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DOM developer guide

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The Document Object Model is an API for HTML and XML documents. It provides a structural representation of the document, enabling the developer to modify its content and visual presentation. Essentially, it connects web pages to scripts or programming languages.

All of the properties, methods, and events available to the web developer for manipulating and creating web pages are organized into objects (e.g., the document object that represents the document itself, the table object that represents a HTML table element, and so forth). Those objects are accessible via scripting languages in most recent web browsers.

The DOM is most often used in conjunction with JavaScript. However, the DOM was designed to be independent of any particular programming language, making the structural representation of the document available from a single, consistent API. Though we focus on JavaScript throughout this site, implementations of the DOM can be built for any language.

The World Wide Web Consortium establishes a standard for the DOM, called the W3C DOM. It should, now that the most important browsers correctly implement it, enable powerful cross-browser applications.

Why is the DOM important?

"Dynamic HTML" (DHTML) is a term used by some vendors to describe the combination of HTML, style sheets and scripts that allows documents to be animated. The W3C DOM Working Group is working hard to make sure interoperable and language-neutral solutions are agreed upon (see also the W3C FAQ).

As Mozilla claims the title of "Web Application Platform", support for the DOM is one of the most requested features, and a necessary one if Mozilla wants to be a viable alternative to the other browsers. The user interface of Mozilla (also Firefox and Thunderbird) is built using XUL, using the DOM to manipulate its own UI.

More about the DOM

Animations using MozBeforePaint
Gecko 2.0 adds a new method for performing JavaScript controlled animations that synchronize not only with one another, but also with CSS transitions and SMIL animations being performed within the same window.
DOM Storage guide
DOM Storage is the name given to the set of storage-related features first introduced in the Web Applications 1.0 specification, and now split off into its own W3C Web Storage specification. DOM Storage is designed to provide a larger, more secure, and easier-to-use alternative to storing information in cookies. It was first introduced with Firefox 2 and Safari 4.
Locating DOM elements using selectors
The Selectors API provides methods that make it quick and easy to retrieve Element nodes from the DOM by matching against a set of selectors. This is much faster than past techniques, wherein it was necessary to, for example, use a loop in JavaScript code to locate the specific items you needed to find.
Manipulating the browser history
The DOM window object provides access to the browser's history through the history object. It exposes useful methods and properties that let you move back and forth through the user's history, as well as -- starting with HTML5 -- manipulate the contents of the history stack.
The structured clone algorithm
The structured clone algorithm is a new algorithm defined by the HTML5 specification for serializing complex JavaScript objects. It's more capable than JSON in that it supports the serialization of objects that contain cyclic graphs; that is, objects can refer to objects that refer to other objects in the same graph. In addition, in some cases, the structured clone algorithm may be more efficient than JSON.
Using fullscreen mode
The fullscreen API provides an easy way for web content to be presented using the user's entire screen. This article provides information about using this API.
Whitespace in the DOM
The presence of whitespace in the DOM can make manipulation of the content tree difficult in unforeseen ways. In Mozilla, all whitespace in the text content of the original document is represented in the DOM (this does not include whitespace within tags). (This is needed internally so that the editor can preserve formatting of documents and so that white-space: pre in CSS will work.) This means that:

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