bonsai - a loopless tree menu using Event Delegation

This is an example how to use Event Delegation instead of event handling to avoid having to loop through a lot of elements.

A lot of JavaScript libraries pride themselves about their newly invented collection aggregators, like getElementsByClassName, getElementsByCSSSelector, getElementsByXPATH or whatever else there is. These are undoubtly handy, especially when delivered in a less verbose syntax (jQuery most likely being the king of shortening and concatenation).

I wanted however to show that you don't really need to get a lot of elements and loop over them to achieve certain effects, when you just plan your script right and use what modern browsers offer you to the full extend.

Without further ado, here is the script that turns a nested list into the menu on this page:

1  YAHOO.util.Event.onAvailable('nav', function(){
2    this.className = 'dyn';
3    YAHOO.util.Event.addListener(this, 'click', toggle);
4    function toggle(e){
5      var t = YAHOO.util.Event.getTarget(e);
6      var n = t.parentNode.getElementsByTagName('ul');
7      if(n[0] && t.nodeName.toLowerCase() === 'a'){
8        n[0].style.display = n[0].style.display == 'block' ? 'none' : 'block';
9        t.parentNode.className = n[0].style.display == 'block' ? 'open' : 'parent';
10       YAHOO.util.Event.preventDefault(e);
11     }						
12    }
13  })

These 13 lines of code use the Yahoo! User Interface library, but it could be as easily done without it.

The HTML necessary is pretty straight forward:

<ul id="nav">
  <li><h3>Menu Example</h3></li>
  <li class="parent"><a href="#">Item 1</a>
      <li><a href="#">Item 1_1</a></li>
      <li class="parent"><a href="#">Item 1_2</a>
          <li><a href="#">Item 1_2_1</a></li>
          [ ... ]
      <li><a href="#">Item 1_3</a></li>
      [ ... ]
  <li><a href="#">Item 2</a></li>
  <li class="parent"><a href="#">Item 3</a>
      <li><a href="#">Item 2_1</a></li>
      [ ... ]
  <li><a href="#">Item 4</a></li>

The only downside is that you need to set classes on the parent elements to apply the necessary styling to turn them into a tree. This could be done dynamically but would need a loop as sadly enough browsers these days don't have a 'style all li items that have a ul item in them differently' selector in CSS.

You can use these classes however to also style "parent" links differently for the non-dynamic version:

#nav .parent{
#nav.dyn .parent{
  background:url(closed.gif) 2px 4px no-repeat #fff;
#nav.dyn .open{
  background:url(open.gif) 2px 2px no-repeat #fff;

You can show the icon for collapsing and expanding by adding padding and undoing it with a negative margin on the embedded links.

#nav.dyn li{
#nav.dyn li a{