Wednesday, August 6, 2008


A function groups together a set of statements under a named subroutine. This allows you to conveniently "call" the function whenever its action is required. Functions are a fundamental building block of most JavaScript programs, so you'll become quite familiar with their use. Before you can call on a function, of course, you must first create it. We can break down the use of functions, then, into two logical categories: defining functions and calling functions.

defining functions
The function definition is a statement which describes the function: its name, any values (known as "arguments") which it accepts incoming, and the statements of which the function is comprised.

function funcName(argument1,argument2,etc)
{ statements; }

A function doesn't necessarily require arguments, in which case you need only write out the parenthesis; e.g. funcName(). If you do specify arguments, those arguments will be variables within the function body (the statements which make up the function). The initial values of those variables will be any values passed on by the function call.

Generally it's best to define the functions for a page in the HEAD portion of a document. Since the HEAD is loaded first, this guarantees that functions are loaded before the user has a chance to do anything that might call a function. Alternately, some programmers place all of their functions into a separate file, and include them in a page using the SRC attribute of the SCRIPT tag. Either way, the key is to load the function definitions before any code is executed.

Consider, for example, a simple function which outputs an argument to the Web page, as a bold and blinking message:

function boldblink(message)
{ document.write(""+message+""); }

Some functions may return a value to the calling expression. The following function accepts two arguments, x and y, and returns the result of x raised to the y power:

function raiseP(x,y)
{ total=1;
for (j=0; j { total*=x; }
return total; //result of x raised to y power

calling functions
A function waits in the wings until it is called onto the stage. You call a function simply by specifying its name followed by a parenthetical list of arguments, if any:

boldblink("Call me gaudy!");

Functions which return a result should be called from within an expression:

if (raiseP(tax,2)<100) ...

Quite commonly, JavaScript functions are called from within event handlers, which we'll take a look at later in this article.



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