document.getElementById vs jQuery $()

Is this:

var contents = document.getElementById('contents');

The same as this:

var contents = $('#contents');

Given that jQuery is loaded?

Not exactly!!

document.getElementById('contents'); //returns a HTML DOM Object

var contents = $('#contents');  //returns a jQuery Object

In jQuery, to get the same result as document.getElementById, you can access the jQuery Object and get the first element in the object (Remember JavaScript objects act similar to associative arrays).

var contents = $('#contents')[0]; //returns a HTML DOM Object


Calling document.getElementById('id') will return a raw DOM object.

Calling $('#id') will return a jQuery object that wraps the DOM object and provides jQuery methods.

Thus, you can only call jQuery methods like css() or animate() on the $() call.

You can also write $(document.getElementById('id')), which will return a jQuery object and is equivalent to $('#id').

You can get the underlying DOM object from a jQuery object by writing $('#id')[0].

Close, but not the same. They're getting the same element, but the jQuery version is wrapped in a jQuery object.

The equivalent would be this

var contents = $('#contents').get(0);

or this

var contents = $('#contents')[0];

These will pull the element out of the jQuery object.

A note on the difference in speed. Attach the following snipet to an onclick call:

function myfunc()
    var timer = new Date();

        for(var i = 0; i < 10000; i++)

    console.log('timer: ' + (new Date() - timer));

Alternate commenting one out and then comment the other out. In my tests,

document.getElementbyId averaged about 35ms (fluctuating from 25ms up to 52ms on about 15 runs)

On the other hand, the

jQuery averaged about 200ms (ranging from 181ms to 222ms on about 15 runs).

From this simple test you can see that the jQuery took about 6 times as long.

Of course, that is over 10000 iterations so in a simpler situation I would probably use the jQuery for ease of use and all of the other cool things like .animate and .fadeTo. But yes, technically getElementById is quite a bit faster.

No. The first returns a DOM element, or null, whereas the second always returns a jQuery object. The jQuery object will be empty if no element with the id of contents was matched.

The DOM element returned by document.getElementById('contents') allows you to do things such as change the .innerHTML (or .value) etc, however you'll need to use jQuery methods on the jQuery Object.

var contents = $('#contents').get(0);

Is more equivilent, however if no element with the id of contents is matched, document.getElementById('contents') will return null, but $('#contents').get(0) will return undefined.

One benefit on using the jQuery object is that you won't get any errors if no elements were returned, as an object is always returned. However you will get errors if you try to perform operations on the null returned by document.getElementById

No, actually the same result would be:


jQuery does not know how many results would be returned from the query. What you get back is a special jQuery object which is a collection of all the controls that matched the query.

Part of what makes jQuery so convenient is that MOST methods called on this object that look like they are meant for one control, are actually in a loop called on all the members int he collection

When you use the [0] syntax you take the first element from the inner collection. At this point you get a DOM object

In case someone else hits this... Here's another difference:

If the id contains characters that are not supported by the HTML standard (see SO question here) then jQuery may not find it even if getElementById does.

This happened to me with an id containing "/" characters (ex: id="a/b/c"), using Chrome:

var contents = document.getElementById('a/b/c');

was able to find my element but:

var contents = $('#a/b/c');

did not.

Btw, the simple fix was to move that id to the name field. JQuery had no trouble finding the element using:

var contents = $('.myclass[name='a/b/c']);

Just like most people have said, the main difference is the fact that it is wrapped in a jQuery object with the jQuery call vs the raw DOM object using straight JavaScript. The jQuery object will be able to do other jQuery functions with it of course but, if you just need to do simple DOM manipulation like basic styling or basic event handling, the straight JavaScript method is always a tad bit faster than jQuery since you don't have to load in an external library of code built on JavaScript. It saves an extra step.

var contents = document.getElementById('contents');

var contents = $('#contents');

The code snippets are not the same. first one returns a Element object (source). The second one, jQuery equivalent will return a jQuery object containing a collection of either zero or one DOM element. (jQuery documentation). Internally jQuery uses document.getElementById() for efficiency.

In both the cases if more than one element found only the first element will be returned.

When checking the github project for jQuery I found following line snippets which seems to be using document.getElementById codes ( line 68 onwards)

// HANDLE: $(#id)
} else {
    elem = document.getElementById( match[2] );

One other difference: getElementById returns the first match, while $('#...') returns a collection of matches - yes, the same ID can be repeated in an HTML doc.

Further, getElementId is called from the document, while $('#...') can be called from a selector. So, in the code below, document.getElementById('content') will return the entire body but $('form #content')[0] will return inside of the form.

<body id="content">
      <div id="content"> My Form </div>

It might seem odd to use duplicate IDs, but if you are using something like Wordpress, a template or plugin might use the same id as you use in the content. The selectivity of jQuery could help you out there.

jQuery is built over JavaScript. This means that it's just javascript anyway.


The document.getElementById() method returns the element that has the ID attribute with the specified value and Returns null if no elements with the specified ID exists.An ID should be unique within a page.

Jquery $()

Calling jQuery() or $() with an id selector as its argument will return a jQuery object containing a collection of either zero or one DOM element.Each id value must be used only once within a document. If more than one element has been assigned the same ID, queries that use that ID will only select the first matched element in the DOM.

I developed a noSQL database for storing DOM trees in Web Browsers where references to all DOM elements on page are stored in a short index. Thus function "getElementById()" is not needed to get/modify an element. When elements in DOM tree are instantiated on page the database assigns surrogate primary keys to each element. It is a free tool

All the answers above are correct. In case you want to see it in action, don't forget you have Console in a browser where you can see the actual result crystal clear :

I have an HTML :

<div id="contents"></div>

Go to console (cntrl+shift+c) and use these commands to see your result clearly

>>> div#contents

>>> [div#contents,
 context: document,
 selector: "#contents",
 jquery: "1.10.1",
 constructor: function,
 init: function …]

As we can see, in the first case we got the tag itself (that is, strictly speaking, an HTMLDivElement object). In the latter we actually don’t have a plain object, but an array of objects. And as mentioned by other answers above, you can use the following command:

>>> div#contents

All the answers are old today as of 2019 you can directly access id keyed filds in javascript simply try it

<p id="mytext"></p>
<script>mytext.innerText = 'Yes that works!'</script>

Online Demo! -