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jQuery - Selectors

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The jQuery library harnesses the power of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) selectors to let us quickly and easily access elements or groups of elements in the Document Object Model (DOM).

A jQuery Selector is a function which makes use of expressions to find out matching elements from a DOM based on the given criteria.

The $() factory function:

All type of selectors available in jQuery, always start with the dollar sign and parentheses: $().

The factory function $() makes use of following three building blocks while selecting elements in a given document:

Tag Name:Represents a tag name available in the DOM. For example $('p') selects all paragraphs in the document.
Tag ID:Represents a tag available with the given ID in the DOM. For example $('#some-id') selects the single element in the document that has an ID of some-id.
Tag Class:Represents a tag available with the given class in the DOM. For example $('.some-class') selects all elements in the document that have a class of some-class.

All the above items can be used either on their own or in combination with other selectors. All the jQuery selectors are based on the same principle except some tweaking.

NOTE: The factory function $() is a synonym of jQuery() function. So in case you are using any other JavaScript library where $ sign is conflicting with some thing else then you can replace $ sign by jQuery name and you can use function jQuery() instead of $().


Following is a simple example which makes use of Tag Selector. This would select all the elements with a tag name p.

<title>the title</title>
   <script type="text/javascript" 
   <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">
   $(document).ready(function() {
      var pars = $("p");
      for( i=0; i<pars.length; i++ ){
         alert("Found paragraph: " + pars[i].innerHTML);
      <p class="myclass">This is a paragraph.</p>
      <p id="myid">This is second paragraph.</p>
      <p>This is third paragraph.</p>

To understand it in better way you can Try it yourself.

How to use Selectors?

The selectors are very useful and would be required at every step while using jQuery. They get the exact element that you want from your HTML document.

Following table lists down few basic selectors and explains them with examples.

NameSelects all elements which match with the given element Name.
#IDSelects a single element which matches with the given ID
.ClassSelects all elements which match with the given Class.
Universal (*)Selects all elements available in a DOM.
Multiple Elements E, F, GSelects the combined results of all the specified selectors E, F or G.

Similar to above syntax and examples, following examples would give you understanding on using different type of other useful selectors:

You can use all the above selectors with any HTML/XML element in generic way. For example if selector $("li:first") works for <li> element then $("p:first") would also work for <p> element.

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