Cross Browser Guide Part 3 – Event Handling in Different Browsers

For the first two articles of the series: Part 1 and Part 2 .

The worst part of making an application work in multiple browsers is the different interpretation of JavaScript by every browser (you know what I mean). One of the most obvious ones is the event handling architecture difference amongst Internet Explorer and the browsers those follow W3C standards for DOM event handling.

This is a very important topic because everything starts with events. No events, no scripting. If at one point of your script your event handling fails, it is very likely that the rest of it will not be executed. So we need to understand the event models of –at least – the major browsers. We can group them by three major categories:

1 – Traditional Model

In the old browsers we were able to attach only through inline scripting such as:

<input type=”button” id=”myButton” value=”Press” onclick=”alert(’hello world!’)” />

But this is not easily maintainable and recommended now. So the Netscape notation is a common way to hook your events up:

element.onclick = doSomething;

As you can see there is a certain drawback that we can not add more than one listeners to an event as we can do in today’s modern languages. This model is supported by most of the browsers, so don’t worry, you don’t need to write any extra codes for here.

2 – W3C Model

In 2000, W3C has published a DOM Level 2 Events Specification to address the problems about the traditional model.

In this model, assignments to a specific event are done by add and remove events for a specific element. For example, to add you say:

myButton.addEventListener(‘click’, doSomething, false);

Where to remove you need to write:

myButton.removeEventListener(‘click’, doSomething, false);

As you can see you can add or remove multiple listeners to an event in this model. For e.g the following manages to fire both doSomething1 and doSomething2 when myButton is clicked:

myButton.addEventListener(‘click’, doSomething1, false);
myButton.addEventListener(‘click’, doSomething2, false);

W3C also supports anonymous functions that are very similar to anonymous functions in C#.NET 2.0.

The last Boolean parameter states whether the event handling will be done in bubbling phase or not (in handling phase).

3 – Microsoft Event Bubbling Model

This event model is similar to W3C’s one, but it is not the same. The name of the method to attach the event is different, and as in the below:

myButton.attachEvent(‘onclick’, doSomething);

and to remove the handler you use:

myButton.detachEvent(‘onclick’, doSomething);

As you see, there is not third parameter specifying capture or bubble, as the events isn MS programming environment always bubble, not captured.

As a result of this it is impossible to know exactly what element raised that event without doing anything ( I advice to look at MS Ajax Source code to see how they handled this situation)

That’s why while working in IE 7.0, we need to be careful about window.event behavior. This is there to store the latest event happened in the window event stack, but is not supported by the other browsers. For e.g, you want to cancel the default behavior in a specific circumstance, and to do this the way in IE 7.0 is:

window.event.returnValue = true;

But this will not work in FireFox. You then need to check an extra event handler, that is automatically injected in by Firefox and our event handler transforms as following:

function doSomething()
  if (!e) // if the parameter is provided by the browser
    e = window.event;

  if (e.preventDefault)  // firefox style
    e.returnValue = false;

Also if you return false from the listener, the default action will be prevented (such as the post back of a button or a redirection of a link. This is very useful especially in client side validation of forms.

We will continue to talk about the JavaScript problems across the browsers in the following posts, stay cool!

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mehmet Akif KARDAS said,

    May 13, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

    it’s perfect Sir!:D

  2. 2

    Ashish Namdev said,

    October 13, 2008 @ 10:48 am

    I am working on a website in 3.5 but there is a problem related to events
    my website is working properly with Mozilla browser but some events are not firing in Internet explorer
    while same events are proper working with Mozilla.

    Plz try to short out this problem as soon as possible.


  3. 3

    Sidar Ok said,

    October 13, 2008 @ 10:41 pm


    What version of IE is that your events are not hooked ? And which events are they, could you provide a sample code so I can repro the issue ?

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