What Is a Live Collection in JavaScript?

Find out what's a live collection in JavaScript

A "live" collection in JavaScript is a collection of DOM elements where changes to DOM are reflected in the collection object (such as when a new element is added or an existing one is removed or updated).

Please note that live collections can have performance costs because every time you access a member of a live collection, the browser has to traverse the entire document tree to find the specific element. This could be especially costly when you choose to iterate over a live collection. In such cases, it is better to either convert the collection to an array or use a non-live / static collection instead.

Following are some methods and properties that return a live collection of DOM elements in JavaScript:

Property / Method Collection Type
parentNode.children HTMLCollection
Node.childNodes NodeList
Element.classList DOMTokenList
HTMLLinkElement.relList DOMTokenList
HTMLAnchorElement.relList DOMTokenList
HTMLAreaElement.relList DOMTokenList
HTMLMediaElement.audioTracks AudioTrackList
HTMLMediaElement.textTracks TextTrackList
HTMLMediaElement.videoTracks VideoTrackList
document.forms HTMLCollection
HTMLFormElement.elements HTMLFormControlsCollection
getElementsByClassName() HTMLCollection
getElementsByTagName() HTMLCollection
getElementsByName() NodeList

For example, let's consider you have the following HTML markup:

<form id="my-form">
    <input type="radio" name="foo" value="bar" />
    <input type="radio" name="foo" value="baz" />
</form>

Imagine you use the Document.getElementsByName() method to get a collection of NodeList containing all form elements having the attribute/value combination name="foo", like so:

const liveList = document.getElementsByName('foo');

console.log(liveList.length); // output: 2

If you were to dynamically add a new element with the attribute name="foo", you would see how the live NodeList gets updated with the new element:

// add new radio button
const radioBox = document.createElement('input');
radioBox.type = 'radio';
radioBox.name = 'foo';
radioBox.value = 'qux';

document.getElementById('my-form').appendChild(radioBox);

console.log(liveList.length); // output: 3

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