When you are a programmer, you have to understand the nuances of at least one programming language. In many cases, you may wonder about the differences between jQuery vs. JavaScript. Yes, jQuery and JavaScript share some similarities. Nevertheless, there are some fundamental differences between jQuery and JavaScript.

This article will answer your questions about jQuery vs. JavaScript. To make it easier for you to understand the differences, we recommend looking at some code. For now, don’t worry about it if you don’t fully understand the code. Our goal is to simplify seeing the similarities and differences between jQuery and JavaScript. 

Person in front of computer in office

This article will shed light on how jQuery and JavaScript do the same things in different ways. Also, you may discover that jQuery makes some of the things you’ll want to do much easier. You will also learn about the relationships and fundamental features that distinguish these two programming languages. Keep reading to cover topics including:

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript (JS) is a dynamic programming language. JS is written in C and is an interpreted language that completes the task on the client-side in a website. In other words, it is a client-side programming language. As hinted by its name, JavaScript is indeed a scripting language.

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JavaScript is most commonly used to spice up user interactions (UI). For example, you can use JS to move objects or even make things on your screen pop up or flash. Also, you can use JS to control the document content that displays to the user.

What is jQuery?

The jQuery website defines jQuery (jQ) as a fast, small, multi-browser JavaScript library. It makes things like HTML document traversal and manipulation, event handling, animation, and Ajax much simpler with an easy-to-use API that works across many browsers.

For fun, let’s break down how they defined jQuery. Just like open-source software, jQuery is a JavaScript library. If you are interested in programming professionally, know this:

jQuery simplifies the HTML client-side scripting because it automatically combines all problems in JS into a library. In the same vein, jQuery is perfect for creating standard UI and taking care of browser compatibility issues more easily. Again, keep in mind that jQuery isn’t a separate programming language. jQuery actually transforms into JavaScript. After you write code in jQuery, it is converted to JavaScript internally.

Core jQuery and JavaScript Takeaways

Think about how we just defined jQuery and JavaScript. Now, you can understand these core takeaways:

Benefits of Using JavaScript and jQuery

This section talks about the benefits of using JS and jQ.

JavaScript

JS stands out from other programming languages for quite a few reasons. Some benefits of JavaScript include:

One of the other great things about JavaScript is that you do not need to worry about cross-browser compatibility. You do not need to include it in the browser to support JavaScript. This is because JS runs in all modern browsers without any additional plugins. Regardless of your programming experience, it is a weight off your shoulders to not worry about browser compatibility issues.

jQuery

If you use jQ, you can reap the following benefits:

jQuery works together with JavaScript to help you do more with less effort. For example, if you write one line of code using jQuery, that may be equal to several lines of code written using JavaScript. Therefore, this translates to you having to write fewer lines of code. As the jQuery website mentions, jQuery provides APIs that make other things more manageable. This includes browsing HTML documents, animations, event handling, and manipulating AJAX.

Downsides of JavaScript and jQuery

Every programming language has its drawbacks. Therefore, this section covers the downsides of using JS and jQ. You need to understand these shortcomings so that you work around them as best you can.

JavaScript

Some of the downsides of using JavaScript include:

jQuery

A couple of downsides to using jQuery include:

Coding and Syntax

Now that you have a strong foundation of JavaScript vs. jQuery, let’s look at how they differ in writing code and syntax.

Coding requirements

When you begin writing in JS or jQ, you must write your code inside open and closed script tags within an HTML document. 

A difference with jQuery is that you have to import the jQuery libraries. This allows you to run the code inside of the script tags. You can import jQuery libraries using one of the two following methods:

Syntax considerations

When you are ready to code in JavaScript, all you need to do is start writing the code using the script tag in HTML. When working with jQuery, you must use:

$(selector).action() 

This line of code breaks down as follows:

Times to use jQuery vs. JavaScript

You have now learned about several examples that show how JavaScript and jQuery work together, even though they are different in many ways. However, there are some specific times that you should use one over the other to make your life easier. This section explains some use cases for which you should use consider only one of these methods.

Cross-browser compatibility 

jQuery is known for its proven ability to plug gaps between web browsers. When it comes to cross-browser compatibility, jQuery does the hard work for you. The jQuery library can interpret one line of jQuery code into the various lines of JavaScript code needed to please each browser. Modern-day cross-browser compatibility issues may be few and far between, but it is still a good solution.

DOM manipulation

The Document Object Model (DOM) stands for the browser’s interpretation of the web page you serve it. If you right-click on any web page, click inspect, you can find DOM under the Elements pane. A big chunk of the HTML content is usually dynamically rendered from a server using server-side code (PHP, for example).

You can use JS to render and manipulate DOM elements. In this context, jQuery is useful because you can target DOM nodes. DOM nodes are essentially HTML elements, such as a level two heading with the code:

$(“h2”)

To select a DOM element, you can use:

$(‘.button’)

To wait for the DOM to be loaded, you can use:

$(document).ready(() => {

          //…

})

To add or remove classes from a DOM element, you can use:

el.addClass(‘big’)

el.removeClass(‘big’)

el.toggleClass(‘big’)

You also then chain on a function to that code to do what you tell it to do. For example, you can modify the DOM to change things on your website while the user is interacting with it.

With JavaScript, you can do the same thing using the code,

document.querySelector(“h2”)

While there is not a big difference between the two, you can use JavaScript for DOM Manipulation. However, you can usually develop faster and easier with jQ. If you are working with others, understanding jQuery DOM Manipulation methods will almost certainly prove useful for you. 

APIs

jQuery has the ability to make API calls. Calling an API is when you pull in data to your website from an external source. You can use jQuery as a user-friendly method of calling APIs. 

It is important to note that this method is no longer the most popular. However, standardized browser API has reduced the popularity of using jQuery. For example, you can use the Selectors API for selecting DOM elements:

document.querySelector(‘.button’)

However, we shared the jQuery way as well because it’s still useful for you to know and understand for this use case. 

jQuery vs. JavaScript in web development projects

As a general rule, jQuery is sufficient for most web development projects. There will be some projects that require traditional JavaScript; however, these are few and far between as of late. Although jQuery may be the better choice in most scenarios, we recommend that novice web developers take the time to learn both JavaScript and jQuery.

Although using JavaScript exclusively can significantly slow down project completion time, it’s important to realize how JavaScript works and how it affects the DOM. You can learn more about using JavaScript by reviewing the Top JavaScript Courses Online.

You need both JavaScript and jQuery while developing the frontend. jQuery has its advantages and a few disadvantages. If you compare the pros, it outweighs the cons. As you may recall, raw JavaScript also offers several benefits on its own. So, in the end, we can conclude with the view that we need JavaScript for developing the frontend, and JQuery helps us to use JavaScript with much ease. So we need both based on business requirements.

Remember that although 99% of your web development projects will work perfectly fine using jQuery, there will be a small percentage that does require JavaScript. As a result, it would be wise for you to study both. This would empower you to transition between the two as needed to provide a better web development service to your clients.

Additional Notes on jQuery

We’d like to reiterate that the biggest difference between jQuery and JavaScript is that jQuery is optimized to work with a variety of browsers automatically. jQuery is popular owing to the fact that it not only summarizes cross-browser compatibility problems but also underscores call-back driven JS programming. Unfortunately, JavaScript still has some issues with cross-browser compatibility. This is largely due to web browser developers using poor JavaScript implementation practices.

Is jQuery the answer to all of your scripting needs? For most projects, yes. For those few projects that require the specific functions only available in traditional JavaScript, you can quickly adapt your style to include JavaScript code when you need to.

Closing thoughts

This article has presented you with several examples, scenarios, and use cases to help you decide when JavaScript or jQuery is right for a given situation. In many cases, you can choose between JS and jQ to create the exact same effects. However, there are times that jQuery can do what you want using fewer lines of code.

Overall, if you’re looking for the best programming language for your web development project, you need to choose JavaScript. However, you’re better off using jQuery if you want to create a more dynamic website but don’t want to invest several hours writing code. 

Page Last Updated: April 2022

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