How do I find out which DOM element has the focus?

How do I find out which DOM element has the focus?

I would like to find out, in JavaScript, which element currently has focus. I’ve been looking through the DOM and haven’t found what I need, yet. Is there a way to do this, and how?
The reason I was looking for this:
I’m trying to make keys like the arrows and enter navigate through a table of input elements. Tab works now, but enter, and arrows do not by default it seems. I’ve got the key handling part set up but now I need to figure out how to move the focus over in the event handling functions.


Solution 1:

Use document.activeElement, it is supported in all major browsers.

Previously, if you were trying to find out what form field has focus, you could not. To emulate detection within older browsers, add a “focus” event handler to all fields and record the last-focused field in a variable. Add a “blur” handler to clear the variable upon a blur event for the last-focused field.

Related links:

Solution 2:

As said by JW, you can’t find the current focused element, at least in a browser-independent way. But if your app is IE only (some are…), you can find it the following way :


EDIT: It looks like IE did not have everything wrong after all, this is part of HTML5 draft and seems to be supported by the latest version of Chrome, Safari and Firefox at least.

Solution 3:

If you can use jQuery, it now supports :focus, just make sure you are using version 1.6+.

This statement will get you the currently focused element.


From: How to select an element that has focus on it with jQuery

Solution 4:

document.activeElement is now part of the HTML5 working draft specification, but it might not yet be supported in some non-major/mobile/older browsers. You can fall back to querySelector (if that is supported). It’s also worth mentioning that document.activeElement will return document.body if no element is focused — even if the browser window doesn’t have focus.

The following code will work around this issue and fall back to querySelector giving a little better support.

var focused = document.activeElement;
if (!focused || focused == document.body)
    focused = null;
else if (document.querySelector)
    focused = document.querySelector(":focus");

An addition thing to note is the performance difference between these two methods. Querying the document with selectors will always be much slower than accessing the activeElement property. See this test.

Solution 5:

By itself, document.activeElement can still return an element if the document isn’t focused (and thus nothing in the document is focused!)

You may want that behavior, or it may not matter (e.g. within a keydown event), but if you need to know something is actually focused, you can additionally check document.hasFocus().

The following will give you the focused element if there is one, or else null.

var focused_element = null;
if (
    document.hasFocus() &&
    document.activeElement !== document.body &&
    document.activeElement !== document.documentElement
) {
    focused_element = document.activeElement;

To check whether a specific element has focus, it’s simpler:

var input_focused = document.activeElement === input && document.hasFocus();

To check whether anything is focused, it’s more complex again:

var anything_is_focused = (
    document.hasFocus() &&
    document.activeElement !== null &&
    document.activeElement !== document.body &&
    document.activeElement !== document.documentElement

Robustness Note: In the code where it the checks against document.body and document.documentElement, this is because some browsers return one of these or null when nothing is focused.

It doesn’t account for if the <body> (or maybe <html>) had a tabIndex attribute and thus could actually be focused. If you’re writing a library or something and want it to be robust, you should probably handle that somehow.

Here’s a (heavy airquotes) “one-liner” version of getting the focused element, which is conceptually more complicated because you have to know about short-circuiting, and y’know, it obviously doesn’t fit on one line, assuming you want it to be readable.
I’m not gonna recommend this one. But if you’re a 1337 hax0r, idk… it’s there.
You could also remove the || null part if you don’t mind getting false in some cases. (You could still get null if document.activeElement is null):

var focused_element = (
    document.hasFocus() &&
    document.activeElement !== document.body &&
    document.activeElement !== document.documentElement &&
) || null;

For checking if a specific element is focused, alternatively you could use events, but this way requires setup (and potentially teardown), and importantly, assumes an initial state:

var input_focused = false;
input.addEventListener("focus", function() {
    input_focused = true;
input.addEventListener("blur", function() {
    input_focused = false;

You could fix the initial state assumption by using the non-evented way, but then you might as well just use that instead.

Solution 6:

document.activeElement may default to the <body> element if no focusable elements are in focus. Additionally, if an element is focused and the browser window is blurred, activeElement will continue to hold the focused element.

If either of these two behaviors are not desirable, consider a CSS-based approach: document.querySelector( ':focus' ).