JavaScript/Event Handling

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Event Handlers[edit]

An event occurs when something happens in a browser window. The kinds of events that might occur are due to:

  • A document loading
  • The user clicking a mouse button
  • The browser screen changing size

When a function is assigned to an event handler, that function is run when that event occurs.

A handler that is assigned from a script used the syntax '[element].[event] = [function];', where [element] is a page element, [event] is the name of the selected event and [function] is the name of the function that occurs when the event takes place.

For example:

document.onclick = clickHandler;

This handler will cause the function clickHandler() to be executed whenever the user clicks the mouse anywhere on the screen. Note that when an event handler is assigned, the function name does not end with parentheses. We are just pointing the event to the name of the function. The clickHandler function is defined like this:

function clickHandler(evt) {
  //some code here
}

By convention the event is represented by the variable 'evt'. In some browsers the event must be explicitly passed to the function, so as a precaution it's often best to include a conditional to test that the evt variable has been passed, and if it hasn't then to use an alternative method that works on those other browsers:


function clickHandler(evt) {
    evt = evt || window.event;
    //some code here
}

Elements within a document can also be assigned event handlers. For example:

document.getElementsByTagName('a')[0].onclick = linkHandler;

This will cause the linkHandler() function to be executed when the user clicks the first link on the page.

Keep in mind that this style of handler assignment depends on the link's position inside the page. If another link tag is added before this one, it will take over the handler from the original link. A best practice is to maintain the separation of code and page structure by assigning each link an identifier by using the id attribute.

<a id="faqLink" href="faq.html">Faq</a>

A handler assignment can then work regardless of where the element is positioned.

document.getElementById('faqLink').onclick = linkHandler;

Events are actions that can be detected by JavaScript, and the event object gives information about the event that has occurred. Sometimes we want to execute a JavaScript when an event occurs, such as when a user clicks a button. Events are normally used in combination with functions, and the function will not be executed before the event occurs! Javascript event handlers are divided into 2 types:

  1. Interactive event handlers- depends on user interactin with the HTML page ex. Clicking a button
  2. Non-Interactive event handlers-does not need user interaction. Ex. onload

Event Attributes[edit]

Below is the event attributes that can be inserted into different HTML elements to define event actions. IE: Internet Explorer, F: Firefox, O: Opera, W3C: W3C Standard.

Attribute       The event occurs when...        IE      F       O       W3C

onblur        An element loses focus            3       1       9       Yes
onchange      The content of a field changes    3       1       9       Yes

onclick       Mouse clicks an object            3       1       9       Yes

ondblclick    Mouse double-clicks an object     4       1       9       Yes

onerror       An error occurs when loading      4       1       9       Yes
              a document or an image
onfocus       An element gets focus             3       1       9       Yes

onkeydown     A keyboard key is pressed         3       1       No      Yes

onkeypress    A keyboard key is pressed         3       1       9       Yes
              or held down
onkeyup       A keyboard key is released        3       1       9       Yes

onload        A page or image is                3       1       9       Yes
              finished loading
onmousedown   A mouse button is pressed         4       1       9       Yes

onmousemove
               The mouse is moved               3       1       9       Yes
onmouseout
               The mouse is moved               4       1       9       Yes
                 off an element
onmouseover
               The mouse is moved               3       1       9       Yes
               over an element
onmouseup
               A mouse button is released       4       1       9       Yes
onresize
               A window or frame is resized     4       1       9       Yes
onselect
               Text is selected                 3       1       9       Yes
onunload
               The user exits the page          3       1       9       Yes

Mouse / Keyboard Attributes:

Property        Description     IE      F       O       W3C
altKey
        Returns whether or not the "ALT"      6       1       9       Yes
         key was pressed when an event
          was triggered
button
        Returns which mouse button was  6       1       9       Yes
        clicked when an event was triggered
clientX
        Returns the horizontal coordinate of    6       1       9       Yes
        the mouse pointer when an event was triggered
clientY
        Returns the vertical coordinate of the  6       1       9       Yes
        mouse pointer when an event was triggered
ctrlKey
        Returns whether or not the "CTRL" key         6       1       9       Yes
        was pressed when an event was triggered
metaKey
        Returns whether or not the "meta" key        6        1       9       Yes
         was pressed when an event was triggered
relatedTarget
         Returns the element related to the            No       1       9       Yes
         element that triggered the event 
screenX
       Returns the horizontal coordinate of the         6       1       9       Yes
        mouse pointer when an event was triggered
screenY
       Returns the vertical coordinate of the mouse     6       1       9       Yes
        pointer when an event was triggered     
shiftKey
        Returns whether or not the "SHIFT" key was    6       1       9       Yes
         pressed when an event was triggered

Other Event Attributes:

Property        Description                             IE      F       O       W3C
bubbles
            Returns a Boolean value that indicates      No      1       9       Yes
           whether or not an event is a bubbling event
cancelable
            Returns a Boolean value that indicates      No      1       9       Yes
            whether or not an event can have 
            its default action prevented
currentTarget
             Returns the element whose event             No     1       9       Yes
             listeners triggered the event

Returns the element that triggered the event    No      1       9       Yes
timeStamp
                 Returns the time stamp, in milliseconds        No      1       9       Yes
                 from the epoch (system start or event trigger)

Standard event handlers[edit]

Attribute Trigger
onabort Loading of image was interrupted
onblur Element loses focus
onchange Element gets modified
onclick Element gets clicked
ondblclick Element gets double clicked
onerror An error occurred loading an element
onfocus An element received focus
onkeydown A key was pressed when an element has focus
onkeypress A keystroke was received by the element
onkeyup A key was released when the element has focus
onload An element was loaded
onmousedown The mouse button was pressed on the element
onmousemove The mouse pointer moves while inside the element
onmouseout The mouse pointer was moved outside the element
onmouseover The mouse pointer was moved onto the element
onmouseup The mouse button was released on the element.
onreset The form's reset button was clicked
onresize The containing window or frame was resized
onselect Text within the element was selected
onsubmit A form is being submitted
onunload The content is being unloaded (e.g. window being closed)
onscroll The user scrolls (in any direction and with any means).

Event Handlers as HTML attributes[edit]

In HTML, JavaScript events can be included within any specified attribute - for example, a body tag can have an onload event:

<body onload="alert('Hello world!');">

The content of the HTML event attributes is JavaScript code that is interpreted when the event is triggered, and works very similarly to the blocks of JavaScript. This form of code is used when you want to have the JavaScript attached directly to the tag in question.

This type of technique is called inline JavaScript, and can be seen as being a less desirable technique than other unobtrusive JavaScript techniques that have previously been covered. The use of inline JavaScript can be considered to be similar in nature to that of using inline css, where HTML is styled by putting css in style attributes. This is a practice that is best avoided in favour of more versatile techniques.

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