JavaScript DOM Methods and Properties

February 16, 2020

In all browsers that use JavaScript we have access to a multitude of methods to affect what goes on the page. These methods will generally involve selecting and adjusting individual elements or accessing properties on the window.

DOM Selector Methods

You can access elements on the DOM by using one of the selector methods on the document object. Each of these methods selects one or all elements of a given type.


This method selects an element on the DOM with a given id. Since id’s are unique, this will only return a single element.

const targetElement = document.getElementById("#example-id");

getElementsByTagName / getElementsByClassName

These methods will select all elements on the DOM with a given parameter. These methods are outdated, and not particularly useful compared with querySelector.

const allLinks = document.getElementsByTagName("a");

querySelector / querySelectorAll

These methods are the bread and butter of selecting elements using the DOM API. They each accept the same arguments, however querySelector will only ever return one (the first) HTML element of the given type.


querySelector and querySelectorAll accept a tag name, class name, or id as an argument.

const paragraphElements = document.querySelectorAll('p');
const boldElements = document.querySelectorAll('.bold');
const headerElement = document.querySelector('#header');


This method is not a selector per se, however it will create and select a new element that you can append to the DOM. Specify the type of element as the argument to this method.


The following example will create a new paragraph element using createElement and append it to the body of the page. Enter the following code into the console on this or any webpage now and it will update the HTML document, adding text at the bottom.

const targetContainer = document.querySelector('body');
const newParagraph = document.createElement('p');
newParagraph.innerText = "Hi i'm a paragraph";

Adjust Element Properties

Once you’ve selected one or multiple elements, you can access and adjust their properties using a variety of methods.


This method will display the innerText of a node (element) on the DOM. You can also change the innerText of an element by setting this property

  <p>Sample HTML</p>
const paragraph = document.querySelector('p');
paragraph.innerText = "New Paragraph Text";

>> "New Paragraph Text"


This method is similar to innerText except it refers to the child HTML of a selected element. In the previous example we could select the div and change its innerHTML

const divContainer = document.querySelector('div');
divContainer.innerHTML = "<h1>Actually a header</h1>";

>> <h1>Actually a header</h1> 

This method is useful to adjust or replace elements nested within selected elements.

Each HTML element on the DOM has an associated style object which can be modified on selected elements. The syntax for updating the style object involves camel-cased properties and string values in quotations. This is the same as inline React styles.

const paragraph = document.querySelector('p'); = "24px"; = "green";

element.setAttribute / element.getAttribute

These methods are a quick and reliable way to add or adjust an attribute to a DOM element. setAttribute takes two arguments, the name of the property and the value to set it to

const newInput = document.createElement('input');
newInput.setAttribute('type', 'text');
newInput.getAttribute('type'); / element.classList

The id of an element can be set or retrieved with this method

const newSection = document.createElement("section"); = "footer-section";

Additionally, classList is an array of classes on a given element. This property has the methods add() and remove() available to add or remove specified classes. In the following example we can add and remove classes on a div we created

const newDiv = document.createElement("div");


Almost everything done in JavaScript boils down to these basic methods. Libraries such as React, use document.createElement to populate JSX elements. Learning, combining, and practicing these methods is extremely helpful in web development as they can often achieve exactly what you need in a short amount of code.

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