Functions used Everywhere

Status: Draft
Version: 1.0
Authors: Carla
Peter Higgins
Shane O'Sullivan
Marcus Reimann
Craig Riecke
Alex Russell
Available:since V?

It would be near impossible to explain any one aspect of the Dojo Toolkit without first explaining a few simple functions that appear literally everywhere within the codebase. These are dojo-fundamentals, and should be memorized if possible.


This is the core of the Dojo package system, and loads functionality not provided for in the Base dojo.js. Simply pass it a string:

dojo.require("dojo.fx"); // load dojo/fx.js
dojo.require("dojox.widget.Toaster"); // load dojox/widget/Toaster.js

The general rule-of-thumb is: if you are calling a function or class like: dojo.some.randomFunction(), you will need to load the dojo.some module. If you don't, your scripts will throw a "dojo.some not defined" or "dojo.some.randomFunction not defined. There are a few exceptions to this rule, all of which are covered later in this guide.

It may seem painful to require all modules, but Dojo rewards by:

  • Loading any dependent scripts for you. If dijit.Dialog requires dojo.math, you still need only require dijit.Dialog.
  • Preventing loading dojo packages twice. dojo.require will simply return if the package is already loaded.
  • Allowing you to build streamlined versions of Dojo. If you use dijit.Dialog a lot, you can build a custom version of dojo that loads dijit.Dialog quickly. dojo.require knows whether the function is already loaded, and so you don't have to change any of your code.


This registers a function to be run when the document (and all required dependencies) are ready. Simply pass it a function:

   console.log("document ready!");

That example passes an anonymous function. You can pass named functions as well:

var init = function(){
   console.log("document ready!");

Notice we didn't call dojo.addOnLoad(init()); ... The additional () causes the named-function to execute immediately, and dojo.addOnLoad expects a function.


This is more or less an alias to document.getElementsById. Simply pass dojo.byId a string, and the domNode with that id is returned. Notice how we wrap the byId call in an addOnLoad function -- You should not use or manipulate the DOM before onLoad has fired, as a general rule.

    var node = dojo.byId("someNode");
    node.innerHTML = "found me!";

.innerHTML is a basic property of DOM Elements. Here, we're setting the content of the node with id="someNode" to say "found me!"

Note: in some cases (in lesser browsers), document.getElementsById doesn't actually return the Node you desire. dojo.byId normalizes this, and is the recommended way of accessing nodes byId. dojo.byId is similar to Prototype's $("someId"), and jQuery's $("#someId") syntax, though Dojo uses a safely-namespaced function for it's query engine: dojo.query("#someId") (see: dojo.query) to avoid conflicts.


dojo.byId works exclusively on Dom Elements. Dijit is Dojo's widgeting system, and builds on Core Dojo functionality. Every widget generated in a page has a unique ID, just as native Dom Elements should, though with one huge difference: Dijit's are objects. An excellent article articulating this difference can be found at DojoCampus, but the basics are:

  • If you are using just a normal domNode, use dojo.byId
  • If you are working with a Dijit, use dijit.byId
  • If you need access to the Dijit's domNode, it is stored in the the .domNode property of the Dijit reference:
var dialog = dijit.byId("myDialog");
// the top-level node containing the dialog is:
// dialog.domNode

dijit.byId returns an reference to that particular Dijit instance, and allows you to call methods and set properties. Each Dijit has several fundamental methods and properties defined by dijit._Widget, and adds in additional specific methods depending on the type of Dijit.


dojo.query() returns a list of DOM nodes based on a CSS selector. Users of other libraries will find the syntax very familiar:

  // every element in the page with the class "blueButton" assigned
  dojo.query(".blueButton").forEach(function(node, index, arr){

The returned object of a dojo.query() call is an instance of dojo.NodeList, a subclass of Array with many convenience methods added for making DOM manipulation and event handling easier. Custom extensions of the dojo.NodeList class are supported and encouraged.

Read more about dojo.query...


JavaScript 1.6 has a forEach loop, where you can apply a certain function to each element of an array. Unfortunately at the time of this writing, only Firefox 2 has support for JS 1.6. But never fear! Dojo has defined one you can use in any Dojo-supported browser.

Foreach is syntactic sugar for a regular ol' for loop. So for example:

for(var i in queueEntries){

Can be written as:

    function(oneEntry, index, array) {
        console.debug(oneEntry + " at index " + index);

We used an anonymous function here to define the operation. This function must accept between one and three arguments. The first argument is the value of each value in the array in turn, the second is the current index or position in the array, and the third argument is the array itself.

For this simple loop, forEach isn't anything exciting. But combined with other Dojo functions, especially dojo.query, it becomes remarkably useful. Consider this snippet, which disables all SELECT tags on the page:

  dojo.query("select", document),
  function(selectTag) {
      selectTag.disabled = true;

There's no monkeying around with DOM functions, no using tedious names or id's, and it continues to work even when you add new SELECT tags.

Running dojo.forEach on a dojo.query result is so common, that Dojo defines a shortcut. This snippet:

  function(selectTag) {
      selectTag.disabled = true;

does the same thing. But that's not all! New in 1.0, you can collapse the function down to its body, passed in as a string like so:

// >= 1.0 only.
dojo.query("select", document).forEach("item.disabled = true;");

Ay carumba! That's a lot of functionality in a tiny 1-line package. Once you get used to the syntax, you'll never want to go back. This only scratches the surface of how useful dojo.forEach can be. There is an excellent DojoCookie about forEach on DojoCampus.


Events in JavaScript or Dojo based applications are essential to making applications work. Connecting an event handler (function) to an element or an object is one of the most common things you will do when developing applications using Dojo. Dojo provides a simple API for connecting events via the dojo.connect function. One important thing to note here is that events can be mapped to any property or object or element. Using this API you can wire your user interfaces together or allow for your objects to communicate. The dojo.connnect API does not require that the objects be Dojo based. In other words, you can use this API with your existing code and interfaces.

Below is the code in the tutorial handling events. Here we connected the event handler, helloPressed, to the onclick property of the hello button element. When the button is clicked the funtion helloPressed will be called.

function helloPressed(){
 alert('You pressed the button');
function init(){
   button = dojo.byId('helloButton');
   dojo.connect(button, 'onclick', 'helloPressed');

It is also possible to use the Dojo event model to connect simple objects. To demonstrate, lets define a simple object with a couple of methods:

var exampleObj = {
    counter: 0,
    foo: function(){
    bar: function(){

So lets say that I want to get called whenever is called. We can set this up the same way that we do with DOM events:

dojo.connect(exampleObj, "foo", exampleObj, "bar");

Now calling foo() will also call bar(), thereby incrementing the counter twice and alerting "foo" and then "bar". Any caller that was counting on getting the return value from foo() won't be disappointed. The source method should behave just as it always has. On the other hand, since there's no explicit caller for bar(), it's return value will be lost since there's no obvious place to put it.

In either case, each time dojo.connect is called with the same arguments it will result in multiple connections. Later we will discuss strategies on how to guard against this.

Notice that dojo.connect takes a different number of arguments in the examples above. dojo.connect determines the types of positional arguments based on usage.

The Dojo event system allows you to connect to DOM elements or nodes or plain JavaScript objects. The API is sophisticated enough that it allows you to connect multiple listeners to a single object so you can have multiple actions as a result of a single event such as a mouse click. Of course there is an API to disconnect the listeners too. The <A href='../event-system'>Events</A> section describes the Dojo Event system in more detail.

note: in the above examples, we're connecting to (the lowercase) onclick, which differs from onClick. If you are using dojo.connect to listen to a Dijit widget function, Dijit uses mixedCases for it's naming convention. The lowercase version is used for DOM events, and the mixedCase version is for Dijit events.

dojo.connect is a lot more powerful than can be described on the surface. See the full rundown for more examples and use-cases.

See also

  • Dojo QuickStart Guide

    A good tutorial for starting with Dojo Toolkit

quickstart/dojo-basics (last edited 2008-11-10 13:06:49 by TobiasKlipstein)