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The Differences Between JavaScript and jQuery

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The Differences Between JavaScript and jQuery

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JavaScript made its appearance on the scene 19 years ago and since then has gone from strength to strength becoming THE language for dynamic front end web development. If you want to do scripting on the web, JavaScript is it. And this programming language was going strong until an upstart called jQuery made its appearance on the scene. This JavaScript library simplified HTML document traversing, AJAX interactions, animation and event handling, and made web development far easier than it ever was. Its cross-browser compatibility, smaller footprint, easy documentation and short learning curve, has made it the darling of web developers.

But to think of jQuery as a replacement for JavaScript is not taking the right view of things. jQuery has a JavaScript component and you need to learn JavaScript first before you start using jQuery. As a web developer, there will be occasions when a particular project will require you to come up with a custom script; that’s when you will have to go back to JavaScript. To put it simply, arming yourself with JavaScript helps you optimize the use of jQuery and ensures you don’t lose your way if the jQuery library doesn’t come to your rescue to meet certain scripting challenges.

So, this brings us to the crux of the matter – What are the differences between jQuery and JavaScript? Are there some tasks that JavaScript allows you to do, and wherein jQuery falters or vice versa? Let’s take a look:

  1. JavaScript is a programing language, jQuery is like a language built using JavaScript components

JavaScript is essentially the foundation jQuery is built on. The jQuery framework is a JavaScript library that simplifies the process of working on JavaScript. Developers no longer have to write JavaScript code for common web tasks; they can create DOM elements, handle events, and create simple applications by accessing the library and choosing the necessary code for the function they wish to implement.

    2.   jQuery doesn’t have Cross Browser Compatibility Issues

It’s surprising really that a framework that’s been built on top of a particular language offers better compatibility across browsers. But, this is precisely the case with jQuery and JavaScript. The former has been optimized to work with a diverse range of browsers and developers don’t have to do anything to ensure such computability, it happens automatically. On the other hand, its parent language, JavaScript gives developers’ sleepless nights vis-à-vis browser compatibility. That’s not to say, browser compatibility is a huge issue when it comes to JavaScript, it’s just that developers have to put more effort to ensure their website renders effectively on all browsers.

    3.   jQuery makes more sense for complex web development projects

In most cases where you are tasked with developing complex projects, the use of jQuery makes perfect sense because it enables faster code creation. Something that can be accomplished in a single line of code in jQuery, will take more lines of code in JavaScript. And more the code, the more effort required to debug it. We earlier talked about the cross browser compatibility brought to projects with the use of jQuery; one reason for this is that the popular web browsers appreciate shorter pieces of code.

Here’s an example to further illustrate this point:

Task: Change background color of body tag

Accomplishing task using jQuery:

$ (‘body’) .css (‘background’, ‘#ccc’);

Accomplishing task using JavaScript:

Function changeBackground (color)
{Document.body.style.background=color;}
Onload="changeBackground('red');"

The same task can be accomplished with jQuery using a single line of code, while JavaScript involves the use of three lines. This is just one task; now compare the time taken to write code for hundreds of such tasks in jQuery and JavaScript. This will give you an idea why developers have started using jQuery for most of their projects.

But, there is no getting around JavaScript

No doubt jQuery will usually satisfy all your scripting needs, but in order to leverage its potential, it’s important that you know the ins and outs of JavaScript. There might be a few occasions wherein certain specific functions won’t be available on jQuery and you’ll have to use JavaScript. You must be able to include JavaScript code if and when required.

The idea is to seamlessly transition between jQuery and JavaScript as the need arises. Another reason why you need comprehensive knowledge of JavaScript is the rise of responsive web design and the stellar role HTML 5 and CSS3 play in creative responsive sites. JavaScript is the third building block of these sites and essentially holds both HTML5 and CSS3 together. There might be a case wherein you need the kind of responsiveness that HTML 5 and CSS3 cannot deliver. Think of it in terms of using JavaScript to iron out the wrinkles of your site; after all it is a language that is primarily focused on building the front end framework of your site. This is why it will never become redundant.

End Words

JavaScript can exist without jQuery but not vice versa. As a developer, it’s important that you bake JavaScript into your skillsets and only then start using jQuery. Otherwise you might not be able to address the limitations of jQuery whenever required. You don’t want to be caught in a situation wherein you can’t progress with your project just because you’ve chosen to ignore JavaScript.


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