Cross-browser div focus and blur

Internet Explorer has for some time supported giving ‘focus’ to non-focussable elements such as divs. Firefox, by contrast, does not. Whilst this makes sense semantically, it’s often still very useful to use these triggers. For example, you can use onfocus to show a popup when a div is clicked, and close the popup when anything else is clicked on the page (in the onblur event).

There are many, many workarounds which provide this functionality, using such tricks as hidden input elements, global onclick handlers, and so on, but the simplest is simply this: give your div a tabIndex attribute. For example,

<div tabindex="-1" onfocus="document.getElementById('monkey').style.display='block'" onblur="document.getElementById('monkey').style.display='none'">Click to show another div.</div>
<div id="monkey" style="display:none;">Click elsewhere to hide this div.</div>

works perfectly in Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome as shown in the example below:

Click to show another div.

You can also achieve a similar effect purely with CSS:

#focus-example > .extra { display: none; }
#focus-example:focus > .extra { display: block; }</style>
<div id="focus-example" tabindex="0">
  <div>Focus me!</div>
  <div class="extra">Hooray!</div>
Focus me!

Because the second example shows or hides a child element, the parent element will remain focussed if the user interacts with the child element, or its children. This allows you to embed links, forms, videos, and so on in the child element.

The value of tabIndex can have significance, too:

  • -1: The user can’t tab to the element, but it can be given focus programmatically (element.focus()) or by being clicked on.
  • 0: The user can tab to the element, and its order in the tabbing is automatically determined.
  • >0: Give the element a priority, with ‘1’ being the highest priority.

I originally discovered this technique on this thread.

14 thoughts on “Cross-browser div focus and blur

  1. bluerouse says:

    Nice approach!
    But: Whats to do if you got a link in the ‘monkey’-Div? You can’t click it, because the Blur-Event is before the Click-Event…

    You got an idea?

    1. Barry van Oudtshoorn says:

      @bluerouse: In that case, you’re probably better off using Javascript that doesn’t rely on the ‘focus’ and ‘blur’ events.

      A MooTools snippet that adds the ‘outerClick’ event to elements is here: .

      Using this, you could rewrite the example like this — note that, as I tend to nowadays, I’ll just create the elements in JavaScript:

      	new Element('div').addEvents(
      		'outerClick': function() {
      			$('monkey').setStyle('display', 'none');
      		'click': function() {
      			$('monkey').setStyle('display', 'block');
      	new Element('div', {
      		'id': 'monkey',
      		'styles': {
      			'display': 'none'
  2. Andrei Nemeti says:

    Thanks. Helped with my simple task.
    Josh Habdas is right. It won’t validate, but as long as we have to hack IE, let’s just assume it’s valid 🙂

  3. Mohsen says:

    It saved me. I do it by Prototype and it works great.

  4. 2rist says:

    This method is good until there is some “focusable” elemt inside your div(like input). In this situation when u click on this input – it takes focus and “div” blur is called despite the fact “clisk is inside div”

    You can solve this problem by doing something not very good like

    divElement.find('a[href], area[href], input:not([disabled]), select:not([disabled]), textarea:not([disabled]), button:not([disabled]), iframe, object, embed, *[tabindex], *[contenteditable]').add(divElement).each(function() {
    $(this).blur(function () {
    closeDivTimeoutId = setTimeout(function () {
    //Your blur code here
    }, 100);
    }).focus(function () {
    if (closeDivTimeoutId ) {
    clearTimeout(closeDivTimeoutId );

    1. Barry van Oudtshoorn says:

      Not quite sure why it’s not working for you Ali… I’ve just tested in Firefox, and it appears to be functioning as expected. Maybe you could put a very small example of the problem up on jsFiddle?

  5. asdf says:

    the content
    on this
    is way
    to narrow
    read it


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