Selectors in Javascript

Ever since the Behaviour code was released, some time ago, my mind has been churning this powerful topic over. The premise for the module is as follows: Using the power of Pseudo-CSS Selectors, bind your Javascript functions to various HTML elements in the DOM. Looking at how Behaviour works, I’ve never been completely happy – it simply seems too tedious and verbose for everyday use. I’ve since begun to tinker with different styles of code layout – trying to find an optimal solution. Some of my biggest gripes with Behaviour are:

  • You can’t do any heirarchical selectors. For example, binding to “#foo bar” and “#foo bar .baz” fall under two completely different statements. It seems as if this could/should be streamlined.
  • The Behaviour object doesn’t provide any sort of binding-enhancers to make attaching to an event (e.g. “click”) easier to do.
  • The resulting Behaviour code is simply too verbose and too ugly – there is an excess of characters/formatting which will probably scare off a casual Javascript programmer.

I’ve created a syntactical mock-up for how I think ‘Behaviour’ could’ve been implemented. I’m not sure if I’m completely happy with it yet – the only way to know is to do some real-world testing and come back with some tweaks.

Sample #1

Note: In all of these examples, Behaviour uses ‘element.onclick’ (or similar bindings) in order to attach an event handler – this is generally accepted as an improper way of doing this, since you will only be able to attach one event handler at a time – newer handlers will overwrite older ones.

    '#example li': function(e){
      e.onclick = function(){

The same as above, done in my code:

  $('#example li').bind('click',function(){

Syntactic fluff comparision (This is a comparision of how many extra non-critical characters there are, slowing the programmer down – not counting endlines/whitespace):

A: Behaviour.register({'':function(e){e.on=}});
B: $('').bind('',);

Sample #2

This is the second example made available on the Behaviour web site. It goes to two disparate branches in the DOM Document and attaches two different event handlers.

    'b.someclass' : function(e){
      e.onclick = function(){
    '#someid u' : function(e){
      e.onmouseover = function(){
        this.innerHTML = "BLAH!";

The same as above, done using my syntax:


  $('#someid u').bind('mouseover',function(){
    this.innerHTML = 'BLAH!';

Syntactic fluff comparision

A: Behaviour.register({'':function(e){e.on=},'':function(e){e.on=}});
B: $('').bind('',);$('').bind('',);

Sample #3

This is the Behaviour code required to meet a ‘more advanced’ test case. I included changing style properties and element attributes.

    '#foo ol li': function(a) {
      a.title = "List Items!";
      a.onclick = function(){alert('Hello!');};
    '#foo ol li.tmp': function(a) { = 'white';
    '#foo ol li.tmp .foo': function(a) { = 'red';

And the same result using my syntax:

  $('#foo ol li')
    .set('title','List Items!')

Syntactic fluff comparision For this comparision I included the selectors that Behaviour uses, but shouldn’t need to.

A: Behaviour.register({'':function(a){a.=;a.on=;},'#foo ol li':function(a){'';},'#foo ol li.tmp':function(a){'';}});
B: $('').set('','').bind('',).select('').style('','').select('').style('','');

I’m going to have some more information on, how exactly, this new method of binding would work – hopefully along with some demoable code. More coming very soon!

Posted: August 22nd, 2005

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