Posts Tagged ‘html’

Moving the caret to the end of text in an <input> element

Very simple, and the following will work in all modern browsers.


<input name="url" type="text" value="http://" />


var inputElem = document.getElementsByName("url")[0];
var valLen = inputElem.value.length;

inputElem.selectionStart = valLen;
inputElem.selectionEnd = valLen;


The same technique will work for <textarea> elements as well.

Manipulating text relative to the caret in a contenteditable div

I wanted to play around a bit with dynamically modifying text as you type. The following is a simple auto-correct demo that makes use of the Selection and Range interfaces to replace text (read: text preceding to the caret) within a contenteditable div.

$(document).on('keydown', '.ia-txt', function (e) {
// check if space bar was hit
if(e.keyCode == 32) {
// we'll check for the string "hwat"; incorrect form of "what"
var incorrectTxt = "hwat";
// Get selection and range based on position of caret
        // (we assume nothing is selected, and range points to the position of the caret)
var sel = window.getSelection();
var range = sel.getRangeAt(0);
// check that we have at least incorrectTxt.length characters in our container
if(range.startOffset - incorrectTxt.length >= 0) {
// clone the range, so we can alter the start and end
var clone = range.cloneRange();
// alter start and end of cloned ranged, so it selects incorrectTxt.length characters
clone.setStart(range.startContainer, range.startOffset - incorrectTxt.length);
            clone.setEnd(range.startContainer, range.startOffset);

// get contents of cloned range
var contents = clone.toString();                    
// check if the contents of the cloned range is equal to our incorrectTxt string
if(contents == incorrectTxt) {
// delete the contents of the range ("hwat")
// create a text node with the corrected text ("what") and insert it where we deleted the incorrect text
var txtNode = document.createTextNode("what");
// set the start of the range after the inserted node, so we have the caret after the inserted text
// Chrome fix



You can see the code in action in the frame below. Every time you press the space-bar and the string “hwat” is detected, preceding the position of the caret, it is removed and replaced with the string “what”:

This is an incredibly trivial example (note that it doesn’t even check that the string “hwat” is surrounded by whitespace on both sides), but it does serve as a template for more advanced functionality. That said, be very aware of minor differences in the behavior of Range methods when working across browsers, I stumbled across a few:

  • The code above breaks under certain conditions in Internet Explorer. If you move the caret to a position between 2 works, type “hwat” + space (the string is auto-corrected to “what”), then type “hwat” + space again, the auto-correct doesn’t work. The range.startOffset variable seems incorrect (too small) and subtracting incorrectTxt.length (4) yields a negative start offset.
  • Using a keyup event instead of a keydown event, and checking for the string “hwat ” instead yields different behaviors in Firefox and Chrome. Firefox preserves the space after the corrected string, and the caret is at the position after the space. However, Chrome strips the space and the caret is after the corrected string.
  • After the selection’s range is altered after auto-correcting, Chrome requires the removeAllRanges(), addRange() calls to replace the selection’s range, but Firefox does not.

Interaction classes – seperating CSS styles from Javascript interactions

Something I’ve been doing for a while in my web development work is applying separate classes, interaction classes, to DOM elements that interact with Javascript. Basically, an interaction class is applied to any DOM element touched by Javascript code – an element bound to an event handler, an input element with it’s value being read or written, an element selected for animation, etc. The goal being to de-couple styling from interaction, allowing style changes to not interfere with JS code, and vice-versa.

Below is a bit of code to demonstrate what I’m talking about. As a convention, I apply a “ia-” prefix to my interaction classes.

<a href="#" class="btn-primary ia-begin-testing">Begin Testing</a>
  • btn-primary has the CSS rules for styling the anchor as a button
  • ia-begin-testing is bound to a JS event that triggers some arbitrary “begin testing” action

If the future, if I want to change the button to a link (remove the btn-primary class), change it to a secondary button (btn-primary to btn-secondary), or change styling in any other way, the Javscript code is unaffected and requires no changes.

In addition, the ia-begin-testing class can also be applied to other elements (another button, a link, an anchor wrapping an image, etc.) and is automatically bound to the same interaction functions, without writing additional JS DOM selection code. The ia-begin-testing class can also be removed, or changed to another interaction class, and the styling on the button remains the same.

While IDs and data attributes are also good choices for architecting this sort of style/interaction separation, I like classes for 2 reasons:

  • Selection via class is relatively fast across all browsers compared to selection via data attributes
  • Compared to IDs, classes can be re-used allowing the same interactions to be shared by multiple elements (e.g. a button and a link can both trigger the same function)

One of the reasons I wrote this post is as an alternative to the the “grouping of selectors” approach presented in Chris Coyier’s Can You “Over Organize” JavaScript? article. With interaction classes, there’s little need for grouping selectors. Aside from the benefit of de-coupling styling and interaction, you get the advantage of a single class (ia-whatever), on whatever and however many elements, mapping all said elements to their necessary JS functions. With grouping of selectors, some sanity is brought to the scattered DOM selection code, but you’re left with the burden of maintaining a pool of different element IDs, classes, etc.; a chore that only gets harder as the codebase grows and changes.


Something I haven’t thought about much, but very important: for sensitive information, turn off autocomplete on input tags.

<input type="text" name="super-secret-pin-num" autocomplete="off" />

It’s a non-standard attribute, but all the major browsers implement it (including Webkit/Safari).

h/t Pete Freitag


I did a little experiment with meshing XML + HTML + PHP.

First, a little background info. Most service-side web technologies (PHP, Ruby on Rails, etc.) were designed around the concept of applying server-side markup to HTML,

<title><?php echo $title;?></title>

… which is interpreted and processed when the page is pulled. There are various frameworks and templating systems to make this easier, cleaner, more structured, etc. but the concept is the same. AJAX comes into play here and there, but it’s seen mostly as a way to sprinkle bits of dynamic data across a page.

This model was fine a few years ago, but for modern web services and apps I think there needs to be a push away from this model, primarily for 2 reasons:

  • Large portions, if not most, of the content of many web apps is dynamic, AJAX-queried data.
  • Support for mobile and desktop platforms connecting to web services is becoming increasingly important; platforms/apps for which HTML/CSS (or at least HTML/CSS designed for a browser) may not serve to provide the best UI.

AJAX structured code fits the bill.

A 100% AJAX architecture elegantly separates application logic (output as XML) from presentation (output as HTML/CSS). Unfortunately, 100% AJAX is not that easy for a complex application. JavaScript interpretation can be slow, killing frontend performance, and backend performance can suffer from the repeated flood of asynchronous requests. In addition, the latency from a multitude of AJAX requests+responses can quickly become noticeable (especially with a burdened backend and during an initial page load). When such issues become apparent, the solution always seems to be to go back to the messy world of hacking server-side tags into HTML.

Unity is an attempt to maintain a 100% AJAX application framework, but alleviate the issues mentioned above for web apps. It’s very, very simple; just a bit of glue that takes the XML from one or more AJAX calls (on localhost; the application server itself), turns it into JSON, and embeds it within the <head> element of the HTML document being served. This should not be done for every call, but for AJAX calls where the data being presented is “mostly static” (e.g. username, messages, etc.). The data can then be accessed in the client-side JavaScript and used as necessary.

Looking at the typical three-tier architecture, Unity is a bit of glue that sits above the app logic (technically, it could be thought of as part of the app logic, but it’s separated here for illustrative purposes).

app stack with glue

However, since the glue makes 1+ calls to fetch the XML from the app logic, things look a bit more like this on the backend:

backend app stack, multiple, with glue

As I mentioned, this is all very simple stuff. Here’s the code that does the magic:

class Unity
protected $js = null;
protected $htmlFile = null;

function __construct($_htmlFile)
$this->js = array();
$this->js[] = "var Unity = {}";

$this->htmlFile = $_htmlFile;

public function PushXml($_xmlFile, $_namespace)
$xml = simplexml_load_file($_xmlFile);

// see for why json_encode is done like this
$this->js[] = "Unity.{$_namespace} = " . json_encode(new SimpleXMLElement($xml->asXML(), LIBXML_NOCDATA));

public function PushVar($name, $var)
$snippet = "Unity.{$name} = {$var}";
$this->js[] = $snippet;

public function UnifyAndEcho()
$scriptBlock = implode(';', $this->js);

$dom = new DOMDocument();
$head = $dom->getElementsByTagName("head")->item(0);

$scriptElem = $dom->createElement('script', $scriptBlock);
$scriptElem->setAttribute("type", "text/javascript");

$head->insertBefore($scriptElem, $head->firstChild);

echo $dom->saveHTML();

Note that you don’t have to parse the XML; json_encode() takes the SimpleXMLElement object and converts the entire tree to JSON. This is done in order to:

  • keep Unity (and the glue layer) as brain-dead simple as possible
  • avoid mucking around with application logic at this level (if the XML doesn’t fits well [e.g. too big, too much unnecessary data, etc.] it’s a problem at a lower level)

Now an example of how the Unity class would be utilized:

$uni = new Unity("test-page.html");
$uni->PushXml("http://localhost/test-xml.xml", "Account");

Assume the XML output is:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

… in the client-side JavaScript code, we can access any of this data via Unity.<namespace>… The namespace was specified as “Account”, so the variables can be accessed as follows,

// username

// stats.check_ins

// ...


A not-too-obvious challenge in doing something like this handling session data. As Unity is calling scripts from localhost (and not the client’s computer), a different session, one for localhost, is active. In addition, session data is locked, preventing two active scripts from accessing the same session data (which the xml generating script may very well need)

First, here’s how to get the session id:

$sess_id = session_id();

session_write_close() closes the session so that the subsequent script call will be able to access it. If necessary, session data can be started and access again after or in-between Unity::PushXml() calls; however, again, Unity is meant to be just a lightweight bit of glue, there shouldn’t really be a need to read or manipulate session data at this point in the code.

We can now pass the session id as a GET parameter:

$uni->PushXml($localbase . "controller/getlogin.php?sid={$sess_id}", "Account");

Now within the script being called, session_id() needs to be called with the passed session id, before session_start().



That’s it.

Finally it’s worth mentioning that none of this is bound to PHP nor XML. This could be done in any server-side language and the app logic could just as easily output JSON.

progTools 1.7

Another update to progTools. Ignore the jump in version number, that’s a result of fighting with the Air ApplicationUpdater.

New features:

  • Auto-update
  • Encode/Decode URI
  • Escape string
  • Encode/Decode HTML special entities
  • Text character and word counter
Please upgrade your Flash Player This is the content that would be shown if the user does not have Flash Player 9.0.115 or higher installed.

progTools 1.7

Rtf2Html 1.22

New stuff:

  • UI tweaks
  • Removal of block indent (where every line is indented) from pasted RTF text
  • Tweaks for better HTML output (e.g. no more useless span tags containing only whitespace)
  • Accurate preview using XULRunner (via GeckoFX); no longer using the stupid .NET WebBrowser control
  • New logo/icon (I just really hated the old one I made and it was bugging the hell out of me)

Rtf2Html logo

Download here
(requires .NET Framework 2.0 or higher)

Rtf2Html screenshot

The app was designed around the goal of being able to quickly copy and paste snippets of code from Visual Studio (or Netbeans) and turning it into HTML that I could embed in these blog posts; this update stays true to that, and that’s why this app is still so sparse on features, such as conversion of font size or paragraph alignment attributes.

The block indentation removal that now occurs after text is pasted in may be a bit slow. Text in the RichTextBox is selected and altered within the text box itself (it’ll also freeze the UI – if you understand multithreading and WinForms, you know why it’s not simply a matter of spawning off a thread). The alternative is to deal with an RTF parser and edit the RTF input directly, but that’s way more work than I’d care to devote to this app at the moment.

jQuery toggle button

On most of the mobile platforms you’ve probably seen a toggle, switch-style, button used as a replacement for a checkbox. I took a stab at doing something similar in HTML, CSS and Javascript.

toggle button

You can see the final result here (it’s a pain in the ass to embed it)

Note that while I used jQuery, this is not a jQuery extension. It doesn’t use that much jQuery and I really don’t get the desire to make everything-and-the-kitchen-sink a jQuery plugin.

The button depends upon 2 images, a base, containing the design and both states of the button:

toggle button base

… and a frame (optional if you can get away with using CSS borders):

toggle button frame

(note, the middle is transparent, not white)

The HTML and CSS consists of a:

  • A div, which has the its background-image set to the base and sized to the button’s inner area, roughly half the width (in this case, plus a few pixels as some pixels were shared by both states of the button) of the base and the same height
  • A block-level anchor element within the div, which has its background-image set to the frame and sized to the same area as the frame image. The anchor allows the area to be clickable and we’ll respond to the click event that occurs on this element.
  • An input checkbox which will store the checked/unchecked state of the button.
<div style="margin:0; padding:0; background:url(base.png) -41px 1px no-repeat transparent; width:46px; height:20px;">
<a class="toggle-button" href="#" style="margin:0; padding:0; display:block; background:url(frame.png) 0 0 no-repeat transparent; width:48px; height:20px;">
<input style="display:none;" type="checkbox" />

The Javascript code to handle the click event, where the background is shifted left or right when the button’s state is toggled using jQuery’s animate function,

$('.toggle-button').click(function ()
if (!$('input', this).is(':checked')) {
this).parent().animate({ "background-position": "0px 1px" }, "slow");
'input', this).attr('checked', true);
else {

this).parent().animate({ "background-position": "-41px 1px" }, "slow");
'input', this).attr('checked', false);

return false;

This all works great, but it’s not-so-great as a reusable component, so I encapsulated the code so that I could easily transform a div, such as the one shown below, into the toggle button.

<div id="my_toggle_button"></div>

Central to this is creating a ToggleButtonFactory, which will make the button by inserting the necessary HTML/CSS code into the DOM and bind the anchor to the click event. There’s also a ToggleButton object created by the factory which will have methods to toggle the button state (.toggle) and get the state of the button (.val).

function ToggleButton(_element, _funcSelectYes, _funcSelectNo)
this.jqDomElement = _element;
this.funcSelectYes = _funcSelectYes;
this.funcSelectNo = _funcSelectNo;

this.val = function ()
return $(this.jqDomElement).find('input').is(':checked');

this.toggle = function (funcSelectYes, funcSelectNo)
if (!this.jqDomElement.find('input').is(':checked')) {
this.jqDomElement.animate({ "background-position": "0px 1px" }, "slow");
this.jqDomElement.find('input').attr('checked', true);

if (this.funcSelectYes) {
else {

this.jqDomElement.animate({ "background-position": "-41px 1px" }, "slow");
this.jqDomElement.find('input').attr('checked', false);

if (this.funcSelectNo) {

var ToggleButtonFactory = {};
ToggleButtonFactory.makeButton =
function (element, initialState, funcSelectYes, funcSelectNo)
if ($(element).is('div')) {

var elemId = $(element).attr('id');
var newDivId = '__toggle_button_div_' + Math.ceil((Math.random() * 100000));
'<div id="' + newDivId + '" style="margin:0; padding:0; background:url(base.png) -41px 1px no-repeat transparent; width:46px; height:20px;"><a class="toggle-button" href="#" style="margin:0; padding:0; display:block; background:url(frame.png) 0 0 no-repeat transparent; width:48px; height:20px;"><input id="' + elemId + '" name="' + elemId + '" style="display:none;" type="checkbox" /></a></div>');

var newElem = $('#' + newDivId);
var tb = new ToggleButton(newElem, funcSelectYes, funcSelectNo);

'a').click(function ()
return false;

if (initialState) {

return tb;

Note there’s some additional code here to deal with setting the button to an initial state and callbacks for when the button is set to the “Yes” or “No” state.

Now, to transform the my_toggle_button div shown above into a toggle button, the following is done:

var btn = ToggleButtonFactory.makeButton('#my_toggle_button', false, function () { }, function () { });

(the call can be shorter, this shows calling with all arguments and capturing the return value [the ToggleButton object])

For another take on this, see the jQuery LightSwitch plugin.

Netbeans RTF Copy plugin

I made a little plugin for Netbeans to allow copying text from the editor as RTF; mainly, preserving the foreground colors from its syntax highlighting. I wanted something akin to what’s possible with Visual Studio.

Download plugin

Source at bitbucket

netbeans copy as rtf

Taking the copied RTF text and running it thru Rtf2Html, I can then post nicely colored code:

header('Content-type: application/xml; charset=utf-8');
echo "<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"utf-8\"?>\r\n";

The NBSpecialCopyPaste by Casper Bang was incredibly helpful as a starting point for this plugin.

There’s an issue I wasn’t able to resolve before releasing this; fields (by default, highlighted green by the editor) aren’t copied properly in some cases. The API seems to give no indication that these tokens are colored differently. I know this is true for Java and PHP code, but not true for XML. The code to get the necessary AttributeSet is exactly what’s in NBSpecialCopyPaste:

private static AttributeSet findFontAndColors(Token tkn, FontColorSettings fcs)
AttributeSet as = fcs.getTokenFontColors( );
if (as == null)
// ...try to get from its category
as = fcs.getTokenFontColors(;

return as;

I’ll dig deeper and try to resolve this in a future version.

Code at 7th

Snapped someone’s HTML graffiti on this pole at the 7th Avenue subway in Park Slope:

HTML code @ 7th avenue subway