Web_Scripting by geoqureshi


									Getting Started                                                                                      2

                                                                      Getting Started
JavaScript allows you to create ‗dynamic, interactive‘ web pages: web pages that do things in
response to what your readers do, without having a separate page for each possible response. In
this tutorial, I‘m going to cover some of the very basics of using JavaScript in your web pages. I‘m
going to assume that you know a little bit about HTML, but nothing about programming or
JavaScript. If you aren‘t familiar with HTML, you‘ll want to go over the Web Writing Guide at
http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Writing/ first.

First, JavaScript has nothing to do with Java. Java is a separate programming language. JavaScript
is a language for scripting web browsers and web servers, although it is seeing other uses as it
becomes popular. Java was created by Sun and is designed for complete software applications,
while JavaScript was created separately by Netscape Corporation and is designed for modifying
(and ―scripting‖) web pages.

The Basic Web Page
The first thing we need to do is create two files for the tutorial: a web page, and a JavaScript file.
You can call them anything you want. I‘m going to call the web page ―basicscripting.html‖ and the
JavaScript file ―scripts.js‖.

        <title>Basic JavaScript Tutorial</title>
        <script src="scripts.js" language="JavaScript"></script>
   3                                                                                             Getting Started
        <h1>Basic JavaScript Tutorial</h1>
        <p>We will use this page to test out our dangerously revolutionary JavaScript programs.</p>

This is about as simple a web page as you‘ll ever make. The only thing out of the ordinary is the
<script> tag inside the ‗head‘ portion of the web page. Even that looks familiar if you‘ve used the
<img> tag. The ―script‖ has a ―source‖ and a ―language‖. The language is obvious: we‘re using
JavaScript. The ―source‖, or ―src‖ is a file or URL to a file that stores scripts this page will use. In
this case, we‘re telling the browser that the scripts this page uses are stored in a file called
Getting Started                                                                                     4

  ―scripts.js‖. The browser will go to our site and ask for that file in the same directory as the web page.
  You can put any URL inside the ―src‖ modifier, as long as it points to a valid JavaScript file.

          //these are my basic javascripts

  That‘s it for ―scripts.js‖: we haven‘t created any JavaScripts yet! In a JavaScript file, two slashes
  (―//‖) tell the web browser to completely ignore that line. Every line that begins with a ―//‖ is a
  ―comment‖. It isn‘t JavaScript, and the browser would likely get in trouble if it tried to be dynamic
  with that line.

  JavaScript is line oriented. Unlike HTML, which uses opening tags and ending tags, such as
  <head> and </head>, to identify the beginning and ending of things, JavaScript uses semicolons
  and carriage returns. So, if you have the following file as a JavaScript file:

          //this is a comment
          this is another line

  You are going to get an error. The browser is going to assume that the second line, ―this is another
  line‖ is some JavaScript code, but it isn‘t.

  Always be careful with carriage returns when writing JavaScript.

  One of the easiest and most useful things done with JavaScript is to alert you, the programmer, to
  some aspect of your script, or alert the viewer that they‘re possibly about to do something wrong.
  You might display a warning if they didn‘t fill in some required portion of a form, for example.

  The JavaScript ―code‖ for an alert is very simple. It is ―window.alert‖ and then the alert message
  you want to display. If you write ―window.alert("Paul is sleeping")‖ in your JavaScript, a window
  will pop up and display the phrase ―Paul is sleeping‖.

  Let‘s go ahead and write our first bit of JavaScript code. Add the following to your ―scripts.js‖ file:

          //displays message in alert window
          function w_alert(w_message) {
               return false;
   5                                                                                   Getting Started

The first line is a comment. The browser will ignore the line ―displays message in alert window‖,
but you won‘t. You‘re who its there for. A few months later when you look at the ―scripts.js‖ file, you
will know what this JavaScript code does: it displays a message in an alert window. That‘s what
comments are for. They ―comment‖ your JavaScript code to remind you what this code does.

The second line tells the browser that we are creating a ―function‖ called ―w_alert‖, and when we
use ―w_alert‖, we‘re going to give it one thing to work with, which it will store in ―w_message‖.

By calling this a ―function‖, we are telling the browser not to perform these lines of JavaScript until
we ask it to perform the function called ―w_alert‖. By giving it one ―parameter‖, or ―thing to work
with‖, we are making it more useful to us. We can have it display any message we want, rather than
having to write one function for ―hello‖ and another function for ―goodbye‖.

When we use this function, we ―call‖ it by writing ―return w_alert("The Message we want");‖. If we
want it to say ―hello‖, we would write ―return w_alert("hello");‖. We put the message in quotes
between the two parentheses.

The third line, ―window.alert(w_message);‖, tells the browser to pop a message up with the
―variable‖ w_message. A variable is a place to store information. Because w_message was listed on
the ―function‖ line, anything we write between the parentheses when we ―call‖ w_alert will be
stored in ―w_message‖. So, whatever is in ―w_message‖ gets displayed in the alert window.

The fourth line is ―return false;‖. Functions do not have to return anything, but usually they do.
And, usually, functions that get used on web pages return either ―true‖ or ―false‖. In this case,
―false‖ tells the browser that the function handled everything, so that the browser doesn‘t follow
that link. If we wrote ―return true‖ here instead, our function would display the alert message, and
then after the viewer clicked to dismiss the message, the browser would follow the link. Often when
you display an alert, it is because you don‘t want the browser to do what it normally would have
done (such as submit a form).

You‘ll notice that each of the lines that does something ends in a semicolon. JavaScript requires
this. Each JavaScript step must end in a semicolon.

The function itself is surrounded by two curly brackets (―{ }‖). Curly brackets in Javascript
surround chunks of JavaScript code that belong together. In this case, our two lines of JavaScript are
surrounded by curly brackets to indicate that they belong in the function called ―s_display‖.
Getting Started                                                                                           6

  We are ready to use our first JavaScript. Go back to ―basicscripts.html‖ and add the following link:

          <p><a href="http://www.hoboes.com/" onClick="return w_alert('You are not allowed to visit Negative
          Space!');">Negative Space</a></p>

  Remember that carriage returns are important, so everything between ―onClick‖ and the final ―)'‖
  need to be on the same line!

  If you save this file, reload the page in your browser, and click the link, you should see a message
  pop up saying ―You are not allowed to visit Negative Space!‖. See an example of how this should
  work at http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson1.html.

  The ―pieces of information‖ that we send to functions are called ―parameters‖ or ―arguments‖.
  Functions don‘t have to take parameters, in which case the parentheses after the function name will
  be empty. Later on we‘ll get to functions that take multiple arguments.

  Image Placeholder
  That‘s all very simple. But it doesn‘t make any fundamental changes to the web browsing
  experience. Let‘s go ahead and make something that displays images without traveling from page to
  page. We‘ll make a single page, with a single image, but that image will change depending on what
  ‗link‘ the user chooses.

  First, we need to add another ―function‖ to our ―scripts.js‖ file:

          //changes an image to another image
          function change_img(imgName,imgFile) {
              document[imgName].src = imgFile;
              return false;

  What‘s different about this function than our previous two?

  First, it has a different name: ―change_img‖.

  Second, this function takes two arguments instead of one or none. It calls these arguments
  ―imgName‖ and ―imgFile‖.

  It has a completely different middle line: ―document[imgName].src=imgFile‖. What does that mean?
  Well, ―document[imgName]‖ is the image that we want to change. In order to use the function
  ―change_img‖, our images have to be able to be identified to the web browser. They have
  to have a name. You‘ll give your images names by adding ―name=something‖ to the HTML code for
   7                                                                                     Getting Started

the <img> tag. Once your image has a name, JavaScript can do things to that image by calling it
―document[the name]‖. In this case, we‘ve stored the name inside ―imgName‖, so
―document[imgName]‖ is the image that we‘re going to change. If you‘ll recall from HTML, each
<img> tag has a ―src=‖ option that gives the URL where the web browser can find the image. We‘re
changing the ―src‖ for our named image to whatever is inside ―imgFile‖.

Let‘s say we have an image on our web page called ―gallery‖. If we want to change the image inside
―gallery‖ to the image at
―http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/Gallery/Lego_Thumb.jpg‖. We would call our ―change_img‖
function as: change_img("gallery", "http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/Gallery/Lego_Thumb.jpg").

Go ahead and make up a new web page:

        <title>JavaScript Image Tutorial</title>
        <script src="scripts.js" language="JavaScript"></script>
        <h1>JavaScript Image Tutorial</h1>
        <li><a onClick="return change_img('gallery',this.href);"
        <li><a onClick="return change_img('gallery',this.href);"
        <li><a onClick="return change_img('gallery',this.href);"
                href="http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/Gallery/Gender_Thumb.jpg">Lenses of Gender</a></li>

Save this file, and try clicking on the links. Instead of changing pages, what you should see is that
only the image on the right changes when you click on the link. See the example at

You‘ve probably already guessed that ―onClick‖ is the ―event‖ that happens when someone clicks on
a link. The function we call is ―change_img‖. We give change_img the arguments ―gallery‖, which is the
name of the image that we want to change, and ―this.href‖, which is… well, what is it? In JavaScript,
―this‖ refers to the current object. An ―object‖ is a part of your web page. In this case,
Getting Started                                                                                  8

  the current object is the link to the image. That URL to the image is stored in the option called
  ―href‖. So, ―this.href‖ is the URL to the image that this link points to.

  Because we ―return false‖, the web browser never actually follows the link. If, of course, the person
  viewing your page has JavaScript turned off, their browser will completely ignore our JavaScript,
  and it will simply visit the image the ―old-fashioned way‖. This is important: we have provided an
  improved means of viewing our images for those who want it, but those who don‘t want it can still
  view the images, with no added work on our part. When designing JavaScript for your web pages,
  remember that not everyone has JavaScript, and not everyone who has JavaScript wants to use it.
  (Unfortunately, some commercial pages do annoying things with JavaScript, like pop up windows
  in front of the page you‘re trying to read. This causes many people to turn JavaScript off
  completely, avoiding those annoyances, but also avoiding your tastefully presented JavaScript.)

  By using ―this.href‖ to reference our image, we allow non-JavaScript readers to view our images,
  without any added work on our part. Always remember to keep things as simple as possible.
  JavaScript allows you to make your web pages impossible to manage if you aren‘t careful.

  If you play around with the above and plug in some differently-sized images, you‘ll notice that some
  image(s) have to be stretched or squeezed to match the dimensions of the first image. That‘s one of
  the constraints on changing images: the web browser makes space for the image based on the first
  image, and then forces all subsequent images to change their size to match.
   9                                                                        Understanding JavaScript

                                           Understanding JavaScript
Now that you have a good idea about some specifics of JavaScript, and how useful it is, its time you
learned a bit about how it works.

The Object Model
JavaScript assumes that there are ―objects‖ on your page. Each part of your web page is an object
that JavaScript can use. An image is an object, a link is an object, and the web page itself is an
object. So is the window that the web page is in. Some objects have to be named: images and links,
for example, if you want to access them from another object on the page, will have to have a ―name‖
set with ―name="something"‖.

The web page is called ―document‖. You can always access the current web page by calling for the
―document‖. The window is called ―window‖; you can access that by calling for ―window‖. Objects
can contain other objects. The ―window‖ object contains an object called ―history‖ that has
information about the web pages you‘ve been to recently. If you want to access the ―history‖ object,
you use ―window.history‖.

Objects have properties and functions built in to them. Usually, you will recognize the properties as
corresponding to the things that are inside the object‘s tag. An <img> object, for example, has a
―src‖ property. An <a> tag has a ―href‖ property. You use these properties with object.property. So
if you are working inside of a link (as we do above), and you want the ―href‖ property, you would
use ―this.href‖. ―This‖ is always the ―current‖ object. The one we are inside.

Objects also have properties that you don‘t normally set. The web page, for example, has a ―last
modified‖ property, that tells the web browser when the page was last changed. The web browser
uses this information to know whether or not to reload the page or use the ―cached‖ version of the
page. Because you call the web page ―document‖, you can access the time the page was last changed
as ―document.lastmodified‖. We‘ll be using this in the next section to create an automatic ―time
stamp‖ for our web pages.

We haven‘t used any object functions yet. We‘ve only created our own, standalone functions. When
we do use object functions, they look a lot like a cross between functions and object properties. The
―window‖ object, for example, has an object built into it called ―history‖, which contains the list of
Understanding JavaScript                                                                           10

  pages that the browser has been to recently. If you want to tell the browser to go back to the
  previous web page, you would use the ―back()‖ function on the ―history‖ object of the ―window‖
  object: ―window.history.back()‖.

  You can give object functions ―arguments‖ just like we‘ve already done with our custom functions.
  For example, the ―window‖ object has a function called ―alert‖. The ―alert‖ function pops up a
  dialog box with a message on it. We need to tell ―alert‖ what that message is: ―window.alert("If you
  leave this page, I will no longer like you.")‖.

  The Event Model
  ―Events‖ are ―things that happen on a web page‖. If you click the mouse on a link, an ―onClick‖
  event takes you to the new page. If you move the mouse over a link, an ―onMouseOver‖ event
  displays the URL in the status bar, and then when you move the mouse away, an ―onMouseOut‖
  event clears the status bar. Events get ―sent‖ to objects, and then the object decides what to do with
  that event.

  What we‘ve been doing is intercepting events. The web browser already had something in mind for
  all the events we‘ve intercepted. On ―mouseover‖ a link, it shows the URL; on ―click‖ing a link, it
  moves to that link. We‘ve intercepted those events (―onMouseOver‖, ―onClick‖) so that the web
  browser does something different.

  JavaScript normally works almost exactly opposite HTML. HTML does something and that‘s it. It
  displays a page and it is done. The only thing the reader can do is read this static page, or click a
link and go to another page. With JavaScript, you can react to what the user does: as long as you can
       find an event that corresponds to what the use has done and an object to intercept that event.

  JavaScript is a programming language. It is generally much less forgiving than HTML. Commands
  end with semi-colons. Carriage returns are important. Curly brackets enclose blocks of JavaScript
  code. You can‘t play around with those rules and expect to get a working JavaScript web page.

  You will also notice that I ―indent‖ parts of JavaScript code. Usually, anything inside of curly
  brackets gets indented by one tab more than the line just above it:
   11                                                                          Understanding JavaScript

        function bless_me(saintname) {
             if (saintname == "Helena") {
                   window.alert("You are blessed by the shroud. ");
             } else {
                   window.alert(saintname + " blesses you. ");

This indentation is not necessary. If you leave it out, your programs will work just fine. However,
indenting like this makes it much, much easier to see what your program is doing. You will always
want to indent in a standard format (which usually means using tabs).

One of the advantages of using a programming language is its ability to automate tasks that would
otherwise require repetitious typing. For example, suppose we have several different sets of images
to display, and we often add or subtract an image from the list. Rather than adding a new line to
our list each time, as we did above, we could keep a list of just the images, and create a JavaScript
function to turn our simple list of images into an HTML list.

Remove the list from your HTML code: everything from the opening ―<ul>‖ to the ending ―</ul>‖.
Replace it with:

<script language="JavaScript">
    imageList = {
          "Christmas_Thumb": "Christmas",
          "Lego_Thumb": "Legos",
          "Gender_Thumb": "Lenses of Gender"
    listImages('http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/Gallery', 'gallery', imageList);

Even though this is a programming language rather than HTML, it already looks easier to create
and easier to understand than the previous, HTML list with embedded JavaScript events. If we
choose to add a fourth image to this list, we need only add a line with the image‘s filename and the
image‘s title text. Note that each line except for the final line ends with a comma. This is an
―associative array‖, which means that this is a list where the first item in each pair is ―associated with‖
the second item in the pair. Lego_Thumb is associated with Legos, for example.

This is only half of the solution, however. The last line inside the script tag calls a function named
―listImages()‖ that takes three options: the base of each image‘s URL (most likely the folder the
images are stored in if you were to use this on your own site), the name of the image display img
tag, and the list of images we want the reader to choose from.

         //imgFolder is the base of the URL for the images
Understanding JavaScript                                                                                        12

           //imgName is the name of the img tag that will display the images
           //imgList is the list of image files we want to display, in the form "image name":"image filename"
           function listImages(imgFolder, imgName, imgList) {
               for (currentImage in imgList) {
                    aText = imgList[currentImage];
                    aHREF = imgFolder + "/" + currentImage + ".jpg";
                    onClick = "onClick=\"return change_img('gallery', this.href);\"";
                     aTag = '<a href="' + aHREF + '" ' + onClick + '>' + aText + '</a>';
                     listItem = "<li>" + aTag + "</li>";

   See the example at http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson4a.html. You‘ll see
   a lot of ―document.write()‖ in these examples. That‘s something that documents—that is, web pages—
   can do in JavaScript: insert text into themselves. Wherever document.write() is called,
   some HTML is being inserted into the web page. At the beginning of this function we write an
   opening list tag and at the end we write the closing list tag.

                 for (currentImage in imgList) {

The meat of this function is inside a ―for‖ loop. Loops begin and end with { and }, just as functions do.
The stuff inside the loop gets done over and over again. We‘ll see different kinds of loops later, but the
   ―for‖ loop goes through its contents once for every item in the list. The list is the container after the
     keyword ―in‖. In this case, it is our list of images and image titles. The word listed before the ―in‖
    keyword is a container that contains each item of the list as we go through it. In this case, the first
               time we go through the loop, ―currentImage‖ contains one item; the next time, it contains
   another item; and so on, until we have looped once for every item the imgList list contains.

                     aText = imgList[currentImage];

   Recall that when we created the image list, we did so using pairs: the image‘s file name (without the
   ―.jpg‖) and the text that we want to appear on the link that displays the image. The currentImage
   container contains only the first item in that pair. To get the second item, we need to ask the list for
   it. When we use ―listname[keyword]‖ we are asking the list for the item that is paired with that
   keyword. The keyword is always the first item in the pair of items. The result is always the second
   item which is associated with that keyword.

                     aHREF = imgFolder + "/" + currentImage + ".jpg";
                     onClick = "onClick=\"return change_img('gallery', this.href);\"";
                     aTag = '<a href="' + aHREF + '" ' + onClick + '>' + aText + '</a>';
                     listItem = "<li>" + aTag + "</li>";
   13                                                                        Understanding JavaScript

These four lines construct the list item, what in our original HTML was ―<li>…</li>‖. The first two
lines construct the parts of the link (the ―a‖ tag). The third line constructs the ―a‖ tag from those
parts. The fourth line constructs the full ―li‖ tag.

Each line does this by adding together the pieces. The third and fourth lines use the parts that were
constructed in the preceding lines.


Finally, we use another ―document.write()‖ to write out the list item. Thus, for each image in the list
we will write one ―<li>…</li>‖ tag.

By construction our list using a function, we not only make it easier to add and remove images from the
list, we can also more easily change our mind later. For example, we might choose to display
them as a table, with thumbnails. Rather than modifying each page that displays a set of images, we
need modify only the function that each page calls.

Note also, of course, that by doing it this way anyone who does not have JavaScript will not be able
to see that list of images displayed on their browser.
Basic JavaScript                                                                                     14

                                                                       Basic JavaScript
  You should play around with the previous JavaScripts. Incorporate them into a ―real‖ web page or
  two. When you feel familiar with them, we can start doing some more intensive programming.

  A Smart “File Stamp”
  It is very useful to have a ―generic‖ part for your web pages, something that stays basically the same
  throughout each page. This ―footer‖ or ―header‖ can include a link back to your home page, the last
  date the page was updated, perhaps a link to the parent page if this is a subsidiary page on your
  web site. Let‘s create a JavaScript that creates a table of this information on our web page. Add the
  following function to your ―scripts.js‖ file:

          function filestamp() {
              homePage=new String('/NetLife/');
              document.write('<table border="1" align="right">');
              document.write('<tr><th align="right">', document.title, '</th></tr>');
              document.write('<tr><td align="right"><a href="', homePage, '">Home</a></td></tr>');

  The first line creates a ―String‖ object, calls it ―homePage‖, and gives it the value ―/NetLife/‖. What
  does that mean? Remember that JavaScript deals with objects. A ―String‖ object is a collection of
  text. Your name could be a String object; your home town; just about anything normal that isn‘t
  something which you can add or subtract. Things you can add, subtract, multiply, etc., are
  ―Numbers‖. Your income and your height in inches are numbers. Your phone number or social
  security number are strings.

  In this case, we made a new String and we put ―/NetLife/‖ into it. You will actually want to put your
  own home page path into. This tutorial site‘s home page is http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/ and
  the path is the part after the hostname, that is, /NetLife/. If your home page is
  http://www.sandiego.edu/~brunetti/, your home page path is /~brunetti/.

  We will use the ―homePage‖ String later in this program.

          document.write('<table border="1" align="right">');

  If you remember your HTML code for tables, you‘ll recognize the part inside the straight quotes as
  the beginning of a right-aligned table with a thin border. ―write()‖ is a function on the ―document‖
  object. It inserts HTML code into the web page (the ―document‖). What does it write? It writes
   15                                                                                               Basic JavaScript

whatever arguments you give it. You can give it as many arguments as you want. It will write each
one, in order, to your web page.

        document.write('<tr><th align="right">', document.title, '</th></tr>');

If you count them, you‘ll see three arguments given to ―document.write()‖. The first argument
opens the table row and the table header; the second argument is something called
―document.title‖, and the third argument closes the table header and the table row. What is
―document.title‖? Remember that ―document‖ is our web page. So ―document.title‖ is the title of
our web page. It is whatever we put between the ―<title>‖ and ―</title>‖ in the ―<head>‖ area of the
web page.

The next line is just like the previous one, except that it puts a link to the home page inside of a
normal table cell. The last line closes the table.

Now, let‘s make a web page to put use this script on. Call it ―advanced.html‖:

                            <title>JavaScript Programming Tutorial</title>
                            <script src="scripts.js" language="JavaScript"></script>
                           <script language="JavaScript">
                           <h1> Making a Global File Stamp</h1>
                           <p>Of course the unexpected often looks as if it were expected. Some indeed expect the
        unexpected. Such is life. This leaves me in a pretty pickle and I hope you won‘t refer me and my questions to
        Sheet, for Sheet, according to this paper has been silent since last night.</p>
                           <p>Your questions? You know the loan was given to the shipyard don‘t you?</p>
                                                                                                 Scripting Your Web Pages
And you should get a ‗file stamp‘ on the right, top of                                                             Home
your page, much like I have one to the right of this
paragraph. See http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson5.html for the

Last Update
Many web pages on the net tell you when they were last updated. This is commonly done by the
web designer actually typing in the new date whenever they make a change. But that‘s prone to
failure, because it is easy to forget. The better way is to use ―server-side includes‖ to have the web
server automatically add this information. If you don‘t want to or can‘t use server-side includes
Basic JavaScript                                                                                        16

  (most free web hosts don‘t support them, for example), you can do the same thing with javascript.
  So, let‘s add a ―Last Updated On‖ line to our file stamp.

  We‘ve already used one property of our web page: document.title. The date and time that the web
  page was last changed is in another property, document.lastModified. So, let‘s add another line to
  our ―filestamp‖ script function:

          function filestamp() {
              document.write("<tr><th align=\"right\">",document.title,"</th></tr>");
              document.write("<tr><td align=\"right\">Last Updated: ",document.lastModified,"</td></tr>");
                                                                                           Scripting Your Web Pages
  If you‘re doing this from your local hard drive, you                Last Updated: Wed, 29-May-2002 17:06:15 GMT
  might see a really old date or no date at all. That‘s
  because browsers get this information from the server,
  and if you‘re doing this from your hard drive, there is no server. If that happens, upload the script
  to your web account and try from there. See
  http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson6.html for the example.

  Suppose we want to reformat the date to something smaller? Let‘s change it so that it just gives the
  month/day/year. This requires creating a function that takes a date as its ―argument‖ and returns
  the date in the format we want, in this case just month/day/year.

  JavaScript has a number of built-in functions that give us the information we need. There is a
  ―getFullYear()‖ function, a ―getMonth()‖ function, and a ―getDate()‖ function to get the year, month,
  and day of the month from a date. That‘s all the information we need, but it isn‘t quite as
  easy as that. You may have heard about javascript being ―object oriented‖. That means that it has
  ―objects‖ that can do things. A date is also an object, and it can do things to itself: such as give you
  the year, month, and day of the month for that date. The ―getFullYear()‖ function is attached to all
  date objects, and you need a date object in order to use it.

  Even though it looks like one, document.lastModified is not a date. It is a bunch of text that looks
  like a date. To get the year, month, and day out of it, we need to convert the text into what
  JavaScript recognizes as a date. The command to do this is:

          myDate = new Date(document.lastModified);

  The ―new‖ function creates a new object. This is going to be a ―Date‖ object, so the full command is
  ―new Date()‖. And the ―new‖ command, with respect to ―Date‖ is very intelligent: it can take a text
   17                                                                                          Basic JavaScript

string that looks like a date, and create a date object from that text string. By using ―new
Date(document.lastModified)‖, we are getting a date object that is the exact date and time that our
web page was last changed.

In order to use this new date object, we have to give it a name, so we can refer to it later. Like our
―homePage‖ string, we will use ―changeDate = new Date(document.lastModified);‖ to create a Date
object called ―changeDate‖.

Let's go ahead and add that line to our filestamp() script. Put it above all the ―document.write()‖
lines, below the ―homePage=‖ line.

        homePage=new String('/NetLife/');
        changeDate = new Date(document.lastModified);

Now, you can‘t just replace ―document.lastModified‖ in the document.write line with ―changeDate‖.
Well, you can, but you‘ll get an even longer date line than you had before (go ahead and try!). We
need to make a function that takes our new date object and returns just the month, day of month,
and year. Let‘s call it formatDate(). Change ―document.lastModified‖ in the ―document.write()‖ line
that includes it to ―formatDate(changeDate)‖:

        document.write('<tr><td align="right">Last Updated: ', formatDate(changeDate), '</td></tr>');

Next, we have to write the ―formatDate()‖ function:

        function formatDate(theDate) {
            thisyear = theDate.getFullYear();
            thismonth = theDate.getMonth();
            thisday = theDate.getDate();
            dateformatted=thismonth + '/' + thisday + '/' + thisyear;
            return dateformatted;

And that should give you a date line in your ―stamp‖ that looks like, for example, 6/29/2008! See
http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson7.html for the example.

Some of our new ―formatDate()‖ function (in fact, probably most of it) is a bit confusing. Let‘s take
this function on, one step at a time.

        function formatDate(theDate) {

This creates the function called formatDate, and specifies that it can receive one ―argument‖, which
will be called ―theDate‖ inside of this function. When we call the ―formatDate()‖ function, we might
call it with ―formatDate(changeDate)‖ or ―formatDate(currentDate)‖ or even
Basic JavaScript                                                                                          18

  ―formatDate(birthDate)‖. But whatever ―argument‖ we send ―formatDate()‖, it will be called
  ―theDate‖ inside of the function.

          thisyear = theDate.getFullYear();

  This creates a number called ―thisyear‖ which is the ―year‖ portion of ―theDate‖. You might expect
  this function to be ―getYear()‖, but due to historical reasons, getYear() is ―deprecated‖, which
  means, don‘t use it.

          thismonth = theDate.getMonth();

  Next, we get the month, as a number, from theDate.


  Computers have a tendency to start at 0 whenever they can. In JavaScript, months go from 0 to 11,
  not 1 to 12. Humans, of course, go from 1 to 12. The line ―thismonth++;‖ adds one to the variable
  ―thismonth‖. (You could also use ―--‖ to reduce a number by one.)

              thisday = theDate.getDate();

  And we get the day of the month. Even in JavaScript, the day of the month starts at one, so we don‘t
  need to use ―++‖ to increase it by one. Believe it or not, this is consistent. It makes sense to start the
  month at 0, but the day of the month at one. We‘ll get to why this is consistent later, when we talk
  about keeping lists of items. For now, just remember that the months start at 0, and the days start
  at 1.

              dateformatted=thismonth + '/' + thisday + '/' + thisyear;

  We create a line of text that has the month, a slash, the day, a slash, and the year. We put this line
  of text into a line of text called ―dateformatted‖.

              return dateformatted;

  We return that line of text to whatever part of our script called the ―formatDate()‖ function.


  The final ―}‖ ends the function.

  You should have a script file that looks sort of like this:

          //time stamp functions
          function filestamp() {
              homePage = new String('/NetLife/');
              changeDate = new Date(document.lastModified);
              document.write('<table border="1" align="right">');
              document.write('<tr><th align="right">', document.title, '</th></tr>');
              document.write('<tr><td align="right">Last Updated: ', formatDate(changeDate), '</td></tr>');
              document.write('<tr><td align="right"><a href="', homePage, '">Home</a></td></tr>');
   19                                                                                   Basic JavaScript

        function formatDate(theDate) {
            thisyear = theDate.getFullYear();
            thismonth = theDate.getMonth();
            thisday = theDate.getDate();
            dateformatted=thismonth + '/' + thisday + '/' + thisyear;
            return dateformatted;

Smart Date
Now that we‘ve created a ―formatDate()‖ function, we can make that function smarter. Why not
have it say ―Today‖ if the date we sent it (the date we last modified our web page) is today? And
―Yesterday‖ for yesterday? This is easy to do, but we need to do a lot more ―checking‖ inside of our
―if‖ statement. We‘ve already used ―if‖ to do something if a certain condition is met. But we can also
do one thing if one condition is met, otherwise do a second thing if a second condition is met, and if
neither of those conditions are met, do a final thing instead.

Change the top and bottom of your formatDate() function to:

        function formatDate(theDate) {
            today = new Date();
            oneDay = 24*60*60*1000;
            UTCDiff = today.getTimezoneOffset()*60*1000;
            msToday = today.getMilliseconds() + today.getSeconds()*1000 +
                 today.getMinutes()*60*1000 + today.getHours()*60*60*1000 - UTCDiff;
            if (theDate >= (today - msToday)) {
                  dateformatted = 'Today';
            } else if (theDate >= today - msToday - oneDay) {
                  dateformatted = 'Yesterday';
            } else {
                  thisyear = theDate.getFullYear();
                  dateformatted=thismonth + '/' + thisday + '/' + thisyear;
            return dateformatted;

Our original ―formatDate()‖ function is now within the last ―else do this‖ section of our ―if‖
statement. Determining whether a file was last modified ―today‖ or ―yesterday‖ is not as easy as it
sounds at first: we can‘t just check to see if the file was modified within the last 24 hours–24 hours
ago is usually yesterday, not today. We need to determine when today started, and then see if the
file was modified after today started. If so, the file was modified today. If not, we see if the file was
modified in the 24-hour period before today. If so, it was modified yesterday. Otherwise, we create
Basic JavaScript                                                                                20

  the date it was modified and show that. See
  http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson8.html for the example.

  Dates in most programming languages are stored as numbers: they are usually stored as a certain
  number of days, seconds, or milliseconds from some arbitrary starting point. JavaScript uses
  milliseconds. Any date in JavaScript can be represented by the number of milliseconds that date is
  from the ―starting date‖. (The date of the starting date is immaterial, since you will always be
  calculating ―off of‖ it. It might even change from client to client, but you don‘t care.)

              today = new Date();

  If you ask for a new Date and don‘t specify what that date is, you get right now. In JavaScript, a
  ―Date‖ is really a date and a time. You‘ll recall from our first timestamp that the date modified
  included the actual time the file was modified.

              oneDay = 24*60*60*1000;

  In order to determine whether the file was modified yesterday, we need to know what number
  makes up a day. Since JavaScript stores dates in milliseconds, we ask for 24 (hours per day), times
  60 (minutes per hour), times 60 (seconds per minute), times 1000 (milliseconds per second). You
  could simply calculate that number on your calculator and then use it directly, but storing the number
  in a variable called ―oneDay‖ makes it easier to remember what that number means when you look at
  your code later on.

          UTCDiff = today.getTimezoneOffset()*60*1000;

  Web page dates are stored in Universal Time (GMT: Greenwich Mean Time). If we want to know
  when the file was modified in the client‘s local time, we need to determine the time zone offset. The
  time zone offset is given in minutes, so we need to multiply by 60 to get the seconds, and then by
  1000 to get the milliseconds.

          msToday = today.getMilliseconds() + today.getSeconds()*1000 +
             today.getMinutes()*60*1000 + today.getHours()*60*60*1000 - UTCDiff;

  Our ―today‖ contains the date and time right up to now. This line determines what we need to
  remove from ―today‖ to get the beginning of today. If it is 5:40 AM and 17 seconds and 553
  milliseconds, this will (before the ―UTCDiff‖) give us 553 milliseconds plus 17 seconds plus 40
  minutes plus 5 hours, converting each number into milliseconds. The calculation then removes the
  time zone difference. If we substract our ―msToday‖ from our ―today‖, we get the beginning of
  today in local time.

              if (theDate >= (today - msToday)) {
                    dateformatted = 'Today';
     21                                                                                          Basic JavaScript

  Our first ―if‖ checks to see if ―theDate‖ (which you‘ll recall is the date our file was modified) is after
  or equal to the beginning of today. If so, it sets ―dateformatted‖ to the word ―Today‖.

               } else if (theDate >= today - msToday - oneDay) {
                    dateformatted = 'Yesterday';

  If the first condition does not match, we check to see if ―theDate‖ is after or equal to the beginning
  of today minus 24 hours. If so, we set ―dateformatted‖ to the word ―Yesterday‖.

               } else {
                    thisyear = theDate.getFullYear();

  Finally, if neither of the first two conditions match, we do our previous calculation to create a string
  that represents the date that the file was modified.

  It‘s a good idea to test more than one condition. Right now, since we‘re editing this page, we should
  expect it to say ―Today‖. But we should also test what‘s going to happen tomorrow and the day

  After the line that says ―oneDay = …‖, add these two comments:

           //today = new Date(today.getTime() + oneDay)
           //today = new Date(today.getTime() + oneDay*2)

  Remove the slashes in front of the first line to check what will happen tomorrow; remove the
  slashes in front of the second line to check what will happen the day after tomorrow. Put the
  slashes back once you‘re done testing. The ―getTime()‖ function returns the number of milliseconds
  since JavaScript starts counting time. By adding oneDay to it or twice oneDay to it, we can pretend
  that it is tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

  Current Time
It can be useful, especially for dynamic pages, to show the current time on the web page. This lets the
viewer know how up to date the information is—when they last reloaded the web page. We can format
           a ―current time‖ date just like we formatted a date-only date. Add the following line to your

           document.write('<tr><td align="right">Current Time: ', formatTime(new Date()), '</td></tr>');

  This calls a function called ―formatTime()‖ with an argument of ―new Date()‖. We already know
  what ―new Date()‖ does: it gets the current time. So we‘re sending the current time to our new
  formatTime() function. Let‘s create the function.
Basic JavaScript                                                                                            22

          function formatTime(theDate) {
              thishour = theDate.getHours();
              thisminute = theDate.getMinutes();
              if (thishour > 11) {
              } else {
              if (thishour > 12) {
                    thishour -= 12;
              if (thisminute < 10) {
                    thisminute = '0'+thisminute;
              timeformatted = thishour + ': ' + thisminute + ' ' + thishalf;
              return timeformatted;

  You should be able to follow this from the description of ―formatDate()‖. It does the same thing, but
  with hours and minutes instead of month, day, and year. We check the hour to see if it is AM or PM
  (and then substract 12 from the hour if the hour is 1 PM or later). We make sure the minutes are
  zero-padded on the left. And then we return a string that looks like ―5:32 PM‖. See
  http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson9.html for the example.

  Using Lists
  Our smart ―formatDate()‖ function tells us if the date was yesterday or today. Why not also make it
  return the name of the weekday if the date is within six days past? This is relatively simple to check
  for: all we need to do is add an extra ―else if‖ to our list of conditions, and see if the document‘s
  modification date is within the last six days.

  We could use one ―else if‖ for each possible day, but this is time consuming and prone to error—and
we don‘t even really know what day three days past was. A better choice will be to determine what the
     current day is, offset this by the number of days past, and then check a list of weekdays to get the
       weekday name. That is, we‘ll work with numbers first, because that‘s what computers are good
  at. Once we get the number (i.e., the second day, third day, etc, of the week) we‘ll look at a list and
  get the appropriate item from the list.

  Add our new JavaScript code after the part where we check for yesterday:

          } else if (theDate >= today - msToday - oneDay) {
               dateformatted = 'Yesterday';
          } else if (theDate >= today - msToday - oneDay*6) {
               weekDays = ['Sunday', 'Monday', 'Tuesday', 'Wednesday', 'Thursday', 'Friday', 'Saturday'];
   23                                                                                               Basic JavaScript

             theWeekDay = theDate.getDay();
             dateformatted = weekDays[theWeekDay];
        } else {

This is pretty simple. The new part is the list of weekdays.

        } else if (theDate >= today - msToday - oneDay*6) {

If ―theDate‖ isn‘t today and it isn‘t yesterday, we see if it is one of the last six days, by multiplying
―oneDay‖ by 6 and subtracting it from today. If theDate is greater than the result, we know that
theDate is within six days of today.

             weekDays = ['Sunday', 'Monday', 'Tuesday', 'Wednesday', 'Thursday', 'Friday', 'Saturday'];

Computers tend to work with numbers, but telling people that this page was last modified on
weekday ―6‖ isn‘t very user-friendly. Here, we create a list of weekdays in English (more advanced
JavaScript programmers would check the user‘s language and create the list in that language).

Once we have a ―list‖ (they‘re usually called ―arrays‖ by programmers), we can ask the computer for the
first, second, third, etc., item from the list. The trick is that JavaScript, like many computer languages,
starts counting from zero instead of from one. The first item in a list is item 0. The
second item is item 1. As you get into more advanced programming you‘ll find that this is a useful
feature. For now, though, it‘s probably confusing. Just remember that JavaScript starts counting at
zero and you‘ll be okay.

When you ask for an item from a list, you do so with the list‘s name (in this case, ―weekDays‖) and
the number of the item in brackets: ―weekDays[3]‖ is the same as ―Wednesday‖. Wednesday is item
3 (the fourth item) in our list of weekdays. Where lists really become useful is that we can do that
asking with a variable. If we have a variable called ―payday‖ and it has ―5‖ in it,
―weekDays[payday]‖ will give you ―Friday‖. And that‘s what we‘re about to do.

             theWeekDay = theDate.getDay();
             dateformatted = weekDays[theWeekDay];

When we ask the ―theDate‖ object to ―getDay()‖, it will return a number from 0 to 6, with zero
being Sunday and 6 being Saturday. So we take that number and ask our ―weekDays‖ list for the
corresponding item in the list. That gives us the weekday when our web page was last modified. See
http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson10.html for the example.
Advanced JavaScript                                                                               24

                                                           Advanced JavaScript
  Working With Strings
  So far we haven‘t done much with strings except to add them together (―concatenate‖ them in
  programmers‘ parlance) to make larger strings. We can also take them apart to make smaller
  strings, and look inside them to see what they contain.

  It is useful to always show the user a ―parent‖ page for the page they‘re currently viewing. Often
  your viewers come to your site from a search engine, and they don‘t necessarily come in to your
  site‘s main page. By providing a parent page link, you give the viewer the option of switching ―up‖
  to a more general view of your site, without going all the way up to the home page and then
  navigating back down again (assuming they even know how to navigate back down).

  Every page except for your home page has a ―parent‖ page, and if you have designed your site well, the
  ―parent‖ page is in the same folder as the current page, or is in one folder up if your visitor is already
  visiting your main page for that folder. For example, the parent page of
  http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson5.html is
  http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/. And the parent page of that is
  http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/. The parent page of that is
  http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/ and that has no parent page, since it is the tutorial section‘s
  home page.

  Of course, we wouldn‘t want to show the parent page if it is the same as the home page. (In looking
  at your filestamp, you might or might not want to show the ―Home‖ link if you are on the home
  page. It is up to you, and I‘ll leave the JavaScript code for checking it up to you as an exercise.)

  What we can do is check the current page—the one we‘re viewing—against the home page, the one we
  created in the ―homePage‖ string.

  Add a line to get the parent page‘s URL just after you set the homePage string:

          homePage = new String('/NetLife/');
          parentPage = findParent(document.location, homePage);
   25                                                                            Advanced JavaScript

This calls a subroutine called ―findParent()‖ which will give us the parent URL of the document‘s
URL. We‘ll write that subroutine in just a bit. Change the document.write line that prints the Home
link to:

           document.write('<tr><td align="right">');
           if (parentPage) {
                document.write('<a href="', parentPage, '">Parent</a> | ');
           document.write('<a href="', homePage, '">Home</a>');

We‘re going to put the ―parent‖ link on the same line as the ―Home‖ link. So we break out the part
where we create the table cell, and if the ―parentPage‖ string has anything in it, we put that on the
line in front of ―Home‖, with a vertical bar to separate the two words.

           function findParent(childPage, homePage) {
               childPage = new String(childPage);
               homeLocation = childPage.indexOf(homePage);
               if (homeLocation >= 0) {
                    //first, chop off everything in front of the homePage
                    parentPage = childPage.slice(homeLocation);
                    //second, find the location of the final / and chop to it
                    //but first, if the last character is a /, get rid of it
                    if (parentPage.charAt(parentPage.length-1) == "/") {
                          parentPage = parentPage.slice(0, -1);
                    slashLoc = parentPage.lastIndexOf('/');
                    if (slashLoc > 0) {
                          parentPage = parentPage.slice(0, slashLoc+1);
                    } else {
                          parentPage = '';
               } else {
                    //the home page is not contained in the child page
                    parentPage = '';
               return parentPage;

This is probably looking pretty complicated. We haven‘t done this sort of thing to strings before.

           function findParent(childPage, homePage) {

We are creating a function called ―findParent()‖ that takes two arguments: the page we‘re trying to
find the parent of (we‘re calling it ―childPage‖) and the ultimate parent (the ―homePage‖).

               childPage = new String(childPage);

First, we ensure that the ―childPage‖ variable is in fact a string object, because we are going to need
to use some serious string functions on it.

               homeLocation = childPage.indexOf(homePage);
               if (homeLocation >= 0) {
                    //first, chop off everything in front of the homePage
                    parentPage = childPage.slice(homeLocation);
Advanced JavaScript                                                                                26

  When you ask for string.indexOf(otherstring), you are looking for the string ―otherstring‖ inside of
  ―string‖. This returns a number, from zero to the length of the string, depending on where the
  ―otherstring‖ is. Actually, the maximum location of ―otherstring‖ is one less than the length of the
  string, because JavaScript starts counting from zero. The first location in a string is zero, and the
  last location is the length minus one. If you look for the string ―a‖ in the string ―Gila‖, ―indexOf()‖
  will return 3. If you look for the string ―Gi‖ in the string ―Gila‖, ―indexOf()‖ will return 0, because
  that‘s the location the string ―Gi‖ starts at in the string ―Gila‖.

  So when we ask for the location of ―homePage‖ inside of ―childPage‖, we know that homePage
  exists if the result is zero or more (―indexOf()‖ returns a negative one if the needle does not exist in the
  haystack). Since URLs are relative, we can make things a little easier on ourselves by chopping
  off everything except the homePage portion and whatever exists after the homePage portion. That‘s
  what the ―slice()‖ function does. It slices the string, starting at the number we give it. So when we
  call ―slice(homeLocation)‖, we throw away everything that occurs before the homePage portion of
  the string. If the homePage is ―/NetLife/‖ and the childPage is
  ―http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/‖ then after the slice, parentPage will be

              if (parentPage.charAt(parentPage.length-1) == '/') {
                        parentPage = parentPage.slice(0, -1);

  We are going to find the parent by chopping off the last portion of the URL. URL portions are
  separated with the ―slash‖ character. But some URLs have a slash at the end, so we need to get rid
  of that slash if it exists. The ―charAt()‖ function tells us what character is at that location. Since
  locations begin at zero, the final location is length minus one. Here, we‘re checking to see if the
  final location in ―parentPage‖ contains a slash. If it does, we do the next line, which slices
  parentPage from 0 (the first location) to negative one (a special number that tells slice to chop one
  character off from the end).

                  slashLoc = parentPage.lastIndexOf('/');
                  if (slashLoc > 0) {
                        parentPage = parentPage.slice(0, slashLoc+1);
                  } else {
                        parentPage = '';

  We set the variable ―slashLoc‖ to the location of the last slash in parentPage. The function
  ―lastIndexOf()‖ is just like ―indexOf()‖ except that it starts looking from the end of the string
  instead of from the beginning.
   27                                                                                Advanced JavaScript

Then we check to see if the slash‘s location is greater than zero. If it is zero (or less), then there is no
parent page, so we just set parentPage to an empty string. If it is greater than zero, we slice
parentPage from the beginning to the location of the slash. When you give ―slice()‖ a second
number, ―slice()‖ slices to the character in front of that number‘s location. So if we want to actually
include that character, we need to add one to the slash‘s location. We want our parent to include
the final slash, so we do the addition.

At this point, if childPage contained, for example,
―http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/‖ then parentPage now contains
―http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/‖. The rest of the script just returns this to
whoever called the function ―findParent()‖.

You can see an example of this script in action at

Adding the parent’s name
Rather than simply write ―Parent‖ as the link‘s text, we can write the name of the parent‘s folder.
This is relatively simple compared to grabbing the parent. In fact, it‘s somewhat complementary:
instead of grabbing everything before the current location, we want only the current location. If our
parent is ―/NetLife/Web_Scripting/‖ we want ―Web_Scripting‖.

In the ―filestamp()‖ function, under where we set ―parentPage‖, add a line to set ―parentName‖:

        parentPage = findParent(document.location, homePage);
        parentName = getName(parentPage);

Change the line that writes the Parent link to:

        document.write('<a href="', parentPage, '">', parentName, '</a> | ');

All we need do now is create the ―getName()‖ function.

        function getName(theURL) {
            //find the location of the final slash if it exists
            if (theURL.charAt(theURL.length-1) == '/') {
                  theURL = theURL.slice(0, -1);
             slashLoc = theURL.lastIndexOf('/');
             if (slashLoc > 0) {
                   theName = theURL.slice(slashLoc+1);
                  //get rid of trailing .xxx
                   dotLoc = theName.lastIndexOf('.');
                  if (dotLoc > 0) {
Advanced JavaScript                                                                               28

                       theName = theName.slice(0, dotLoc);
              } else {
                   theName = 'Top';
              return theName;

  Most of this we‘ve already seen. We check to see if the last character is a slash, and if so, we delete
  it. We then check to see where the final remaining slash is, and this time, we slice from that
  location instead of to that location. We also check to see if there is a period in the resulting name.
  This will happen if, for example, our name is ―fred.html‖ or ―current.cgi‖. Usually, we wouldn‘t
  want to see the ―.html‖ or the ―.cgi‖, those are for the computer. So we chop anything after (and
  including) the final period.

  If there is no name (for example, the page URL is ―/‖), we just return the name ―Top‖.

  See this script in action at

  Bread Crumb Trail
  Now that we can get the name and the URL for the parent, why not show all the parents, in order? This
  is like the ―trail of bread crumbs‖ that Hansel and Gretel left to know where they came from. It shows
  the viewer what pages normally ―contain‖ this page, and thus provide possible avenues of exploration
  for further information.

  We already know how to ―loop‖ with the ―while‖ statement, but we didn‘t pay much attention to it.
  Here, we‘ll use the ―while‖ statement to keep adding new parents onto the old parent until there is
  no more parent left.

  First, change the ―if/then‖ that prints the parent to:

          if (parents) {

  We will create a string called ―parents‖ that contains the names and links to the parent pages. Now,
  we need to create that variable. Up at the top, where you set the parentPage and the parentName,
  replace those two lines with:

          parents = '';
          parentPage = document.location;
   29                                                                             Advanced JavaScript

        while (parentPage = findParent(parentPage, homePage)) {
            parentName = getName(parentPage);
            parentLink = '<a href="' + parentPage + '">' + parentName + '</a>';
            parents = parentLink + " | " + parents;

On the first line, we set the ―parents‖ variable to an empty string. We need to do this because,
inside the while loop, we are going to be building this string up piece by piece. Each time we get a
new parent, we will add the new parent to the pre-existing ―parents‖ variable. But the first time
through the loop, there is no pre-existing ―parents‖ variable unless we have already created one.
That‘s what we do here. We created the ―parents‖ variable, but left it empty.

We do the same thing for ―parentPage‖. We‘ll be setting this in the loop, but we‘re also using it the
first time through the loop. So we need to set it to our starting point before we enter the loop. We
set it to the document‘s location. Our first parent will be the immediate parent just above our
document‘s location.

        while (parentPage = findParent(parentPage, homePage)) {

Our ―while‖ will repeat all of the JavaScript lines between the ―{‖ and the corresponding ―}‖ four lines
down. It will continue to repeat those lines until the above function returns nothing, or zero.
In this case, it will return nothing, since that‘s what our ―findParent()‖ function does when there
are no more parents. As long as ―parentPage‖ contains something, the ―while‖ will make JavaScript
loop through the next few lines. Remember that ―parentPage‖ is getting smaller each time we call
the ―findParent()‖ command. Eventually, it will be empty, and the loop will stop.

        parentName = getName(parentPage);
        parentLink = '<a href="' + parentPage + '">' + parentName + '</a>';
        parents = parentLink + " | " + parents;

For each parent, we get the name of the parent. Then we create the link. And then we ―prepend‖ the
link to the previously existing ―parents‖ variable. When the loop is completed, the ―parents‖
variable will contain each of the parents, separated by a vertical bar. See an example of this script in
action at http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson13.html.

I‘m sure you‘ve seen web pages that tell you how many people have visited a site. JavaScript can‘t
do that. But it can tell the visitor how many times their computer has visited the site. Your script
can do this by storing a ―cookie‖ on their computer, and then checking that cookie every time it
runs. A ―cookie‖ is like a variable that lasts even when the script isn‘t running. The script can ask
Advanced JavaScript                                                                               30

  for it whenever the script starts up, and then modify it as well. We can use a cookie to keep track of
  how many times the current user has loaded our web page.

  Cookies, like JavaScript, exist on the client computer. They can be turned off, and they can be
  modified by the client. Like JavaScript, you cannot trust cookie values. But you can use them to
  assist the user, to store information such as when they last visited and what their browsing
  preferences are if you allow a choice of preferences.

  Try to keep the number of cookies you use down to one or two. If you need more, you probably
  need to keep a database on the server to store the user‘s information.

  We are going to use our cookie to keep track of how many times the visitor has been to our site.
  Using cookies comes in two parts: setting the cookie, and getting the cookie. Each cookie has a
  name, a path, and a value. The path is important. It ensures that we are the only ones who get to
  see this cookie (other than the client). If, for example, you are using geocities, and you set the path
  to ―/‖, you‘ll end up giving that cookie information to anyone else at geocities.

  In your scripts.js file, after setting ―changeDate‖, add three lines for getting, adding to, and setting
  your cookie.

          changeDate = new Date(document.lastModified);
          visitCount = getCookie('Visits', 0);
          setCookie('Visits', visitCount, homePage, 365);

  There are two functions in there that we have not yet seen. One is ―getCookie()‖ and one is
  ―setCookie()‖. We will need to create both of these.

  We will also need to write this visit information to the web page. Add the following lines to the set
  of writes you‘re doing:

          document.write('<tr><td align="right">You have visited us ', visitCount, ' time');
          if (visitCount != 1) {

  If visitCount is one, we tell the viewer that they have ―visited us 1 time‖. Otherwise, (for example,
  they‘ve visited us four times) we tell them that they have ―visited us 4 times‖. We write the ―s‖ in
  ―times‖ only if visitCount is not 1.

  Now on to our cookie functions. Our first function will get the cookie. If there is no cookie (which
  there won‘t be, the first time we get it), it returns a pre-specified default value.
   31                                                                              Advanced JavaScript

        //get a cookie
        function getCookie(cookieName, defaultValue) {
            //see if the cookie is there already
            cookieName = new String(cookieName + '=');
            //get a list of all cookies
            allcookies = document.cookie;
            cookieLoc = allcookies.indexOf(cookieName);
            if (cookieLoc >= 0) {
                  //the viewer has been here before
                  cookieStart = cookieLoc + cookieName.length;
                  cookieEnd = allcookies.indexOf('; ', cookieStart);
                  if (cookieEnd == -1) {
                        cookieEnd = allcookies.length;
                  cookieValue = allcookies.slice(cookieStart, cookieEnd);
                  cookieValue = unescape(cookieValue);
            } else {
                 cookieValue = defaultValue;
            return cookieValue;
        function getCookie(cookieName, defaultValue) {

Our function will take two arguments: the name of the cookie, and the default value if the cookie
doesn‘t exist yet.

            //see if the cookie is there already
            cookieName = new String(cookieName + '=');

JavaScript gets cookies as one big string full of all the cookies (like a cookie jar…). In order to find
the cookie we want, we have to look for it. Cookies always begin with the cookie‘s name and then an
―=‖ sign.

            //get a list of all cookies
            allcookies = document.cookie;

The string that has all the cookies in it can be gotten from ―document.cookie‖.

            cookieLoc = allcookies.indexOf(cookieName);
            if (cookieLoc >= 0) {
                  //the viewer has been here before

We use ―indexOf()‖ to see if the cookieName exists in the cookie jar. If it does (if we get back any
number zero or greater), then the cookie exists.

                 cookieStart = cookieLoc + cookieName.length;

The start of the cookie value will be write after the cookie‘s name. So we add the length of the
cookie‘s name to the start of the cookie‘s name to find out where the value starts.

                 cookieEnd = allcookies.indexOf(';‘, cookieStart);

Cookie values always end with a semicolon, and semicolons cannot be in the cookie‘s value, so we
can find the end of the cookie by looking for the next semicolon after the start of the cookie value.
Advanced JavaScript                                                                              32

                    if (cookieEnd == -1) {
                          cookieEnd = allcookies.length;

  But, oops, there is one case where the cookie value might not end in a semicolon: if it is the last
  cookie value in the list. Then, the end of the value is the end of the cookie list.

                    cookieValue = allcookies.slice(cookieStart, cookieEnd);
                    cookieValue = unescape(cookieValue);

  We use ―slice()‖ to grab the cookie value from start to end, and then we ―unescape‖ the cookie‘s
  value. There are special characters, such as the semicolon, that cannot appear in a cookie‘s value.
  When placed there, they have to be ―escaped‖. We unescape them with the unescape function.

  Then we have the cookie‘s value, so we return it to whoever called the function.

  We now are able to get cookies, but we still haven‘t set any.

          //set a cookie that will expire in x days
          //and is valid on validPath
          function setCookie(cookieName, cookieValue, validPath, expiration) {
               //get the current time
               expirationDate = new Date();
               //add the requisite number of days by converting to milliseconds
               expirationDate = expirationDate.valueOf() + expiration*24*60*60*1000;
               //turn it back into a date
               expirationDate = new Date(expirationDate);
                expires = '; expires=' + expirationDate.toGMTString();
                path = '; path=' + validPath;
                theCookie = cookieName + '=' + escape(cookieValue) + path + expires;
                document.cookie = theCookie;

  We are doing a little work with dates here as well as with setting cookies.

          function setCookie(cookieName, cookieValue, validPath, expiration) {

  Our function is called ―setCookie()‖ and it takes four arguments: the name of the cookie, the value
  that the cookie will store, the path on the server where the cookie will be returned (it will be
  returned for that path and for any lower paths), and the number of days the cookie will last before
  it expires.

                //get the current time
                expirationDate = new Date();
                //add the requisite number of days by converting to milliseconds
                expirationDate = expirationDate.valueOf() + expiration*24*60*60*1000;
                //turn it back into a date
                expirationDate = new Date(expirationDate);

  We get the current time by asking for a new date. Then, we take the value of the date in milliseconds—
  that is, the number of milliseconds since the start of time on this computer—and add
   33                                                                               Advanced JavaScript

a day‘s worth of milliseconds for every day we want this cookie to last. We then turn the variable back
into a date by asking for a new date again, but this time given it our new number of milliseconds to
create the date from. We now have a date that is the correct number of days in the future.

As a side note, remember that for this to work, the date on both the server and on the client must
be correct. If one is off, cookies will expire before they are supposed to. Dates and times are
extremely important to modern computers. Always set yours to a trusted central time server. See
your computer‘s ―Date & Time‖ control for more information about how to do that automatically.

            expires = '; expires=' + expirationDate.toGMTString();

The cookie is made up of parts separated by semicolons. Our expiration date will be a semicolon, a
space, the word ―expires‖, an ―=‖ sign, and then the expiration date in universal time.

            path = "; path=" + validPath;

Similarly, the path is a semicolon, the word ―path‖, an ―=‖ sign, and the path.

            theCookie = cookieName + "=" + escape(cookieValue) + path + expires;

We construct the cookie by placing the cookie‘s name, the ―=‖ sign, and the escaped cookie value
(remember above where we unescaped the value?) in front of the path and the expiration date.

            document.cookie = theCookie;

Finally, we give the cookie back to the document. You might expect that the above line would erase
all current cookies and replace them with our single cookie, but this is a special case. JavaScript
takes the cookie we‘re giving it and adds it to the list of cookies. If the cookie we‘re giving it already
exists, it replaces that cookie, but does not erase any other cookies.
See an example of this script in action at
http://www.hoboes.com/NetLife/Web_Scripting/lessons/lesson14.html. Click reload to see the
number increase by one. Remember that you‘ll need to have cookies turned on in order to see it!

For an additional exercise, try storing the document‘s last modification date in a cookie, and then
let the viewer know if the document has been modified since they last visited.
33                                                                                 JavaScript Issues

                                                                JavaScript Issues
It might not be there
Not all browsers have JavaScript. Some non-visual browsers won‘t use it. And you cannot rely on
JavaScript existing even in visual browsers. Even if the viewer leaves JavaScript turned on in their
browser, there‘s a very good chance that some functionality will be turned off. Mostly, this is
because JavaScript is commonly abused by scammers.

Many people have pop-up blocking turned on, for example, so that they don‘t get advertisements
popping up on their computer; most browsers have this option built-in because the problem is so

Some browsers let the user choose exactly what JavaScript functionality to allow, from the ability to
resize windows on.

When going over this tutorial in early 2007, I discovered that the very simple first example didn‘t
function at all in two out of three of the then-major browsers. I‘d chosen setting the text in the
status bar as the first example because it required only a single line and because its result was so
obvious. No longer; most likely the functionality was abused by phishing sites. As far as I can tell,
the ability to see changed status text is no longer available in most browsers.

Browsers will also attempt to detect whether your script is consuming too many resources on the
client computer. If the browser detects this, it will either automatically stop your script, or present
the viewer with a dire warning that the script is likely doing something wrong, and do they want to
cancel? Most likely they will.

Trusting JavaScript
You cannot trust JavaScript at all. Not only can the viewer turn JavaScript off, but they can also
change it. A JavaScript file is just like a web page: it gets downloaded to the client computer and
then ―displayed‖. The viewer has full control over the file since it is on their computer, and
malicious users can take advantage of this if you trust the ―output‖ of JavaScript.
JavaScript Issues                                                                                 34

JavaScript should be used to assist the user, not to assist the server (or the webmaster). It should
not be used to perform authentication, nor should it be used to calculate things that are then stored
on the server. You would never want to calculate prices using JavaScript and then charge a
customer based on that calculation, for example: you‘ll end up giving some people a pretty hefty
discount when they realize they can manipulate the calculation themselves. This does not mean
that you cannot use JavaScript to show the viewer a quick summary of their prices or shopping cart
total. It just means that you should, once they submit their purchase, calculate the prices on your
end as well. Remember that on the Internet, it only takes one person to take advantage of security
flaws in your web site.

JavaScript is a great feature for making your web pages easier to use. But it should not be used in
place of server-side programming. Your pages should always be accessible to people who do not use
JavaScript (it is difficult to imagine what a JavaScript would look like through a translator or a
voice reader, for example), and you should not rely on the JavaScript calculations coming to your
end intact and trustworthy.

Different Versions
Different web browsers, and different versions of web browsers, will often treat the same
JavaScript slightly differently. This will be more of an issue the more complex your JavaScript
becomes. Try to keep your JavaScript standard, try to test on a wide variety of browsers and
versions, and make sure your web pages work if your viewers end up having to turn JavaScript off
to bypass inadvertent bugs in your JavaScript. Remember that just because your code works now,
there is no guarantee that it will work with tomorrow‘s browsers. Keep things simple, and
especially try not to ―take advantage‖ of bugs in a browser‘s JavaScript implementation. Someday
that bug will probably get fixed.

Managing Your Script Files
If you look at other people‘s web pages, you‘ll notice that sometimes they‘ll put JavaScript right
inside their web pages, instead of putting it into a separate file as we‘ve done here. I recommend
against this. By putting your JavaScript into a separate JavaScript (.js) file, you can call the same
file from different web pages. If a new browser version necessitates changing your JavaScript code
to overcome a new bug, you‘ll be able to make the change once, instead of looking for all the web
pages you‘ve used something like that code in. You‘ll always miss at least one.
35                                                                             JavaScript Issues

Separating your JavaScript into its own file also makes it much harder for your JavaScript to
interfere with your HTML in browsers that don‘t implement JavaScript, or don‘t implement it the
way you expect it to work.

You can put more than one <script src="…"> in your web pages, to reference more than one set of
JavaScripts. Just make sure your JavaScript functions all have unique names.
Programming Tips                                                                                   36

                                                             Programming Tips
Describe Your Goal
Write down what you wish to accomplish. Then break it down into smaller parts. Try to find the
simplest part, and implement just that part. If you can‘t get that simple part to work, see if you can
break it down into even simpler parts.

If you can‘t break it down any further, move on to the next problem. Perhaps by the time you finish the
problem you can solve, you‘ll have some insight into the related problem that you couldn‘t.

Test Often
Learn to love your browser‘s reload button. Whenever you make a change that might affect your
web page, test immediately. Don‘t make a whole bunch of changes before testing; if your web page
no longer works, you won‘t necessarily know which change caused it to fail. Write your programs a
step at a time and test often.

Test things that you don‘t even expect to happen: try to think up weird scenarios and come up with
a means of testing what happens to your page under those scenarios. This will give you valuable
information about what your code is really doing.

Also, make extensive use of the ―window.alert()‖ function to let you know the value of variables at
troublesome points.

Centralize Your Code
You should almost never repeat the same basic code more than once. If you need the same routine
a second time, seriously consider moving it into a subroutine.

For example, if you wanted to put the date into your ―Current Time:‖ line, we already have the code
that creates a date. Unfortunately, if you call it directly you‘ll end up with ―Today‖ as the string,
because that‘s what that subroutine does. Rather than duplicating the portion of the code that
creates the actual date, move it out of the ―formatDate()‖ subroutine. Call it something like
37                                                                             Programming Tips

―makeDate()‖. Then, you can call that subroutine both from ―formateTime()‖ and from

Another example might be the code we used for prepending a zero to numbers that are smaller
than 10. We probably should have created a subroutine that would do that for us, and then call that
subroutine every time we need to prepend zeros.

But consider the things you might want to do with a subroutine at the moment you create it. Might
we want to prepend something other than zeros? Might we want to pad to three or even four
characters instead of just to two? An appropriate subroutine might be called with ―thishour =
leftpad(thishour, "0", 2);‖ to ensure that ―thishour‖ has at least two characters, and prepend a zero
if it does not. One could then use ―indexline = leftpad(pagenumber, ".", 4);‖ to prepend periods and
ensure four characters in the ―indexline‖ string. The function might look something like:

        function leftpad(theItem, thePad, minSize) {
            newItem = new String(theItem);
            while (newItem.length < minSize) {
                 newItem = thePad + newItem;
            return newItem;

Avoid the Hammer Syndrome
Once you have a hammer, all problems start to look like nails. It can be easy, once you start
programming JavaScript, to look at every web page problem as a problem with a JavaScript
solution. Look for simpler HTML solutions first. HTML is faster and more reliable than JavaScript,
and will last longer.

Some problems will have to be solved with server-side programming, either using server-side
includes or server-side programming such as with Perl or PHP. Trying to solve these problems with
client-side JavaScript is prone to errors, sometimes dangerous ones if money or privacy is involved.
Programming Tips                                                                                             38

           More Information
The two most useful books I‘ve seen for JavaScript webmasters are Webmaster in a Nutshell, which
is simply a useful reference for all sorts of webmaster information, and JavaScript: The Definitive
Guide (http://www.hoboes.com/Books/javascript.shtml), by David Flanagan. You‘ll find links to both
of these on my Recommended Software page at

Thanks go to Joy Brunetti (http://www.sandiego.edu/~brunetti/) for testing out the sample scripts
and being the first guinea pig!

       ―The best book on programming for the layman is Alice in Wonderland; but that‘s because it‘s the best book on
       anything for the layman.‖
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In the combination, you must combine any sections entitled "History" in the various original documents, forming one section entitled
"History"; likewise combine any sections entitled "Acknowledgements", and any sections entitled "Dedications". You must delete all
sections entitled "Endorsements."

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You may make a collection consisting of the Document and other documents released under this License, and replace the individual
copies of this License in the various documents with a single copy that is included in the collection, provided that you follow the
rules of this License for verbatim copying of each of the documents in all other respects.

You may extract a single document from such a collection, and distribute it individually under this License, provided you insert a
copy of this License into the extracted document, and follow this License in all other respects regarding verbatim copying of that
GNU Free Documentation License                                                                                               42

7. Aggregation with Independent Works
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copyright is claimed for the compilation. Such a compilation is called an "aggregate", and this License does not apply to the other
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If the Cover Text requirement of section 3 is applicable to these copies of the Document, then if the Document is less than one
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8. Translation
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translations of some or all Invariant Sections in addition to the original versions of these Invariant Sections. You may include a
translation of this License provided that you also include the original English version of this License. In case of a disagreement
between the translation and the original English version of this License, the original English version will prevail.

9. Termination
You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Document except as expressly provided for under this License. Any other
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License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so
long as such parties remain in full compliance.

10. Future Revisions of this License
The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time. Such
new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. See

Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of
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