14.15 Removing Body Content

NN 6, IE 5

14.15.1 Problem

You want to eliminate an element or portion of text from the current document.

14.15.2 Solution

If you have a reference to the element you wish to delete, you can use the W3C DOM removeChild( ) method to remove the element. The method works only on child nodes, so you must step outward to the element's parent to invoke the method:

var elem = document.getElementById("spanToGo");

To eliminate text from a text node, set its node value to an empty string:

var container = document.getElementById("someSpan");
// verify that the child node is a text node before emptying it
if (container.firstChild.nodeType =  = 3) {
    container.firstChild.nodeValue = "";

To remove the text node entirely, use the removeChild( ) method as shown above for the element node removal.

14.15.3 Discussion

When you remove repetitive elements, such as rows of a table, you may need to iterate through a collection when appropriate. For example, a table or tbody element object has a rows property that returns a collection of all tr element objects nested within. If you intend to remove all the rows, it is more efficient to remove them via a tight while loop, acting on the first child until there are no more children:

var tbody = document.getElementById("myTableBody");
while (tbody.rows.length > 0) {

But if removal among a collection is meant to be selective, you also have to account for a changing collection of numeric indexes for the collection's array while the array gets smaller. To work around this potential problem, use a for loop that starts at the end and decrements the index counter so that the counter doesn't get off track with a changing collection.

For an example of selective deletion in action, consider the following table, in which each row contains a checkbox and some text. A button at the bottom of the table deletes any and all rows in which the checkbox is checked. The HTML for the table is as follows:

<tbody id="myTBody">
    <td><input type="checkbox"></td><td>Item 1</td>
    <td><input type="checkbox"></td><td>Item 2</td>
    <td><input type="checkbox"></td><td>Item 3</td>
    <td><input type="checkbox"></td><td>Item 4</td>
    <td><input type="checkbox"></td><td>Item 5</td>
    <td colspan="2">
    <input type="button" value="Remove Checked" onclick="remove( )"></td>

The remove( ) function is as follows:

function remove( ) {
    var elem = document.getElementById("myTBody");
    for (var i = elem.rows.length-1; i >= 0 ; i--) {
        if (elem.rows[i].cells[0].firstChild.checked) {

You could also use the deleteRow( ) method of the tbody object in the function.

14.15.4 See Also

Recipe 14.13 for ways to reference elements in the document.