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Best Free JavaScript DOM Manipulation Libraries

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The term DOM is short for Document Object Model, and we use this term to refer to the structure of a webpage in the form of a tree. Each element on the webpage represents a node on the tree.

DOM manipulation means the manipulation of those elements to achieve a specific goal. DOM manipulation requires you to access those elements and then modify them using a variety of methods and properties. You can make different types of changes to the DOM. This includes changing its text content, classes, styles, and so on.

It is also possible to create new elements or insert child elements at different places in the DOM tree. Quite a few DOM manipulation tutorials on this topic on Envato Tuts+ discuss how to do all this natively with JavaScript.

However, you can also manipulate the DOM easily using different libraries. In this tutorial, I will give you a brief overview of some of the most popular free DOM manipulation libraries. We will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using these libraries.


jQuery is one of the earliest and most popular DOM manipulation libraries. It was originally released in 2006, an era which was mired with browser incompatibility issues. The library quickly became popular among developers. One of the reasons for its huge popularity is its free and open-source nature, with a permissive MIT license.

It was still being used on around 77% of the top 10 million websites even in August 2022. It is by far the most popular DOM manipulation library out there.

Browser incompatibility is no longer as big an issue as it was earlier. However, jQuery can still be useful in certain situations. One of its advantages is mentioned in its tagline: "write less, do more". This library allows you to accomplish a lot with relatively little code compared to native JavaScript.

The jQuery library will help you in three key areas—DOM traversal and manipulation, event handling, and AJAX. The library can also be extended with third-party plugins to provide additional functionality. You can even write some code of your own and use it as a plugin.

One issue with jQuery could be its size, which is 30 kB when minified and gzipped. This isn't a lot by itself, but it can add up quickly. You might want to consider using other libraries mentioned in the post to take advantage of new developments in the JavaScript space.


You probably already know about Sizzle if you've spent some time learning jQuery. The Sizzle library is basically a standalone selector engine, while jQuery is a much larger library that provides additional functionality. jQuery simply uses Sizzle as its selector engine internally. However, you can also use Sizzle all by itself if you don't plan on using any features of jQuery itself.

One of the biggest selling points of Sizzle is that it offers compatibility as far back as Internet Explorer 7. The library supports almost every CSS3 selector except those which require keeping track of the element state, such as :hover or :active

The library API is made up of three parts:

  1. the Public API, which you can use to select elements
  2. the Extension API, which modifies the selector engine
  3. the Internal API, which is used internally by Sizzle

Umbrella JS

The Umbrella JS library is a powerful and lightweight alternative to jQuery. It weighs less than 2.5 kB once minified and gzipped. This makes it over 10 times smaller than jQuery. The API of the library is strongly influenced by jQuery and offers a lot of methods with similar names and functionality.

The three primary uses of the library are:

  1. DOM traversal using methods like filter() and find()
  2. DOM manipulation, including changing the classes and attributes
  3. event handling such as clicks, form submissions, and input value changes

Umbrella JS also supports event delegation. It offers some additional DOM manipulation features such as a more powerful append() method and event handling methods like handle(), which works like on() but also prevents the default action.

The library is thoroughly tested on both the development and deployment versions to make sure you don't get any unexpected results while using the library in production.

The primary focus of Umbrella JS is on providing a lightweight library that focuses on DOM manipulation. Therefore, it lacks some of the additional features available in jQuery.


Zepto is another lightweight jQuery alternative that tries to mimic the functionality and features of the latter as closely as possible. The library weighs around 9.6 kB once minified and gzipped.

Browser support in Zepto goes back as far as Internet Explorer 10. The library will work in every modern browser and browser-like environment. Zepto is modular by design and allows you to choose which module you want to include in a particular build.

Some modules, like the core Zepto module, the event handling module, the AJAX support module, and the form handling module, are included in a build by default. Others can be added optionally, like the module for integrating animation support.


The Bliss.js library is another excellent alternative for anyone who is looking for a lightweight DOM manipulation library. The library has two variants:

  1. the full version, which adds $() and $$() global methods among other things
  2. the shy version, which only adds a single global Bliss variable

The former is ideal when you have control over the development environment, while the latter is great for maximum compatibility with third-party libraries.

One important distinction between Bliss and other DOM manipulation libraries is that it is simply a collection of helper methods with easy-to-use syntax for people who prefer not to use the native DOM API. This means that the library doesn't handle bugs or lack of support for certain APIs. However, the aim is only to use features that are supported across modern browsers and have polyfills available to extend support.

The library works in conjunction with to only load polyfills if they are actually needed by the current browser. This means that the library loads in an optimal way.

Advantages of Using a DOM Manipulation Library

It's certainly true that DOM manipulation is a lot easier today with native JavaScript than it was a decade or so ago. However, using a DOM manipulation library can certainly provide some advantages even today.

Write Less Code

The most common advantage is the simplification of the syntax and the brevity of the code. Using DOM manipulation libraries still provides the advantage of allowing you to write less code to do the same thing.

Browser Compatibility

Compatibility is no longer as big an issue as it was in the past. However, some minor differences can arise every now and then. A good DOM manipulation library will take care of those discrepancies for you.


Doing things natively instead of using a library will generally give you a performance boost. However, this is only true if you are following the best practices yourself. A well-written library will be constantly improved by the community. This means that they might implement a functionality more efficiently than you do.

Disadvantages of Using a DOM Manipulation Library

If you are planning to use a DOM manipulation library, it is also important for you to know its potential downsides to make an informed decision.

Added Page Weight

Including a new library in your project will increase the total page weight. This can result in slightly higher page load times. You can also experience performance issues if the library you are using isn't written optimally.

Extra Syntax to Learn

Any DOM manipulation library that you use will have its own syntax that you need to use. This means that you will have to spend some additional time to thoroughly learn how to get things done with the library.

Missing Features

Different DOM manipulation libraries are developed with different goals in mind. Therefore, they might not have implemented all the features that you would like to use.

Final Thoughts

In this tutorial, we learned about some of the most popular free and open-source DOM manipulation libraries that you can use in your next project. The most popular among them all is jQuery, which comes with a lot of additional features besides DOM manipulation. jQuery also offers great browser support.

The huge size of jQuery can be a deterrent for some people. Zepto can be a great alternative in this case as it tries to mimic jQuery as closely as possible. You can also consider using Umbrella JS if you are strictly interested in DOM manipulation.

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