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Javascript Basics 01

By Lisa Spurlin
Posted Monday, December 6, 2004

JavaScript adds simple or sophisticated interactivity to a Web site, enhancing the user's experience. Like any programming language, you need to understand the building blocks before you can start programming.

Start at the Beginning

Browsers know to interpret Web pages as HTML because of the tags. Since JavaScript is contained inside an HTML document, it needs to be set apart with the tags.


Don't forget that last tag! Abrowser will try and interpret the whole HTML page as JavaScript, until it comes to that closing tag. Without it, the page will generate unsightly errors and not load properly.

Comment, Comment, Comment

Commenting code allows you, or someone else looking at it, to understand what's occuring in the code. Commenting can be done in both single and multi-line variations:

// single line comments

/* multi-line
comments */

But what about the HTML comment inside the script tags. That exists so older browsers that don't understand JavaScript won't try and interpret it. Otherwise, the code will render the page as HTML, resulting in the page displaying incorrectly.

Defining Variables

JavaScript, like all programming languages, uses variables to store information. These variables can store numbers, strings, variables that have been previously defined, and objects. For example:

Numeric: var x = 0;
String: var y = "hello";
Variables: var z = x + y;
Object: var myImage = new Image();

Strings MUST contain "" around the word or phrase. Otherwise the JavaScript will interpret it as a number. Numbers and previously defined variables, likewise, should not have "" unless you want that number to be treated as a string.

Ex: var x = hello ** wrong

Variables that store numbers and strings can be combined in a new variable. However, if anything is combined with a string, it is automatically be treated as a string.

Ex: var y = "1";
var z = "2";
var a = y + z;

The variable "a" in this instance is "12" not 3, since the two strings were combined together as text, not added like numbers. This would be true even if y = 1.

Making a Statement

Notice the semi-colons (;) at the end of each line of code? The semi-colon denotes the end of that particular statement. While JavaScript can sometimes be forgiving if you don't include the semi-colon at the end of each statement, it's good practice to remember to do so. Otherwise, you might not remember to put it there when you really need it.

Alert! Alert!

Alerts are one of the greatest functions in JavaScript. They not only pass information on to visitors, but help you when you're trying to hunt down a bug in your code.

Examples of alerts

alert("this is a string");
creates an alert that will contain the text"this is a string"

creates an alert that will contain the value defined in variable x (make sure that variable x is defined before calling it)

alert("the number is " + x);
-creates an alert that will combine text and the value in x.

It Can Do Math Too?

JavaScript wouldn't be much of a programming language if it couldn't do simple math. While there are dozens of complex, built-in math functions, here are the basic symbols you'll need to know:

addition +
subtraction -
multiplication *
division /
greater than >
less than <
greater than or equal >=
less than or equal

Notice how the instructions for each statement (both the "if" and "else") are enclosed in {}(curly brackets). All curly brackets must have a beginning and ending, just like HTML tags. If a curly bracket is missing the JavaScript will return an error, so be sure to proof your code.

This document is provided for informational purposes only, and makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, in this document. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. The entire risk of the use or the results of the use of this document remains with the user. The example companies, organizations, products, people, and events depicted herein are fictitious. No association with any real company, organization, product, person, or event is intended or should be inferred. Complying with all applicable copyright laws is the responsibility of the user. Without limiting the rights under copyright, no part of this document may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), or for any purpose, wit hout the express written permission of

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(C) Copyright 2002. Lisa Spurlin

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