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The Power of Javascript: Controlling the Execution of the Script

When you write a script, most of the time you need to make a decision based on the values of some of your variables, or based on the values entered by the users, or even based on user actions. Decision making is a fundamental building block for all programming languages and it's similar in most of them. In this article, we discuss the if/else statement block, the switch statement, and take a look at the prompt() dialog box.

Author Info:
By: Michael Youssef
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 12
August 09, 2005
  1. · The Power of Javascript: Controlling the Execution of the Script
  2. · The if statement
  3. · The if statement example
  4. · Advanced if statements (else if and else)
  5. · The switch statement
  6. · The switch example

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The Power of Javascript: Controlling the Execution of the Script
(Page 1 of 6 )

Interacting with the user

We have used the alert() functionality that displays a message box to the user informing him/her about some action that has been taken or printing a value of a variable in the message box. Javascript has another dialog box to interact with the user and accept data from him/her; it's called using the functionality prompt(). For now I call alert() and prompt() functionalities because I don't want to go into much detail in this article about them. 

We will talk more about Javascript functions and methods and how we can create our own functions and objects too. We use the parentheses to call those functionalities that Javascript provides. Note that it's different from the parentheses operator that we have used to override the operator's precedence behavior. Here's the dialog box prompt that is displayed using the functionality prompt():

The dialog box prompt contains two buttons (OK and Cancel), one text box (where the user answers the question or enters the data), and a label that displays the question. In the above prompt box the question is "Do you like action movies?" There is a default answer in the text box, so you only need to change the value then click on OK. Let's look at an example and explain the possible values that can be produced (returned) from the prompt box. Copy the following code into your document file and save it, then load it into your browser.

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
    <title>Hello World</title>
    <script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">
      var someText;
        someText = prompt("Please enter some text", "I like Javascript");

When you load this code the browser displays the following prompt box.

As you can see, the text "I like Javascript" is the default text for the text box (note that Javascript is a case sensitive language so "I like Javascript" is not "i like javascript" -- both are different values). Click on OK and this text will be written to the Web page.

The prompt() functionality takes two string values between the parentheses. The first value is the question to be displayed in the prompt box and the second value (which is optional and can be removed) is the default text of the text box. Note that we separate the two values inside the parentheses using the coma (,). We could include only the question to be displayed and remove the second value (the default text). In this case the prompt box will look like this prompt("Enter some text please");


As you can see, the Javascript interpreter displays the value "undefined" in the text box because we have not entered a default value. Now we need to understand what's happening when we click Ok and Cancel. The reason that we use a prompt box is that we need to input data from the user, then operate on this data, so when the interpreter encounters the functionality prompt() (which gives us access to the browser prompt dialog box), it returns the value entered in the text box (when the user clicks on the OK button) to the script in order to be processed.

In our example, the interpreter understands that we need to assign the variable someText a value at runtime (I mean at the time in which the script is running, that is, when you load the page into the browser), so it displays the prompt box. When the user clicks Ok it takes the value and stores it in the variable someText. Then the functionality document.write() writes the value of the variable someText to the Web page.

Let's take a look at what happens when the user clicks the Cancel button. Refresh the Web page and this time click on the Cancel button. You will get the value null written to the Web page as in the following figure.

So what's null? Why did the Interpreter assign this value to the variable someText? Null means nothing, which is not equal to an empty string like this "". Nothing means that there's no value at all. When you clicked the Cancel button, the interpreter understood that there's no return value from the prompt box, so it assigned the value null to the variable someText. We will discuss null in more detail; we will be using it a lot, so don't worry because you will understand how important it is to test on this value. In the following sections we are going to learn how to control the execution of our script's code and we will be extending our example.

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