jQuery: How many elements were selected

Anyone who used jQuery, starts with a CSS selector to either attach an event or apply some DOM manipulation. The power of jQuery lies in it’s CSS selector. One of the reasons why jQuery become so popular is probably in the concept shift it made to front-end development. Instead of starting your code with javascript function definitions, you start with DOM element selection and straight to your business requirements manipulating those elements. It abstracted away the problems of code structure and let you get on with your needs by selecting the objects you need.

Sometimes your code might require to identify how many elements were selected by jQuery. It might be to identify if there are any elements on the page or to use the number of elements in some other way. For example to set rowspan on your newly created table row. In this post, you will learn how to find out how many elements were selected and see some examples.

jQuery selector returns an array of elements jQuery object that has .length attribute. So the easiest way is to get the length of returned jQuery object. The size of that object will be equal to the number of selected elements. Also, you can use built in jQuery helper function called .size(). It returns the same value as .length property. So you can use .length or .size() depending on your choice, whichever makes your code more readable.


Assume we have the following HTML structure:

<div class="container">
  <div class="item">Item 1</div>
  <div class="item">Item 2</div>

Here is how you get the number of selected elements and check if there are any elements on the page.

  1. Check the number of elements:

    $('.container').length;  // returns 1
    $('.item').length;       // returns 2
    // Same with .size()
    $('.container').size();  // returns 1
    $('.item').size();       // returns 2
  2. Check if there are any elements:

    if($('.container').size() > 0) {
      // There is an element with class "container"
    } else {
      // There is no element with class "container"

Let's see another example. Consider we have the following mark-up for a shopping cart with several order lines in it.

<div class="shopping-cart">
  <div class="order-line">Product 1 – <span>$4.99</span></div>
  <div class="order-line">Product 2 – <span>$9.99</span></div>

Business requirement: Show a modal box with special offer, if user has more than 1 products in his/her shopping cart.

if($('.shopping-cart .order-line').length > 1) {
  // Show modal box with special offer