Using JavaScript to Return Elements from HTML Forms

Instructor: Alexis Kypridemos

Alexis is a technical writer for an IT company and has worked in publishing as a writer, editor and web designer. He has a BA in Communication.

In this lesson we'll explain how to use JavaScript to identify HTML form elements, as well as get the values the user enters and store them in variables.

JavaScript and HTML Form Elements

We can use JavaScript to work with HTML form elements and the values that users input into those elements. Before we can work with the data provided by the user, we first need to identify the form elements in the code. The following example demonstrates a few ways to do this:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<form onsubmit = "return getData()">
<label>Please enter your login credentials:</label>
<input type = "text"><br/>
<input type = "text" id = "email"><br/>
<input type = "password" name = "password"><br/>
<input type = "submit">
function getData(){
var username = document.getElementsByTagName("input")[0];
var email = document.getElementById("email");
var password = document.forms[0].password;

Identifying Form Elements

In this example we've got an HTML form with three inputs and each one has different properties and different ways they can be identified.

By Tag Name

The first input is a simple text input with no additional identifiers: <input type = "text">.

To identify this particular element in JavaScript, we have no other option but to use its element tag, <input>, and the order with which it appears on the page. In this case, this input is the first so we get it with this line of code:

var username = document.getElementsByTagName("input")[0];

We use the document.getElementsByTagName() method, and specify the tag name we're looking for which is "input". Additionally, we add the [0] ordinal, to specify that we're looking for the first such item in the document. Remember, JavaScript starts counting from 0, not 1. This line of code also assigns the form element to the variable username. More details about this later in the lesson.


The second input element is again a text input, but it also has an ID: <input type = "text" id = "email">.

Because of the ID, we can use this method in the code: document.getElementById("email"), specifying the element's ID as the method's argument (email). The document.getElementById() method works only for elements that have been assigned an ID.

By Name

Finally, the last input element, a password input, has a name attribute instead of an ID: <input type = "password" name = "password">. Again we could use the document.getElementsByTagName("input") method, and change the ordinal to [2], but to make things interesting, we used this method instead:


What we've done here is use the forms document attribute. We used the [0] ordinal again to specify that we're talking about the first form in the document. This is necessary even though there is only one form. Then we specified the input by including its name after the forms attribute.

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