Introduction and Variables

This lesson will introduce you to the very basics of JavaScript and how to declare Variables.

Introduction to JavaScript #

JavaScript is a programming language created by Brendan Eich in 1995 that enables interactive web pages and is an essential part of web applications.

If you want to learn more about the history of the language and its name, I suggest that you read this brief article on


How to insert JavaScript into HTML #

If you’ve ever opened the Chrome developer tools or a similar tool you may have already seen how JavaScript is inserted into an HTML page.

We do that by using the script tag and either inserting our JavaScript code directly inside of it or by referencing an external file.

Code inside of the script tag:

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<script type="text/javascript"> [YOUR_SCRIPT_HERE] </script>

Reference an external file:

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<script src="/home/script.js"></script>

Of course, you can add as many scripts as you want and also use both relative, absolute and full path such as:

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<!-- absolute path from the root of our project -->
<script src="/home/script.js"></script>
<!-- relative path to our current folder -->
<script src="script.js"></script>
<!-- full url to the jquery library -->
<script src=""></script>

Note: It’s better to not write your code inside of the script tag, but instead put it in its own file so that it can be cached by the browser and downloaded only once, regardless of how many files import it. Those files will use the cached version of the file, improving performance.


Variables #

We use variables to store values, which can be anything from a username, an address or an item from our e-commerce site, for example.

Prior to ES6 (ES2015) the way we would declare a variable was:

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var username = "Alberto Montalesi"

Now we have 2 more options when it comes to declaring variables:

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let username = "Alberto Montalesi"
const username = "Alberto Montalesi"

We will go deeper into the differences between these three keywords later in the course, but let me give you a quick explanation.

Variables created with the keyword const are, as the name implies, constant, meaning that they cannot be overwritten.

Open your Chrome Developer Tools and try typing the following:

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const age = 26;
age = 27;
// Uncaught TypeError: Assignment to constant variable

As you can see we are not allowed to assign a new value to our constant.

On the other hand if we were to do this:

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let height = 190;
height = 189

We get no complaint this time, let can be reassigned, similarly to the old var keyword.

If both var and let can be reassigned, then why should we use let instead of var? The answer for that requires a bit more explanation of how JavaScript works, which will be discussed in a later lesson.

Many people argue what the best practice is when it comes to let and const. Here is my take: use const all the time unless you know in advance that you will need to reassign its value.

If later on you need to reassign one of your const, simply make it a let and it will be enough. I find that for myself, it’s better to make them const by default. Then I see errors if I accidentally try to reassign them rather than having to debug the code later just to find out that I was referencing the wrong variable.


A note about naming variables

There are certain rules to respect when it comes to naming variables. But don’t worry, most of them are very easy to remember.

The following are all forbidden:

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// variables name cannot start with a number
let 1apple = "one apple";
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// variables name cannot include any character such as spaces, symbols and punctuation marks
let hello! = "hello!";

There are also certain words that are reserved and cannot be used as names for variables and functions.

abstract arguments await boolean
break byte case catch
char class const continue
debugger default delete do
double else enum eval
export extends false final
finally float for function
goto if implements import
in instanceof int interface
let long native new
null package private protected
public return short static
super switch synchronized this
throw throws transient true
try typeof var void
volatile while with yield

The rule of thumb when it comes to choosing the name for your variable is to make them descriptive. Avoid using acronyms, abbreviations and meaningless names.

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// BAD
let cid = 12; // what is a `cid`
let clientID = 12; // oh, a `client id`
// BAD
let id = 12 // what id? userID? dogID? catID?
let userID = 12 // be specific

If you want your variable names to be as descriptive as possible, chances are they are going to be multi-words. In that case, the two most common ways of writing variable names are camelCase and snake_case.

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// BAD
let lastloggedin = '' // hard to read
let lastLoggedIn = '' // camelCase
let last_logged_in = '' // snake_case

Whether you choose to use camelCase and capitalize each word of the name after the first one, or you choose to use snake_case and put an underscore between each word, remember to be consistent and stick to your choice.