When IE4 was in the design phase Microsoft wanted to make clear that you could access all elements and not only layers and therefore using document.all seemed like a good idea. There are however some problems with using document.all and one is that it is not language independent. Not many programming languages allows objects to change property names at runtime. Other issues with document.all is that it allows you to use it as a VB array usin document.all("id") instead of document.all["id"]. Another bad idea was to bind the tags method to the all collection.


The standard way to get all elements with a certain tag name is to use the method getElementsByTagName. The same method can be used to get all elements by using the special argument "*". The return value of this method is an HTMLCollection and such a collection allows you to directly look up named items using the method namedItem(sId) or use a JavaScript field look up using brackets (all[sID]). The collection also has a method called item that works the same but takes a number as argument. Normally this collection can be thought of as a normal JavaScript Array/Object.


We add a getter to the prototype of HTMLDocument as well as HTMLElement that returns the collection returned by getElementsByTagName("*"). This collection is extended with a method called tags that return the collection with the tags of the name passed along.

var allGetter = function () {
   var a = this.getElementsByTagName("*");
   var node = this;
   a.tags = function (sTagName) {
      return node.getElementsByTagName(sTagName);
   return a;
HTMLDocument.prototype.__defineGetter__("all", allGetter);
HTMLElement.prototype.__defineGetter__("all", allGetter);

Notice that this emulation does not allow VB style item lookup using all(sId). An emulation to support this is possible but it would be too slow to be practical.


To allow Mozilla to use the all collection you need to include the ie emu file as well as call the emulateAllModel function.

<script type="text/javascript" src="ieemu.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">

if (moz) {



First a simple demo that looks up an element by its id and then toggles the color.

function toggleColor() {
   if ( == "red") = "black";
   else = "red";

Toggle Color

Then a more useful example that alerts the text of all H2 tags in the document. (Hmm... maybe not so useful after all.)

function alertH2s() {
   var str = "";
   var h2s = document.all.tags("H2");
   for (var i = 0; i < h2s.length; i++)
      str += h2s[i].innerHTML + "\n";

Alert H2 tags

The power of JS
Event Listeners
Classic Event Handlers
Event Object
InnerHTML Model
Element Model
Document All Model
Current Style Model

Author: Erik Arvidsson