What are alternatives to document.write?


In tutorials I've learnt to use document.write. Now I understand that by many this is frowned upon. I've tried print(), but then it literally sends it to the printer.

So what are alternatives I should use, and why shouldn't I use document.write? Both w3schools and MDN use document.write.

As a recommended alternative to document.write you could use DOM manipulation to directly query and add node elements to the DOM.


The reason that your HTML is replaced is because of an evil JavaScript function: document.write().

It is most definitely "bad form." It only works with webpages if you use it on the page load; and if you use it during runtime, it will replace your entire document with the input. And if you're applying it as strict XHTML structure it's not even valid code.


the problem:

document.write writes to the document stream. Calling document.write on a closed (or loaded) document automatically calls document.open which will clear the document.

-- quote from the MDN

document.write() has two henchmen, document.open(), and document.close(). When the HTML document is loading, the document is "open". When the document has finished loading, the document has "closed". Using document.write() at this point will erase your entire (closed) HTML document and replace it with a new (open) document. This means your webpage has erased itself and started writing a new page - from scratch.

I believe document.write() causes the browser to have a performance decrease as well (correct me if I am wrong).


an example:

This example writes output to the HTML document after the page has loaded. Watch document.write()'s evil powers clear the entire document when you press the "exterminate" button:

I am an ordinary HTML page.  I am innocent, and purely for informational purposes. Please do not <input type="button" onclick="document.write('This HTML page has been succesfully exterminated.')" value="exterminate"/>
me!


the alternatives:

  • .innerHTML This is a wonderful alternative, but this attribute has to be attached to the element where you want to put the text.

Example: document.getElementById('output1').innerHTML = 'Some text!';

  • .createTextNode() is the alternative recommended by the W3C.

Example: var para = document.createElement('p'); para.appendChild(document.createTextNode('Hello, '));

NOTE: This is known to have some performance decreases (slower than .innerHTML). I recommend using .innerHTML instead.


the example with the .innerHTML alternative:

I am an ordinary HTML page. 
I am innocent, and purely for informational purposes. 
Please do not 
<input type="button" onclick="document.getElementById('output1').innerHTML = 'There was an error exterminating this page. Please replace <code>.innerHTML</code> with <code>document.write()</code> to complete extermination.';" value="exterminate"/>
 me!
<p id="output1"></p>


Here is code that should replace document.write in-place:

document.write=function(s){
    var scripts = document.getElementsByTagName('script');
    var lastScript = scripts[scripts.length-1];
    lastScript.insertAdjacentHTML("beforebegin", s);
}

Just dropping a note here to say that, although using document.write is highly frowned upon due to performance concerns (synchronous DOM injection and evaluation), there is also no actual 1:1 alternative if you are using document.write to inject script tags on demand.

There are a lot of great ways to avoid having to do this (e.g. script loaders like RequireJS that manage your dependency chains) but they are more invasive and so are best used throughout the site/application.


The question depends on what you are actually trying to do.

Usually, instead of doing document.write you can use someElement.innerHTML or better, document.createElement with an someElement.appendChild.

You can also consider using a library like jQuery and using the modification functions in there: http://api.jquery.com/category/manipulation/


This is probably the most correct, direct replacement: insertAdjacentHTML.


Try to use getElementById() or getElementsByName() to access a specific element and then to use innerHTML property:

<html>
    <body>
        <div id="myDiv1"></div>
        <div id="myDiv2"></div>
    </body>

    <script type="text/javascript">
        var myDiv1 = document.getElementById("myDiv1");
        var myDiv2 = document.getElementById("myDiv2");

        myDiv1.innerHTML = "<b>Content of 1st DIV</b>";
        myDiv2.innerHTML = "<i>Content of second DIV element</i>";
    </script>
</html>

You can combine insertAdjacentHTML method and document.currentScript property.

The insertAdjacentHTML() method of the Element interface parses the specified text as HTML or XML and inserts the resulting nodes into the DOM tree at a specified position:

  • 'beforebegin': Before the element itself.
  • 'afterbegin': Just inside the element, before its first child.
  • 'beforeend': Just inside the element, after its last child.
  • 'afterend': After the element itself.

The Document.currentScript property returns the <script> element whose script is currently being processed. Best position will be beforebegin - new HTML will be inserted before <script> itself.

<script>
  document.currentScript.insertAdjacentHTML(
    'beforebegin', 
    'this is the document.write alternative'
);
</script>

I fail to see the problem with document.write. If you are using it before the onload event fires, as you presumably are, to build elements from structured data for instance, it is the appropriate tool to use. There is no performance advantage to using insertAdjacentHTML or explicitly adding nodes to the DOM after it has been built. I just tested it three different ways with an old script I once used to schedule incoming modem calls for a 24/7 service on a bank of 4 modems.

By the time it is finished this script creates over 3000 DOM nodes, mostly table cells. On a 7 year old PC running Firefox on Vista, this little exercise takes less than 2 seconds using document.write from a local 12kb source file and three 1px GIFs which are re-used about 2000 times. The page just pops into existence fully formed, ready to handle events.

Using insertAdjacentHTML is not a direct substitute as the browser closes tags which the script requires remain open, and takes twice as long to ultimately create a mangled page. Writing all the pieces to a string and then passing it to insertAdjacentHTML takes even longer, but at least you get the page as designed. Other options (like manually re-building the DOM one node at a time) are so ridiculous that I'm not even going there.

Sometimes document.write is the thing to use. The fact that it is one of the oldest methods in JavaScript is not a point against it, but a point in its favor - it is highly optimized code which does exactly what it was intended to do and has been doing since its inception.

It's nice to know that there are alternative post-load methods available, but it must be understood that these are intended for a different purpose entirely; namely modifying the DOM after it has been created and memory allocated to it. It is inherently more resource-intensive to use these methods if your script is intended to write the HTML from which the browser creates the DOM in the first place.

Just write it and let the browser and interpreter do the work. That's what they are there for.

PS: I just tested using an onload param in the body tag and even at this point the document is still open and document.write() functions as intended. Also, there is no perceivable performance difference between the various methods in the latest version of Firefox. Of course there is a ton of caching probably going on somewhere in the hardware/software stack, but that's the point really - let the machine do the work. It may make a difference on a cheap smartphone though. Cheers!


I'm not sure if this will work exactly, but I thought of

var docwrite = function(doc) {               
    document.write(doc);          
};

This solved the problem with the error messages for me.