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Introduction to jQuery

So far, we’ve learned the basics of JavaScript. From variables, to understanding Objects, functions and how to manipulate the ​D​ocument ​O​bject ​M​odel.

What is jQuery?

jQuery is a widely used JavaScript library to help you find and change html elements on web pages, and do things in response to user events.


jQuery lets you identify the html element that you want to work on using CSS selectors. It uses the odd-looking $() function to do this. We write a jQuery selector by passing the $() function a selector as a string, like this:

$('div')              // all div elemenets
$('#container')       // the element with the ID container
$('.total')           // selects all elements with the class total

jQuery objects

The $() function returns a jQuery object. This object refers to the elements that you selected. You can then call jQuery methods on this object to inspect or change those elements.

$('#container').text('This is the new text')   // Replace the text inside the element with ID 'container'
$('.total').css('color', 'red')                // Set the CSS color to be 'red' on every element with class 'total'

Exercise 1: Build a wish list

Using jQuery and JavaScript functions, we are going to build a small todo list.

Download the files that you will need to work through the example here

Alternatively, if you’ve already learned how to use git and would like to use it here, you can clone this repo:

git clone wishlist

The files that you start with don’t really do anything, so let’s start by making the ‘Add to list’ button work.

Add wishes to the list

Try it out

To get started, open index.html in your web browser, and open the javascript console.

In chrome, use Ctrl-Shift-J or Cmd-alt-J to open the console

There is a list on this page with id items. You can’t see it yet because it’s empty. Let’s start by adding something to it. Try typing this into the console:

$('#items').append('<li>My first item</li>')

You should see an item appear in your list.

The $('#items') function returned a jQuery object that has selected the html element with id items. You then called the append method on this object. The append method takes an html string as a parameter, and appends it to the element that you selected.

Write some code

Now we can turn this into a function to add items to the list. Open script.js in your text editor and start writing a function:

function addToList(item) {


The code you want to put in this function looks a lot like what you wrote on the console earlier, but instead of adding ‘My first item’, we want to add the parameter to this function:

'<li>' + item + '</li>'

Once you’ve done that, reload index.html in your browser, and try running the function you’ve just written from the browser console.

addToList('build a website');

You should see your item added to the list.

Make the input box work

There’s an input field and button on the page. We’re now going to connect those to the function you just wrote.

Try it out

Go to your web browser, type some text in the input box, and open the javascript console.

Write a $() selector that selects the input box. Look at the index.html file to find the id of the input element.

Try calling the .val() method on that object. It should return the current contents of the input box.

Now try calling the same method with a string parameter. See how this time it changes what the input box contains?

This is a common pattern in jQuery: calling a method with a new value as a parameter will change that property, while calling it without a parameter will return the current value.

To tie it all together, type some text in the input box, and call your addToList function with your .val() call as a parameter. You should see this add the text from the input box to the wishlist.

Write some code

Now you know how to get the contents of the input box, and change it. Next you need to make all this happen when the button is clicked.

We can use the click method to add an event handler that will be called when the user clicks on something. Add this new function to script.js:

$(document).on('click', '#add-to-list', function() {


Inside this function, add the line that you worked out earlier which calls addToList with the current value of the input box.

That’s all you need! Check that it works in your browser. You should be able to type something into the input box, click the button, and it will be added to the list.

When you’ve got that working, add another line to your click event handler, that empties the input box after adding the item to the list.

This is a good time to pause, read back through all the code you’ve written, and make sure you understand what it all does. Ask your coach about anything that isn’t clear to you. We’re going to be building on these ideas in the next few steps.


After you click on the button, the cursor is no longer in the input box. That’s a bit annoying. Use jQuery’s focus() method to place the cursor back in the text field after clicking the button.

If you aren’t sure how to use the focus() method, try searching for it in the jQuery documentation. There are some code examples illustrating how to use it.

Label items

We’re now going to add labels to the items in the list, so that you can mark them as done.

Start by adding a ‘pending’ label to each item when it gets added to the list. Change your addToList function so that when you call addToList('build a website'), it adds this html code:

<li>build a website<span class='label pending'>Pending</span></li>

Refresh the page and try it again. You should see something that looks like this:

Setting items to complete

When we click on the ‘Pending’ label, we want to mark items as complete. We shall do this by removing the ‘Pending’ label and adding a new ‘Done’ label.

Start by making a new click event handler for the ‘.pending’ class.

The code we put inside the event handler this time is a little more interesting, because we want to change the item that was clicked on. JavaScript gives you the element that the event came from in a special variable called this. Because this comes from JavaScript itself, it is not a jQuery object. We can fix that by passing it to the $() function, as $(this).

In our case, the element that the event came from is the <span class='label pending'> element that was clicked on. We can use the jQuery .parent() method to find the parent of that element, which will be the <li>.

So, begin your new event handler with this line:

var li_node = $(this).parent();

Now that you have the right list item, use .append() to add a new label <span class='label success'>Done!</span>, and then use .remove() to remove the Pending label.


We can make this look a little better. A useful technique is to add and remove css classes. Try adding this line to your event handler:


In your web browser, use the ‘Inspect element’ feature to look at a list item, then click on the Pending label. See how it now has class=”completed” in the inspector, and is now getting styled by things in the css which apply to that class?

This approach lets us keep all our styles in css files, and have javascript turn them on and off.

Show the total task count

Try it out

Go to your web browser, add some items to the list, and open the javascript console.

Start by writing a jQuery selector that selects all the pending labels. You can use the .length property to find out how many elements on the page a jQuery object refers to. Try it now - get the number of pending labels, and the number of completed labels.

.length is a property, not a method, so you don’t add a ()

Store those lengths in two variables called pending and completed.

Now let’s display them on the page. Look at index.html and find the span that comes just below the <ol> element. Write a jQuery selector for that element, and then call .text('Pending: ' + pending + ' Completed: ' + completed) on it.

Write some code

You now know how to count the number of items in the list and display the totals. Write a new function called updateTotal to do this.

Update the displayed totals by calling updateTotal()

  1. after adding an item to the list
  2. when changing the state of an item from Pending to Done

Pushing to Github page

If you’re using git for this exercise, you can push what you’ve made to your github page.

Link to wishlist/index.html from the index.html of your Github page. Push your changes to the github-pages branch and check you can access the project from the internet. Access the wish list at http://<username><project>/wishlist/index.html

Have a look at our Wish List.

Exercise 1 recap

Here are the things you learned about in exercise 1:

  1. The $() function creates a jQuery object that you can call methods on. You can pass it a selector, like $('#add-to-list') or $('.pending'), or a javascript object like $(this) or $(document).

  2. The jQuery methods .append() and .remove() can be used to add and delete elements on the page.

  3. jQuery methods like .text(), .val(), and .addClass() can be used to get things from the page and change them.

  4. The .on() function can be used to add an event handler. By making a handler for the click event, you can run your code when somebody clicks on something on the page.

Exercise 2: Build a colourpicker

Before you start, close any windows you still have open from the last exercise. This one also has files called index.html and script.js, and you don’t want to edit the wrong one by accident.

Download the files required to begin working through the example.

If you’re using git, you can clone this repo instead, and move the files under your Github page folder, in a directory called colourpicker. Don’t forget to commit each task you complete! That way it will be easier to retrace your steps if something goes wrong!

We’re going to make a page where you can pick css colours and make a list of favourites. Like last time, you’re starting from some html that doesn’t really do anything yet. The finished version will look something like this:

Colour the preview area

The big rectangle is meant to be a preview of the colour that you have typed into the text box above it. We’re going to start by making a function to set the colour of this area.

Try it out

Have a look at index.html, and find the div called preview. In the javascript console, write a jQuery selector for this element.

This time you’re going to use the .css() method to change the style of the element. To set a css property, you pass this function two parameters: the name of the property to set, and its value. Try setting the background colour to purple, like this:

.css('background-color', 'purple')

We write colour in English, but Americans spell it color. CSS uses the American spelling, and it won’t work if you write colour instead.

Write some code

Write a new function in script.js called setPreviewColor. Make it take a colour as a parameter and set the preview area’s background to be that colour.

Try it out in the javascript console: setPreviewColour('purple'). You should see the same thing you did before.

Colour input box

Next we’re going to make the input box set the colour. Start by looking in the html for the <input> element. On the javascript console, write a selector for it and get its current value.

In the last exercise, you used the .on() function to add an event handler for the click event. This time, you’re going to handle the keyup event: that’s when somebody has released a key on the keyboard. Write that event handler now.

Remember that you call the .on() function on the $(document) object, pass it the event name as the first parameter, and the selector for the element you want to handle events for as the second parameter.

We’re not giving you an example here - you learned how to do all these things in exercise 1. Look back at how you did this before if you need a reminder.

In this event handler, call setPreviewColour and pass it the current value of the input box.

When you’ve got all that working, you should see the preview area change colour when you type colour names into the input box.

Bonus question: why does the colour only change when you finish typing in a colour?

Display the rgb value of the colour

Try it out

Set the colour to purple again, and then use the javascript console to write a selector for the preview area, and call the css method on it again, like when you were setting the colour earlier. This time, we’re only going to pass one parameter to the method:


You should see that instead of setting the colour, it returns the current colour. When you call jQuery methods that can change something, and don’t pass them a new value, they return the current value.

Interestingly, you set the colour to ‘purple’ but it has been returned in rgb(x,y,z) form. Colours always get converted into this form when they are set. We can use this to add another feature to our colour picker.

Write some code

Extend your setPreviewColor function to set the text of .color-code to the rgb value that you read back from the .preview div.

Add colours to favorites list

Next we’re going to make the ‘Add to favorites’ button work. When it is clicked, it should add a box to the #colors div using the current value of the input text field.

Write a new function addBox(color) that makes a new box and adds it to the beginning of #colors. You can use the jQuery .prepend() method to add something to the start of an element, and something like this to make the new box:

'<div class="item" style="background-color: ' + color + ';"></div>'

Run addBox('FF0033') from the console to make sure your code works.

Call the the addBox function from the click event

Write a new click event handler for the ‘Add to favorites’ button. Make it do the following things:

  1. Retrieve the value from the #color field
  2. Add a box with that color
  3. Reset the value of the #color field

Setting up initial colours

Try it out

For this next part, we’re going to use a function that belongs to arrays. Open the javascript console. Start by defining an array:

var words = ['these', 'are', 'some', 'words'];

We’re going to use your array’s forEach function. You can use it to call another function once for each thing in the array. Try this:

words.forEach(function(word) {

See how the function got called with 'these', then with 'are', and so on? Make sure you understand what’s happening here. Experiment with it, or ask your coach, if there’s anything you’re unsure about.

Write some code

Now we’re going to add some initial colours when the page loads. So far, you have been writing code that runs in event handlers when the user clicks or uses the keyboard. Doing things when the page loads is similar: we’re going to handle the ready event for the page. The whole page is found in a variable called document, so you write the event handler like this:

$(document).ready(function() {
  // Code that runs when the document is ready

This looks a little different to the event handlers that you’ve written so far. We’ve been using the .on() function to register our events to keep the code simpler, but there is also a method for each event directly, like .click() and .keyup().

Pick a few colour codes you like and store them in an array:

var colors = [ '22ac5e', 'd68236', '770077' ];

Now you can use a colors.forEach inside your ready function to call addBox for each color in this array. When you reload the page, you should see that all these colours have been added, without you needing to click on anything.

Getting a random element

We can also initialise the preview box by selecting a random element from the colors list. To do this, we need to know how to pick a random choice.

Try it out

Start on the javascript console again. You can pick a random number with Math.random():


Try it a few times. You should find that it gives you numbers between 0 and 1. It’s a little more subtle than that, because it returns a number in the range [0, 1): it might return zero, or values up to 0.99999…, but will never return 1.

You can get the length of any array by using the .length property. Your colors array should be available to you, so you can get the length of that. The next step is to multiply a random number by the length of the array.

Math.random() * colors.length

In our example above, the array was 3 elements long, so this would return a number in the range [0, 3): up to, but never equal to 3.

We can’t pick element 2.5 from an array, so we use Math.floor to discard the fractional part of the number. In our example, that gives us 0, 1, or 2. Try it for your array:

Math.floor( Math.random() * colors.length )

The last piece you need is to pick an element from your array. You do this by writing colors[0] for the first element, colors[1] for the second element, and so on.

You should now be able to put these two things together to pick a random element from your array. Try it a few times to convince yourself that it’s correct.

Write some code

You know how to do this now. Add some more code to script.js so that when the page has finished loading, you select a random colour from your array, and call setPreviewColor to set the preview area to that colour.

Restrict number of displayed boxes

If you keep adding more colours to the favourite list, the page gets a bit out of control. Let’s limit the number of colours to 16.

Try it out

Add a few colours to the page, and open the javascript console.

We need to find out how many colours are currently on the page. For this we’re going to write a more interesting selector: "#colors .item". Pay careful attention to the space in the middle. You might remember this from the CSS tutorials: it says an element with class=item inside an element with id=colors.

Make a jQuery object with this selector, and look at the .length property. Add some more colours - make sure that you’ve got the right thing. That lets you tell whether you’ve reached the limit of colours on the page yet.

The other thing that you’ll need to do is to remove the last element from the page. You can use the same selector to start with, since it selects all the items. Next you need to find the last element in that selection, which you can do by calling the .last() method on the jQuery object. The .last() method returns a new jQuery object that contains only the last thing in the selection.

With this object, you should be able to remove the last element. If you can’t remember how, think back to exercise 1: you did this when removing pending labels from the wishlist.

Write some code

Change the code that handles the click event. If the number of colours on the page is 16 or greater, remove the last element from the favourite list.

This way, when the list is full, we remove a box from the end and add another one at the start.

Set focus

Similar to the first exercise, set the focus back to the #color input field when a color is added to the favorites list.

Change preview box on mouse over

The last feature to add to the colour picker is to make the preview area change colour as you point the mouse at the favourite colours. You can do this by handling the mouseenter and mouseleave events, which happen when the mouse pointer moves over an element, and when it moves away from an element.

Write a mouseenter event for the items in the #color box. Remember how you used the this variable in exercise 1, to find the element that an event happened on? You’re going to need it here. Find the background colour of the element where the mouseenter event happened. Set the colour of the preview box to that colour.

At this point, you should find the preview box changes colour when you point the mouse at the favourite colours. To finish this off, set the preview box back to its original colour when you move the mouse away from the box.

Make a new variable, outside your event handler functions. You’re going to use this to store the original colour:

var previewColor;

In the mouseenter event, get the current background-color of the preview box and store it in previewColor.

Write a mouseleave event for the items in the #color box, that sets the preview colour back to the original colour that you stored.

Publish to github

If you’re using git for this exercise, you can push what you’ve made to your github page.

Link to the colopicker from index and push your changes to github. Compare your colorpicker with ours.

Link to your colorpicker http://<username><project>/colorpicker/index.html

Exercise 2 recap

Here are the things you learned about in exercise 2:

  1. The jQuery method .css() can be used to get the current value of css properties, or to change them to new values.

  2. You can write handlers for keyboard events and mouse overs as well as mouse clicks.

  3. $(document).ready() lets you write code that runs after your page has loaded.

  4. forEach() lets you run some code for each thing in an array.


If you want to use jQuery on other projects, you can download or link directly to the latest version from the jQuery download section.

You can read the jQuery documentation to look up what other things can be done with jQuery. The page for every jQuery method has examples of how to use it (maybe below a long explanation of what it does - scroll down to find the examples).

This ends our Introduction to jQuery tutorial. Is there something you don’t understand? Try and go through the provided resources with your coach. If you have any feedback, or can think of ways to improve this tutorial send us an email and let us know.