JavaScript Basics

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page teaches you the basics of JavaScript, for beginners, in 30 minutes.

This tutorial teachs the ES2015 version of JavaScript.

ES2015 is a new JavaScript spec released in 2015, and is supported by all browsers now. It adds significant features to the language.

JavaScript File Encoding

You should save JavaScript file in UTF-8 encoding.

[see JS: Source Code Encoding]

Running JavaScript

[see How to Run JavaScript]

[see JS: How to Use Browser Console]


All lines beginning with 2 slashs // are ignored.

And any text between /* and */ are ignored.

// this is single line comment

/* this is
comment. */


To print, use alert or console.log.

// bring up a pop-up dialog
// print to browser's console

To see the output of console.log, open your browser's JavaScript console.

[see JS: How to Use Browser Console]

Semicolon can be omitted most of the time. When to insert semicolon is complex. For now, just follow examples in this tutorial. For detail, see JS: Semicolon Rules.


Quoting String

Use double quote or single quote for string. There's basically no difference between the two.

let s1 = "Mary's cat";  // double quote
let s2 = 'Mary\'s cat'; // single quote, with escape

Use \n for newline.

// use \n for newline
let ss = "cat\ndog";

console.log(ss); // prints 2 lines

Literal newline in string is not allowed. Use backslash to continue a line.

// illegal syntax. Literal newline is not allowed
let s = "a

// use backslash to continue a line
let s = "c\

console.log(s); // prints cd

String length

"abc".length; // 3

Note: no parenthesis after “length”. (because “length” is a “property”, not “method”.)

[see JS: Property Overview]


string.slice(begin_index, end_index) → return a substring from begin_index to end_index, not including the end_index.

Index starts at 0.

[see JS: String.prototype.slice]

const ss = "01234";

console.log( ss.slice(1,3) === "12"); // true

Join String

String join. Use the plus operator +.

// string join
console.log( "tiger" + "rabbit"); // tigerrabbit

String Methods

There are many string functions, such as remove spaces at beginning or end of string, or, to find occurence of a char in string.

For example, see:

For a full list, see:

JS: String.prototype

For detail about string, see

JS: String Overview

Arithmetic Operators

Basic arithmetic.

3 + 4; // 7
3 - 4; // -1
3 * 4; // 12
3 / 4; // 0.75

// remainder (mod)
10 % 3; // 1

// negation
-(3+4); // -7

// exponential
2**3 // 8

// square root
Math.pow(2, 1/2);  // 1.4142135623730951

Assignment Operators

Assignment lets you store a value to a variable.

let z = 5; // 5
console.log ( z ); // 5

Assignment returns a value.

// assignment returns a value
let z;

console.log ( (z = 2) + 1 ); // 3
console.log ( z ); // 2

JavaScript also supports x++ and others.

[see JS: Operators]


JavaScript doesn't have int/float distinction. They are just type “number”. It's similar to other language's “float”.

console.log(typeof 3); // prints "number"
console.log(typeof 3.028487); // prints "number"

Convert Decimal to Integer

Use one of

to convert a number to integer.

let x = 3.5847;

let f = Math.floor( x );
let c = Math.ceil( x );

console.log(f); // prints 3
console.log(c); // prints 4

console.log(Math.round( 3.54 )); // prints 4
console.log(Math.round( 3.55 )); // prints 4

[see JS: Math]

String/Number Conversion

String to Number

[see JS: Number.parseFloat]

[see JS: Number.parseInt]

Number to String

[see JS: Number.prototype.toString]


The following are ways to declare and or assign variable.

// declare variable
let x;
// declare multiple variables
let a, b, c;
// declare variable and assign
let x = 4;
// declare variable and assign multiple variables
let a = 1, b = 2, c = 3;
// declare multiple variables, some with value
let a, b = 2, c;

[see JS: let Declaration]

Besides let, there's also const and var. They all have the same syntax.

const is like let, except that it must be assigned a value, and once assigned, it cannot be changed.

[see JS: const Declaration]

var is like let, but has complex scoping rules and has name hoisting. var is pre-ES2015. You should never use it.

[see JS: var Declaration]

[see JS: var Declaration Order]

[see JS: var Name Scope]

Data Types

Every JavaScript value has a type.

JavaScript value types are:

[see JS: Value Types]

True and False

true and false are builtin boolean data types.

Zero, empty string, undefined, null, NaN, eval to false in a “if” statement. Everything else eval to true.

[see JS: true, false]

Logic Operators

// The “and” operator
true && true //  true

// The “or” operator
true || true //  true

// The “negation” operator
!true // false

Comparison Operators

3 < 4;         // true
3 > 4;         //  false

3 == 3;        // true.
3 == "3";      // true.  note: 「==」 does automatic type conversion
3 === "3";     // false.  True if both sides are same type and equal

3 != 4;        // true. The 「!=」 is the negation of 「==」
3 !== 4;       // true. The 「!==」 is the negation of 「===」

What is the difference between == and ===?

== does automatic type conversion. === does not.

You should always use ===.

If Then Else

Simple “if” statement.

if (3 < 4) {console.log("yes");}

“if else” statement.

if (3 <= 4) {console.log("yes");}
else {console.log("no");}

“else if” chain.

let x = 3;
if (x == 1) {console.log("is 1");}
else if (x == 2) {console.log("is 2");}
else if (x == 3) {console.log("is 3");}
else {console.log("not found");}

[see JS: Branch Control: if then else, switch]

Iteration; Loop

The most useful loop syntax is “for” loop.

for (let i=0; i < 9; i++) { console.log(i); }

[see JS: for while do Loop]


[see JS: Array Basics]

Define Function

Example of defining a function:

function ff(x, y) { return x + y;}
console.log(ff(3, 4)); // 7

If the function does not have a return statement, it returns undefined.

JavaScript is a functional language. The definition of a function returns a value of type “function” that represent the function. You can pass a function as argument into a function. Function can return a function. You can also have nested function. Understanding how functions can be passed around is essential, because it is heavily used in JavaScript code.

For detail, see: JS: Functional Programing (pre ES2015)

JavaScript Object

[see JS: Object Basics]

JavaScript Basics

  1. JavaScript Basics
  2. true, false
  3. Operators
  4. Branch Control
  5. Loop
  6. Array Basics
  7. Object Basics
  8. RegExp Basics
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