Home > Articles

Getting Started with JavaScript Programming

This chapter is from the book What You'll Learn in This Hour:

Organizing scripts using functions

What objects are and how JavaScript uses them

How JavaScript can respond to events

An introduction to conditional statements and loops

How browsers execute scripts in the proper order

Syntax rules for avoiding JavaScript errors

Adding comments to document your JavaScript code

You've reached the halfway point of Part I of this book. In the first couple of hours, you've learned what JavaScript is, learned the variety of things JavaScript can do, and created a simple script.

In this hour, you'll learn a few basic concepts and script components that you'll use in just about every script you write. This will prepare you for the remaining hours of this book, in which you'll explore specific JavaScript functions and features.

Basic Concepts

There are a few basic concepts and terms you'll run into throughout this book. In the following sections, you'll learn about the basic building blocks of JavaScript.


Statements are the basic units of a JavaScript program. A statement is a section of code that performs a single action. For example, the following three statements are from the date and time example in Hour 2, "Creating Simple Scripts":

hours = now.getHours();
mins = now.getMinutes();
secs = now.getSeconds();

Although a statement is typically a single line of JavaScript, this is not a rule—it's possible to break a statement across multiple lines, or to include more than one statement in a single line.

A semicolon marks the end of a statement. You can also omit the semicolon if you start a new line after the statement. If you combine statements into a single line, you must use semicolons to separate them.

Combining Tasks with Functions

In the basic scripts you've examined so far, you've seen some JavaScript statements that have a section in parentheses, like this:


This is an example of a function. Functions provide a simple way to handle a task, such as adding output to a web page. JavaScript includes a wide variety of built-in functions, which you will learn about throughout this book. A statement that uses a function, as in the preceding example, is referred to as a function call.

Functions take parameters (the expression inside the parentheses) to tell them what to do. Additionally, a function can return a value to a waiting variable. For example, the following function call prompts the user for a response and stores it in the text variable:

text = prompt("Enter some text.")

You can also create your own functions. This is useful for two main reasons: First, you can separate logical portions of your script to make it easier to understand. Second, and more importantly, you can use the function several times or with different data to avoid repeating script statements.


In Hour 2, you learned that variables are containers that can store a number, a string of text, or another value. For example, the following statement creates a variable called fred and assigns it the value 27:

var fred = 27;

JavaScript variables can contain numbers, text strings, and other values. You'll learn more about them in Hour 5, "Using Variables, Strings, and Arrays."

Understanding Objects

JavaScript also supports objects. Like variables, objects can store data—but they can store two or more pieces of data at once.

The items of data stored in an object are called the properties of the object. For example, you could use objects to store information about people such as in an address book. The properties of each person object might include a name, an address, and a telephone number.

JavaScript uses periods to separate object names and property names. For example, for a person object called Bob, the properties might include Bob.address and Bob.phone.

Objects can also include methods. These are functions that work with the object's data. For example, our person object for the address book might include a display() method to display the person's information. In JavaScript terminology, the statement Bob.display() would display Bob's details.

Don't worry if this sounds confusing—you'll be exploring objects in much more detail later in this book. For now, you just need to know the basics. JavaScript supports three kinds of objects:

  • Built-in objects are built in to the JavaScript language. You've already encountered one of these, Date, in Hour 2. Other built-in objects include Array and String, which you'll explore in Hour 5, and Math, which is explained in Hour 8, "Using Built-in Functions and Libraries."
  • DOM (Document Object Model) objects represent various components of the browser and the current HTML document. For example, the alert() function you used earlier in this hour is actually a method of the window object. You'll explore these in more detail in Hour 4.
  • Custom objects are objects you create yourself. For example, you could create a person object, as in the examples in this section. You'll learn to use custom objects in Hour 6.


Although event handlers notify your script when something happens, you might want to check certain conditions yourself. For example, did the user enter a valid email address?

JavaScript supports conditional statements, which enable you to answer questions like this. A typical conditional uses the if statement, as in this example:

if (count==1) alert("The countdown has reached 1.");

This compares the variable count with the constant 1, and displays an alert message to the user if they are the same. You will use conditional statements like this in most of your scripts.


Another useful feature of JavaScript—and most other programming languages—is the capability to create loops, or groups of statements that repeat a certain number of times. For example, these statements display the same alert 10 times, greatly annoying the user:

for (i=1; i<=10; i++) {
   Alert("Yes, it's yet another alert!");

The for statement is one of several statements JavaScript uses for loops. This is the sort of thing computers are supposed to be good at: performing repetitive tasks. You will use loops in many of your scripts, in much more useful ways than this example.

Event Handlers

As mentioned in Hour 1, "Understanding JavaScript," not all scripts are located within <script> tags. You can also use scripts as event handlers. Although this might sound like a complex programming term, it actually means exactly what it says: Event handlers are scripts that handle events.

In real life, an event is something that happens to you. For example, the things you write on your calendar are events: "Dentist appointment" or "Fred's birthday." You also encounter unscheduled events in your life: for example, a traffic ticket, an IRS audit, or an unexpected visit from relatives.

Whether events are scheduled or unscheduled, you probably have normal ways of handling them. Your event handlers might include things such as When Fred's birthday arrives, send him a present or When relatives visit unexpectedly, turn out the lights and pretend nobody is home.

Event handlers in JavaScript are similar: They tell the browser what to do when a certain event occurs. The events JavaScript deals with aren't as exciting as the ones you deal with—they include such events as When the mouse button clicks and When this page is finished loading. Nevertheless, they're a very useful part of JavaScript.

Many JavaScript events (such as mouse clicks) are caused by the user. Rather than doing things in a set order, your script can respond to the user's actions. Other events don't involve the user directly—for example, an event is triggered when an HTML document finishes loading.

Each event handler is associated with a particular browser object, and you can specify the event handler in the tag that defines the object. For example, images and text links have an event, onMouseOver, that happens when the mouse pointer moves over the object. Here is a typical HTML image tag with an event handler:

<img src="button.gif" onMouseOver='highlight()">

You specify the event handler as an attribute to the HTML tag and include the JavaScript statement to handle the event within the quotation marks. This is an ideal use for functions because function names are short and to the point and can refer to a whole series of statements.

See the Try It Yourself section at the end of this hour for a complete example of an event handler within an HTML document.

Which Script Runs First?

You can actually have several scripts within a web document: one or more sets of <script> tags, external JavaScript files, and any number of event handlers. With all of these scripts, you might wonder how the browser knows which to execute first. Fortunately, this is done in a logical fashion:

  • Sets of <script> tags within the <head> section of an HTML document are handled first, whether they include embedded code or refer to a JavaScript file. Because these scripts cannot create output in the web page, it's a good place to define functions for use later.
  • Sets of <script> tags within the <body> section of the HTML document are executed after those in the <head> section, while the web page loads and displays. If there is more than one script in the body, they are executed in order.
  • Event handlers are executed when their events happen. For example, the onLoad event handler is executed when the body of a web page loads. Because the <head> section is loaded before any events, you can define functions there and use them in event handlers.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020