When scripts are written they’re used to accomplish a given task, e.g., create a rotating picture gallery, or to validate a form. This means that for each different type of usage, a separate script is necessary. Often, a script is called using an
Loading the Page
When a Web page is loaded, the code on the page — whether HTML, CSS, PHP, or some other type — is generally processed from the top down. As the browser comes upon a section of code, it’s executed and the intended action is (hopefully) performed. Let’s say you have the following script in the
head section of a Web page:
When the page is loaded, the browser will stop at the script above and execute it. An alert window will pop up and the page will stop loading until the alert window is closed. Often, this isn’t an issue, but if the script needs to access elements on the page that aren’t yet loaded (i.e., below the current code), you will encounter problems. To resolve these, here are a few solutions.
Move it to the Bottom
One method is to place the script at the bottom of the Web page, just above the closing
</body> tag. This does, however, present a few problems. First, there is a period of time that those elements which are you seeking to change with the script will be clearly seen by the visitor. Then, once the script is executed, they will “magically” change. With a fast loading page and a script that executes quickly, this might not be a problem, but if the original elements can be seen by the visitor, and are then changes, the visitor may perceive it to be some type of a hack or bug on the page, and leave the site immediately. Obviously, that’s not good.
Secondly, either the script, or a link to it, will need to be included in the actual HTML
onload. When this event handler is used, the entire page and all of its related files and components are loaded before the function listed in the
onload event handler is executed, hence the term “on load.”
As shown in the script above, it’s easy to use, but what if you have more than one function you want to call using an
onload event handler?
You would think you could just stack them like this:
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. After the first
onload event handler is executed, it will be replaced when the second
onload event handler is executed. That, in turn, will be replaced immediately just as soon as the third
onload event handler is executed. There are workarounds for this, though.
Let’s Put Them in a Chain
One method that has been used quite a bit is the linking of multiple events. It places several function calls in a chain, using one
onload event handler. The method would look like this:
Still, once again we run into the unobtrusive problem. In addition, you will need to add this to the
<body> tag of every page that needs to use the called functions. That could be quite tedious for a large Web site, especially when changes or additions are needed.
Within Another Function
Another method is the following script:
While this is good, there’s one method that’s even better.
This function was written by Simon Willison. It has several advantages. For one, it’s really unobtrusive. It can be placed in a file with your other scripts or in a separate file. (If it’s in a separate file, just be sure to call it after the other files, so the functions will be available.)
Also, it works even if the
onload event handler has been previously assigned. Simon explains it like this:
“The way this works is relatively simple: if
window.onloadhas not already been assigned a function, the function passed to
addLoadEventis simply assigned to
window.onloadhas already been set, a brand new function is created which first calls the original
onloadhandler, then calls the new handler afterwards.”
Isn’t that beautiful? So, if you already have a script that uses the
onload event handler, you don’t need to dig it out and change it, unless you want to. It also allows for extra code. Here’s an example that calls two functions and adds a third, independent
func2, a function is created that changes the background color of the Web page. Each of these is executed in the order shown. Try it yourself and see how it works!
Sometimes, figuring out which approach to use in coding takes a bit of trial and error. Other times it’s advantageous to search the Web and see what others have done. The
onload event handler.