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An easier way to get elements in the DOM with vanilla JS

The querySelector() and querySelectorAll() methods are really handy for getting elements in the DOM.

But, they’re a bit verbose, especially if you’re used to using jQuery’s $() selector shorthand. And, querySelectorAll() returns a NodeList instead of an array, which limits what you can do with it.

Today, let’s look at two helper methods to make getting DOM elements easier.

Getting the first matching element in the DOM

Let’s create a helper function named $() that we’ll use as a wrapper for querySelector().

var $ = function (selector) {
    return document.querySelector(selector);

This is a good start, but what if you wanted to look for elements inside an element other than the document?

We can add another (optional) argument: parent. If present, we’ll attach querySelector() to that. Otherwise, we’ll use the document.

var $ = function (selector, parent) {
    return (parent ? parent : document).querySelector(selector);

Here’s a demo. You can find this helper method on the Vanilla JS Toolkit, too.

Getting all matching elements in the DOM

We can also create a helper function that serves as a wrapper for querySelectorAll(). Let’s name this one $$().

We can use the same format as our $() helper.

var $$ = function (selector, parent) {
    return (parent ? parent : document).querySelectorAll(selector);

I mentioned earlier that one downside of querySelectorAll() is that it returns a NodeList instead of an array. That means that you can’t use methods like map() and reduce() with it out-of-the-box.

Let’s set up $$() to automatically convert the NodeList to an array before returning it to give us more flexibility.

The Array.slice() method creates a new array from an existing one. By using call(), we can apply that method to an array-like not-actually-an-array object like a NodeList.

var $$ = function (selector, parent) {
    return ? parent : document).querySelectorAll(selector));

Here’s another demo. You can also find this function on the Vanilla JS Toolkit.