object in the JavaScript. The document.lastModified (Line 16) property stores the last modified date of the current document. The document.write(aString) function (Line 14 to 16) can be used to write the specified aString to the current document, as part of the current HTML document.
  6. The '+' operator (Line 16) concatenates pieces of the strings (similar to Java language).
  7. As a result of the document.write(), the BODY section of this document contains:
    <h1>My First JavaScript says</h1>
    <h2><em>Hello world, again!</em></h2><p>This document was last modified on mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm:ss.</p>
  8. The alert() and document.write() are some of the commonly-used built-in functions provided in JavaScript.

TRY: Print the document's title and the URL location. (Hints: use document.title and document.location properties.)

Don't Get Caught by the Cache - Do Control-Refresh (or Control-F5)

If you modify the codes and reload the web page, the new codes may not get executed because the browser caches the previously loaded version. You could use Control-F5 (Control-Refresh) to ask the browser to discard the cache, and fetch a new page.

Example 2: Variables and Functions prompt(), confirm()

This script prompts the user for his/her name, confirms the name, and prints a greeting message.

There are three kinds of pop-up dialog boxes for interacting with the users:

  1. The alert(aString) function puts the aString on a pop-up box with a OK button. User needs to click the OK button to continue.
  2. The prompt(promptingString, defaultInputString?) function puts up an input pop-up box with the promptingString with an OK and Cancel buttons. It returns the input entered by the user as a string; or a special value called null if the user hits the Cancel button. The optional parameter defaultString specifies the initial string to be shown. In this article, I shall indicate optional function parameters with a trailing '?' for compactness.
  3. The confirm(aString) function puts aString on a pop-up box with OK and Cancel buttons. It returns true if user hits the OK button; or false otherwise.
How it Works?
  1. Line 8 declares a variable called username, via the keyword var. A variable is a named storage location that holds a value. Once the variable is declared, you can assign (and re-assign) a value to that variable, via the assignment operator '=' (Line 9).
  2. Line 9 invokes the prompt(promptingString, defaultString?) function to pop out a dialog box, and reads in the string entered by the user. The string read is assigned to the variable username. The function prompt() is similar to the alert(), but it accepts a user's input.
  3. In Line 10, the confirm(aString) function puts up the message and returns either true or false, depending on whether the user hits the OK or Cancel button.
  4. If the result is true, Line 11 prints "Hello, username!". Otherwise, Line 13 prints "Hello, world!".

TRY: Instead of printing the greeting message using document.write(), do it via an alert().

Example 3: The Date Object

The following script creates a Date object representing the current date-time, and prints the current time.

How it Works?
  • Line 8 declares a variable called now. It also creates a Date object (via the new operator), which contains the current date-time stamp, and assign it to now.
  • "//" begins an end-of-line comment (Lines 8 and 9). Comments are ignored by the JavaScript engine but important in explaining your codes to others (and to yourself three days later).
  • Line 9 declares a variable called hrs. It also invokes the function getHours() on object now, in the form of now.getHours(), to retrieve the hour part of object now, and assign it to variable hrs. Lines 9 and 10, similarly, handle the minutes and seconds.
  • Line 12 to 14 use document.writeln() to write to the current document. writeln() (write-line) writes a newline (\n) after the given string. Take note that browser ignores extra white space (newlines, blanks, tabs) in an HTML document; you need to write a <p>...</p> or <br> tag to ask the browser to display a line break.
  • Lines 16-20 contains a conditional if-then-else statement. Depending on the value of hrs, one of the messages will be displayed.
TRY:
  1. Modify the above script to print the current date, month, year and day of the week. (Hints: Use functions getDate(), getMonth(), getFullYear() and getDay() of a Date object. getDate() returns 1-31. getMonth() returns 0 to 11 for January to December. getFullYear() returns a 4-digit year. getDay() returns 0 to 6 for Sunday to Saturday).
  2. Use a conditional statement to print the day of the week in word (i.e., 0 for Sunday, 1 for Monday and etc.). (Hints: Use the if-elseif-elseif...else construct as follow.)
    if ( condition-1 ) {
       block-1 ;
    } else if ( condition-2 ) {
       block-2 ;
    } else if ( condition-3 ) {
       block-3 ;
    ......
    ......
    } else {
       block-n ;
    }

Example 4: Loops

The following script prompts the user for a multiplier, and prints the multiples of 1 to 100 using a for-loop.

How it Works?
  • Line 11 prompts the user for a number, and assigns it to the variable multiplier.
  • Lines 12-14 contain a for-loop. A for-loop takes the following syntax:
    for ( initialization ; test ; post-processing ) {
       body ;
    }
    image

    There are four parts in a for-loop. Three of them, initialization, test and post-processing, are enclosed in brackets () and separated by 2 semicolons. The body contains the repetitive task to be performed. The initialization statement is first executed. The test is then evaluated. If the test returns true, the body is executed; followed by the post-processing statement. The test is evaluated again and the process repeats until the test returns false. When the test is false, the for-loop completes and program execution continues to the next statement after the for-loop. The following flow chart illustrates the for-loop process:

    In this example, the variable number is initialized to 1. If number is less than or equal to 100, the body of the loop executes, followed by the post-processing statement, which increment the value of number by 1. The loop repeats until the value of number is NOT less than or equal to 100 (i.e., more than 100).

TRY:
  1. Modify the above script to prompt the user for the multiplier as well as the number of multiples to be printed (in two prompt() statements).
  2. Modify the above script to print only multiples that are odd number. (Hint: The modulo operator "%" can be used to compute the remainder, e.g., x % 2 computes the remainder of x divides by 2, which results in either 0 or 1.)

Example 5: User-defined Functions and onclick Event Handler

Besides the JavaScript built-in functions such as alert(), prompt(), write(), and writeln(), you can define your own functions. A function has a name and a body consisting of a set of JavaScript statements that collectively performs a certain task. It may take zero or more argument(s) from the caller and return zero or one value back to the caller.

How it Works?
  • Lines 8-10 define a function called openNewWindow(), via the keyword function. The function invokes the built-in function open(url), which opens a new browser window (or tab) and loads the page "JSEx1.html".
  • Lines 15-16 create an HTML button. Clicking the button triggers the onclick event handler, i.e., openNewWindow() defined earlier.

TRY: Include another button, which opens "JSExVar.html".

Example 6: More Event Handlers: onload, onmouseover and onmouseout

JavaScript can be used to handle many types of events, in response to a user's action or browser's action. For example,

  • onload: fires after browser loaded the page.
  • onmouseover and onmouseout: fires when the user points the mouse pointer at/away from the HTML element.
Dissecting the Program
  • Line 8 defines a variable msgLoad, which holds the strings to be displayed in the onload event handlers.
  • In the <body> opening tag (Line 12), we define the onload event handler for the load event. It invokes alert() with the message defined earlier.
  • Line 13 and 14 defines the event handlers onmouseover and onmouseout for the HTML element <p>. The text's color will be changed to red when the user points the mouse pointer at the element (by setting the CSS style property color to red), and revert back to its original color when the mouse pointer is moved away (by resetting the CSS style property color to an empty string). The special keyword this refer to this object.

Example 7: Separating HTML, CSS and JavaScript

The previous example works fine. You will find many such example in textbooks, especially the older textbooks. However, it has a big problem. All the HTML contents, CSS presentation styles and JavaScript programming codes are placed in a single file. For a small toy program, the problem is not serious. But when your program grows and if the HTML, CSS and JavaScript are written by different people, you will have a real challenge in maintaining the program. Remember that HTML is for the contents, CSS for presentation and JavaScript for the behavior.

Let's rewrite the example to place the HTML, CSS and JavaScript in three different files.

How it Works?
  1. Placing the scripting codes inside the HTML page is not a good software engineering practice. Instead, the now-preferred approach is to place the scripts, as well as CSS styles, in external files, which can then uniformly applied to all pages in your website.
  2. Let's begin with the HTML file. Now, the HTML file keeps only the contents, no presentation style and nor programming logic.
    1. <link rel="stylesheet" href="JSExFiles.css">
      The CSS style sheet is kept in an external file, referenced via the above <link> tag.
      Note: In HTML4/XHTML1.0 you need to include attribute type="text/css" in the <link> opening tag.
    2. <script src="JSExFiles.js"></script>
      Also, the JavaScript programming code is kept in an external file, referenced via the above <script> tag. Take note that the closing tag </script> is needed, although there is no content.
      Note: In HTML4/XHTML1.0, you need to include attribute type="text/javascript" in the <script> opening tag.
    3. <p id="magic">Point your mouse pointer here!!!</p>
      We provide an unique id to this <p> tag. This id will be used in the JavaScript to select this tag.
  3. The CSS file contains only one style definition:
    .highlight { color:red; }
    This define a CSS Class-Selector called highlight to display the element with class="highlight" in color red.
  4. In the JavaScript:
    1. window.onload = function() { ... }
      We attach a so-called inline function as the onload event handler. This function will be invoked after the page is fully loaded.
    2. document.getElementById("magic").onmouseover = function() { this.className = "highlight"; }
      We use document.getElementById("magic") function to select the <p id="magic"> element. We then attach an inline function as the onmouseover event handler for this <p> element. When the user moves the mouse over this element, this function changes the class attribute to "highlight". In response, the CSS turns the <p> element to color red.
    3. document.getElementById("magic").onmouseout = function() { this.className = ""; }
      Similarly, when the user moves the mouse out of the <p id="magic"> element, the event handler changes the class attribute to "". In response, CSS changes the color to its default.
    4. alert("Hello!")
      This puts up an alert dialog box.

Example 8: Manipulating the Contents of HTML Elements

You can select HTML element(s) within the current page via these functions:

  1. document.getElementById(anId): returns the HTML element with id="anId", or null if the id does not exist. The id attribute should be unique within an HTML document.
  2. document.getElementsByTagName(aTagName): returns an array of HTML elements with the given HTML tag name.
  3. document.getElementsByClassName(aClassName): returns an array of HTML elements having attribute class="aClassName".
  4. document.getElementsByName(aName): returns an array of HTML elements having attribute name="aName".

To modify the content of an HTML element, you can assign a new value to the innerHTML property of that element. (The property innerHTML is really useful and is supported in most of the browsers. It is, however, not included in the W3C DOM specification?!)

How it works?
  1. This HTML document contains a <h1> element with an unique id="heading1" (Line 10), two <h2> elements (Line 11-12), three <p> elements with class="para" (Line 13-15), and three <input type="button"> with unique id (Line 16-18).
  2. In the user-defined function changeHeading1(), we use document.getElementById("heading1") to select the <h1> element, and then modify its innerHTML property.
  3. In changeHeading2() function, we use document.getElementsByTagName("h2") to select all the <h2> elements in an array elms. We then use a for-loop to iterate through all the elements in the array. The elms.length property keeps the length of the array.
  4. In changeParagraph() function, we use document.getElementsByClassName("para") to select all the <p> elements.
  5. The page contains three buttons to trigger the functions defined (Line 16-18).
  6. The script contains a function init(), which is assigned as the onload handler via window.onload=init. That is, init() will be triggered after the page is loaded. The init() function assigns onclick event handlers to the buttons, selected via document.getElementById() using the unique buttons' id.

TRY: [TODO]

Example 9: Intercepting a Hyperlink

This example uses a script to intercept a hyperlink to put up a warning message, then proceed to the link.

How it works?
  1. The HTML page has an hyperlink <a> with an unique id.
  2. The init() function assigns an onclick handler to the hyperlink, selected via document.getElementById().
  3. When the hyperlink is clicked, the onclick handler showWarning() triggered. If confirm() returns true, the new page will be loaded; otherwise, the current page remains.

TRY: [TODO]

More Advanced JavaScript Examples

More "Advanced JavaScript Examples".

Debugging JavaScripts

A good graphic debugger is a MUST for programming in any language. Programming in JavaScript, in particular, requires a graphic debugger. It is because JavaScripts are interpreted and does not need to be compiled. Hence, there is no compiler to show you the syntax errors. A simple and trivial syntax error (e.g., missing bracket, mis-spelling) will render the entire script not workable. Worst still, you would not see any error message when the script did not work. Can you debug without any error message or clue?

Without a graphic debugging, the only mean to debug JavaScript is to insert alert() at strategic locations to print out selected data.

After modifying a JavaScript, I recommend that you use Ctrl-F5 to refresh the page, which shall load a fresh copy instead of loading from the cache. You might need to clear the browser's cache or re-start the browser, if you modification does not take effect.

F12 Developer Tools

In Chrome and Firefox, you can press F12 to activate the developer Tools (hence called F12 Developer Tools).

Firefox: Firebug plug-in (or Web Developer Tools) - ESSENTIAL!!!

Simply GREAT and MUST HAVE for debugging HTML/CSS and JavaScript!!! You can install firebug from http://getfirebug.com/. It provides these features:

  1. Console: View the JavaScript error messages. Start the firebug and switch to the "Console" panel.
  2. Script: View and debug JavaScript. Start the firebug. Switch to the "Script" panel. "Enable" or "Reload" if necessary. You can set a breakpoint by clicking on the statement number, single step through the JavaScript statements, watch the expression, and etc. Read "JavaScript Debugger and Profiler".
  3. DOM: View the HTML DOM of the current document.
  4. HTML and CSS.

To debug JavaScript under Firebug:

  1. Launch Firebug ⇒ Choose the "Script" panel to view your JavaScript, shown with green-bold line numbers.
  2. Refresh (Ctrl-F5) the page, and check the error console (Under "Console" ⇒ "Errors") for syntax errors! Correct all the syntax errors.
  3. To trace the program, set breakpoints at selected JavaScript statements, by clicking on the right margin (to the left of line number). A red circle shows up denoting a breakpoint. Take note that you can only set breakpoint on statements with a green-bold line number. [If your JavaScript statements do not have a green-bold line number, there are syntax errors on these statements. You need to correct the syntax errors and reload the page.]
  4. Trigger the script (via clicking button/link, or reloading the page). The execution stops at the first breakpoint. You can then step-over the statement (or step-into function), and inspect the variables by positioning the mouse pointer on the variable; or add the variable to "watch".
  5. You can resume the execution (via the continue button).

Notes: If you get the error "Script Panel was inactive during page load" when switching into the "script" panel, you need to disable "private browsing" in Firefox's Tools ⇒ Options ⇒ Privacy.

Firefox also has a built-in "Web Developer Tools", having similar functions as Firebug plug-in.

Chrome: Developer Tools

You can activate Chrome's Developer Tools via "Control" ⇒ "More Tools" ⇒ "Developer Tools".

The console.log()

Instead of using alert() and document.write() to show the intermediate results, you can also use console.log(message[, element]), which writes the message and the value of the element to the error console. It does not interfere the appearance you web page nor your normal operations.

For example, modify the JavaScript in Example 8 to print the values of innerHTML before modification. You need to turn on the console (press F12) to see the output.

JavaScript IDE

Popular JavaScript IDEs are:

NetBeans

You can write JavaScripts by creating a web application under NetBeans (Read "Developing web application under NetBeans"), via "new" ⇒ "Others" ⇒ In "Categories", select "Other" ⇒ In "File Types", select "HTML File" or "JavaScript File". NetBeans provides content-assist (or auto-complete) feature, which greatly improves your productivity.

You need to use Firebug or Web developer Tools to debug JavaScript.

Eclipse

[TODO]

Aptana Studio

An open source IDE (based on Eclipse), which supports JavaScript and Ajax.

JavaScript and HTML

As seen from the previous examples, JavaScripts are embedded inside an HTML document, and executed by the browser. There are two occasions on which browser executes JavaScript instructions:

  1. JavaScripts enclosed in <script>...</script> runs during loading of the page.
  2. Some JavaScripts, called event handlers, run as a result of the user's or browser's action (or event). For example, clicking a button (onclick) or loaded a page (onload).

There are, therefore, two places to put your JavaScript:

  1. between <script> and </script> container tags; and
  2. inside the HTML tags as the event handlers (such as onclick, onmouseover, onload), e.g., onclick="JavaScriptStatements".

The <script> Element

The <script>...</script> element contains the JavaScript programming statements. For example,

<script>
... Your JavaScript statements here ...
</script>

In HTML4/XHTML1.0, you need to include the attribute type="text/javascript" in the <script> opening tag.

In <head> or <body>?

You can place your JavaScript in either the HEAD section (called Header Script) or BODY section (called Body Script) of an HTML document. Typically, global variables and function definitions are placed in HEAD section, which will always be loaded and available to be used by the scripts in the BODY section. If you script refers to the DOM elements. place it before the </body>, so as to ensure that the DOM is constructed. Placing the <script> outside the HEAD or BODY causes a HTML5 validation error.

External JavaScripts

The now-preferred approach is to keep the JavaScript in an external file with file extension of ".js", and reference it via the src (source) attribute as follows:

<script  src="JavaScriptFilename.js"></script>

Take note that the closing tag </script> is needed although there is no content!?

In HTML4/XHTML1.0, you need to include type="text/javascript" in the <script> opening tag.

The <noscript> Element

The <noscript>...</noscript> element provide an alternate message if scripting is disabled or not supported.

JavaScript Basic Syntax

Comments

Comments are ignored by the JavaScript runtime but greatly useful in explaining your codes to others (and also to yourself three days later). You should use comments liberally to explain or document your codes.

An end-of-line comment begins with // and lasts till the end of the current line. A multi-line comment begins with /* and lasts till */.

Take note that:

  • HTML comments are enclosed inside <!-- ... -->;
  • CSS uses /* ... */, but NOT //.
  • JavaScript supports both /* ... */ and //, like Java/C/C++.

Expression

An expression is a combination of variables, literals, operators, and sub-expressions that can be evaluated to produce a single value.

Statement and Block

A statement is a single instruction consisting of operators, variables and expression. It is strongly recommended to end each statement with a semicolon ';' (Although it is not strictly necessary as the new-line can also serve as the statement terminator in JavaScript).

A block consists of zero or more statements enclosed in a pair of curly braces { statements }. No semicolon is needed after the closing brace.

Variable, Literals & Types

Variables & Assignment Operator '='

A variable is a named storage location that holds a value, e.g., sum, average, name and message.

  • A variable name (aka identifier) must begins with a letter (a-z, A-Z), underscore '_', or dollar sign '$'. Subsequent characters could contain digits (0-9). Take that that jQuery uses $, $(), which are valid identifiers. Hyphen '-' and space are not allowed, hence, font-size, roman new, are NOT valid identifiers.
  • JavaScript is case sensitive. A ROSE is not a rose and is not a Rose.
  • A variable is declared using keyword var.
  • You can assign (and re-assign) a value to a variable using the assignment '=' operator.
Literals

A literal is a fixed value, e.g., 5566, 3.14, "Hello", true, that can be assigned to a variable, or form part of an expression.

Types

JavaScript is object-oriented. But, It supports both primitive types and objects.

JavaScript supports these primitive types:

  1. string: a sequence of characters. Strings literals are enclosed in a pair of single quotes or double quotes (e.g., "Hello", 'world').
  2. number: takes both integer (e.g., 5566) or floating-point (e.g., 3.14159265).
  3. boolean: takes boolean literal of either true or false (in lowercase).
  4. undefined: takes a special literal value called undefined. Take note that undefined is both a type and a literal value.
  5. symbol: new in ECMAScript 6. A data type whose instances are unique and immutable.

JavaScript also supports these object types and value (we shall discuss object later):

  1. object: for general objects.
  2. function: for function objects.
  3. null: A special literal value for unallocated object.

Unlike most of the general programming languages (such as Java/C/C++/C#) which are strongly type, JavaScript is loosely type (similar to most of the scripting languages such as UNIX Shell Script, Perl, Python). You do not have to explicitly declare the type of a variable (such as int and float) during declaration. The type is decided when a value is assigned to that variable. If a number is assigned, the variable takes on the number type and can perform numeric operations such as addition and subtraction. If a string is assigned, the variable takes on the string type and can perform string operations such as string concatenation.

Operator typeof

You can use the operator typeof to check the type of a variable.

The undefined Type and undefined Literal Value

An undeclared variable (via var keyword) takes on a special type called undefined. You cannot refer to its value.

When a variable is declared (via var keyword) without assigning an initial value, it takes on the type undefined and holds a special value called undefined (uninitialized is probably more precise?!), As soon as a value is assigned, the variable takes on the type of that value. The act of putting a value into a variable sets its type. You can change the type of a variable by re-assigning a value of another type. Types are converted automatically as needed during execution (known as dynamically-typed).

For examples,

// Undeclared variable v1
console.log('type:' + typeof v1);  // type: undefined
//console.log('value:' + v1);      // value: error: v1 is not defined
 
// Declare variable v1, without assigning an initial value
var v1;
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: undefined
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: undefined
 
// Assign a string value
v1 = 'abc';
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: string
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: abc
 
// Assign a number string
v1 = '123';
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: string
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: 123
 
// Assign an integer value
v1 = 123;
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: number
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: 123
 
// Assign a floating point value
v1 = 55.66;
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: number
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: 55.66
 
// Assign a boolean value
v1 = false;
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: number
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: 123

/* objects */
 
// null object
v1 = null;
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: object
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: null
 
// object
v1 = {name:'peter', age:21};
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: object
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: [object Object]
console.log('value: ' + v1.name);   // value: peter
console.log('value: ' + v1.age);    // value: 21
 
// Date object
v1 = new Date();
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: object
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: Tue May 26 2015 00:35:12 GMT+0800 (SGT)
 
// Function object
v1 = function() { return 'hello'; };
console.log('type: ' + typeof v1);  // type: function
console.log('value: ' + v1);        // value: function () { return 'hello'; }
Constants

You can create a read-only, named constant with the keyword const (in place of var). For example,

const SIZE = 9;

Unfortunately, the keyword const has yet to be widely supported by web browsers. So don't use.

The number Type, Literals & Operations

A variable of type number holds a number, either an integer or a floating-point number.

Integer literals can be expressed in:

  • Decimal: begins with a digit 1 to 9 (not 0), e.g., 123 or -456,
  • Octal: begins with a digit 0, e.g., 0123 or -0456,
  • Hexadecimal: begins with 0x (or 0X), e.g., 0xA1B2 or -0XA1B2.
  • Binary: begins with 0b (or 0B), e.g., 0b10011100 or -0B11001100. [Binary may not be supported in some browsers.]

Floating-point literals can be expressed in the usual form (e.g., 3.1416) or scientific notation, e.g., -1.23e4, 4.56E-7.

JavaScript also provides some special number literals:

  • infinity: e.g., 1/0
  • -infinity: e.g., -1/0
  • NaN (Not-a-Number): e.g., 0/0, or converting the string 'Hello' to a number.
Arithmetic Operations

Arithmetic operations, as tabulated below, can be applied to numbers. The following results are obtained assuming that x=5, y=2 before the operation.

Operator Description Example (x=5, y=2) Result
+ Addition z = x + y; z is 7
- Subtraction (or Unary Negation) z = x - y; z is 3
* Multiplication z = x * y; z is 10
/ Division z = x / y; z is 2.5
% Modulus (Division Remainder) z = x % y; z is 1
++ Unary Pre- or Post-Increment y = x++; z = ++x;
Same as: y = x; x = x+1; x = x+1; z = x;
y is 5; z is 7; x is 7
-- Unary Pre- or Post-Decrement y = --x; z = x--;
Same as: x = x-1; y = x; z = x; x = x-1;
y is 4; z is 4; x is 3

In JavaScript, arithmetic operations are always performed in double-precision floating-point. That is, 1/2 gives 0.5 (instead of 0 in Java/C/C++). You may use the built-in function parseInt() to truncate a floating-point value to an integer, e.g., parseInt(55.66) and parseInt("55.66") gives 55. You may also use the built-in mathematical functions such as Math.round(), Math.floor(), Math.ceil() for converting a floating-point number to an integer.

Arithmetic cum Assignment Operators

These are short-hand operators to combine two operations.

Operator Description Example Result
+= Addition cum Assignment x += y; Same as: x = x + y;
-= Subtraction cum Assignment x -= y; Same as: x = x - y;
*= Multiplication cum Assignment x *= y; Same as: x = x * y;
/= Division cum Assignment x /= y; Same as: x = x / y;
%= Modulus cum Assignment x %= y; Same as: x = x % y;
The Number Operations
  • parseInt(aString): Parse the aString until the first non-digit, and return the number; or NaN.
  • parseFloat(aString):
  • Math.round(aNumber), Math.floor(aNumber), Math.ceil(aNumber):
  • Math.random(): Generate a random number between 0 (inclusive) and 1 (exclusive).
  • isNaN(aString): return true if the aString is not a number. For example,
    console.log(isNaN('123'));     // false
    console.log(isNaN('1.23'));    // false
    console.log(isNaN('123abc'));  // true
    It is interesting to note that JavaScript does not have counterpart functions like isNumber(), isNumeric().
  • Number(aString): Return the number represented by aString, or NaN. Take that that this function name begins with uppercase, because this is a type casting operation.
  • .toFixed(deciamlPlaces): Return this number/string to the given number of decimal places. For example,
    var n = 1.2345;
    console.log(n.toFixed(2));  // 1.23
    console.log(n);             // 1.2345 - No change!

The string Type, Literals & Operations

A string is a sequence of characters enclosed within a pair of single quotes or double quotes (e.g., "Hello", 'world', "5566", '3.1416'). You can use an escape sequence to represent special characters (such as \n for new-line, \t for tab, and \uhhhh for Unicode character); and to resolve conflict (e.g., \", \', \\).

Unlike Java/C/C++, but like HTML/CSS's attributes, you can use either single quotes or double quotes for string. This is handy as you can use single quotes if the string contains double quotes (e.g., '<div id="header"></div>'), without using the escape sequences (e.g., "<div id=\"header\"></div>").

JavaScript is dynamically-type, and performs type conversion automatically. When a string value is used in arithmetic operations (such as subtraction or multiplication), JavaScript runtime automatically converts the string to a number if it represents a valid number; or a special number called NaN (not-a-number) otherwise. For example,

// In arithmetic operations, a string is converted to the number or NaN.
console.log('55' - '66');   // gives number -11 (subtraction)
console.log('55' * 2);      // gives number 110 (multiplication)
console.log('Hello' - 1);   // gives number NaN (subtraction failed)
The '+' Operator: Addition or Concatenation?

If both the operands to a '+' operator are numbers, it performs the usual numeric addition. However, if one (or both) of the operand is a string, the '+' operator is overloaded to perform string concatenation. The other operand will be converted to a string, if necessary. For example,

// '+' operator is overloaded to perform string concatenation if one of the operands is a string
console.log(11 + 22);       // gives Number 33 (usual addition)
console.log('11' + '22');   // gives string 1122 (concatenation)
console.log('11' + 22);     // gives string 1122 (concatenation)
console.log('Hello' + 22);  // gives string Hello22 (concatenation)
Built-in Functions parseInt(), parseFloat() and Number()

To convert a numeric string to a number, you could use the built-in functions parseInt() or parseFloat(), which returns a number if conversion is successful; or NaN otherwise. For example,

var magic = "11";   // string
console.log(magic + 22);      // string concatenation - string "1122"
console.log(parseInt(magic) + 22);   // Addition - number 33
console.log(parseInt(magic) + "22"); // string concatenation - string "1122"
console.log(parseInt(magic) + parseFloat("22.33"));  // Addition - number 33.33
console.log(parseInt("abc"));   // NaN

Take note that parseInt() works as long as the string begins with digits. It will parse up to the first non-digit. For example,

console.log(parseInt("10px"));   // Return number 10

You can also use the function Number(), which converts the object argument to a number that represents the object's value; or NaN if conversion fails. For example,

var magic = "8888"
console.log(magic + 8);         // string concatenation
console.log(Number(magic) + 8); // addition
 
// Number() also works on Object such as Date, e.g.,
console.log(new Date(2015, 5, 1, 12, 34, 56));
String's Properties
  • .length: E.g., aString.length returns the length of the string.
String's Operations
  • .toUpperCase(): returns the uppercase string.
  • .toLowerCase(): returns the lowercase string.
  • .charAt(index): returns the character at the index position. Index begins from 0. Negative index can be used, which counts from the end of the string.
  • .substring(beginIndex, endIndex): returns the substring from beginIndex (inclusive) to endIndex (exclusive).
  • .substr(beginIndex, length): returns the substring from beginIndex of length.
  • .indexOf(searchString, fromIndex?): Return the beginning index of the first occurrence of searchstring, starting from an optional fromIndex (default of 0); or -1 if not found.
  • .lastIndexOf(searchString, fromIndex?): Return the beginning index of the last occurrence of substring, starting from an optional fromIndex (default of string.length); or -1 if not found.
  • .slice(beginIndex, endIndex): Return the substring from beginIndex (inclusive) to endIndex (exclusive).
  • .split(delimiter): returns an array by splitting the string using delimiter.
  • Searching/Modifying Strings using Regular Expression: See "Regular Expression".
Multi-line String

You can create a multi-line string via back-quotes `...`. For example,

console.log(`string line 1
string line 2`);
// Same as
console.log('string line 1\nstring line 2');

The boolean Type, Literals & Operations

A variable of the type boolean holds a value of either true of false. true and false are keywords in JavaScript.

As mentioned, JavaScript performs automatic type conversion if necessary. During the type conversion, the following 6 values are converted to false:

  1. number 0
  2. number NaN (Not-a-Number),
  3. empty string ("", ''),
  4. undefined value,
  5. boolean false,
  6. null (unallocated) object.

All the other values are converted to true.

You need to memorize this: !value return true if value is one of these 6 values: 0, NaN, "", undefined, false, and null.

Comparison Operators

The following relational operators, which produce a boolean result, are defined in JavaScript. The results are obtained assuming num=8, str='8'.

Operator Description Example (num=8, str='8') Result
== Equal To
(in Value)
num == 8
str == '8'
num == str
8 == '8'
true
true
true
true
!= Not Equal To    
=== Strictly Equal To
(in Type and Value)
num === 8
str === '8'
num === str
8 === '8'
true
true
false
false
!== Strictly Not Equal To    
> Greater Than    
>= Greater Than or Equal To    
< Less Than    
<= Less Than or Equal To    
=== vs. ==

The strictly equality operator === returns true if both operands have the same type and same value; while == returns true if both operands have the same value, but may or may not be the same type.

JavaScript needs to provide two different equality operators, because it is loosely type and carries out automatic type conversion in many situation. For example,

  • When a number is compared with a string, the string is converted to a number (or NaN if it does not contain a valid number). Hence, (8 == "8") returns true. But, (8 === "8") returns false, because the operands are not of the same type.
  • ===, !==, ==, != can be applied to boolean (and all the JavaScript types), e.g., ("" == false) gives true (because empty string is converted to false); but ("" === false) gives true.
  • It is RECOMMENED to use === (or !==), instead of == (or !=), unless you are certain that type is not important.
String Sorting (Collation) Order

When two strings are compared, the encoding order (ASCII or Unicode table) is used. Hence, string "8" is greater than string "10".

For example,

// Comparing numbers
var x = 8;               // type:number, value:8
console.log(x == 8);     // true (same value)
console.log(x == '8');   // true (string converted to number)
console.log(x === 8);    // true (same type and value)
console.log(x === '8');  // false (different type)
 
console.log(x < 10);     // true
console.log(x < '10');   // true (string converted to number)
 
// Comparing two strings
console.log('8' < '10');      // false (comparing two strings alphabetically)
console.log('8' < '9');       // true (comparing two strings, not numbers)
console.log('Hello' < 'hi');  // true (comparing two strings)
Logical Operators

The following boolean (or logical) operators are provided in JavaScript:

Operator Description Example Result
&& Logical AND    
|| Logical OR    
! Logical NOT    
Short-Circuit Evaluation for Boolean Expressions

Evaluation of logical operations are always short-circuited. That is, the operation is terminated as soon as the result is certain, e.g., (false && ...) is short-circuited to give false, (true || ...) gives true, the ... will not be evaluated.

Explicit Type Conversion

The JavaScript runtime performs type conversion automatically. However, at times, you may need to convert from one type to another explicitly.

Converting a number to a string: Simply concatenate the number with an empty string, e.g., "" + 5 gives "5".

Converting a string to a number: Use built-in functions parseInt(string), parseFloat(string) or Number(string) to convert a string which contains a valid number. For example, parseInt("55") gives 55, parseInt(55.66) gives 55, parseInt("55.66") gives 55, parseFloat("55.66") gives 55.66, parseInt("55px") gives 55, but parseInt("Hello") gives NaN.

Converting a float to an integer: Use parseInt() (e.g., parseInt(55.66) gives 55), or built-in mathematical functions such as Math.round(), Math.ceil() or Math.floor().

Flow Control - Decision

JavaScript provides these flow control construct. The syntax is the same as Java/C/C++.

Syntax Example
if (condition) {
  trueBlock;
}
if (day === 'sat' || day === 'sun') {
   alert('Super weekend!');
}
if (condition) {
  trueBlock;
} else {
  falseBlock;
}
if (day === 'sat' || day === 'sun') {
   alert('Super weekend!');
} else {
   alert('It is a weekday...');
}
variable = (condition) ? trueValue : falseValue;
Same as
if (condition) { variable = trueValue; }
else { variable = falseValue; }
var max = (a > b) ? a : b;
var abs = (a >= 0) ? a : -a;
if (condition1) {
  block1; 
} elseif (condition2) {
  block2;
} elseif (...) {
......
} else {
  elseBlock;
}
if (day === 'sat' || day === 'sun') {
   alert('Super weekend!');
} else if (day === 'fri') {
   alert("Thank God, it's Friday!");
} else {
   alert('It is a weekday...');
}
switch (expression) {
  case value1:
    statements; break;
  case value2:
    statements; break;
  ......
  ......
  default:
    statements;
}
switch (day) {
   case 'sat': case 'sun': 
      alert('Super weekend!'); break;
   case 'mon': case 'tue': case 'wed': case 'thu': 
      alert('It is a weekday...'); break;
   case 'fri': 
      alert("Thank God, it's Friday"); break;
   default: 
      alert("You are on earth?! Aren't you?");
}

Flow Control - Loops

JavaScript provides the following loop constructs. The syntax is the same as Java/C/C++.

Syntax Example
while (test) {
  trueBlock;
}
// Sum from 1 to 100
var sum = 0, number = 1;
while (number <= 100) {
   sum += number;
}
do {
  trueBlock;
} while (test);
// Sum from 1 to 100
var sum = 0; number = 1;
do {
  sum += number;
}
for (initialization; test; post-processing) {
  trueBlock;
}
// Sum from 1 to 100
var sum = 0;
for (var number = 1; number <= 100; number++) {
   sum += number;
}
break, continue and label

The following loop-control statements are provided (same syntax as Java/C/C++):

  • break - exit the innermost loop.
  • continue - abort the current iteration, and continue to the next iteration.
  • label: - provide an identifier for a statement, which can be used by break label and continue label.

Try to avoid these statements, as they are hard to trace and maintain.

Arrays

An array is an indexed collection. An array can be used to store a list of items (elements) under a single name with an integral index. You can reference individual element via the integral index in the form of anArrayName[anIndexNumber]. Furthermore, you can conveniently process all the elements of an array collectively via a loop.

Creating an Array via Array Initializer

You can create an array by assigning an array literal to a variable, known as Array Initializer, in the form of [value1, value2, ...]. For examples,

// Create an array by declaring a variable and assign an array literal
var weekdays = ["sun", "mon", "tue", "wed", "thu", "fri", "sat"];
 
// You can print out an array
document.writeln(weekdays);      // sun,mon,tue,wed,thu,fri,sat
console.log(weekdays);           // ["sun", "mon", "tue", "wed", "thu", "fri", "sat"]
// A JavaScript Array is actually an object
console.log(typeof weekdays);    // object
 
// You can get the length of the array via .length property
console.log(weekdays.length);    // 7
 
// A JavaScript array can contain mixed types (number, string, boolean)
var somethings = [1, 2.3, "abc", false];
console.log(somethings);         // [1, 2.3, "abc", false]
console.log(somethings.length);  // 4
 
// A JavaScript array is dynamically allocated
var fruits = [];             // begins with an emtpy array
console.log(fruits);         // []
console.log(fruits.length);  // 0
 
// Dynamically add an item
fruits[0] = "apple";
console.log(fruits);         // ["apple"]
console.log(fruits.length);  // 1
 
// Add an item, skipping some indexes
fruits[3] = "orange";
document.writeln(fruits);    // apple,,,orange
console.log(fruits);         // ["apple", 3: "orange"]
console.log(fruits.length);  // 4
 
// Push an item at the end of the array
fruits.push('banana');
document.writeln(fruits);    // apple,,,orange,banana
console.log(fruits);         // ["apple", 3: "orange", 4: "banana"]
console.log(fruits.length);  // 5
 
// Traversing an array via for-loop with index
for (var i = 0; i < fruits.length; ++i) {
   console.log(i + ": " + fruits[i]);
}
  // 0: apple
  // 1: undefined
  // 2: undefined
  // 3: orange
  // 4: banana
 
// Using the JavaScript's "for-index-in" loop
for (var i in fruits) {
   console.log(i + ": " + fruits[i]);
}
  // 0: apple
  // 3: orange
  // 4: banana
  // (The undefined indexes were skipped)
 
// Using the JavaScript's "for-item-of" loop
for (var item of fruits) {
   console.log(item);
}
  // apple
  // undefined
  // undefined
  // orange
  // banana
  // (The undefined items were not skipped)

Take note that JavaScript's array literal is enclosed in square bracket [...], instead of {...} in Java/C/C++. JavaScript uses {...} for object literal (to be discussed later).

You can also use an Array Initializer to create an array with missing indexes. For example,

var fruits = ['apple', , , 'orange'];
console.log(fruits);  // ["apple", 3: "orange"]
                      // fruits[1] and fruits[2] are undefined
Accessing an Item

You can access individual element of an array via an integral index, in the form of anArrayName[anIndexNumber]. The index of the array begins at 0, and shall be a non-negative integer.

Array's length

The length of the array is maintained in a variable called length, which can be accessed via anArrayName.length. In fact, the property .length returns the last integral index plus 1, as JavaScript's array index is 0-based. Nonetheless, you are allow to manipulate the .length. For example,

a = ['11', '22', '33'];
console.log(a);        // ["11", "22", "33"]
console.log(a.length); // 3
 
a.length = 10;
console.log(a);        // ["11", "22", "33"]
console.log(a.length); // 10

Clearly, setting the .length does not affect the array elements.

Dynamic Array

Unlike Java/C/C++, the JavaScript array is dynamically allocated. You can add more elements to an array. You can also remove the content of an element using keyword delete. For examples,

var days = ["sun", "mon", "tue"];
console.log(days.length);  // 3
console.log(days);         // ["sun", "mon", "tue"]
 
// Dynamically add an item
days[5] = "fri";
console.log(days.length);  // 6
console.log(days);         // ["sun", "mon", "tue", 5: "fri"] (items in between are undefined)
 
// Remove an item. Set to undefined.
delete days[1];
console.log(days.length);  // 6
console.log(days);         // ["sun", 2: "tue", 5: "fri"]
 
// Push an item at the end
days.push("sat");
console.log(days.length);  // 7
console.log(days);         // ["sun", 2: "tue", 5: "fri", 6: "sat"]
 
// Remove the last item
console.log(days.pop());   // sat
console.log(days.length);  // 6
console.log(days);         // ["sun", 2: "tue", 5: "fri"]
 
// Add an item in front, shifting the indexes
days.unshift("hi");
console.log(days.length);  // 7
console.log(days);         // ["hi", "sun", 3: "tue", 6: "fri"]
 
// Remove an item in front, shifting the indexes
console.log(days.shift()); // hi
console.log(days.length);  // 6
console.log(days);         // ["sun", 2: "tue", 5: "fri"]
 
// Negative index?
days[-9] = 'hello';
console.log(days.length);  // 6
console.log(days);         // ["sun", 2: "tue", 5: "fri", -9: "hello"]
   // The index -9 is considered as an object property,
   // outside the numerical indexes (to be discussed later)
Accessing All Items using for-loop with index

Array is usually processed collectively using a loop, e.g.,

var days = ['sun', 'mon', 'tue', 'wed', 'thu', 'fri', 'sat'];
for (var i = 1; i < days.length; ++i) {
   console.log(i + ": " + days[i]);
}
  // 1: mon
  // 2: tue
  // 3: wed
  // 4: thu
  // 5: fri
  // 6: sat
The JavaScript's for-index-in loop

JavaScript provides a special for-index-in loop to process all the elements in an array. The syntax is as follows, where index takes on the each of the index number of element which are not undefined.

for (var index in arrayName) { ... }

For example,

var months = ["jan", "feb"];  // index 0 and 1
months[11] = "dec";           // indexes 2 to 10 undefined
for (var i in months) {
   console.log(i + ": " + months[i]);
}
   // 0: jan
   // 1: feb
   // 11: dec
The JavaScript's for-item-of loop

JavaScript provides a special for-item-of loop to process all the elements in an array. The syntax is as follows, where item takes on the each of the element including the undefined.

for (var item of arrayName) { ... }
Add/Remove item(s)

You can:

  • Use array.length to add one item to the end of an array.
  • Use delete to remove a particular index (set it to undefined).
  • Use push() to add one or more items to the end of an array. push() returns the resultant length of the array.
  • Use unshift() to add one or more items to the beginning of an array. unshift() returns the resultant length of the array.
  • Use pop() to remove and return the last item of an array.
  • Use shift() to remove and return the first item of an array.

For examples,

Purpose Example
Add one item to the end using array.length
var a = [0, 'a', 'b'];
a[a.length] = 3;
console.log(a.length); // 4
console.log(a);        // [0, "a", "b", 3]
Add one or items to the end using push().
push() returns the resultant length of the array.
var a = [0, 'a', 'b'];
console.log(a.push(1, 'c')); // 5
console.log(a.length);       // 5
console.log(a);              // [0, "a", "b", 1, "c"]
Add one or items to the beginning using unshift().
unshift() returns the resultant length of the array.
var a = [0, 'a', 'b'];
console.log(a.unshift(-2, -1, 'c')); // 6
console.log(a.length);               // 6
console.log(a);   // [-2, -1, "c", 0, "a", "b"]
Remove and return the last item using pop()
var a = [0, 'a', 'b'];
console.log(a.pop());  // b
console.log(a.length); // 2
console.log(a);        // [0, "a"]
Remove and return the first item using shift()
var a = [0, 'a', 'b'];
console.log(a.shift()); // 0
console.log(a.length);  // 2
console.log(a);         // ["a", "b"]
Array's Properties and Operations

The Array object has these commonly-used properties:

  • .length: the number of items including undefineds. In fact, .length is set to the last index plus 1.

It has these commonly-used methods:

  • .join([separator]): join the elements of an array together into a single string, separated by the separator (defaulted to ','). For example,
    var fruits = ["apple", "orange", "banana"];
    console.log(fruits.join());     // apple,orange,banana (string)
    console.log(fruits.join("|"));  // apple|orange|banana (string)
  • aString.split([separator, limit]): Reverse of join(). Take a string and split into an array based on the separator. For example,
    var str = 'apple, orange, banana';
    var fruits = str.split();
    console.log(fruits);   // ["apple, orange, banana"]  (3 items)
     
    str = 'apple|*|orange|*|banana';
    fruits = str.split();
    console.log(fruits);   // ["apple|*|orange|*|banana"]  (one item)
     
    fruits = str.split('|*|');
    console.log(fruits);   // ["apple", "orange", "banana"]  (3 items)
     
    fruits = str.split('*');
    console.log(fruits);   // ["apple|", "|orange|", "|banana"]  (3 items)
  • .concat(value1, value2, ..., valueN): returns a new array composing of this array and the given arrays or values. For example,
    var fruits = ['apple', 'orange'];
    moreFruits = fruits.concat('banana', 'watermelon');
    console.log(moreFruits);  // ["apple", "orange", "banana", "watermelon"]
    console.log(fruits);      // ["apple", "orange"]  (No change!)
  • .reverse(): reverses the order of elements in the array, the first becomes last. For example,
    var a = ["1", "2", "3", "4", "5"];
    a.reverse();
    console.log(a);   // ["5", "4", "3", "2", "1"]
  • .sort(): sorts the elements in the array. For example,
    var a = ["8", "10", "a", "b"];
    a.sort();
    console.log(a);   // ["10", "8", "a", "b"]
       // Strings are sorted based on ASCII (Unicode) order.
       // Hence, "10" is before "8", as '1' is before '8'
     
    a = [8, 20, 5, 100];
    a.sort();
    console.log(a);   // [100, 20, 5, 8]
       // numbers are also sorted based on ASCII (Unicode) order!!!
    Take note take, by default, number are also sorted based on ASCII (Unicode) order. To sort numbers numerically, you can supply a callback comparison function. The function shall take 2 arguments, say a and b, and return a negative number if a < b; a positive number if a > b; and 0 if a == b. For example,
    var a = [8, 20, 5, 100];
    a.sort( function(a, b) { return a - b; } );
    console.log(a);   // [5, 8, 20, 100]
  • .slice(beginIndex, endIndex): extracts and returns a section of an array from beginIndex (inclusive) to endIndex (exclusive). For example,
    var a = ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e"];
    console.log(a.slice(1, 4));  // ["b", "c", "d"]
                                 // include start index but exclude end index
    console.log(a);              // ["a", "b", "c", "d", "e"]  (No Change)
  • .splice(startIndex, countToRemove, insertItem1, insertItem2, ...): removes elements from an array, and insert elements at its place. For example,
    var a = ["1", "2", "3", "4", "5"];
    a.splice(2, 2, "a", "b", "c", "d");
    console.log(a);   // ["1", "2", "a", "b", "c", "d", "5"]
       // 2 elements starting at index 2 (i.e., indexes 2 and 3) were removed
       //   and the given elements inserted at its place (index 2).
       // Renumber the indexes.
    console.log(a.length);   // 7
  • .indexOf(searchItem[, startIndex]) and .lastIndexOf(searchItem[, startIndex]): search for the index of the item forward or backward. It returns -1 if item cannot be found. For example,
    var a = ['a', 'b', 'c', 'a', 'b', 'c'];
    var searchItem = 'b';
    var idx = a.indexOf(searchItem)
    console.log(idx);  // 1
     
    // Search again from the last found index
    idx = a.indexOf(searchItem, idx + 1)
    console.log(idx);  // 4
     
    idx = a.indexOf(searchItem, idx + 1)
    console.log(idx);  // -1 (not found)
     
    // Search backwards
    console.log(a.lastIndexOf('a'));    // 3
    console.log(a.lastIndexOf('a', 2)); // 0
  • .push(): adds one or more elements to the end of an array and returns the resultant length of the array.
  • .pop(): removes and return the last element from an array.
  • .shift(): removes and returns the first element from an array.
  • .unshift(): adds one or more elements to the front of an array and returns the resultant length of the array.

Arrays also support these iterative methods that iterate through each item of the array:

  • .forEach(callback): takes a function with an argument which iterates through all the items in the array.
    var fruits = ['apple', 'orange', 'banana'];
    fruits.forEach( function(item) {
       console.log('processing item: ' + item);
    });
          // processing item: apple
          // processing item: orange
          // processing item: banana
    NOTE: Using for-index-in or for-item-of or simple for loop is probably more conventional.
  • .map(callback): return a new array, which contains all the return value from executing callback on each item. For example,
    var fruits = ['apple', 'orange', 'banana'];
    var results = fruits.map( function(item) {
       console.log('processing item: ' + item);
       return item.toUpperCase();
    });
    console.log(results);
          // processing item: apple
          // processing item: orange
          // processing item: banana
          // ["APPLE", "ORANGE", "BANANA"]
  • .filter(callback): return a new array, containing the items for which callback returned true. For example,
    var fruits = ['apple', 'orange', 'banana'];
    var result = fruits.filter( function(item) {
       console.log('processing item: ' + item);
       return /.*e$/.test(item);   // ends with 'e'?
    });
    console.log(result);
          // processing item: apple
          // processing item: orange
          // processing item: banana
          // ["apple", "orange"]
  • .every(callback): return true if callback returns true for ALL items.
  • .some(callback): return true if callback returns true for at least one item in the array.

For detailed specification and examples about a built-in object, check "Core JavaScript References".

Associative Array

An associative array is an array of key-value pair. Instead of using numbers 0, 1, 2,... as keys as in the regular array, you can use anything (such as string) as key in an associative array. Associative arrays are used extensively in JavaScript and jQuery.

JavaScript does not support native associative array (it actually does not support native array too). In JavaScript, associative arrays (and arrays) are implemented as objects (to be elaborate later).

You can create an associative array via the Object Initializer. For example,

// Create an associative array of key-value pairs
var aStudent = {
   name:      'peter',  // string
   id:        8888,     // number
   isMarried: false     // boolean
};
 
// Add a new property via "index" operator, like an array
aStudent['age'] = 24;
 
// Use for..in loop to access all items
for (key in aStudent) {
   console.log(key + ": " + aStudent[key]);
}
   // name: peter
   // id: 8888
   // isMarried: false
   // age: 24
 
// An associative array is actually an object
console.log(typeof aStudent);  // object
 
// You can also access a property via "dot" operator, like an object
aStudent.height = 190;
console.log(aStudent.height);   // 190

Take note that Array initializer uses square brackets [ ... ]; while object initializer (for associative array) uses curly brackets { ... }.

Functions

Functions are useful:

  • when you have to use the same codes several times.
  • as the JavaScript event handler.
  • make your program easier to read and understood.

A function accepts zero or more arguments from the caller, performs the operations defined in the body, and returns zero or a single result to the caller.

The syntax for user-defined function is:

function functionName(argument1, argument2, ...) {
  statements;
  ......
  return aValue;
}

Functions are declared using the keyword function. You do not have to specify the return-type and the types of the arguments because JavaScript is loosely typed. You can use a return statement to return a single piece of result to the caller anywhere inside the function body. If no return statement is used (or a return with no value), JavaScript returns undefined. Functions are generally defined in the HEAD section, so that it is always loaded before being invoked.

To invoke a function:

functionName(argument1, argument2, ...)

Example:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<!-- "JSFunDemo.html" -->
<html lang="en">
<head>
<meta charset="utf-8">
<title>Function Demo</title>
<script>
  function add(item1, item2) {             // Take two numbers or strings
     return Number(item1) + Number(item2); // Simply item1 + item2 concatenate strings
  }
</script>
</head>
<body>
<script>
  var number1 = prompt('Enter the first integer:');  // returns a string
  var number2 = prompt('Enter the second integer:'); // returns a string
  alert('The sum is ' + add(number1, number2));
</script>
</body>
</html>
Function's arguments

Function has access to an additional variable called arguments inside its body, which is an array containing all the arguments. For example,

<!DOCTYPE html>
<!-- "JSFunArguments.html" -->
<html lang="en">
<head>
<meta charset="utf-8">
<title>Function Demo - Using the "arguments" variable</title>
<script>
  function add() {
    var sum = 0;
    for (var i = 0; i < arguments.length; i++) {
      sum += Number(arguments[i]);
    }
    return sum;
  }
</script>
</head>
<body>
<script>
  document.write(add(1, 2, 3, 4, 5) + "<br>");
  document.write(add(1, 2) + "<br>");
  document.write(add(1.1, "2.2") + "<br>");
</script>
</body>
</html>
Pass by Value vs. Pass by Reference

In JavaScript, primitive arguments are passed by value. That is, a copy of the variable is made and passed into the function. On the other hand, objects are passed by references. That is, if you modify the content of an object inside the function, the "copy" outside the function is also affected.

Functions are objects in JavaScript (to be discussed later).

The Default Function Arguments

JavaScript lets you invoke a function omitting some trailing arguments. It sets the omitted arguments to the value undefined. For example,

// Define a function with 3 parameters
function f1(a1, a2, a3) {
   console.log('a1: type is ' + typeof a1 + ', value is ' + a1);
   console.log('a2: type is ' + typeof a2 + ', value is ' + a2);
   console.log('a3: type is ' + typeof a3 + ', value is ' + a3);
}
 
// Invoke the function with varying number of arguments
f1('hello');
   // a1: type is string, value is hello
   // a2: type is undefined, value is undefined
   // a3: type is undefined, value is undefined
 
f1(1, 2);
   // a1: type is number, value is 1
   // a2: type is number, value is 2
   // a3: type is undefined, value is undefined
 
f1('hello', 1, 2);
   // a1: type is string, value is hello
   // a2: type is number, value is 1
   // a3: type is number, value is 2

You can use this feature to provide default value to function argument, for example,

// Define a function with default arguments
function f2(a1, a2, a3) {
   // Set default for a2, if a2 is missing or null in function call
   if (a2 === undefined || a2 === null) a2 = 88;
 
   // Set default to a3
   // a3 evaluates to false for undefined, null, '', 0, NaN, false
   a3 = a3 || 'myDefault';   // more concise
 
   console.log('a2: type is ' + typeof a2 + ', value is ' + a2);
   console.log('a3: type is ' + typeof a3 + ', value is ' + a3);
}
 
// Invoke function with all the arguments
f2('hello', 1, 2);
   // a2: type is number, value is 1
   // a3: type is number, value is 2
 
// Invoke function with omitted trailing arguments
f2('hello');
   // a2: type is number, value is 88
   // a3: type is string, value is myDefault
 
f2('hello', null, null);
   // a2: type is number, value is 88
   // a3: type is string, value is myDefault

In the above example, we allow caller to omit the trailing arguments (a2, a3) or pass a null value (which is a special literal for unallocated object).

The common idiom in practice today is to use the short-circuited OR expression (as in a3) to provide default value if no value (undefined or null) is passed, provided the valid inputs cannot be false, 0, '', and NaN that evaluate to false.

Anonymous (Inline) Functions

In JavaScript, you can define an anonymous function (without a function name) using the following syntax:

function( parameters ) {  ....  }

Anonymous function is often used in event handlers and others.

Function Variables

In JavaScript, a variable can hold a primitive (number, string, boolean). It can also hold a function object. For example,

// Define a named function f1()
function f1(a1) {
   return 'run f1()';
}
console.log(f1);           // function f1(a1)
console.log(f1('hello'));  // run f1()
 
// Declare a variable f2 and assign it an anonymous function
// Same as above!
var f2 = function(a2) {
   return 'run f2()';
}
console.log(f2);            // function f2(a2)
console.log(f2('hello'));   // f2(a2)
 
// Define a variable f3 and assign it a named function
var f3 = f1;
console.log(f3);            // function f1(a1)
console.log(f3('hello'));   // run f1()
Two Ways in defining a function

As seen in the above example, there are two ways to define a function:

  1. Use a function declaration statement in the form of:
    function funcationName ( parameters ) { ...... }
  2. Use a function expression by assigning an anonymous function to a variable:
    var functionVarName = function ( parameters ) { ...... }
Function as Argument

Recall that a function takes zero or more arguments from the caller. In JavaScript, the argument can be of any types: primitive, object or even function. That is, a function may take another function as its argument.

For example, the following function take a function and an array as its arguments, and apply the function to the array.

// Define a function, which takes a function and an array as its arguments,
// and apply the function to each item of the array.
function processArray (inFun, inArray) {
   var resultArray = [];
   for (var i in inArray) {
      // apply function to each item of the inArray
      resultArray[i] = inFun(inArray[i]);
   }
   return resultArray;
}
 
// Passing an anonymous function
// Square each item of an array
console.log(processArray( function(x) { return x*x; }, [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] ));
      // [1, 4, 9, 16, 25]
 
// Cubic each item of an array
console.log(processArray( function(x) { return x*x*x; }, [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] ));
      // [1, 8, 27, 64, 125]
 
// Passing a named function
function cube(x) { return x*x*x; }
console.log(processArray( cube, [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] ));
      // [1, 8, 27, 64, 125]
Nested Function

In JavaScript, you can define a function inside a function. For example,

function f1(msg1) {
   console.log('in f1() with message:' + msg1);
   // Define a function inside a function
   function f2(msg2) {
      console.log('in f2() with message:' + msg2);
      return 'f2:' + msg2;
   }
   // Invoke the nested function
   return 'f1:' + f2(msg1);
}
 
// Invoke the main function
console.log(f1('hello'));
      // in f1() with message:hello
      // in f2() with message:hello
      // f1:f2:hello
Function as the return value

You can return a function from a function. For example,

function main(op) {
   var add = function(a1, a2) {
      console.log('in add');
      return a1 + a2;
   };
 
   if (op === 'add') {
      return add;   // return a named nested function
   } else if (op === 'mul') {
      return function(a1, a2) {
         console.log('in mul');
         return a1 * a2
      };            // return a function anonymously defined
   } else {
      return "error: invalid argument";
   }
}
 
// Invoke the main function
console.log(main('add')(1, 2));
      // in add
      // 3
 
console.log(main('mul')(3, 4));
      // in mul
      // 12

Scope of a Variable: Global vs. Function-Local

When you declare a variable outside of any function, it is called a global variable, and available to all codes in the current document. When you declare a variable within a function, it is called a local variable, and available only within that function. For example,

// global variable
var gvar = 8;
 
function sayHello() {
   // local variable
   var lvar = 'hello';
   console.log(gvar);  // can access global variable
   console.log(lvar);
   return lvar;
}
sayHello();
 
console.log(gvar);  // can access global variable
//console.log(lvar);  // error: lvar is not defined
                      // cannot access local variable outside the function

JavaScript does not have a block scope. A variable defined inside a block is either a local variable to the enclosing function, or global. For example,

// global variable
for (var i = 0; i < 5; ++i) {
   var msg = 'hello';
   console.log(i);
}
console.log(i);   // 5 (i is global, not block-scope)
console.log(msg); // hello (msg is also global, not block-scope)

NOTE: ECMAScript 6 introduces the let variable declaration, which is block-scope. You use the let keyword (instead of var) to define a variable. However, ECMAScript 6 is still experimental and not widely supported.

Interacting with Users

JavaScript provides these built-in top-level functions for interacting with the user:

  • alert(string): Pop-up a box to alert user for important information. The user will have to click "OK" to proceed. The alert() returns nothing (or undefined).
  • prompt(string, defaultValue): Pop-up a box to prompt user for input, with an optional defaultValue. The prompt() returns the user's input as a string. For example,
    var number1 = prompt('Enter the first integer:');
    var number2 = prompt('Enter the second integer:');
    alert('The sum is ' + number1 + number2);                   // Concatenate two strings
    alert('The sum is ' + (Number(number1) + Number(number2))); // Add two numbers
  • confirm(string): Pop-up a box and ask user to confirm some information. The user will have to click on "OK" or "Cancel" to proceed. The confirm() which returns a boolean value. For example,
    var isFriday = confirm("Is it Friday?");  // Returns a boolean
    if (isFriday) {
       alert("Thank God, it's Friday!");
    } else {
       alert('Not a Friday');
    }
  • document.write(string), document.writeln(string): Write the specified string to the current document. The writeln() (write-line) writes a newline after the string, while write() does not. Take note that browsers ignores extra white spaces (blanks, tabs, newlines) in an HTML document, and treat multiple white spaces as a single blank character. You need to write a <br> or <p>...</p> tag to ask the browser to display a line break.
  • console.log(value): write to the JavaScript console, used mainly for debugging.

Other Top-level Built-in Functions

JavaScript also pre-defines the following top-level global functions.

  • parseInt(string), parseFloat(string): parses the given string and returns the numeric value or NaN (Not-A-Number). The parseInt(str, radix) accepts an optional radix (or base). For example,
    var a = parseInt("88");
    console.log('type: ' + typeof a + ', value: ' + a); // type: number, value: 88
     
    a = parseInt("88.99");
    console.log('type: ' + typeof a + ', value: ' + a); // type: number, value: 88
     
    a = parseInt("14px");
    console.log('type: ' + typeof a + ', value: ' + a); // type: number, value: 14
     
    a = parseInt("Hello");
    console.log('type: ' + typeof a + ', value: ' + a); // type: number, value: NaN
     
    a = parseFloat("88.99");
    console.log('type: ' + typeof a + ', value: ' + a); // type: number, value: 88.99
     
    a = parseFloat("0.5%");
    console.log('type: ' + typeof a + ', value: ' + a); // type: number, value: 0.5
     
    a = parseFloat('Hi');
    console.log('type: ' + typeof a + ', value: ' + a); // type: number, value: NaN
  • Number(object): returns the number representation of the object. It works for String object, as well as many objects such as Date.
  • isFinite(number): returns true if number is not NaN, Infinity or -Infinity.
  • isNaN(number): returns true if number is NaN. Useful for checking the output of parseInt() and parseFloat().
  • eval(codes): evaluate the given JavaScript codes, which could be an expression or a sequence of statements.
  • encodeURI(), decodeURI(), encodeURIComponent(), decodeURIComponent(): encode or decode name-value pairs for the HTTP request, by replacing special characters with %xx.

An Introduction to Events

JavaScript are often event-driven. That is, a piece of program (called event handler) fires in response to a certain user's or browser's action that generates an event.

The commonly-used events are:

  • click: generated when the user clicks on an HTML element.
  • mouseover, mouseout: generated when the user positions the mouse pointer inside/away from the HTML element.
  • load, unload: generated after the browser loaded a document, and before the next document is loaded, respectively.

The event handler, called oneventname (such as onclick, onmousemove, onload), is the codes that responses to an event. The event handler is typically attached to the target HTML tag, e.g.,

<!DOCTYPE html>
<!-- "JSEventDemo.html" -->
<html lang="en">
<head>
<meta charset="utf-8">
<title>JavaScript Event Demo</title>
<script>
  function say(message) {
     alert(message);
  }
</script>
</head>
<body>
  <h2 onmouseover="this.style.color='red'"
      onmouseout="this.style.color=''">Hello</h2>
  <input type="button" value="click me to say Hello" onclick="say('Hello')">
  <p onclick="say('Hi')">This paragraph can say Hi...</p>
</body>
</html>

More about events in the later sections.

Objects

Objects are Everywhere!

JavaScript is object-oriented (OO), and objects are everywhere in JavaScript. Arrays are objects; functions are also objects; primitives like string and number are auto-box to objects in many operations. Almost everything in JavaScript can be an object, possibly except the undefined and null (object)!

It is crucial to understanding objects to be proficient in JavaScript, as they are everywhere, and they are used extensively in JavaScript plug-ins like jQuery, AngularJS, and etc.

JavaScript, however, does not support all the OO features, so as to keep the language simple.

Properties and Methods

In conventional object-oriented programming languages (like Java/C++/C#), an object is a collection of properties and methods under a common name:

  • Properties (also called variables, attributes): contains values associated with the object.
  • Methods (also called operations, functions): contains actions that the object can perform.

For example, a Car object has properties such as make, model, price, capacity; and methods such as startEngine(), move(), brake(), stopEngine().

Unlike full-fledged OO languages, JavaScript is designed on a simple OO paradigm. A JavaScript object is simply a collection of properties. A property is an association between a name (or key) and value (i.e., name-value pair or key-value pair). If the value is a function, the property is known as a method. In other words, JavaScript does not differentiate between properties and methods like conventional OO languages. A method is simply a property holding a function.

Creating Objects via Object Initializer

You can create a new object by directly assign an object literal to a variable, known as Object Initializer. The syntax is as follows:

var objectName = {
   property1: value1,
   property2: value2,
   ......,
   ......
}
  • A JavaScript object is a collection of properties. Each property is an association of a name and value pair.
  • The name and value are separated by a colon ':'.
  • The name-value pairs are separated by commas ','. There is no comma after the last name-value pair.
  • The property name could be a string or a number. For string name which is NOT a valid identifier (an valid identifier begins with an alphabet, underscore or dollar sign; and does not containing special characters like blank or '-'), you need to enclose the name with single or double quotes. Otherwise, the quotes are optional. For example,
    var objectName = {
       name:        'Tan Ah Teck', // A valid identifier (quotes optional)
       age:         21,            // Another valid identifier (quotes optional)
       88:          'hello',       // A number (numeric index)
       'my name':   'Peter',       // Containing special character blank, need to be quoted
       'font-size': '14px',        // Containing special character '-', need to be quoted
    }
    Take note that if the property name's string is a proper identifier, you can omit the quotes. This is commonly practiced by the developers.
  • The property value could be a literal, a variable or an expression.
  • A property's value could take all JavaScript types, including primitives (string, number, boolean), object or function. The property is known as a method, if it holds a function. JavaScript does not differentiate between variables and methods like conventional OO languages (Java/C++/C#). A method is simply a property holding a function.
  • Objects created via Object Initializer are instances of class Object.
Property Accessors: The Dot and Index (Square Bracket) operator

In JavaScript, you can access an object's properties via either:

  1. The dot (.) operator: In the form of anObjectName.aPropertyName or anObjectName.aPropertyMethodName(arguments), just like Java/C++.
  2. The index ([]) operator (or bracket notation): In JavaScript, you can also use the index operator to access the object properties, in the form anObjectName[aPropertyName], just like accessing an array item.
The delete operator

You can remove a property (including method) via the delete aPropertyName.

Operator instanceOf

You can use the instanceOf operator to check if a particular instance belongs to a particular class of objects, e.g.,

var now = Date();
now instanceOf Date;     // gives true;
now instanceOf Object;   // gives true;
now instanceOf Array;    // gives false;
now instanceOf Function; // gives false;
The .hasOwnProperty() method

The anObj.hasOwnProperty(aPropertyName) returns true if anObj has the specific aPropertyName.

Operator in

You can use the in operator to check if a particular property belongs to an object, for example,

"PI" in Math;         // gives true
Example 1: A Simple Object
// Create an object via Object Initializer
var request = {
   type: 'POST',      // You can omit the quotes if name is an identifier
   url:  'apple.php',
};
 
// Use dot operator to access the properties
console.log(request.type);
console.log(request.url);
 
// Updating property values via dot operator
request.url = 'orange.php';
console.log(request.url);
 
// Use index operator to access the properties
// The property names shall be quoted. Otherwise, they will be treated as variables.
console.log(request['type']);
console.log(request['url']);
request['url'] = 'banana.php';
console.log(request['url']);
var key = 'url';
console.log(request[key]);  // Using variable inside []
 
// Check if property exists
console.log(request.hasOwnProperty('type'));  // true
console.log(request.hasOwnProperty('url'));   // true
 
// Remove (Delete) a property
delete request.type;
console.log(request.hasOwnProperty('type'));  // false
console.log(request.hasOwnProperty('url'));   // true
Example 2: An object with object

An object's property can hold primitives (number, string). It can also hold an object.

var request = {
   type: 'POST',
   url:  'apple.php',
   data: {             // This property holds an object too
      name: 'peter',
      id:   8888
   }
};
 
console.log(request.data.name);  // peter
console.log(request.data.id);    // 8888
console.log(request.data);       // Object {name: "peter", id: 8888}
 
console.log(typeof request);       // object
console.log(typeof request.type);  // string
console.log(typeof request.data);  // object
Example 3: An object with function

A JavaScript object's property can also hold a function (or method). You can assign to an anonymous function or a named function as shown in the following example.

// Create an object via object Initializer
var myCircle = {
   radius:   5.5,
   created:  new Date(),     // an object
   getArea:  function() {    // an inline (anonymous) function
      return this.radius * this.radius * Math.PI;
   },
   toString: toString        // a named function also called toString()
}
 
function toString() {
   return "Circle {radius: " + this.radius
         + ", created: " + this.created
         + "}";
}
 
// Invoke methods via the dot operator
console.log(myCircle.getArea());   // 95.03317777109125
console.log(myCircle.toString());  // Circle {radius: 5.5, created: ...}
console.log(myCircle);             // Object {radius: 5.5, created: ...}
 
console.log(typeof myCircle.getArea);   // function (function is a special object type)
console.log(typeof myCircle.toString);  // function
console.log(typeof myCircle.created);   // object
To quote or not to quote the name in name-value pair?

The name (of the name-value pair) can take a string or a number, e.g., var a = {88:'b', 'c':'d', fontSize:'14px'}.

Many developers do not enquote the string name, if it is a valid identifier (a valid identifier begins with an alphabet, '_' or '$'; and does not contain special characters like blank and '-'). For example, var a = {b:'c', d:'e'} is the same as var a = {'b':'c', 'd':'e'}. However, you need to enquote a string name if it is NOT a valid identifier, e.g., var a = {'1b':'c', 'my name':'peter', 'font-size':'14px'}.

The string value must be enquoted; otherwise, it will be treated as a variable name.

Dot Operator vs. Index (Square Bracket) Operator

You can access an object's property via either dot operator or index operator. Dot operator is commonly used as it is more concise and used in conventional OO languages. But index operator allows access to properties containing special characters and selection of properties using variables, which is not feasible with dot operator. For example,

var a = {'font-size':'14px'};  // name contains special character, and is not a valid identifier
 
// Square bracket notation allows access to properties containing special characters
//  and selection of properties using variables
// console.log(a.font-size);  // error
console.log(a['font-size']);  // okay
 
var key = 'font-size';
console.log(a[key]);              // using variable
console.log(a['font' + '-size']); // using expression
Iterate through all properties of an Object

There are three ways to iterate through all properties of an object:

  1. for...in: traverses all enumerable properties of an object and its prototype chain.
  2. Object.keys(anObj): return an array of all enumerable property names.
  3. Object.getOwnPropertyNames(anObj): return an array of all property names.

For example,

var myCircle = {
   radius  : 1.1,
   color   : 'red',
   getArea : function() { return radius*radius*Math.PI; }
};
 
for (var name in myCircle) {
   var value = myCircle[name];  // need to use bracket notation
   console.log("name:" + name + ", value:" + value);
}
   // name:radius, value:1.1
   // name:color, value:red
   // name:getArea, value:function () { return radius*radius*Math.PI; }
 
var keys = Object.keys(myCircle);
console.log(keys);   // ["radius", "color", "getArea"]
for (var i = 0; i < keys.length; i++) {
   var key = keys[i];
   var value = myCircle[key];
   console.log("key:" + key + ", value:" + value);
}
   // key:radius, value:1.1
   // key:color, value:red
   // key:getArea, value:function () { return radius*radius*Math.PI; }
 
var names = Object.getOwnPropertyNames(myCircle);
console.log(names);  // ["radius", "color", "getArea"]
for (var i = 0; i < names.length; i++) {
   var name = names[i];
   var value = myCircle[name];
   console.log("name:" + name + ", value:" + value);
}
   // name:radius, value:1.1
   // name:color, value:red
   // name:getArea, value:function () { return radius*radius*Math.PI; }
Operator with

Establishes the default object for a set of statements. The syntax is:

with (expression) {
   statement;
}
The null vs undefined Literal Values

As discussed earlier:

  • An undeclared variable has type of undefined, and its value cannot be referenced.
  • A declared but uninitialized variable has type of undefined, with a special literal value of undefined too. [undefined is both a type and a literal value!]
  • A unallocated object has a special literal value of null. Take note that null is an object!

In boolean expressions, both the null and undefined evaluate to false (together with empty-string "", number 0 and NaN, and boolean false). To check for null value, use value === null, as value == null (or !value) returns true for null, undefined, "", 0, NaN, and false

Built-in JavaScript Objects

JavaScript provides many useful global objects, such as Array, Date, String, and Number.

I shall discuss some commonly used objects here. For detailed specification and examples about a built-in object, check "Core JavaScript References".

Creating an Object via Constructor and the new Operator

All the built-in objects define a so-called constructor, which is a special method having the same name as the object, for creating new instances. To invoke the constructor, you need to use a special new operator.

For example, the Date object has a constructor method called Date(). To construct a new instance of Date object:

// Date(): Construct a Date object at current date and time
var now = new Date();
console.log(now);            // Tue May 26 2015 22:59:43 GMT+0800 (SGT)
console.log(now.toString()); // Tue May 26 2015 22:59:43 GMT+0800 (SGT)
console.log(now.valueOf());  // 1432652383342
console.log('type: ' + typeof now);  // type: object
console.log(now instanceof Object);  // true
console.log(now instanceof Date);    // true
console.log(now instanceof Array);   // false
 
// Date(year, month, day, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds):
//   Construct a Date object at the given date and time
var aDay = new Date(1970, 1, 1, 12, 34, 56, 79);
console.log(aDay);            // Sun Feb 01 1970 12:34:56 GMT+0800 (SGT)
console.log(aDay.toString()); // Sun Feb 01 1970 12:34:56 GMT+0800 (SGT)
console.log(aDay.valueOf());  // 2694896079
The typeof and instanceof Operators

As seen from the above examples, the typeof operator returns the type of a value, which can be a primitive type (such as number, string, boolean) or object (including function).

The instanceof operator check if the value is an instance of a class.

The .toString() and .valueOf() Methods

The following methods are available to all built-in JavaScript objects:

  • .toString(): returns a string description about this object.
  • .valueOf(): converts this object to a primitive value such as number.

The Array Object and Associative Arrays

For an introduction to arrays, read the "Arrays" section.

Nowadays, we usually create an array via Array Initializer in the form of [value1, value2, ...]. Nonetheless, as arrays are objects of class Array, we could also construct an array by invoking the Array() constructor with the new operator. This is more complex and, hence, less commonly used today (but may show up in old codes and books).

For example,

// Construct an Array object invoking the constructor with new operator
var weekdays = new Array("sun", "mon", "tue", "wed", "thu", "fri", "sat");
console.log(weekdays.length);  // 7
console.log(weekdays);         // ["sun", "mon", "tue", "wed", "thu", "fri", "sat"]
console.log(typeof weekdays);  // object
console.log(weekdays instanceof Array);   // true
//console.log(weekdays instanceof array); // error
 
// Create an array via Array Initializer
var a = [0, 'b', 'c'];
console.log(typeof a);           // object
console.log(a instanceof Array); // true
An Associative Array is a Generic Object, not an Array Object

For an introduction to arrays, read the "Associative Arrays" section.

JavaScript does not really support associative array, but allow you to add properties to an object, using the associative array syntax and index operator. In other words,

var student = {name: 'peter'};
student['age'] = 21;           // or student.age = 21
console.log(student['age']);   // or student.age
 
console.log(student.length);           // undefined (It is an Object, not Array)
console.log(student instanceof Array); // false
Using an Array Object for Associative Array

In JavaScript, we usually create an associative array using a generic object (via the Object Initializer). You can also create an associative array via Array constructor. For examples,

// Construct an array
var aStudent = new Array();
 
// Add item with string key - need to quote the string
aStudent['name']   = 'Peter';
aStudent['id']     = 12345;
aStudent['gender'] = 'male';
 
for (key in aStudent) {
   console.log(key + ": " + aStudent[key]);
}
   // name: peter
   // id: 12345
   // gender: male
 
console.log(aStudent.length);           // Get 0!!!
console.log(aStudent instanceof Array); // true
console.log(typeof aStudent);           // object

In this case, additional properties are added into an Array object as object's properties. The array has .length of 0, as .length reflects only the numerical indexes! Using an array object for associative array is not recommended. I describe here for completeness.

The String Object

JavaScript provides primitive string type. It also provide a String class as a wrapper class for primitive string. Read "The string Type, Literals and Operations" for primitive string.

A string can be created in two ways:

  1. directly assigned a string literal in the form of "..." or '...' to a variable, resulted in a string primitive.
  2. invoke the String object constructor to construct a String object.

For examples,

// Creating a string primitive by assigning a string literal
var str1 = 'Hello';
console.log('type: ' + typeof str1);  // type: string (primitive)
console.log(str2 instanceof String);  // false
console.log(str2 instanceof Object);  // false
 
// Create a String object by invoking the constructor
var str2 = new String('Hello');
console.log('type: ' + typeof str2);  // type: object
console.log(str2 instanceof String);  // true
console.log(str2 instanceof Object);  // true

The former is a primitive string, while the latter is a String object.

String object is a wrapper for primitive string, which provides many useful methods for manipulating strings. See "The string Type, Literals, and Operations".

A string primitive is "auto-box" to a String object, when you invoke a String object's methods. For example,

var str = "hello";  // a primitive string
 
// Auto-box to a String Object, before applying the property/method
console.log(str.length);
console.log(str.substring(1, 3));

The Number Object

JavaScript provides primitive number type. It also provide a Number class as a wrapper class for primitive number. Read "The number Type, Literals and Operations" for primitive number.

The Number object is a wrapper object for primitive number, which provides many properties and methods. Again, a number primitive is auto-box to a Number object, when you invoke a Number object's operation. See "The number Type, Literals, and Operations".

The Boolean Object

JavaScript provides primitive boolean type. It also provide a Boolean class as a wrapper class for primitive boolean. Read "The boolean Type, Literals and Operations" for primitive boolean.

The Boolean object is a wrapper object for primitive boolean, which provides many properties and methods.

The Date Object

Commonly-used constructors:

  • new Date(): constructs a Date object with the current date and time.
  • new Date(dateTimeStr): constructs a Date object with the given date-time string in an acceptable form (e.g., "Month, day, year, hours:minutes:seconds").
  • new Date(year, Month, day): where month is 0-11 for Jan to Dec.
  • new Date(year, Month, day, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds)

Commonly-used methods:

  • getDate(), setDate(), getMonth(), setMonth(), getFullYear(), setFullYear(): get/set the date (1-31), month (0-11 for Jan to Dec), year (4-digit year).
  • getDay(): get the day of the week (0-6 for Sunday to Saturday).
  • getHours(), setHours(), getMinutes(), setMinutes(), getSeconds(), setSeconds(): get/set the hours/minutes/seconds.
  • getTime(), setTime(): get/set the number of milliseconds since January 1, 1970, 00:00:00.

The Math Object

Commonly-used properties:

  • E, PI: Euler’s constant and PI.
  • LN2, LN10, LOG2E, LOG10E: ln(2), ln(10), log2(e), log10(e).
  • SQRT2, SQRT1_2: square root of 2 and one-half.

Commonly-used methods:

  • abs(x)
  • sin(a), cos(a), tan(a), asin(x), acos(x), atan(x), atan2(x,y)
  • cell(x), floor(x), round(x)
  • exp(x), log(x), pow(base,exp), sqrt(x)
  • max(x,y), min(x,y)
  • random(): returns a pseudo-random number between 0 and 1.

The Function Object

For an introduction to functions, read "Function" section.

Every function in JavaScript is actually a Function object!

Function Variable

A variable can be assigned a Function object (called function variable), which takes a special object type called function. [In JavaScript, an object's type is either function (for Function object) or object (for any object not a Function).]

For example,

function sayHello(msg) {  // Define a 'named' function
   console.log(msg);
   return msg;
}
sayHello('hello');  // Invoke function with function name
console.log('type: ' + typeof sayHello);   // type: function
console.log(sayHello instanceof Function); // true
console.log(sayHello instanceof Object);   // true
 
// Assign a variable to a function object
// (without parentheses and argument)
var magic = sayHello;
 
magic('Hi');       // Invoke function
console.log('type: ' + typeof magic);   // type: function
console.log(magic instanceof Function); // true
console.log(magic instanceof Object);   // true
Anonymous Function

If a function is called only once, you can use an anonymous function, omitting the function name. Anonymous functions are commonly-used as event handler, e.g.,

// The property "window.onunload" takes a function object, to be called back
//  with an event object as argument when onload triggers
window.onload = function(event) {
   console.log("run onload handler");
   console.log(event.target);  // element that triggered the event
}

// Alternative, you can assign to a pre-defined function
function onloadhandler(event) {
   console.log("run pre-defined onload handler");
   console.log(event.target);
}
window.onload = onloadhandler;  // function name only, without argument and parenthese
                                // function must be defined before assignment

You can define a inline (anonymous) function and assign it to a variable as follows:

var magic = function() { return "Hello" };
// same as
function magic() { return "Hello" };
Function Constructor

Besides using function keyword, you can also use the Function constructor (with new operator) to define a Function object. This is not easily understood and, hence, not recommended.

var magic = new Function("arg1", "arg2", "return arg1 + arg2");
// Same as
//   function magic(arg1, arg2) { return arg1 + arg2; }
// Also same as
//   var magic = function (arg1, arg2) { return arg1 + arg2; }
 
console.log(magic(55, 66));
console.log('type: ' + typeof magic);   // type: function
console.log(magic instanceof Function); // true
console.log(magic instanceof Object);   // true

The syntax for Function constructor is:

var functionName = new Function("argument1", "argument2", ..., "functionBody");

More on Objects

Prototype-based vs. Class-based

JavaScript's OO is prototype-based, instead of class-based like Java/C++/C#.

A class-based OO language (such as Java/C++/C#) is founded on concepts of class and instance. A class is a blue-print or template of things of the same kind. An instance is a particular realization of a class. For example, "Student" is a class; and "Tan Ah Teck" and "Paul Lee" are instances of the "Student" class. In a class-based OO language, you must first write a class definition, before you can create instances based on the class definition. The instances created have exactly the same properties and methods as the class - no more, and no less.

On the other hand, a prototype-based OO language (such as JavaScript) simply has objects (or instances). A new object can be constructed based on an existing object as prototype. There is no class definition, and hence, they are also called class-less OO languages.

In JavaScript:

  • Every JavaScript object has a prototype. The prototype is also an object. A JavaScript object is created from a prototype object and gets its initial properties from the prototype.
  • Every JavaScript object has an internal property called __proto__, which holds its prototype object. When you define a new object via "Object Initializer" (or new Object() constructor), its __proto__ is set to a built-in object called Object.prototype. In other words, the new object uses Object.prototype as its prototype, and gets its initial properties from Object.prototype. The __proto__ property is not enumerable, i.e, it would not shown up in the for..in loop.
    For example,
    // Define an object via Object Initializer
    var myCircle = {
       radius: 1.1,
       getArea: function() { return this.radius * this.radius * Math.PI; }
    }
     
    console.log(myCircle.radius);     // 1.1
    console.log(myCircle.getArea());  // 3.8013271108436504
     
    // Check prototype
    console.log(myCircle.__proto__ === Object.prototype);  // true
    console.log(Object.prototype);
       // Object.prototype holds an object called Object,
       //   which is served as prototype for other objects.
       // Object is the only object in JavaScript without a prototype,
       //   with its __proto__ sets to null.
    console.log(Object.prototype.__proto__);  // null
       // Object is always sit on top of the so-called prototype chain.
       // i.e.,  myCircle -> Object.prototype -> null
     
    // The Object.prototype contains shared functions such as toString(),
    //    valueOf() and hasOwnProperty().
    console.log(Object.prototype.toString());  // [object Object]
    console.log(Object.prototype.valueOf());
    console.log(Object.prototype.hasOwnProperty('toString'));  // true
     
    // The newly created objects inherits all the properties from its prototype.
    // For example,
    console.log(myCircle.toString());  // invoke Object.prototype.toString()
    console.log(myCircle.hasOwnProperty('toString'));  // false (inherited, NOT own property)
    console.log(myCircle.hasOwnProperty('radius'));    // true
     
    // Iterating thru all the properties
    for (var key in myCircle) {
       console.log("key is " + key + ", value is " + myCircle[key]);
    }
       // key is radius, value is 1.1
       // key is getArea, value is function () { return this.radius * this.radius * Math.PI; }
       // Note that __proto__ property does not show up in for...in, i.e., it is not enumerable
     
    // Define another object via new Object() constructor
    var anotherCircle = new Object();
    anotherCircle.radius = 2.2;
    console.log(anotherCircle.__proto__ === Object.prototype);  // true
  • Any object can be the prototype of new objects. For example, Object is the prototype of Person; Person is the prototype for Student; Student is the prototype for UndergraduateStudent. These objects form a so-called prototype chain, i.e., UndergraduateStudent -> Student -> Person -> Object -> null. Take note that Object is always on top of the prototype chain for every JavaScript object.
  • You can add or remove properties for an object at runtime, which is not permitted in conventional OO languages.

Defining Your Own Custom Objects via a Constructor

In JavaScript, you can create your own custom objects by defining a constructor. A constructor is simply a function, which can be invoked via the new operator to create and initialize new objects. Recall that JavaScript is prototype-based and class-less. A new object is created from a prototype object, and gets its initial properties from this prototype object. The constructor function provides the prototype to create and initialize new instances (to be explained later).

By convention, a constructor name begins with an uppercase letter.

Keyword this

"this" refers to the current object. this.aPropertyName refers to the property of this object.

Example

Let us define a constructor for our custom Circle objects, with properties radius, created, getArea() and toString().

// Define a constructor for Circle objects, which takes an argument radius.
// The Circle objects have properties radius and dateCreated, getArea() and toString().
function Circle(radius) {
  this.radius = radius || 1;      // Default is 1, if radius evaluates to false (e.g., undefined)
  this.dateCreated = new Date();  // Assign an object
  this.getArea = function() {     // Assign a function object via an inline function
     return this.radius * this.radius * Math.PI;
  };
  this.toString = toString; // Assign a function object via a named function
}
 
// Define the function toString()
function toString() {
  return "Circle {radius: " + this.radius
        + ", dateCreated: " + this.dateCreated + "}";
}
 
// Creating Circle objects via new and constructor
var circle1 = new Circle(1.5);
console.log(circle1);      // Circle {radius: 1.5, dateCreated: ...}
var circle2 = new Circle();
console.log(circle2);      // Circle {radius: 1, dateCreated: ...}
var circle3 = new Circle;  // parentheses optional if there is no argument
console.log(circle3);      // Circle {radius: 1, dateCreated: ...}
 
// Invoke methods using dot operator
console.log(circle1.getArea());  // 7.0685834705770345
console.log(circle2.getArea());  // 3.141592653589793
 
// Check type
console.log(typeof circle1);            // object
console.log(circle1 instanceof Object); // true
console.log(circle1 instanceof Circle); // true
console.log(circle1 instanceof Array);  // false
 
// Every constructor function object has a special property called .prototype
//   which holds an object to be used as a prototyping object.
console.log(Circle.prototype);          // Circle {}
 
// Check __proto__ internal property
console.log(circle1.__proto__ === Circle.prototype);          // true
console.log(Circle.prototype.__proto__ === Object.prototype); // true
console.log(Object.prototype.__proto__);                      // null
   // The prototype chain is:
   // circle1 -> Circle.prototype -> Object.prototype -> null
How it Works?
  1. Properties (including methods) are declared inside the constructor via this.propertyName, which can then be initialized.
  2. Methods can be declared inside the constructor via this.methodName. There are a few ways to provide the method's definition:
    1. Define an ordinary function, and assign the functionName (without parentheses, which is a function type) to this.methodName, as in the toString().
    2. Assign this.methodName to an inline function, as in the getArea().
    3. Invoke the Function constructor with new operator (rarely-used):
      this.getArea = new Function("return this.radius * this.radius * Math.PI");
  3. To invoke a method, use anObjectName.aMethodName(arguments).
  4. The .toString() is a special method, which returns a string description of this object. The .toString() will be implicitly invoked if an object is passed into the document.write(), document.writeln() or '+' operator (like Java).

__proto__ and .prototype

Revisit the new Operator

In JavaScript, the new constructor(args) call does the followings:

  1. Create a new generic object using built-in root Object as prototype.
  2. Assign this newly created object to this variable.
  3. Run the constructor function, which typically adds properties to this.
  4. Set the internal property __proto__ to constructor.prototype (in the above example, Circle.prototype). The __proto__ property is not enumerable (i.e, it would not shown up in the for..in loop). It is used to maintain the so called "prototype chain" of the objects.
  5. Return the newly created object.

Take note that you can invoke the constructor function WITHOUT the new operator, e.g., Circle(1.5). In this case, the constructor will be run as per ordinary function. There will not be any association of this and __proto__ properties; and the return value will depend on the function codes.

Try tracing the object created in the above example via Chrome's Developer Tools, which could display the __proto__ internal property.

Another Example
// Define a constructor for Person objects
function Person(name, age) {
   this.name = name || "";
   this.age  = age  || "";
   this.toString = function() { return "Person {name: " + this.name + ", age: " + this.age + "}"; };
}
 
var p1 = new Person("Peter", 18);
console.log(p1);            // Person {name: "Peter", age: 18}
console.log(p1.toString()); // Person {name: Peter, age: 18}
 
// Check prototype
console.log(p1.__proto__ === Person.prototype); // true
console.log(Person.prototype);  // Person {}
console.log(Person.prototype.__proto__ === Object.prototype);  // true
console.log(Object.prototype);  // Object {}
   // The prototype chain is:
   //    Person -> Object -> null
Constructor's .prototype Property

All the JavaScript constructor function objects (in fact, all function objects) have a special property called .prototype. By default, it holds an object that can be used as a prototype for creating new objects.

In the Circle example, the Circle constructor function has a Circle.prototype, which holds a Circle object to be used as a prototyping object. When a new Circle object is constructed via the new operator, the newly constructed object's __proto__ property is set to Circle.prototype.

Adding Shared properties to Constructor's .prototype Property

The constructor's.prototype is used to implement shared properties (typically shared methods) for all the objects it prototyped. In JavaScript, you can add properties dynamically during runtime into .prototype. The added properties/methods will be available to all the objects (new as well as existing objects). For example,

// Define a constructor for Circle objects
function Circle(radius) {
   this.radius = radius || 1.0;
   this.getArea = function() { return this.radius * this.radius * Math.PI; };
}
 
var circle1 = new Circle;
 
// Add more shared properties to constructor.prototype
Circle.prototype.getCircumference = function() { return 2 * this.radius * Math.PI; };
Circle.prototype.color = "green";
 
// The new properties are available to all instances,
// including existing ones
console.log(circle1.getCircumference());
console.log(circle1.color);
 
var circle2 = new Circle(1.5);
console.log(circle2.getArea());
console.log(circle2.getCircumference());
console.log(circle2.color);

// Check prototype
console.log(circle1.__proto__ === Circle.prototype);  // true

When you reference a property, JavaScript first checks if the property exists locally (or own property); otherwise, it checks the prototype chain through the __proto__ property. Recall that the new constructor() call sets the __proto__ to constructor.prototype. Hence, properties added into constructor.prototype are available to (and shared by) all the objects prototyped by this constructor.

In practice, we defines methods (and static variables) in constructor.prototype to be shared by all objects; while each object maintains its own properties (instance variables).

Looking up the Prototype Chain

Objects in JavaScipt form prototype chains. In the above example, a prototype chain is circle1 -> Circle.prototype -> Object.prototype -> null.

When you reference an object property, JavaScript follow these steps to locate the property:

  1. Check if the property exists locally (i.e., own property).
  2. Otherwise, check the __proto__ property. This continues recursively up the prototype chain. The process is called "lookup in the prototype chain".

Hence, in the above example, all the properties in Circle.prototype and Object.prototype are inherited by circle1.

instanceof Operator

Every object has a __proto__ object property (except Object); every constructor function has a .prototype property. So objects can be related by 'prototype inheritance' to other objects. You can test for inheritance by comparing an object's __proto__ to the constructor's .prototype. JavaScript provides a shortcut: the instanceof operator tests an object against a function and returns true if the object inherits from the function prototype. For example,

[TODO]

Object.create()

Object.create() lets you create a new object based on the given prototype object. It simply sets the __proto__ to the given prototype object, so that all properties of the prototype are available to the new object. Using Object.create(), You do NOT need to define a constructor function and run new constructor() to create new objects.

var student1 = {
   name: 'Peter',
   getName: function() { return this.name; }
}
 
console.log(student1);            // Object {name: "Peter"}
console.log(student1.getName());  // Peter
console.log(student1.hasOwnProperty('name'));  // true
 
// Use Object.create() to create a new object using student1 as the prototype object
// i.e., set __proto__ to student1
var student2 = Object.create(student1);
 
console.log(student2);            // Object {}  (No own property)
console.log(student2.__proto__);  // Object {name: "Peter"} (set prototype chain)
console.log(student2.__proto__ === student1);  // true (same reference)
console.log(student2 === student1);            // false (different reference)
console.log(student2.getName());  // Peter (inherited thru prototype chain)
console.log(student2.hasOwnProperty('name'));  // false
 
student2.name = 'Paul';
console.log(student2);            // Object {name: "Paul"}  (added own property)
console.log(student2.__proto__);  // Object {name: "Peter"} (no change)
console.log(student2.getName());  // Paul
console.log(student2.hasOwnProperty('name'));  // true

Inheritance via Prototype Chain

You can implement inheritance in JavaScript via the prototype chain. For example,

// Constructor for Person objects
function Person(name, age) {
   this.name = name || "";
   this.age  = age || "";
}
      // By default, Person.prototype = Person
      // Person.prototype.__proto__ = Object.prototype
      // The prototype chain is: Person -> Object -> null
 
// Constructor for Student objects, which inherit from Person
function Student(name, age, school) {
   Person.call(this, name, age);  // Call Person function with this and arguments
   this.school = school || "";
}
Student.prototype = Object.create(Person.prototype)
      // Set the prototype chain to a Person object
      // The prototype chain is: Student -> Person -> Object -> null
 
// Constructor for UndergraduateStudent objects, which inherit from Student
function UndergraduateStudent(name, age, school, year) {
   Student.call(this, name, age, school);  // Call Student function with this and arguments
   this.year = year || "";
}
UndergraduateStudent.prototype = Object.create(Student.prototype)
      // Set the prototype chain to a Student object
      // The prototype chain is: UndergraduateStudent -> Student -> Person -> Object -> null
 
var peter = new UndergraduateStudent('peter', 21, 'EEE', 1);
console.log(peter);
      // UndergraduateStudent {name: "peter", age: 21, school: "EEE", year: 1}
console.log(peter instanceof UndergraduateStudent);  // true
console.log(peter instanceof Student);               // true
console.log(peter instanceof Person);                // true
console.log(peter instanceof Object);                // true
console.log(peter instanceof Date);                  // false
 
// Add property to Person's prototype
Person.prototype.incAge = function() { return ++this.age; };
 
console.log(peter);  // UndergraduateStudent {name: "peter", age: 21, school: "EEE", year: 1}
console.log(peter.incAge());                 // 22 (inherited from Person)
console.log('incAge' in peter);              // true
console.log(peter.hasOwnProperty('incAge')); // false (inherited, NOT own property)
How It Works

[TODO]

Getter and Setter

In languages like Java, you can declare a variable to be private and define public getter/setter to access the private variable. JavaScript does not really support private access?! But you can also define ordinary methods getXxx() or setXxx() as getter/setter like Java.

Moreover, in JavaScript, you can define getter/setter as properties instead of methods in one of the following two ways:

  1. via built-in functions Object.defineProperties() or Object.defineProperty();
  2. inside the "object initializer" via keywords get and set.
Example 1: Define Getters/Setters via Object.defineProperties() or Object.defineProperty()
// Define constructor for Circle objects
function Circle(radius) {
   this._radius = radius || 1;
}
 
// Define getter/setter via Object.defineProperties() in constructor.prototype
Object.defineProperties(Circle.prototype, {
   // Getter/Setter for radius
   'radius': {
      get: function() { return this._radius; },
      set: function(radius) { this._radius = radius; }
   },
   // Getter for area
   'area': {
      get: function() { return this._radius * this._radius * Math.PI; }
   },
   // Getter for circumference
   'circumference': {
      get: function() { return 2 * this._radius * Math.PI; }
   }
});
 
// Test
var myCircle = new Circle(1.1);   // Construct an Circle object
 // Using getter/setter like properties, rather than methods
console.log(myCircle.radius);  // 1.1 (Test getter)
myCircle.radius = 2.2;         // (Test setter)
console.log(myCircle.radius);  // 2.2
console.log(myCircle.area);    // 15.205308443374602
console.log(myCircle.circumference);  // 13.823007675795091
console.log(myCircle);

Notes:

  1. The Objet.defineProperties() allows you to define multiple properties; while Objet.defineProperty() for a single property.
  2. You invoke the getters/setters like properties with assignment operator, instead of via function call.
Example 2: Define Getter/Setter inside the Object Initializer
// Define an object with getters and setters
var myCircle = {
   _radius: 1.1,
   get radius() { return this._radius; },
   set radius(radius) { this._radius = radius; },
   get area() { return this._radius * this._radius * Math.PI; },
   get circumference() { return 2 * this._radius * Math.PI; }
}
 
// Test
console.log(myCircle.radius);  // 1.1 (Test getter)
myCircle.radius = 2.2;         // (Test setter)
console.log(myCircle.radius);  // 2.2
console.log(myCircle.area);    // 15.205308443374602
console.log(myCircle.circumference);  // 13.823007675795091

Notes:

  1. The getter/setter are defined inside Object Initializer via keywords get and set with a rather strange syntax, as shown in the example.

Object's Properties

Object.constructor()

All JavaScript objects inherited a special property called .constructor, which contains a reference to the function that created the object. For example,

// Construct an Array object
var months = ['jan', 'feb', 'mar'];
console.log(months.constructor);  // Array()
console.log(months);              // ["jan", "feb", "mar"]
 
// Create another Array object by invoking the constructor of the first object.
var days = months.constructor('mon', 'tue', 'wed')
console.log(days);                // ["mon", "tue", "wed"]

[TODO] more Object's properties

Document Object Model (DOM) API for JavaScript

Document Object Model (DOM), is a standard API that allows programmers to access and manipulate the contents of an HTML/XHTML/XML document dynamically inside their program. It models an HTML/XHTML/XML document as an object-oriented, tree-like structure, known as a DOM-tree, consisting of nodes resembling the tags (elements) and contents. DOM also provides an interface for event handling, allowing you to respond to user's or browser's action.

DOM API is implemented in many languages such as Java, JavaScript, Perl, and ActiveX. DOM API specification is maintained by W3C. DOM has various levels:

  • DOM Level 0 (DOM0) (Pre-W3C): obsolete
  • DOM Level 1 (DOM1) (W3C Oct 1998): obsolete
  • DOM Level 2 (DOM2) (W3C Nov 2000) and DOM Level 2 HTML (HTML DOM2) (W3C Jan 2003)
  • DOM Level 3 (DOM3) (W3C Apr 2004): yet to be fully supported by browsers.

jQuery is much better in selecting and manipulating DOM element. You should use jQuery in production. I keep these sections here for completeness.

Finding and Selecting Elements

In JavaScript, we often use DOM API to select elements within the current document, so as to access or manipulate their contents. The most commonly-used functions are:

Function Description Example
document.getElementById(anId) Returns the element with the given unique id.
<input type="text" id="foo">
var elm = document.getElementById("foo");
var input = elm.value;
document.getElementsByTagName(aTagName) Returns an array of elements with the given tag name.
<input type="text">
var elms = document.getElementByTagName("input");
var input = elms[0].value;
document.getElementsByClassName(aClassName) Returns an array of elements with the given class attribute name.
<input type="text" class="bar">
var elms = document.getElementByClassName("bar");
var input = elms[0].value;
document.getElementsByName(aName) Returns an array of elements with the given name attribute.
<input type="checkbox" name="gender" value="m">Male
<input type="checkbox" name="gender" value="f">Female
var x = document.getElementsByName("gender");
for (var i = 0; i < x.length; ++i) {
   if (x[i].checked) {
      value = x[i].value;
      break;
   }
}

You can use wildcard * in document.getElementsByTagName("*") to select all the elements, e.g.,

var elms = document.getElementsByTagName("*");
for (var i = 0; i < elms.length; i++) {
   console.log(elms[i].value);
   .......
}

The above functions select element(s) based on the unique id, name attribue and tag-name. HTML 5 further defines two function that can select elements based on class attribute (which is used extensively by CSS in the class-selector):

Function Description Example
document.querySelector(aClassName) Returns the first element with the given class attribute.
[TODO]
document.querySelectorAll(aClassName) Returns an array of elements with the given class attribute.
[TODO]

Beside the above selection functions, there are many other selection functions available. However, I strongly recommend that you stick to the above functions. I listed below the other function below for completeness.

  1. document.images returns an array of all <img> elements, same as document.getElementsByTagName("img").
  2. document.forms: return an array of all <form> elements.
  3. document.links and document.anchors: return all the hyperlinks <a href=...> and anchors <a name=...> elements. [To confirm!]

Manipulating Element's Content through the innerHTML Property

You can access and modify the content of an element via the "innerHTML" property, which contains all the texts (includes nested tags) within this element.

For example,

<p id="magic">Hello, <em>Paul</em></p>
<script>
  var elm = document.getElementById("magic");
  // Read content
  alert(elm.innerHTML);    // Hello, <em>Paul</em>
  // Change content
  elm.innerHTML = "Good day, <strong>Peter</strong>";
  alert(elm.innerHTML);    // Good day, <strong>Peter</strong>
</script>

"innerHTML" is the most convenient way to access and manipulate an element's content. However, it is not a W3C standard, but it is supported by most of the browsers.

DOM Tree & Nodes

W3C recommends that you access and manipulate HTML elements via the DOM tree and nodes. However, it is really an overkill for writing simple JavaScripts. I present them here again for completeness.

When a browser loads an HTML page, it builds DOM models a web page in a hierarchical tree-like structure composing of nodes, resembling its HTML structure.

An example of an HTML document with the corresponding DOM-tree is given follow. Take note that the text content of an element is stored in a separate Text node.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <title>DOM Tree</title>
</head>
<body>
  <h2 onmouseover="this.style.color='red'"
      onmouseout="this.style.color=''">Testing</h2>
  <p>welcome to <i>JavaScript</i>...</p>
</body>
</html>
image

Load the web page onto Firefox, and use the firebug to inspect the DOM tree.

A DOM-tree comprises the following types of nodes:

  1. Document Node: the root node representing the entire HMTL document.
  2. Element node: represents an HTML element (or tag). An element node may have child nodes, which can be either element or text node. Element node may also have attributes.
  3. Text Node: contains the text content of an element.
  4. Others: such as comment, attribute.

A DOM node has these properties:

  • nodeName: contain the name of the node, which is read-only. The nodeName for an Element node is the tag-name; nodeName for the Document node is #document; nodeName for Text nodes is #text.
  • nodeValue: contain the value of the node. nodeValue for Text node is the text contained; nodeValue for Element node is undefined.
  • nodeType: an integer indicating the type of the node, e.g., Element (1), Attribute (2), Text (3), Comment (8), Document (9).
  • parentNode: reference to parent node. There is only one parent node in a tree structure.
  • childNodes: array (or node-list) of child nodes.
  • firstChild, lastChild: reference to the first and last child node.
  • prevSibling, nextSibling: reference to the previous and next sibling in the same level.

Take note of the difference between singular and plural terms. For example, parentNode refer to the parent node (each node except root has one and only one parent node), childNodes holds an array of all the children nodes.

The root node of the DOM tree is called document. The root node document has only one child, called document.documentElement, representing the <html> tag, and it acts as the parent for two child nodes representing <head> and <body> tags, which in turn will have other child nodes. You can also use a special property called document.body to access the <body> tag directly.

For example, you can use the following node property to access the Text node "Welcome to " in the above example:

document.documentElement.lastChild.childNodes[1].firstChild.nodeValue; // "Welcome to "
document.body.lastChild.firstChild.nodeValue;                          // same as above
Example

The following JavaScript lists all the nodes in the <body> section, in a depth-first search manner, via a recursive function.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
<meta charset="utf-8">
<title>DOM Tree</title>
<script>
  function printNode(node) {
    document.writeln("Node name=" + node.nodeName + ", value=" + node.nodeValue + ", type=" + node.nodeType + "<br>");
    if (node.hasChildNodes()) {
      var childs = node.childNodes;
      for (var i = 0; i < childs.length; i++) {
        printNode(childs[i]);
      }
    }
  }
</script>
</head>
<body onload="printNode(document.body)"><h2 onmouseover="this.style.color='red'"
  onmouseout="this.style.color=''">Testing</h2><p>welcome to <i>JavaScript</i>...</p></body>
</html>
Node name=BODY, value=null, type=1
Node name=H2, value=null, type=1
Node name=#text, value=Testing, type=3
Node name=P, value=null, type=1
Node name=#text, value=welcome to , type=3
Node name=I, value=null, type=1
Node name=#text, value=JavaScript, type=3
Node name=#text, value=..., type=3

Accessing the HTML element via Node interface may not be too useful nor practical for JavaScript applications, as you need to know the actual topological structure of the DOM-tree. Furthermore, some browsers (e.g., firefox) may create extra Text nodes to contain the white spaces between tags.

Text Node

DOM models the texts enclosed by HTML tags as a separate text node. It cannot have child node. To retrieve the text content, you could the property nodeValue. For example,

<p id="magic">Hello</p>
......
console.log(document.getElementById("magic").firstChild.nodeValue);
document.getElementById("magic").firstChild.nodeValue = "Hi";  // text change to "Hi"

Attribute Properties

To access an attribute of an Element node called elementName, you could either use:

  • property elementName.attributeName, where attributeName is the name of the attribute, or
  • methods elementName.getAttribute(name) and elementName.setAttribute(name, value).

For example,

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <title>Test Attributes</title>
</head>
<body>
  <p id="magic1" align="left">Hello</p>
  <p id="magic2" align="center">Hello, again.</p>
  
  <script type=text/javascript>
    var node = document.getElementById("magic1");
    document.writeln(node.align);   // Get attribute "align"
    node.align = "center";          // Set attribute "align" to a new value
  
    node = document.getElementById("magic2");
    document.writeln(node.getAttribute("align"));  // Read attribute "align"
    node.setAttribute("align", "right");           // Write attribute "align"
  </script>
</body>
</html>

Attribute style (for CSS)

Element has a property called style, which models CSS style with CSS properties such as color and textAlign. For example,

<p id="magic">Hello</p>
......
document.getElementById("magic1").style.color="green";
document.getElementById("magic1").style.textAlign="right";

Manipulating Nodes

A Node object has these functions:

  • aNode.hasChildNodes(): returns true if this node has at least one child node.
  • Manipulating child node:
    • aParentNode.insertBefore(newChildNode, existingChildNode): insert a node before an existing child node.
    • aParentNode.replaceChild(newChildNode, existingChildNode): replace an existing child node.
    • aParentNode.removeChild(childNodeToRemove): remove the specified child node.
    • aParentNode.appendChild(nodeToAppend): append the given node as the last child.
  • aNode.cloneNode():
Creating a New Element (createElement()) and Text Node (createTextNode()), Appending a Node (appendChild())

To create new text node, you can use document.createTextNode(text) to create a standalone text-node, followed by an anElementNode.appendChid(aTextNode) to append the text node to an element.

Similarly, you can use document.createElement(tagName) to create a stand-alone element, followed by an anElementNode.appendChild(elementToAppend) to append the created element into an existing element.

For example, we shall create a new text node, as a child of a new <p> element. We shall then append the new <p> element as the last child of <body>.

<body>
<p id="magic">Hello</p>
<script>
  alert(document.getElementById("magic").innerHTML);
  var newElm = document.createElement("p");
  newElm.appendChild(document.createTextNode("Hello, again"));
  document.body.appendChild(newElm);
</script>
</body>
Inserting a new Node (insertBefore())
<body>
<p id="magic">Hello</p>
<script>
  var magicElm = document.getElementById("magic");
  alert(magicElm.innerHTML);
  var newElm = document.createElement("p");
  newElm.appendChild(document.createTextNode("Hello, again"));
  document.body.insertBefore(newElm, magicElm);
</script>
</body>
Replacing a Node (replaceChild())

Change the last line to document.body.replaceChild(newElm, magicElm).

Deleting a Node (removeChild())

You can remove a child node from a parent node via aParentNode.removeChild(aChildNode).

For example, let remove the last <p> from <body>.

<body>
<p>Hello 1</p>
<p>Hello 2</p>
<p id="magic">Hello 3</p>
<script>
  var elm = document.getElementById("magic");
  alert(elm.innerHTML);
  document.body.removeChild(elm);
</script>
</body>

The document object

The document object is the root node of the DOM-tree. It can be used to access all the elements in an HTML page.

It contains these properties:

  • documentElement, body, title: references the <html>, <body> and <title> tags respectively.
  • lastModified, referrer, cookie, domain: information retrieved from the HTTP response header.
  • form[], applets[], images[], embeds[], links[], anchors[]: Arrays containing the respective HTML elements (backward compatible with DOM0).

The document object has the following methods:

  • write(string), writeln(string): Write the specified string to the current document. writeln() (write-line) writes a newline after the string, while write() does not. Take note that browser ignores newlines in an HTML document, you need to write a <br> or <p>...</p> tag for the browser to display a line break.
  • clear(): Clear the document.
  • open(), close(): Open/close the document stream.
  • getElementById(), getElementsByName(), getElementsByTagName(): Select HTML element(s) by id, name, or tag-name, respectively.

Event Handling in HTML DOM

JavaScripts are often event-driven. That is, a piece of codes (called event handler) fire in response to a certain user's or browser's action, such as clicking a button, enter some texts, or loaded a page.

DOM API provides methods for capturing events so you can perform your own actions in response to them. It also provides an Event object which contains information specific to a given event that can be used by your event handler.

jQuery is much simpler and better in event handling. I suggest that you use jQuery in production. I keep these sections here for completeness.

Attach Event Handler to an HTML tag

You can attach event handler (e.g., onclick, onmouseover) to a specific HTML tag as the tag's attribute, as follows:

<tagName eventHandler="JavaScript statement(s)" otherAttributes >contents</tagName>

The event handler can be a single JavaScript statement, a series of JavaScript statements (separated by semicolon), or most often, a function call. For example,

<!-- Event handler calls built-in functions -->
<body onload="alert('welcome')" onunload="alert('bye')">
   
<!-- Event handler calls a user-defined function -->
<script>
  function myHandler(event) {
    alert(event);
  }
</script>
<input type="button" value="click me" onclick="myHandler()">
   
<!-- Event handler composes of JavaScript statement(s) -->
<h1 onmouseover="this.style.color='red'; this.style.backgroundColor='black'"
    onmouseout="this.style.color=''; this.style.backgroundColor=''">>Hello</h1>

You can also define an event handler in script by assigning a Function object (without parentheses) to an event handler. For example,

<!-- Event handler assigned via DOM object instead of inside HTML tag -->
<p id="magic">Welcome</p>
<script>
  document.getElementById("magic").onclick = myHandler;  // function name without the parentheses
</script>

Built-in Events and Event Handlers

JavaScript supports many types of events, as tabulated below. Certain events such as click are applicable to all the HTML elements; certain event such as load and unload are applicable to a selected group of tags.

Event Name Event Handler Description HTML Element
click onclick User clicks on the component.  
submit onsubmit User clicks the "submit" button. <form>, <input type="submit">
reset onreset User clicks the "reset" button. <form>, <input type="reset">
select onselect User selects text in a text box or text area. <textarea>, <input type="text">
keypress onkeypress User holds down a key. document, image, link, textarea
keydown
keyup
onkeydown
onkeyup
User presses/releases a key.  
mousedown
mouseup
onmousedown
onmouseup
User presses/releases a mouse button. button, document, link
mouseover
mouseout
onmouseover
onmouseout
User moves the mouse pointer at/away from a link or hot spot.  
mousemove onmousemove User moves the mouse pointer  
load onload When the page is loaded into the window. <body>, <frameset>, <img>
unload onunload When another page is about to be loaded. <body>, <frameset>
blur onblur When a particular form element losses focus.
E.g., after the element is selected, and the user clicks somewhere or hit the tag key.
 
change onchange Same as onblur, but the elements must be changed.  
focus onfocus Same as onblur, but the element gains focus.  
drapdrop ondrapdrop User drags and drops something (e.g., a file) onto the navigator window. window
move
resize
onmove
onresize
User moves/resizes the window window, frame
abort onabort Users stops or aborts an image from loading. <img>
error onerror When a JavaScript or image error occurs while loading a document or an image. <img>

[To Check]

The Event object

The event handlers are passed one argument, an Event object, which described the event and its current states. You can use it to determine where an event originated from and where it currently is in the event flow.

The following properties are available to all the Event object:

  • type: A string indicating the type of event, e.g., "click", "mouseover".
  • eventPhase: integer 1 for captured, 2 for at the target, and 3 for bubbling phase.
Mouse-Related Events

Including click, mouseup, mousedown, mouseover, mouseout, mousemove. For mouse-related events, the Event object provides these additional properties:

  • button: integer 1 for left button, 2 for middle, and 3 for right
  • clientX, clientY: mouse location relative to the client area.
  • screenX, screenY: mouse location relative to the screen.
  • altKey, ctrlKey, metaKey, shiftKey: boolean value indicating where these key was pressed when the mouse event is fired.
Key-Related Events

Including keyup, keydown and keypress. For key-related events, the Event object provides these additional properties:

  • keyCode: ASCII code of the key pressed.
  • altKey, ctrlKey, metaKey, shiftKey: boolean flag indicating whether these key was also pressed.
  • clientX, clientY: mouse location relative to the client area.
  • screenX, screenY: mouse location relative to the screen.

Adding Event Listener

You can also add/remove event listener to tags, using the following methods:

element.addEventListener(eventType, functionName, useCapture);
element.removeEventListener(eventType, functionName, useCapture);

where eventType is pre-defined event name such as mouseover, mouseout, click, etc; functionName is the event handler; useCapture is a boolean flag which specifies at which phase of the event flow (capture or bubble) the event handler will be called.

For example,

<p id="magic">Hello</p>
......
<script>
  var element = document.getElementById("magic");
  element.addEventListener('mouseover', function() { this.style.color='green'; }, false);
  element.addEventListener('mouseout', function() { this.style.color=''; }, false);
</script>

Event listeners can be added to any node, even text nodes (which you could not assign event handlers to as they have no attributes).

There are two phases of event flow: a capture phase followed by a bubbling phase.

  1. Event Capture phase: The event first flows down from the document root to the target element that trigger the event.
  2. Event Bubbling phase: the event then bubbles up from the target element to its parent node, all the way back to the document root.

For each event type, you could define an event handler for the capture phase (triggered as event flows down from the root to the target element), and another event handler for the bubbling phase (triggered when the event bubble up from the target element to the root).

Example: [TODO]

JavaScript Built-in Browser Objects: navigator, window, screen, history, location

The navigator object

The built-in navigator object represents the browser. It contains the following properties related to the browser:

  • platform: Operating system.
  • appName, appCodeName, appVersion, appUserAgent: Identified the browser.
  • language, plugin, mimeTypes: options or features supported by the browser.
  • others.

[TO CHCEK]

The window object

The window object represents an open window in a browser. It is the top-level object in the JavaScript hierarchy. All top-level properties and methods such as alert(), prompt(), parseInt() belongs to the window object. The window object is also the default object. That is, alert() is the same as window.alert(). A window object is created automatically with every <body> or <frameset> tag.

[TODO]

Regular Expression (Regex)

A Regular Expression (or Regex, Regexp in short) is a pattern that accepts a set of strings that matches the pattern, and rejects the rests. Regex is extremely and amazingly powerful in searching and manipulating text documents.

For Regex Basics, read "Regular Expression".

For examples,

  • /^[0-9]+$/ (or /^\d+$/) matches strings with 1 or more digits (/.../ delimits the regex, ^ matches the begin position, $ matches the end position, [0-9] matches a character in the range of '0' to '9', + for zero or more repetition, \d matches a digit).
  • /^[0-9]{5,8}$/ matches string with 5 to 8 digits ({5,8} for 5 to 8 repetition).
  • /^[a-zA-Z]+$/ matches strings with 1 or more letters ([a-zA-Z] matches a character in the range of lowercase 'a' to 'z' or uppercase 'A' to 'Z').
  • /^[0-9a-zA-Z_]+$/ (or /^\w+$/) matches strings with 1 or more digits, letters or underscore (\w matches a word character).

Creating a RegExp Object in JavaScript

JavaScript has a built-in RegExp class. There are two ways to create a RegExp object:

  1. The commonly-used method is to use a regex literal enclosed by two forward slashes /.../, for example,
    var identifierRegex = /[a-zA-Z_][a-zA-Z_]*/;
    var integerRegex    = /[1-9][0-9]*|0/;
    var imageFileRegex  = /\w+\.(jpg|gif|png)/i;
     
    console.log(identifierRegex);         // /[a-zA-Z_][a-zA-Z_]*/
    console.log(typeof identifierRegex);  // object
    console.log(identifierRegex.constructor);       // RegExp()
    console.log(identifierRegex instanceof RegExp); // true
  2. Call the constructor of the built-in RegExp object (less frequently-used), for example,
    var pattern = new RegExp("[1-9][0-9]*|0");
    console.log(pattern);         // /[1-9][0-9]*|0/
    var anotherPattern = new RegExp("\w+\.(jpg|gif|png)", "gi");  // pattern, modifier
    console.log(anotherPattern);  // /w+.(jpg|gif|png)/gi
Modifiers

You can use modifier:

  • g: to perform a global search (return all matches instead of the first match by default),
  • i: for case-insensitive matching.
  • others: many more

You can combine the modifiers, e.g. "gi".

Parentheses Back References $1 to $99

You can use $1 to $99 to refer to the parentheses back references, or RegExp.$1 to RegExp.$99 object properties.

Example 1: Swap first and second words

var pattern = /(\S+)\s+(\S+)/;
var input = 'Hello  world';
// Swap the first and second words
input = input.replace(pattern, '$2 $1');
console.log(input);  // world Hello

Example 2: Remove HTML markup tags in greedy and non-greedy manners

// Without greediness
var patternNonGreedy = /<code>.*?<\/code>/g;  // ? (after *) curb greediness
var input = "<code>first</code> and <code>second</code>";
console.log(input.match(patternNonGreedy));
      // ["<code>first</code>", "<code>second</code>"]
      // 2 matches
 
// With greediness (default)
var patternGreedy = /<code>.*<\/code>/g;
console.log(input.match(patternGreedy));
      // ["<code>first</code> and <code>second</code>"]
      // 1 match

JavaScript's Regex Methods

Regex are meant for searching and manipulating text string. Hence, both the String and RegExp objects have methods that operate on regex and string.

  • aRegExpObj.test(aStr): Tests this regex against the given string. Returns boolean true or false.
  • aStr.search(aRegex): Search this string for the given regex pattern. Returns the beginning position of the matched substring or -1 if there is no match.
  • aStr.match(aRegex): See example for with and without g flag.
  • aRegExpObj.exec(aStr): See example for with and without g flag.
    var msg = "Hello World and hello world again";
    var pattern1 = /h(..)l/;    // default case sensitive, first match
    var pattern2 = /no-match/;
     
    // Use RegExp.test() to check if the string contains the pattern
    console.log(pattern1.test(msg));  // true
    console.log(pattern2.test(msg));  // false
     
    // Use RegExp.test() to check if the string contains the pattern
    console.log(msg.search(pattern1));  // 16
    console.log(msg.search(pattern2));  // -1
     
    // Use String.match() or RegExp.exec() to find the matched string, back references, and matching index
    console.log(msg.match(pattern1));  // ["hell", "el", index: 16, input: "Hello World and hello world again"]
    console.log(pattern1.exec(msg));   // ["hell", "el", index: 16, input: "Hello World and hello world again"]
    console.log(msg.match(pattern2));  // null
    console.log(pattern2.exec(msg));   // null
     
    /*
     * With g (global) option
     */
    var pattern3 = /h(..)l/gi;
     
    // String.match() with g flag returns an array of matches
    console.log(msg.match(pattern3));  // ["Hell", "hell"]
     
    // RegExp.exec() with g flag can be issued repeatedly.
    // Search resumes after the last-found position (maintained in property RegExp.lastIndex).
    console.log(pattern3.lastIndex);  // 0 (start matching from this string index)
    console.log(pattern3.exec(msg));  // ["Hell", "el", index: 0, input: "Hello World and hello world again"]
    console.log(pattern3.lastIndex);  // 4 (continue after the first match)
    console.log(pattern3.exec(msg));  // ["hell", "el", index: 16, input: "Hello World and hello world again"]
    console.log(pattern3.lastIndex);  // 20
    console.log(pattern3.exec(msg));  // null
  • aStr.replace(aRegex, replacement): Search the string for the given regex pattern. If found, replaces the matched substring with the replacement string.
    var msg1 = "This is a string";
    var pattern1 = /is/;      // First match only
    console.log(msg1.replace(pattern1, "was")); // Thwas is a string
    console.log(msg1);  // This is a string (no change, but produce a new string)
     
    var msg2 = "This is a string";
    var pattern2 = /is/g;     // All matches (global)
    console.log(msg2.replace(pattern2, "was")); // Thwas was a string
  • aStr.split(aRegex): Split this string using the delimiter pattern defined in the given regex. Returns an array of strings containing the splitting parts.
    var msg = "This is a string";
    console.log(msg.split(/is/)); // ["Th", " ", " a string"]
    console.log(msg);  // This is a string (no change)
  • aRegExpObj.compile(): Compile this regex to improve the running efficiency.

JSON and JSONP

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation)

JSON (@ http://json.org/) is a lightweight, text-based, human-readable format for data-interchange. JSON is a data format, just like XML, but smaller and lighter in size than XML and, hence, is an alternative to XML. JSON format is based on JavaScript Object (and Array) syntaxes, hence, called JavaScript Object Notation.

JSON supports these data types:

  • Number, String and Boolean (true or false).
  • Array: an ordered, comma-separated sequence of values enclosed in square bracket [].
  • Object: an unordered, comma-separated key:value pairs enclosed in curly bracket {}.
  • null: for unallocated object.

For example, below is a properly JSON-formatted text:

{ "members": [
    {"name":"Paul", "age":50, "isMarried":true},
    {"name":"John", "age":40, "isMarried":false},
    {"name":"Mary", "age":30, "isMarried":true}
]}

The data contains one key:value pair, with key of members and value of an array of three objects. Each object has three properties: name (string), age (number) and isMarried (boolean).

Notes:

  • JSON's key fields must be double-quoted as shown; while in JavaScript, the quotes are optional if the key is a valid identifier.
  • JSON's file type is ".json".
  • JSON's MIME type is application/json.
JSON.parse()

You can parse a JSON-formatted string to a JavaScript object via built-in function JSON.parse(). For example,

var jsonStr = '{ "members": ['
      + '{"name":"Paul",  "age":50, "isMarried":true},'
      + '{"name":"Anna",  "age":40, "isMarried":false},'
      + '{"name":"Peter", "age":30, "isMarried":true}'
      + ']}';
 
var obj = JSON.parse(jsonStr);
console.log(obj);  // Object {members: Array[3]}
console.log(obj.members[0].name);  // Paul
JSON.stringify()

Counterpart of JSON.parse(). Convert a JavaScript object to a JSON formatted string. For example,

var obj = {
   students: [
      {name:"Paul",  "age":50, "isMarried":true},
      {name:"Anna",  "age":40, "isMarried":false},
      {name:"Peter", "age":30, "isMarried":true}
   ]};
 
var jsonStr = JSON.stringify(obj);
console.log(jsonStr);
   // {"students":[
   //    {"name":"Paul","age":50,"isMarried":true},
   //    {"name":"Anna","age":40,"isMarried":false},
   //    {"name":"Peter","age":30,"isMarried":true}
   // ]}
Ajax and JSON for RESTful Web Services

[TODO]

PHP's json_encode() and json_decode()

PHP provides functions json_encode() and ison_decode() to convert a JSON-formatted string to an associative array of key-value pairs.

JSONP

JSONP (JSON with Padding) is a communication techniques used in JavaScript to request data from a server in a different domain, which is prohibited by modern browsers implementing SOP (Same-Origin Policy).

Same-Origin Policy (SOP) and Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) Attacks

All modern browsers implement the SOP, which restricts a script (or web font) loaded from one server to access another server. Two pages has the same origin if they have the same protocol (e.g., HTTP, HTTPS, FILE, FTP are different protocols), host and port.

SOP is used as a means to prevent so-called Cross-site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks. Suppose that you are logged on to Facebook (successfully authenticated) and visit a malicious website in another domain on another browser tab. Without the SOP, JavaScript from the malicious website can do anything to your Facebook account that you are allowed to do, because your current browser session has been authenticated on another browser tab. With the SOP, only scripts coming from Facebook can work on your Facebook account.

// Use Ajax to load a page from a different domain into current page, supposing your origin is http://localhost.
$('#magic').load("http://www.google.com");
   // Error: XMLHttpRequest cannot load http://www.google.com/. 
   // No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource. 
   // Origin 'http://localhost' is therefore not allowed access.

In other words, SOP disallows one script to perform HTTP GET/POST request to another domain to prevent Cross-site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks.

Exceptions to SOP are:

  • Loading JavaScript via <script src="..."></script> tag.
  • Loading CSS via <link rel="stylesheet" href="..."> tag.
  • Loading image via <img src="..."> tag.
  • Others, such as <a>, <video>, <audio>, <object>, <embed>, <applet>, <frame> and <iframe>.
JSONP

You can send a cross-site request to a JSONP-enabled website via the <script> tag as follows:

<script src="http://www.anotherdomain.com/hello.json?callback=mycallback"></script>

With JSON, the server returns a JSON string (e.g., {"foo": "bar"} ), which will be evaluated and produce nothing.

Under JSONP, the server is supposed to wrap the JSON object under the callback function provided in the request parameter. That is,

mycallback({"foo": "bar"});

You can then write your callback function to perform your operations, e.g.,

function mycallback(data) {
   // process the data object
   console.log(data.foo);
}

Hence, when the script is loaded, it'll be evaluated, and your function will be executed - as a cross-domain request!

With JSONP, it is entirely up to your server to decide whether to support cross-domain request by padding the JSON response.

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS)

CORS is the latest W3C standard for cross-domain request, carried out via special HTTP headers.

  1. The browser sends the request with an Origin HTTP header, e.g.,
    Origin: http://www.anotherdomain.com
    
  2. The cross-domain server may response with:
    1. An Access-Control-Allow-Origin (ACAO) response header indicating which origin sites are allowed. For example,
      Access-Control-Allow-Origin: http://www.originaldomain.com
    2. An Access-Control-Allow-Origin (ACAO) header with a wildcard that allows all domains:
      Access-Control-Allow-Origin: *
    3. An error page if the server does not allow the cross-origin request.

With CORS, it is entirely up to your server to decide whether to support cross-domain request (similar to JSONP).

Miscellaneous

Task Scheduling via Timeout

Two methods, setTimeout(codes, milliseconds) and clearTimeout(timeoutName) are provided to schedule a piece of codes to be executed after a specified milliseconds.

var task = setTimeout("alert('Hello')", 10000);

The variable task permits you to cancel the scheduled time event before timeout if desires:

cancelTimeout(task);

Bitwise Operators

JavaScript provides the following bitwise operators are provided for integers (same syntax as Java):

Operator Description Example Result
<< Left bit-shift (padded with 0s) bitPattern << number  
>> Signed right bit-shift (padded sign-bit) bitPattern >> number  
>>> Unsigned right bit-shift (padded with 0s) bitPattern >>> number  
& Bitwise AND bitPattern1 & bitPattern2  
| Bitwise OR bitPattern1 | bitPattern2  
~ Bitwise NOT (1's compliment) ~bitPattern  
^ Bitwise XOR bitPattern1 ^ bitPattern2  

Similarly, the following bitwise operation cum assignment operators are provided: <<=, >>=, >>>=, &=, |=, ^=.

Operator Precedence

Operator Name Operator
Parentheses, Array index, Dot () [] .
Negation, Increment/Decrement ! ~ - ++ --
Multiply, Divide, Modulus * / %
Addition, Subtraction + -
Bitwise Shift << >> >>>
Relational < <= > >=
Equality == !=
Bitwise AND &
Bitwise XOR ^
Bitwise OR |
Logical AND &&
Logical OR ||
Ternary (Shorthand if-else) ? :
Assignment = += -= *= /= %=
Comma (separate parameters) ,

Exception Handling: try-catch-finally and throw

throw

Use throw to throw an exception as follows:

throw expression

In JavaScript, throw can throw any types: primitive (string, number, boolean) or object.

try-catch-finally

The syntax is:

try {
   try-block;
} catch (e) {
   catch-block;
} finally {  // optional
   finally-block;
}

Execution begins at the try-block. If none of the statements in the try-block throws an exception, the catch-block is skipped.

However, if one of the statement in the try-block throw an exception, the rest of the statements in the try-block is skipped, and execution branches to the catch-block to process the exception. In JavaScript, there is only one catch-block, which catches all the exceptions.

The optional finally-block is always executed, after try or catch, for performing house keeping task, such as closing the files. The program will continue into the next statement, if it is not terminated.

The try-catch-finally construct has the following benefits:

  1. Separating of exception handling logic from the main logic. You do not need to use many if-else in the main logic to check for exception.
  2. Allow graceful termination of the program, handled by the catch-block.
  3. ....

Example [TODO]

Execute JavaScript Statement from Browser's Address Bar

You can issue You can execute JavaScript from Firefox's navigator toolbar or Internet Explorer's address bar, via pseudo-protocol javascript:statement. For example,

javascript:alert('Hello');
javascript:alert(document.title);alert('Hello, again')
javascript:document.title

The statement can access variables and objects on the current document.

The JavaScript statement used in a javascript: URL should not return any value. For example, alert() does not return a value (or returns undefined). If it returns an explicit value, the browser loads a new page and places the returned value in the body of the page.

You can use the void operator to stay in the same page. void evaluates its expression, and returns undefined. For example,

javascript:void(x=5)

You can bookmark the javascript statement (someone called them bookmarklets). For example, you can write a bookmarklet to change the background color of a web page, so that the web page is easier to read.

javascript:void(document.body.style.background='#FFF');

Nested Functions and Closure

You can nest a function inside a function. The inner function has access to all the properties of the outer function. This becomes complicated if the inner function is returned by the outer function. If multiple calls is made to the outer function, which creates different copies of the inner function, what are the value of the properties of the outer function?

For example,

function outer(x) {
   var y = 8;   // function scope, available to inner function
 
   // Define a nested function, which adds its argument to
   //  outer function's argument and local variable.
   var addToOuter = function(z) {
      console.log('x:' + x + ' y:' + y + ' z:' + z);
      return x + y + z;
   };
 
   return addToOuter;  // return the nested function
}
 
// Invoke the outer function and save the return function in an variable
var f1 = outer(3);
// Invoke the inner function
console.log('sum:' + f1(10));    // x:3 y:8 z:10 sum:21
// Invoke the inner function
console.log('sum:' + f1(20));    // x:3 y:8 z:20 sum:31
     // Take note that the value of x:3 remains the same across the invocations,
     //   which is provided by the outer function's argument
 
// Invoke the outer function again with a different argument 
var f2 = outer(9);
// Invoke the inner function
console.log('sum:' + f2(30));    // x:9 y:8 z:30 sum:47
// Invoke the inner function
console.log('sum:' + f2(40));    // x:9 y:8 z:40 sum:57
     // Take note that the value of x:9 remains the same across the invocations,
     //   which is provided by the outer function's argument

Each invocation of the outer function creates a so-called closure, which is the inner function with a set of variables together with an environment that binds those variables.

As seen from the above example, the value of x and y in the outer function remains the same for each invocation, in the return inner function. However, each invocation create a new closure with its set of values. A closure is similar to an object instance where the variables' value are already fixed.

 

Link To JavaScript/jQuery References & Resources