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Modifying the document

DOM modifications is the key to create "live" pages.

Here we'll see how to create new elements "on the fly" and modify the existing page content.

First we'll see a simple example and then explain the methods.

Example: show a message

For a start, let's see how to add a message on the page that looks nicer than alert.

Here's how it will look:

<style>
.alert {
  padding: 15px;
  border: 1px solid #d6e9c6;
  border-radius: 4px;
  color: #3c763d;
  background-color: #dff0d8;
}
</style>

*!*
<div class="alert">
  <strong>Hi there!</strong> You've read an important message.
</div>
*/!*

That was an HTML example. Now let's create the same div with JavaScript (assuming that the styles are still in the HTML or an external CSS file).

Creating an element

To create DOM nodes, there are two methods:

document.createElement(tag) : Creates a new element with the given tag:

```js
let div = document.createElement('div');
```

document.createTextNode(text) : Creates a new text node with the given text:

```js
let textNode = document.createTextNode('Here I am');
```

Creating the message

In our case we want to make a div with given classes and the message in it:

let div = document.createElement('div');
div.className = "alert alert-success";
div.innerHTML = "<strong>Hi there!</strong> You've read an important message.";

After that, we have a ready DOM element. Right now it's in the variable, but can not be seen, because it's not been inserted into the page yet.

Insertion methods

To make the div show up, we need to insert it somewhere into document. For instance, in document.body.

There's a special method for that: document.body.appendChild(div).

Here's the full code:

<style>
.alert {
  padding: 15px;
  border: 1px solid #d6e9c6;
  border-radius: 4px;
  color: #3c763d;
  background-color: #dff0d8;
}
</style>

<script>
  let div = document.createElement('div');
  div.className = "alert alert-success";
  div.innerHTML = "<strong>Hi there!</strong> You've read an important message.";

*!*
  document.body.appendChild(div);
*/!*
</script>

Here's a brief list of methods to insert a node into a parent element (parentElem for short):

parentElem.appendChild(node) : Appends node as the last child of parentElem.

The following example adds a new `<li>` to the end of `<ol>`:

```html run height=100
<ol id="list">
  <li>0</li>
  <li>1</li>
  <li>2</li>
</ol>

<script>
  let newLi = document.createElement('li');
  newLi.innerHTML = 'Hello, world!';

  list.appendChild(newLi);
</script>
```

parentElem.insertBefore(node, nextSibling) : Inserts node before nextSibling into parentElem.

The following code inserts a new list item before the second `<li>`:

```html run height=100
<ol id="list">
  <li>0</li>
  <li>1</li>
  <li>2</li>
</ol>
<script>
  let newLi = document.createElement('li');
  newLi.innerHTML = 'Hello, world!';

*!*
  list.insertBefore(newLi, list.children[1]);
*/!*
</script>
```
To insert `newLi` as the first element, we can do it like this:

```js
list.insertBefore(newLi, list.firstChild);
```

parentElem.replaceChild(node, oldChild) : Replaces oldChild with node among children of parentElem.

All these methods return the inserted node. In other words, parentElem.appendChild(node) returns node. But usually the returned value is not used, we just run the method.

These methods are "old school": they exist from the ancient times and we can meet them in many old scripts. Unfortunately, there are some tasks that are hard to solve with them.

For instance, how to insert html if we have it as a string? Or, given a node, how to insert another node before it? Of course, all that is doable, but not in an elegant way.

So there exist two other sets of insertion methods to handle all cases easily.

prepend/append/before/after

This set of methods provides more flexible insertions:

  • node.append(...nodes or strings) -- append nodes or strings at the end of node,
  • node.prepend(...nodes or strings) -- insert nodes or strings into the beginning of node,
  • node.before(...nodes or strings) –- insert nodes or strings before the node,
  • node.after(...nodes or strings) –- insert nodes or strings after the node,
  • node.replaceWith(...nodes or strings) –- replaces node with the given nodes or strings.

Here's an example of using these methods to add more items to a list and the text before/after it:

<ol id="ol">
  <li>0</li>
  <li>1</li>
  <li>2</li>
</ol>

<script>
  ol.before('before');
  ol.after('after');

  let prepend = document.createElement('li');
  prepend.innerHTML = 'prepend';
  ol.prepend(prepend);  

  let append = document.createElement('li');
  append.innerHTML = 'append';
  ol.append(append);
</script>

Here's a small picture what methods do:

So the final list will be:

before
<ol id="ol">
  <li>prepend</li>
  <li>0</li>
  <li>1</li>
  <li>2</li>
  <li>append</li>
</ol>
after

These methods can insert multiple lists of nodes and text pieces in a single call.

For instance, here a string and an element are inserted:

<div id="div"></div>
<script>
  div.before('<p>Hello</p>', document.createElement('hr'));
</script>

All text is inserted as text.

So the final HTML is:

*!*
&lt;p&gt;Hello&lt;/p&gt;
*/!*
<hr>
<div id="div"></div>

In other words, strings are inserted in a safe way, like elem.textContent does it.

So, these methods can only be used to insert DOM nodes or text pieces.

But what if we want to insert HTML "as html", with all tags and stuff working, like elem.innerHTML?

insertAdjacentHTML/Text/Element

There's another, pretty versatile method: elem.insertAdjacentHTML(where, html).

The first parameter is a string, specifying where to insert, must be one of the following:

  • "beforebegin" -- insert html before elem,
  • "afterbegin" -- insert html into elem, at the beginning,
  • "beforeend" -- insert html into elem, at the end,
  • "afterend" -- insert html after elem.

The second parameter is an HTML string, inserted "as is".

For instance:

<div id="div"></div>
<script>
  div.insertAdjacentHTML('beforebegin', '<p>Hello</p>');
  div.insertAdjacentHTML('afterend', '<p>Bye</p>');
</script>

...Would lead to:

<p>Hello</p>
<div id="div"></div>
<p>Bye</p>

That's how we can append an arbitrary HTML to our page.

Here's the picture of insertion variants:

We can easily notice similarities between this and the previous picture. The insertion points are actually the same, but this method inserts HTML.

The method has two brothers:

  • elem.insertAdjacentText(where, text) -- the same syntax, but a string of text in inserted "as text" instead of HTML,
  • elem.insertAdjacentElement(where, elem) -- the same syntax, but inserts an element.

They exist mainly to make the syntax "uniform". In practice, most of the time only insertAdjacentHTML is used, because for elements and text we have methods append/prepend/before/after -- they are shorter to write and can insert nodes/text pieces.

So here's an alternative variant of showing a message:

<style>
.alert {
  padding: 15px;
  border: 1px solid #d6e9c6;
  border-radius: 4px;
  color: #3c763d;
  background-color: #dff0d8;
}
</style>

<script>
  document.body.insertAdjacentHTML("afterbegin", `<div class="alert alert-success">
    <strong>Hi there!</strong> You've read an important message.
  </div>`);
</script>

Cloning nodes: cloneNode

How to insert one more similar message?

We could make a function and put the code there. But the alternative way would be to clone the existing div and modify the text inside it (if needed).

Sometimes when we have a big element, that may be faster and simpler.

  • The call elem.cloneNode(true) creates a "deep" clone of the element -- with all attributes and subelements. If we call elem.cloneNode(false), then the clone is made without child elements.

An example of copying the message:

<style>
.alert {
  padding: 15px;
  border: 1px solid #d6e9c6;
  border-radius: 4px;
  color: #3c763d;
  background-color: #dff0d8;
}
</style>

<div class="alert" id="div">
  <strong>Hi there!</strong> You've read an important message.
</div>

<script>
*!*
  let div2 = div.cloneNode(true); // clone the message
  div2.querySelector('strong').innerHTML = 'Bye there!'; // change the clone

  div.after(div2); // show the clone after the existing div
*/!*
</script>

Removal methods

To remove nodes, there are the following methods:

parentElem.removeChild(node) : Removes elem from parentElem (assuming it's a child).

node.remove() : Removes the node from its place.

We can easily see that the second method is much shorter. The first one exists for historical reasons.

If we want to *move* an element to another place -- there's no need to remove it from the old one.

**All insertion methods automatically remove the node from the old place.**

For instance, let's swap elements:

```html run height=50
<div id="first">First</div>
<div id="second">Second</div>
<script>
  // no need to call remove
  second.after(first); // take #second and after it - insert #first
</script>
```

Let's make our message disappear after a second:

<style>
.alert {
  padding: 15px;
  border: 1px solid #d6e9c6;
  border-radius: 4px;
  color: #3c763d;
  background-color: #dff0d8;
}
</style>

<script>
  let div = document.createElement('div');
  div.className = "alert alert-success";
  div.innerHTML = "<strong>Hi there!</strong> You've read an important message.";

  document.body.append(div);
*!*
  setTimeout(() => div.remove(), 1000);
  // or setTimeout(() => document.body.removeChild(div), 1000);
*/!*
</script>

A word about "document.write"

There's one more, very ancient method of adding something to a web-page: document.write.

The syntax:

<p>Somewhere in the page...</p>
*!*
<script>
  document.write('<b>Hello from JS</b>');
</script>
*/!*
<p>The end</p>

The call to document.write(html) writes the html into page "right here and now". The html string can be dynamically generated, so it's kind of flexible. We can use JavaScript to create a full-fledged webpage and write it.

The method comes from times when there were no DOM, no standards... Really old times. It still lives, because there are scripts using it.

In modern scripts we can rarely see it, because of the following important limitation:

The call to document.write only works while the page is loading.

If we call it afterwards, the existing document content is erased.

For instance:

<p>After one second the contents of this page will be replaced...</p>
*!*
<script>
  // document.write after 1 second
  // that's after the page loaded, so it erases the existing content
  setTimeout(() => document.write('<b>...By this.</b>'), 1000);
</script>
*/!*

So it's kind of unusable at "after loaded" stage, unlike other DOM methods we covered above.

That was the downside.

Technically, when document.write is called while the browser is still reading HTML, it appends something to it, and the browser consumes it just as it were initially there.

That gives us the upside -- it works blazingly fast, because there's no DOM modification. It writes directly into the page text, while the DOM is not yet built, and the browser puts it into DOM at generation-time.

So if we need to add a lot of text into HTML dynamically, and we're at page loading phase, and the speed matters, it may help. But in practice these requirements rarely come together. And usually we can see this method in scripts just because they are old.

Summary

Methods to create new nodes:

  • document.createElement(tag) -- creates an element with the given tag,
  • document.createTextNode(value) -- creates a text node (rarely used),
  • elem.cloneNode(deep) -- clones the element, if deep==true then with all descendants.

Insertion and removal of nodes:

  • From the parent:

    • parent.appendChild(node)
    • parent.insertBefore(node, nextSibling)
    • parent.removeChild(node)
    • parent.replaceChild(newElem, node)

    All these methods return node.

  • Given a list of nodes and strings:

    • node.append(...nodes or strings) -- insert into node, at the end,
    • node.prepend(...nodes or strings) -- insert into node, at the beginning,
    • node.before(...nodes or strings) –- insert right before node,
    • node.after(...nodes or strings) –- insert right after node,
    • node.replaceWith(...nodes or strings) –- replace node.
    • node.remove() –- remove the node.

    Text strings are inserted "as text".

  • Given a piece of HTML: elem.insertAdjacentHTML(where, html), inserts depending on where:

    • "beforebegin" -- insert html right before elem,
    • "afterbegin" -- insert html into elem, at the beginning,
    • "beforeend" -- insert html into elem, at the end,
    • "afterend" -- insert html right after elem.

    Also there are similar methods elem.insertAdjacentText and elem.insertAdjacentElement, they insert text strings and elements, but they are rarely used.

  • To append HTML to the page before it has finished loading:

    • document.write(html)

    After the page is loaded such a call erases the document. Mostly seen in old scripts.