All browsers I've come to work with allow accessing an element with
id="myDiv" by simply writing:
See here: http://jsfiddle.net/L91q54Lt/
Anyway, this method seems to be quite poorly documented, and in fact, the sources I come across don't even give it a mention and instead assume that one would use
to access a DOM element even when its ID is known in advance (i.e. not calculated at runtime). I can tell that the latter approaches have the advantage of keeping the code safe if someone inadvertedly attempts to redefine
myDiv in a wider scope (not such a brilliant idea though...), overwrites it with some different value and goes on without noticing the clash.
But other that that? Are there any concerns in using the short form above other than code design, or what else am I missing here?
Anyway, this method seems to be quite poorly documented, and In fact, the sources I come across don't even give it a mention [...]
Reliance on implicitly-declared global variables aside, the lack of documentation is a great reason not to use it.
The apparent promotion of
id values into global variables isn't standards compliant (the HTML5 spec for the ID attribute doesn't mention it) and, therefore, you shouldn't assume future browsers will implement it.
EDIT: It turns out this behaviour is standards compliant - In HTML5,
window should support property access to "Named Elements":
Named objects with the name name, for the purposes of the above algorithm, are those that are either:
- child browsing contexts of the active document whose name is name,
- a, applet, area, embed, form, frameset, img, or object elements that have a name content attribute whose value is name, or
- HTML elements that have an id content attribute whose value is name.
Source: HTML 5 spec, 'Named access on window object", emphasis mine.
Based on this, standards compliance is not a reason to avoid this pattern. However, the spec itself advises against its use:
As a general rule, relying on this will lead to brittle code. Which IDs end up mapping to this API can vary over time, as new features are added to the Web platform, for example. Instead of this, use
Great question. As Einstein probably didn’t say, things should be as simple as possible, and no simpler.
the latter approaches have the advantage of keeping the code safe if someone inadvertedly attempts to redefine myDiv in a wider scope (not such a brilliant idea though...), overwrites it with some different value and goes on without noticing the clash
That’s the main reason why this is a bad idea, and it’s quite enough. Global variables aren’t safe to rely on. They can be overwritten at any time, by any script that ends up running on the page.
In addition to that, just typing in
myDiv isn’t a “short form” of
document.getElementById(). It’s a reference to a global variable.
document.getElementById() will happily return
null if the element doesn’t exist, whilst attempting to access a non-existent global variable will throw a reference error, so you’d need to wrap your references to the global in a try/catch block to be safe.
This is one reason why jQuery is so popular: if you do
$("#myDiv").remove(), and there is no element with an id of
myDiv, no error will be thrown — the code will just silently do nothing, which is often exactly what you want when doing DOM manipulation.
There are a few reasons:
You don't want your code and your markup that coupled.
By using a specific call to access a div, you don't have to worry about the global space being corrupted. Add a library that declares
myDiv in global space and you're in a world of pain that will be hard to fix.
You can access elements, by ID, that aren't part of the DOM
They can be in a fragment, a frame, or an element that has been detached and not re-attached to the DOM yet.
EDIT: Example of accessing a non-attached elements by
var frag = document.createDocumentFragment(); var span = document.createElement("span"); span.id = "span-test"; frag.appendChild(span); var span2 = frag.getElementById("span-test"); alert(span === span2);
In my case I had an iframe inside my page. I was confused by
id attribute vs
name attribute, both of which affected a variable named
inner_iframe, accessible from
windowbecause of the reason quoted by @joew in the accepted answer:
HTML elements that have an id content attribute whose value is name
If I used only the name attribute, like
window.inner_iframe is a "frame", aka a "window object".
contentWindow, therefore the name-attribute inner_iframe does not have properties
inner_iframevariable appears on
windowbecause of the reason quoted by @joew in the accepted answer
child browsing contexts of the active document whose name is name
idattributes, and I gave both attributes the same value
name="inner_iframe" id="inner-iframe"; the
nameattribute trumped/clobbered the
idattribute; I was left with the "window object", not the
So my point is to be careful about ambiguity; the conflict between
id attributes on the same object with two different APIs: is just a specific case where implicit behavior and attachment to a window variable may confuse you.
*(and only if the
<script> was loaded after/beneath the
<iframe> in the HTML, or the
<script> waited until
window.onload before trying to access by id attribute)
**this "frame" vs DOM Element distinction is described in Mozilla documentation as:
Each item in the window.frames pseudo-array represents the window object corresponding to the given 's or 's content, not the (i)frame DOM element (i.e., window.frames is the same thing as document.getElementsByTagName("iframe").contentWindow).
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