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How to convert the jQuery append() function into vanilla JS

I recently had a few folks tell me that one of their biggest challenges is converting their old jQuery code into vanilla JS. Over the next few days, I want to take a look at some jQuery methods, and show you how to convert them into vanilla JS.

Today, we’re starting things off with the append() method.

What jQuery’s append() does

The jQuery append() method lets you insert content (either an element or a string) at the end of each element in a set of matching elements.

For example, lets say you have a list of D&D classes, like this.

<ul id="list">

You could add the word Class after each one like this.

$('#list li').append(' Class');

You could also add an element, <p>Class</p>, after each one like this.

$('#list li').append('<p>Class</p>');

The method also lets you take an existing element in the UI and move it.

$('#list li').append($('.some-other-element'));

Let’s look at how to do this with vanilla JS.

The vanilla JS append() method

Vanilla JS also has an append() method. It works mostly the same way, but has some small but important differences.

First, you call it on just one element rather than a set of elements. I personally find this to be a benefit over the jQuery approach, because it gives you more control.

// Get all list items
var listItems = document.querySelectorAll('#list li');

// Append to the first matching item
listItems[0].append(' Class');

If you want to append to all items, you can use the Array.from() method or the hack to convert your NodeList into an array, and then use the Array.forEach() method to loop through each one.

Array.from(listItems).forEach(function (item) {
	item.append(' Class');

Here’s a demo.

Appending HTML

The jQuery append() method automatically converts HTML strings into actual HTML nodes. Unfortunately, the vanilla JS version does not.

To append an element, like <p>Class</p>, you’ll need to create the HTML elements using the createElement() method, then add your text content to it.

// Create a paragraph and add some text
var p = document.createElement('p');
p.textContent = 'Class';

Then, you can clone and append it for each item using the cloneNode() method.

Array.from(listItems).forEach(function (item) {

Here’s an updated demo.

Browser compatibility

The append() method works in all modern browsers, but not IE. You can push support back to IE9 with a polyfill.

The Array.from() method also lacks IE support, and there’s also a polyfill available. The createElement() and cloneNode() methods works back to at least IE6.