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How to replace one element with another with vanilla JavaScript

Yesterday, we looked at how to make a copy of an element with vanilla JS. Today, we’re going to learn how to replace one element with another.

Let’s dig in.

An example

Let’s build on yesterday’s article a bit. We have a paragraph element with a greeting.

<p id="node1" class="text-blue">Hello, world!</p>

Now let’s say we want to make a copy of it, change the ID, change the class, and change the text.

// Get the original
var elem = document.querySelector('#node1');

// Make a copy
var copy = elem.cloneNode(true);

// Change all the things = 'node2';
copy.className = 'text-purple';
copy.textContent = 'Hi, universe!';

Now let’s imagine that we want to replace the original elem with the new copy.

The replaceChild() method

You call the replaceChild() method on the target element’s parentNode. Then, pass in the new element and the one to replace as arguments.

// Replace the original with the copy
elem.parentNode.replaceChild(copy, elem);

Here’s a demo.

The replaceChild() method works in all modern browsers, and back to IE9.

The replaceWith() method

The replaceWith() method uses a simpler syntax.

Call it on the original element, and pass in the copy as an argument. And that’s it.

// Replace the original with the copy

Here’s another demo.

The replaceWith() method works in all modern browsers, but has no IE support.

Which one should you use?

If you’re using on your site, I would use replaceWith(). It has a nicer syntax.

Otherwise, I would use replaceChild(). The browser support on replaceWith() just isn’t good enough yet without a polyfill.