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Use JavaScript and the DOM to Create Dynamic Web Pages : Page 4

The Document Object Model (DOM) gives you access to all the elements on a web page. Using JavaScript, you can create, modify and remove these elements in the page dynamically.


Creating and Inserting Elements Using insertBefore and appendChild

The next two table rows allow the user to create a new element and insert it before the current node or as a child of the current node. The second row (lines 141–145) allows the user to enter text into the text field and click the InsertBefore button. The text is placed in a new paragraph element, which is then inserted into the document before the currently selected element, as in Fig. 10.2(c). The button in lines 143–144 calls the insert function, defined in lines 42–48.

Lines 44–45 call the function createNewNode, passing it the value of the input field (whose id is ins) as an argument. Function createNewNode, defined in lines 94–103, creates a paragraph node containing the text passed to it. Line 96 creates a p element using the document object's createElement method. The createElement method creates a new DOM node, taking the tag name as an argument. Note that while createElement creates an element, it does not insert the element on the page.

Line 97 creates a unique id for the new element by concatenating "new" and the value of idcount before incrementing idcount in line 98. Line 99 assigns the id to the new element. Line 100 concatenates the element's id in square brackets to the beginning of text (the parameter containing the paragraph's text).

Line 101 introduces two new methods. The document's createTextNode method creates a node that can contain only text. Given a string argument, createTextNode inserts the string into the text node. In line 101, we create a new text node containing the contents of variable text. This new node is then used (still in line 101) as the argument to the appendChild method, which is called on the paragraph node. Method appendChild is called on a parent node to insert a child node (passed as an argument) after any existing children.

After the p element is created, line 102 returns the node to the calling function insert, where it is assigned to variable newNode in lines 44–45. Line 46 inserts the newly created node before the currently selected node. The parentNode property of any DOM node contains the node's parent. In line 46, we use the parentNode property of current-Node to get its parent.

We call the insertBefore method (line 46) on the parent with newNode and currentNode as its arguments to insert newNode as a child of the parent directly before currentNode. The general syntax of the insertBefore method is

parent.insertBefore( newChild, existingChild ); 

The method is called on a parent with the new child and an existing child as arguments. The node newChild is inserted as a child of parent directly before existingChild. Line 47 uses the switchTo function (discussed earlier in this section) to update the currentNode to the newly inserted node and highlight it in the XHTML page.

The third table row (lines 145–149) allows the user to append a new paragraph node as a child of the current element, demonstrated in Fig. 10.2(d). This feature uses a similar procedure to the insertBefore functionality. Lines 53–54 in function appendNode create a new node, line 55 inserts it as a child of the current node, and line 56 uses switchTo to update currentNode and highlight the new node.

Replacing and Removing Elements Using replaceChild and removeChild

The next two table rows (lines 149–156) allow the user to replace the current element with a new p element or simply remove the current element. Lines 150–152 contain a text field and a button that replaces the currently highlighted element with a new paragraph node containing the text in the text field. This feature is demonstrated in Fig. 10.2(e).

The button in lines 151–152 calls function replaceCurrent, defined in lines 60–66. Lines 62–63 call createNewNode, in the same way as in insert and appendNode, getting the text from the correct input field. Line 64 gets the parent of currentNode, then calls the replaceChild method on the parent. The replaceChild method works as follows:

parent.replaceChild( newChild, oldChild ); 

The parent's replaceChild method inserts newChild into its list of children in place of old-Child.

The Remove Current feature, shown in Fig. 10.2(h), removes the current element entirely and highlights the parent. No text field is required because a new element is not being created. The button in lines 154-155 calls the remove function, defined in lines 69–79. If the node's parent is the body element, line 72 alerts an error—the program does not allow the entire body element to be selected. Otherwise, lines 75–77 remove the current element. Line 75 stores the old currentNode in variable oldNode. We do this to maintain a reference to the node to be removed after we've changed the value of currentNode. Line 76 calls switchTo to highlight the parent node.

Line 77 uses the removeChild method to remove the oldNode (a child of the new currentNode) from its place in the XHTML document. In general,

parent.removeChild( child ); 

looks in parent's list of children for child and removes it.

The final button (lines 157–158) selects and highlights the parent element of the currently highlighted element by calling the parent function, defined in lines 82–90. Function parent simply gets the parent node (line 84), makes sure it is not the body element, (line 86) and calls switchTo to highlight it (line 87). Line 89 alerts an error if the parent node is the body element. This feature is shown in Fig. 10.2(f).

This section introduced the basics of DOM tree traversal and manipulation. Next, we introduce the concept of collections, which give you access to multiple elements in a page.

10.4 DOM Collections

Included in the Document Object Model is the notion of collections, which are groups of related objects on a page. DOM collections are accessed as properties of DOM objects such as the document object or a DOM node. The document object has properties containing the images collection, links collection, forms collection and anchors collection. These collections contain all the elements of the corresponding type on the page. Figure 10.3 gives an example that uses the links collection to extract all of the links on a page and display them together at the bottom of the page.

Click to enlarge

Fig. 10.3

Using the links collection. (Part 1 of 2.)

Click to enlarge

Fig. 10.3a

Using the links collection. (Part 2 of 2.)

The XHTML body contains a paragraph (lines 46–59) with links at various places in the text and an empty div (line 60) with id links. The body's onload attribute specifies that the processlinks method is called when the body finishes loading.

Method processlinks declares variable linkslist (line 27) to store the document's links collection, which is accessed as the links property of the document object. Line 28 creates the string (contents) that will contain all the document's links, to be inserted into the links div later. Line 31 begins a for statement to iterate through each link. To find the number of elements in the collection, we use the collection's length property.

Line 33 inside the for statement creates a variable (currentlink) that stores the current link. Note that we can access the collection stored in linkslist using indices in square brackets, just as we did with arrays. DOM collections are stored in objects which have only one property and two methods—the length property, the item method and the namedItem method. The item method—an alternative to the square bracketed indices—can be used to access specific elements in a collection by taking an index as an argument. The namedItem method takes a name as a parameter and finds the element in the collection, if any, whose id attribute or name attribute matches it.

Lines 34–36 add a span element to the contents string containing the current link. Recall that the link method of a string object returns the string as a link to the URL passed to the method. Line 35 uses the link method to create an a (anchor) element containing the proper text and href attribute.

Notice that variable currentLink (a DOM node representing an a element) has a specialized href property to refer to the link's href attribute. Many types of XHTML elements are represented by special types of nodes that extend the functionality of a basic DOM node. Line 39 inserts the contents into the empty div with id "links" (line 60) in order to show all the links on the page in one location.

Collections allow easy access to all elements of a single type in a page. This is useful for gathering elements into one place and for applying changes across an entire page. For example, the forms collection could be used to disable all form inputs after a submit button has been pressed to avoid multiple submissions while the next page loads. The next section discusses how to dynamically modify CSS styles using JavaScript and DOM nodes.

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