Home » Programming » Javascript » Javascript Setattribute

JavaScript setAttribute() Method-What It Is/How to Use It [Examples]

JavaScript was built for adding interactivity to web pages. It can interact with and modify on-screen elements, including their HTML attributes – thats what setAttribute() does. Here’s how to use it.

What is the HTML DOM?

The HTML DOM (Document Object Model) is the interface which JavaScript uses to read from and interact with HTML page elements.

It’s a data structure which represents every HTML tag present on the page – everything from the root <html> element that wraps your page to every <div>, <p>, <input>, and <em> – everything on the page is represented in the DOM, both content and structure.

DOM Elements in JavaScript

JavaScript uses the DOM to find elements on page, so that it can read and update them. By referencing a DOM element, the value of inputs can be read, text can be updated, or elements can be moved or modified.

The style of each element is part of the DOM – so any CSS property can be changed, including the color, background, position and orientation of elements.

JavaScript can also create entirely new elements and append them to the page through the DOM, and likewise completely remove elements.

Updating DOM Elements Attributes with setAttribute()

Attributes are values within HTML elements that configure how the element behaves, assign it a value, or otherwise dictate what it does on the page.

A full list of standard HTML attributes is available here.

Custom attributes can also be set, which you can set and read for your own purposes.

setAttribute() Method Syntax

setAttribute(NAME, VALUE)

Note that:

  • NAME is the name of the HTML Attribute which you wish to set or update
  • VALUE is the value that the attribute will be set to
    • All values for VALUE will be converted to string
    • If using boolean, the presence of a value, no matter what it is, will be considered TRUE, and an empty string will be considered FALSE

setAttribute() Method Example

The below code example demonstrates the setAttribute JavaScript method:

<input id="my-input">

    var myInput = document.getElementById("my-input");

    myInput.setAttribute("disabled", "");
    myInput.setAttribute("value", "This input has been disabled");

First, an input with id my-input is defined.

The JavaScript code then locates that input element in the DOM using the document.getElementById method to find it by its id attribute.

The input element is then modified using its setAttribute method – first it is disabled, then its value is updated to let the user know that it is disabled.

Why Update DOM Elements from Javascript?

There are many reasons you may want to modify the HTML attributes of on-page elements:

  • Showing and hiding menus
  • Changing the color of a read notification
  • Hiding text that doesn’t fit on-screen
  • Resizing images
  • Moving on-screen objects for animation
  • Adding HTML events to objects to enable or disable buttons or change their behavior
  • … And what ever other reasons you can think of – get creative!
Photo of author
I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

Leave a Comment