jQuery: Get / set attribute values

This post describes how to get & set element’s attributes. Using jQuery you can get/set any attributes like id, class, style, name, title, etc. on any tag (<div>, <span>, <p>, etc.). This can be done using jQuery's .attr() and .prop() methods. If you are using jQuery version earlier than 1.6, then you have .attr() only.

The two methods are named accordingly to work with element's attributes and properties. The distinguish between them two was introduced in jQuery 1.6. For versions prior to 1.6 you don't need to worry about the difference and use .attr() in all cases. However, if you are working with newer versions of the library, you need to understand the difference between the two. You can read more about the difference between attributes and properties here and here. But before you dive into the details, let's see some examples.

Consider we have the following HTML tags on our page with corresponding attributes:

<div class="myContainer" id="wrapper">
  Some content 
  <a id="siteLink" title="Google" href="">link</a>
  <input type="checkbox" id="mycheckbox" checked="checked" />

In order to get container's id and the link's title attributes, we would use the following jQuery code:

// Get the ID of the selected div
var divID = $("div.myContainer").attr("id"); // "SiteLink"

// Get title attribute of a link
var linkTitle = $("#siteLink").attr("title"); // "Google"

// Get checkbox's "checked" state
$("#mycheckbox").prop("checked"); // returns boolean "true"
$("#mycheckbox").attr("checked"); // returns string "checked"

To set element’s attributes, you need to add it's value as the second parameter to the function.

// Add title to a link
$("a#siteLink").attr("title", "This is a link");

// Set table cell's collspan attribute
$("td.myDoubleCell").attr("colspan", 2);

// Mark checkbox as checked
$("#mycheckbox").prop("checked", true);

Additional notes

Here are some additional notes related to setting and getting attributes with jQuery that you should know:

  1. In most cases you use would want to use .prop() method. It is programmer friendly. It returns values of the right types which makes your code more readable and easy to understand, whereas .attr() always return string value. For example: .prop("checked") above returned boolean, style properties would return object with style properties that you can work on, etc.

  2. If jQuery selection returns more than one element, .attr()/.prop() functions would change only the first element’s attribute. If you need to change them all, you will have to do it in .each() loop.

    // Assume we have many links on our page
    $('a').prop('target', '_blank'); // Set target of the first link only
    // Setting the target of all links in the loop
      $(this).prop('target', '_blank');
  3. Finally, you are not limited to W3 Consortium defined set of HTML attributes. You can also set your own attributes with their own values.

    //This code adds myAttr attribute with the value of 10
    $("#container").attr("myAttr", "10");
    // Read the value