Manipulating the DOM with jQuery: 10+ useful code snippets

by Jean.

The Document Object Model is an API which allows developers to access, read, and modify the content of a web page. In this article, I’m going to show you 10+ extremely useful code snippets to manipulate the DOM using jQuery.

Add a CSS class to a specific element

A very clean way to change an element look and feel is to add a css class, instead of adding inline styles. Using jQuery, this is pretty easy to do:


Removing a CSS class from a specific element

It’s great to be able to add some CSS classes, but we also need to know how to remove unwanted classes. The following line of code will do that:


Check if a specific element has a CSS class

If your application or site is frequently adding and removing classes to a particular element, it can be very useful to be able to check out if an element has a certain CSS class.


Switch CSS using jQuery

As we saw with the previous examples, adding or removing css styles to an element is very simple using jQuery. But what if you want to completely remove the document css file and attach a new stylesheet? Good news, it is extremely simple as well, as shown in the following example:

$('link[media='screen']').attr('href', 'Alternative.css');


Append HTML to an element

When you need to append some html to an element, the append() method is a life saver:


Check if an element exists

When working with Javascript, we often need to check if an element exists or not. Using jQuery and the length property, it is very simple to do: If length == 0, no elements are used on the page. Otherwise, some are used.

if ($('img').length) {
    log('We found img elements on the page using "img"');
} else {
    log('No img elements found');


Get the parent element of an element

When working with the DOM, you may need to know which element is the direct parent of another element. The closest() method will let you know:

var id = $("button").closest("div").attr("id");


Get element siblings

The siblings() method is a very handy tool to get siblings of an element. As shown below, using this method is extremely simple:


Remove an option from a select list

When working with select lists, you may want to update the content according to the user actions. To remove an option from a select list, the following code will do the trick:

$("#selectList option[value='2']").remove();


Get the selected option as text

Extremely useful when you need to quickly check out what a visitor selected from your select list.

$('#selectList :selected').text();

Apply a “zebra” effect on tables

When using tables, it is a good idea, for better readability, to give a different style to one line out of two. Using jQuery, this can be done easily, without any additional html markup.



Count children of an element

If you’d like to count how many div elements are children of #foo, the following line will let you know. Simple and efficient!

$("#foo > div").length


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  • I use almost everyday the addClass and removeClass. Playing with classes it’s once the best things in jQuery.


    • Hi quicoto,
      I like to play with jQuery too.
      Most of the time they are just crap but may be after learning a bit I will improve.

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  • Ricardo Verhaeg

    Thanks.. I really find useful about the closest() I was using the parents() before but it was not what i expected!
    Very nice tips also!

    • I this they do what they should do … closest … finds the closets thing of something.

      While parents only looks at the parent.


  • Thomas

    “When working with the DOM, you may need to know which element is the direct parent of another element. The closest() method will let you know:”

    You can get the direct parent with $(‘#element’).parent();
    closest() returns the next ancestor matching the given selector, which is not necessarily the direct parent.

    • You’re right, didn’t knew that. Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  • That’s a supercool post Jean. Bookmarked cause it’d save a lot of headaches, especially “Add a CSS class to a specific element” and “Apply a “zebra” effect on tables”. Kudos.

    • For this “zebra” effect you might use pure CSS, no jQuery is needed.
      The :nth-child()-selector does this for you, e.g.:
      li:nth-child(odd) {} does the “zebra” effect which is described above on a list, this also works with tables.

      • Definitely, but if you want your code to be compatible with IE the jQuery solution is the way to go.

  • wow….great stuff….thnx for sharing such useful info with us..

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  • brian

    what a useless bullshit. try the api next time. shame on sm for linking

  • Why use closest for finding parent when there is a parent() function?

    var id = $(“button”).parent().attr(“id”);

    • Ricardo Verhaeg


      “The .parents() and .closest() methods are similar in that they both traverse up the DOM tree. The differences between the two, though subtle, are significant:
      Begins with the current element
      Travels up the DOM tree until it finds a match for the supplied selector
      The returned jQuery object contains zero or one element

      Begins with the parent element
      Travels up the DOM tree to the document’s root element, adding each ancestor element to a temporary collection; it then filters that collection based on a selector if one is supplied
      The returned jQuery object contains zero, one, or multiple elements”

      So the basic difference is that with parent you may find multiple parents and with closest you get only the first found parent.

      • You are describing parents, not parent.

        To understand (I hope I can write some code here…):

        <div id="level-one" class="foo bar">
        <div id="level-two" class="foo">
        <div id="target">

        $("#target").parents(".foo") // Returns #level-one and #level-two
        $("#target").closest(".foo") // Returns #level-two
        $("#target").closest(".bar") // Returns #level-one
        $("#target").parent(".foo") // Returns #level-two
        $("#target").parent(".bar") // Returns nothing

  • Ten very helpful tools to integrate jQuery into the Document Object Model. Thanks.

  • Why use abutting for award ancestor back there is a parent() function?

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  • Great selection! Thank you for the cheatsheet…

  • Great post, look like really useful snippets of code. Can’t wait to try them!
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Check if an element exists. I use this every my project. It example in this article is very usfull.

  • Rob

    Great post. Book marked!

  • Les

    Really useful list, one to bookmark. Thanks Jean-Baptiste!

  • I tried this method and I think I increased the speed of my blog. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Gah!! “When you need to append some html to an element, the append() method is a life saver:” — I’ve been looking for this for a week!

    Thank you so much for sharing this, great site!


  • bob

    or you could just read up on the docs…
    not a bad post but you’re missing a semicolon on a couple of examples, and to get a direct parent of a div you can just use $(‘div’).parent(); rather than .parents(); – optionally with a selector.

  • smit

    Hello Guys,
    How to check similar class in dom.

    jQuery(“.c_”+[somethig to match])
    Can anyone tell me how to do this?