Thursday: EL 312 11:45am - 1:25pm

Friday: WVG 102 3:25pm - 5:05pm

First: HW Questions?

  • Today we'll talk about JavaScript and the DOM.

Quick Review of HTML + CSS

(show page/page.html)

  • Today we're talking about how to write code that will run in a web page.
  • Web pages are HTML documents.
  • HTML documents are a tree of tags / elements.
  • Different tags mean different stuff.
  • Every element has a bunch of associated data.
    • Tags have attributes, specified in the HTML.
    • Tags have style data, modified using CSS rules.
  • Browsers render web pages by building the tree in memory.
  • JavaScript can inspect and manipulate the tree.
  • If the tree is changed, the browser re-renders the page.

JavaScript: The Language

JavaScript is:

  • A language initially designed in two weeks by Brendan Eich at Netscape in 1995.
  • About as different from Java as possible while still having curly braces for blocks.
  • Dynamically typed.
  • Hash-oriented. The primary data type is a thing called an object, which is a key-value map with string keys.
  • Has a prototype based object model - this makes it "object oriented" without classes.
  • Provides decent support for programming in a functional style.


  • var thing = {a: 5, b: 7};
  • thing.b
  • thing["b"]
  • We can type examples in "node" in a terminal.
  • Does type coersions:
    • 5 == "5"
    • [] == ![]
    • 5 === "5"
  • Happens in cases other than equality:
    • 1 < 2 < 3
    • 3 > 2 > 1
    • Be careful, try to get an understanding of what the rules actually are, especially if you're going to write a lot of JS.

Object prototypes:

function Posn(x, y) {
  this.x = x;
  this.y = y;
  this.dist_from_origin = function() {
    return Math.sqrt(this.x * this.x + this.y * this.y);

var aa = new Point(0, 10);


  • No mechanism for inheritence (maybe a good thing?)
  • Really easy to forget "new" and just call the function. This makes a mess.

A note on "this":

  • The variable "this" refers to the object that the current method was called on.
  • If you call something as a function rather than a method, it's best to assume that "this" is assigned randomly.
  • ES 2015 adds arrow functions: (a, b) => {return a + b}, which lexically capture the outer "this" binding. Not supported in IE 11.

Alternative: Object.create

let default_posn = {
  x: 0,
  y: 0,
  this.dist = function() {
    return Math.sqrt(this.x * this.x + this.y * this.y);

let posn1 = Object.create(default_posn, {x: 5, y: 7});

Alternative: class

  • Introduced in ECMAScript 2015
  • If you try to call a class as a function, you get an error.
  • Not supported in IE 11 (without Babel)

DOM: The Web Page API

  • (Ctrl + =) to zoom firefox dev console.
  • HTML documents are a tree.
  • This tree is exposed as data from JavaScript.
  • The browser either exposes or simulates exposing the data objects representing the nodes in the tree.
  • More specifically:
    • Each tag produces an element, which is a kind of tree node.
    • There can be tree nodes that are not elements (like text).
  • Each one of these objects has both properties, which we can inspect or modify, and methods that we can call.
  • The exposed tree root is called "document".
  • The children of a node are in an object property called "children". This looks like an array, but isn't one. We can treat it as a read-only array.
  • Non-root nodes have a "parentElement" property.
  • There are also "nextSibling" and "previousSibling" properties.
  • To mutate the children array, we use methods:
var body = document.children[0].children[1];
var new_h1 = document.createElement("h1");
new_h1.innerText = "New Heading";
var ch0 = body.children[0];
body.insertBefore(new_h1, ch0);
body.insertBefore(new_h1, ch0);
new_h1.style.color = "purple";
  • There are a bunch of properties and methods available on HTML elements.
  • Some kinds of element have extra properties / methods.
// Align is only available on block elements that can contain text.
new_h1.align = "center";
  • There are better ways to get a reference to specific elements than by traversing the document tree:
var para = document.getElementById("hello");
para.innerText = "Here's the 'hello' element.";

var bdivs = document.getElementsByClassName("bbb");
for (var ii = 0; ii < bdivs.length; ++ii) {
  var div = bdivs[ii];
  div.innerText = "bbb div #" + ii;

// Array like objects are weird.
// In modern browsers, we can just copy them to am array.
var bda = Array.from(bdivs);
bda.forEach(function (div) {
  div.innerText = "this is a div";

var bdivs2 = document.querySelectorAll(".bbb"); // CSS-style selector
var bdiv = document.querySelector(".bbb"); // Gets first matching element
var para2 = document.querySelector("#hello"); // Gets first matching element

Namespaces and Strict Mode

  • Traditional JavaScript doesn't have a module system.

  • That means any names that are declared at the top level of your code - which is especially common for fuctions - are global.

  • Luckily, JavaScript provides lexical scoping, which can be used to simulate modules.

  • (See code.js)

  • JavaScript also has a great feature: assignment to an unknown variable name declares a new global variable.

  • This can be disabled with the "use strict" mechanism, which requires that all variables be explicitly declared (with var, let, or const) before use.

  • Once we start writing modern JS we won't need to worry as much about this stuff - until we try to debug our code, and then we realize that this is what the transpiler does.

JS Events

  //alert("Scripts execute in order, blocking page rendering.");

<p><button onclick="alert('clicked button');">Click me</button>

<p><button id="button2">Button 2</button>
  function showPopup() {
    alert("clicked button 2");
  var btn = document.getElementById("button2");
  btn.onclick = showPopup;

<p><a href="http://google.com/" id="link1">Click Me</a>
  function showPopup2(ev) {
    alert("clicked button 2");
  var link1 = document.getElementById("link1");
  link1.onclick = showPopup2;

<p><button id="button3">Button 3</button>
<p id="b3text">Button 3 text</p>
  var b3p = document.getElementById("b3text");
  function changeTextBack() {
    b3p.innerText = "Button 3 text"; 

  function changeText() {
    b3p.innerText = "some other text";
    window.setTimeout(changeTextBack, 2000);

  var btn3 = document.getElementById("button3");
  btn3.addEventListener("click", changeText);

Looking Forward

After we get going, we're going to pull in some libraries to make things more complicated, and possibly easier:

  • jQuery: Provides some shortcuts for DOM stuff like queries and manipulation of elements.
  • Some sort of CSS design framework like Bootstrap or Milligram, that lets us work from a bunch of standard elements with reasonable styling.
  • lodash: Some extra functions that allow a functional programming style.
  • React: A virtual DOM rendering library. This lets us avoid manually manipulating the document tree when dealing with frequently-changing page contents - which is a good thing.