jQuery 3 - Selectors
Written by Ian Elliot   
Monday, 18 July 2016
Article Index
jQuery 3 - Selectors
Combining Type Selectors
CSS Pseudo Classes

Selectors are what jQuery uses to pick out particular objects in the DOM. While this might start out simply enough, it can appear to be complicated in more testing examples. The trick is to always remember what the selector is doing.


 Available as a Book:


buy from Amazon

  1. Understanding jQuery
  2. Basic jQuery CSS Selectors
       Extract: The DOM ***NEW!!!
  3. More Selectors
  4. The jQuery Object
  5. Filters
  6. Traversal Filters
  7. Modifying DOM Objects
  8. Creating Objects & Modifying The DOM Hierarchy
  9. Working With Data
  10. Forms
  11. Function Queues
  12. Animation
  13. jQuery UI
  14. jQuery UI Custom Control
  15. jQuery Plugins
  16. Testing With QUnit
  17. Epilog A Bonus Function

Also Available:


buy from Amazon


In the first chapter we introduced the idea that one of the big uses of jQuery is in finding sets of DOM objects so that we can work with them.

There are two phases to learning the core of jQuery. The first is learning how to pick out the elements that you want. The second is finding out how to make the changes that you require.

In this article we focus on finding elements, leaving manipulation to another chapter. Of course, jQuery isn't of much use if all you can do is find elements, but it is the first, and necessary, step.

Basic Selectors

In an ideal world any element, or its corresponding DOM object, would be easy to find because it would have a unique id. Even sets of DOM objects that share a set of common properties should be easy to find because they should all belong to the same class.

Before going any deeper, it is worth saying that the three most used jQuery selectors are

  • name    all tags like <name>
  • #name  the singe tag with id="name"
  • .name   all tags with class="name"

These were introduced in the first chapter.

So for example $('div') selects all the DOM objects that correspond to div elements; $('#mydiv'") selects the one element with id set to mydiv; $(".bigdiv") selects all elements with class set to bigdiv.

For many jQuery users these are the only selectors needed but if these are the only selectors you know the more general and powerful patterns you can use will not be obvious to you.

In an ideal world you would be able to find every element you needed using just these three selectors but when you have to work with web pages generated by CMS or templates then often you have to work with what you are given. In other words it is sometimes not possible to modify the HTML so that the elements you want to select all have ids or belong to a single class.

 It is worth remembering that jQuery always returns an array of elements that match the selector even if there is only one match.

It is also worth remembering that many jQuery methods operate on the first element of the array - which makes working with a single element much easier - or on all of the elements.




Type Selectors

Once you graduate beyond the three basic selectors you need to have a framework to organize things - without a framework everything looks like a special case.

The first thing to say is that the fundamental selector is the type selector i.e name which selects all elements corresponding to <name>.  All other selectors take the form of extra conditions on this basic selector.

For example


selects elements corresponding to all <p> tags. All other selectors are modifications and extensions on this basic selector.

There is also a universal type selector - the asterisk * which matches every element type. This may not seem to be very useful at first, but it is often used within a larger selector to mean any element type that satisfies other conditions.

This will become clear in a moment.

The basic type selector can be modified with additional conditions - usually indicated by a colon or a square brackets or another special symbol. For example if you want to specify a type with a particular id you can write


to select all <p> elements with id equal to name.

Of course there can only be one element with id equal to name so you don't really need to specify the type. This can be done using the universal type selector i.e.


selects any type of element with id equal to name. The convention is that if you don't specify a type then the universal type selector is assumed. This means that you can simply write


to mean


and now you can see that the id selector is just a special case of the more general type selector.

In the same way the .class selector is a short hand for


which selects all elements with the class attribute equal to name.  In general the class selector is:


which selects all elements of type T with class set to name.




Last Updated ( Monday, 18 July 2016 )