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Chapter 7

JavaScript supports a compact set of statements that you can use to incorporate a great deal of interactivity in Web pages. This chapter provides an overview of these statements.

This chapter contains the following sections, which provide a brief overview of each statement:

Any expression is also a statement. See Chapter 5, "Expressions and Operators," for complete information about statements.

Use the semicolon (;) character to separate statements in JavaScript code.

See the Server-Side JavaScript Reference for details about the statements in this chapter.

Conditional Statements

A conditional statement is a set of commands that executes if a specified condition is true. JavaScript supports two conditional statements: if...else and switch.

if...else Statement

Use the if statement to perform certain statements if a logical condition is true; use the optional else clause to perform other statements if the condition is false. An if statement looks as follows:

if (condition) {
[else {
} ]
The condition can be any JavaScript expression that evaluates to true or false. The statements to be executed can be any JavaScript statements, including further nested if statements. If you want to use more than one statement after an if or else statement, you must enclose the statements in curly braces, {}.

Example. In the following example, the function checkData returns true if the number of characters in a Text object is three; otherwise, it displays an alert and returns false.

function checkData () {
   if (document.form1.threeChar.value.length == 3) {
      return true
   } else {
      alert("Enter exactly three characters. " +       
      document.form1.threeChar.value + " is not valid.")
      return false

switch Statement

A switch statement allows a program to evaluate an expression and attempt to match the expression's value to a case label. If a match is found, the program executes the associated statement. A switch statement looks as follows:

switch (expression){
   case label :
   case label :
   default : statement;
The program first looks for a label matching the value of expression and then executes the associated statement. If no matching label is found, the program looks for the optional default statement, and if found, executes the associated statement. If no default statement is found, the program continues execution at the statement following the end of switch.

The optional break statement associated with each case label ensures that the program breaks out of switch once the matched statement is executed and continues execution at the statement following switch. If break is omitted, the program continues execution at the next statement in the switch statement.

Example. In the following example, if expr evaluates to "Bananas", the program matches the value with case "Bananas" and executes the associated statement. When break is encountered, the program terminates switch and executes the statement following switch. If break were omitted, the statement for case "Cherries" would also be executed.

switch (expr) {
   case "Oranges" :
      document.write("Oranges are $0.59 a pound.<BR>");
   case "Apples" :
      document.write("Apples are $0.32 a pound.<BR>");
   case "Bananas" :
      document.write("Bananas are $0.48 a pound.<BR>");
   case "Cherries" :
      document.write("Cherries are $3.00 a pound.<BR>");
   default :
      document.write("Sorry, we are out of " + i + ".<BR>");
document.write("Is there anything else you'd like?<BR>");

Loop Statements

A loop is a set of commands that executes repeatedly until a specified condition is met. JavaScript supports the for, do while, while, and label loop statements (label is not itself a looping statement, but is frequently used with these statements). In addition, you can use the break and continue statements within loop statements.

Another statement,, executes statements repeatedly but is used for object manipulation. See "Object Manipulation Statements" on page 125.

for Statement

A for loop repeats until a specified condition evaluates to false. The JavaScript for loop is similar to the Java and C for loop. A for statement looks as follows:

for ([initialExpression]; [condition]; [incrementExpression]) {
When a for loop executes, the following occurs:

  1. The initializing expression initial-expression, if any, is executed. This expression usually initializes one or more loop counters, but the syntax allows an expression of any degree of complexity.
  2. The condition expression is evaluated. If the value of condition is true, the loop statements execute. If the value of condition is false, the for loop terminates.
  3. The statements execute.
  4. The update expression incrementExpression executes, and control returns to Step 2.
Example. The following function contains a for statement that counts the number of selected options in a scrolling list (a Select object that allows multiple selections). The for statement declares the variable i and initializes it to zero. It checks that i is less than the number of options in the Select object, performs the succeeding if statement, and increments i by one after each pass through the loop.

function howMany(selectObject) {
   var numberSelected=0
   for (var i=0; i < selectObject.options.length; i++) {
      if (selectObject.options[i].selected==true)
   return numberSelected
<FORM NAME="selectForm">
<P><B>Choose some music types, then click the button below:</B>
<OPTION> Blues
<OPTION> New Age
<OPTION> Classical
<OPTION> Opera
<P><INPUT TYPE="button" VALUE="How many are selected?"
onClick="alert ('Number of options selected: ' + howMany(document.selectForm.musicTypes))">

do...while Statement

The do...while statement repeats until a specified condition evaluates to false. A do...while statement looks as follows:

do {
} while (condition)
statement executes once before the condition is checked. If condition returns true, the statement executes again. At the end of every execution, the condition is checked. When the condition returns false, execution stops and control passes to the statement following do...while.

Example. In the following example, the do loop iterates at least once and reiterates until i is no longer less than 5.

do {
} while (i<5);

while Statement

A while statement executes its statements as long as a specified condition evaluates to true. A while statement looks as follows:

while (condition) {
If the condition becomes false, the statements within the loop stop executing and control passes to the statement following the loop.

The condition test occurs before the statements in the loop are executed. If the condition returns true, the statements are executed and the condition is tested again. If the condition returns false, execution stops and control is passed to the statement following while.

Example 1. The following while loop iterates as long as n is less than three:

n = 0
x = 0
while( n < 3 ) {
   n ++
   x += n
With each iteration, the loop increments n and adds that value to x. Therefore, x and n take on the following values:

After completing the third pass, the condition n < 3 is no longer true, so the loop terminates.

Example 2: infinite loop. Make sure the condition in a loop eventually becomes false; otherwise, the loop will never terminate. The statements in the following while loop execute forever because the condition never becomes false:

while (true) {
   alert("Hello, world") }

label Statement

A label provides a statement with an identifier that lets you refer to it elsewhere in your program. For example, you can use a label to identify a loop, and then use the break or continue statements to indicate whether a program should interrupt the loop or continue its execution.

The syntax of the label statement looks like the following:

label : 
The value of label may be any JavaScript identifier that is not a reserved word. The statement that you identify with a label may be any type.

Example. In this example, the label markLoop identifies a while loop.

while (theMark == true)

break Statement

Use the break statement to terminate a loop, switch, or label statement.

The syntax of the break statement looks like the following:

1. break
2. break [label]
The first form of the syntax terminates the innermost enclosing loop, switch, or label; the second form of the syntax terminates the specified enclosing label statement.

Example. The following example iterates through the elements in an array until it finds the index of an element whose value is theValue:

for (i = 0; i < a.length; i++) {
   if (a[i] = theValue);

continue Statement

The continue statement can be used to restart a while, do-while, for, or label statement.

The syntax of the continue statement looks like the following:

1. continue
2. continue [label]
Example 1. The following example shows a while loop with a continue statement that executes when the value of i is three. Thus, n takes on the values one, three, seven, and twelve.

i = 0
n = 0
while (i < 5) {
   if (i == 3)
   n += i
Example 2. A statement labeled checkiandj contains a statement labeled checkj. If continue is encountered, the program terminates the current iteration of checkj and begins the next iteration. Each time continue is encountered, checkj reiterates until its condition returns false. When false is returned, the remainder of the checkiandj statement is completed, and checkiandj reiterates until its condition returns false. When false is returned, the program continues at the statement following checkiandj.

If continue had a label of checkiandj, the program would continue at the top of the checkiandj statement.

checkiandj : 
   while (i<4) {
      document.write(i + "<BR>");
      checkj :
         while (j>4) {
            document.write(j + "<BR>");
            if ((j%2)==0);
               continue checkj;
            document.write(j + " is odd.<BR>");
      document.write("i = " + i + "<br>");
      document.write("j = " + j + "<br>");

Object Manipulation Statements

JavaScript uses the and with statements to manipulate objects. Statement

The statement iterates a specified variable over all the properties of an object. For each distinct property, JavaScript executes the specified statements. A statement looks as follows:

for (variable in object) {
   statements }
Example. The following function takes as its argument an object and the object's name. It then iterates over all the object's properties and returns a string that lists the property names and their values.

function dump_props(obj, obj_name) {
   var result = ""
   for (var i in obj) {
      result += obj_name + "." + i + " = " + obj[i] + "<BR>"
   result += "<HR>"
   return result
For an object car with properties make and model, result would be:

car.make = Ford
car.model = Mustang

with Statement

The with statement establishes the default object for a set of statements. JavaScript looks up any unqualified names within the set of statements to determine if the names are properties of the default object. If an unqualified name matches a property, then the property is used in the statement; otherwise, a local or global variable is used.

A with statement looks as follows:

with (object){
Example. The following with statement specifies that the Math object is the default object. The statements following the with statement refer to the PI property and the cos and sin methods, without specifying an object. JavaScript assumes the Math object for these references.

var a, x, y
var r=10
with (Math) {
   a = PI * r * r
   x = r * cos(PI)
   y = r * sin(PI/2)


Comments are author notations that explain what a script does. Comments are ignored by the interpreter. JavaScript supports Java-style comments:

Example. The following example shows two comments:

// This is a single-line comment.
/* This is a multiple-line comment. It can be of any length, and
you can put whatever you want here. */

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Last Updated: 11/12/98 15:29:18

Copyright (c) 1998 Netscape Communications Corporation

Any sample code included above is provided for your use on an "AS IS" basis, under the Netscape License Agreement - Terms of Use