What are the typical reasons Javascript developed on Firefox fails on IE? [closed]

What are the typical reasons Javascript developed on Firefox fails on IE? [closed]

I developed some javascript enhanced pages that run fine on recent Firefox and Safari. I missed to check in Internet Explorer, and now I find the pages don’t work on IE 6 and 7 (so far). The scripts are somehow not executed, the pages show as if javascript wasn’t there, although some javascript is executed. I am using own libraries with dom manipulation, from YUI 2 I use YUI-Loader and the XML-Http-Request, and on one page I use “psupload”, which depends on JQuery.
I am installing Microsoft Script Editor from Office XP and will now debug. I will also write specific tests now.
What are the typical failing points of IE? What direction I can keep my eyes open.
I found this page, which shows some differences. visit: Quirksmode
Can you from your experience name some typical things I should look for first?
I will also ask more questions here for specific tasks later, but for now I am interested in your experience why IE usually fails on scripts that run fine in Firefox
Edit: Thank you for all those great answers!
In the meantime I have adapted the whole code so that it also works with Internet Explorer. I integrated jQuery and built my own classes on top of it now. This was my basic mistake, that I did not build all my stuff on jQuery from the beginning. Now I have.
Also JSLint helped me a lot.
And many of the single issues from the different answers helped.


Solution 1:

Please feel free to update this list if you see any errors/omissions etc.

Note: IE9 fixes many of the following issues, so a lot of this only applies to IE8 and below and to a certain extent IE9 in quirks mode. For example, IE9 supports SVG, <canvas>, <audio> and <video> natively, however you must enable standards compliance mode for them to be available.


  • Problems with partially loaded documents: It’s a good idea to add your JavaScript in a window.onload or similar event as IE doesn’t support many operations in partially loaded documents.

  • Differing attributes: In CSS, it’s elm.style.styleFloat in IE vs elm.style.cssFloat in Firefox. In <label> tags the for attribute is accessed with elm.htmlFor in IE vs elm.for in Firefox. Note that for is reserved in IE so elm['for'] is probably a better idea to stop IE from raising an exception.

Base JavaScript language:

  • Access characters in strings: 'string'[0] isn’t supported in IE as it’s not in the original JavaScript specifications. Use 'string'.charAt(0) or 'string'.split('')[0] noting that accessing items in arrays is significantly faster than using charAt with strings in IE (though there’s some initial overhead when split is first called.)

  • Commas before the end of objects: e.g. {'foo': 'bar',} aren’t allowed in IE.

Element-specific issues:

  • Getting the document of an IFrame:

    • Firefox and IE8+: IFrame.contentDocument (IE started supporting this from version 8.)
    • IE: IFrame.contentWindow.document
    • (IFrame.contentWindow refers to the window in both browsers.)

  • Canvas: Versions of IE before IE9 don’t support the <canvas> element. IE does support VML which is a similar technology however, and explorercanvas can provide an in-place wrapper for <canvas> elements for many operations. Be aware that IE8 in standards compliance mode is many times slower and has many more glitches than when in quirks mode when using VML.

  • SVG: IE9 supports SVG natively. IE6-8 can support SVG, but only with external plugins with only some of those plugins supporting JavaScript manipulation.

  • <audio> and <video>: are only supported in IE9.

  • Dynamically creating radio buttons: IE <8 has a bug which makes radio buttons created with document.createElement uncheckable. See also How do you dynamically create a radio button in Javascript that works in all browsers? for a way to get around this.

  • Embedded JavaScript in <a href> tags and onbeforeunload conflicts in IE: If there’s embedded JavaScript in the href part of an a tag (e.g. <a href="javascript: doStuff()"> then IE will always show the message returned from onbeforeunload unless the onbeforeunload handler is removed beforehand. See also Ask for confirm when closing a tab.

  • <script> tag event differences: onsuccess and onerror aren’t supported in IE and are replaced by an IE-specific onreadystatechange which is fired regardless of whether the download succeeded or failed. See also JavaScript Madness for more info.

Element size/position/scrolling and mouse position:

  • Getting element size/position: width/height of elements is sometimes elm.style.pixelHeight/Width in IE rather than elm.offsetHeight/Width, but neither is reliable in IE, especially in quirks mode, and sometimes one gives a better result than the other.

    elm.offsetTop and elm.offsetLeft are often incorrectly reported, leading to finding positions of elements being incorrect, which is why popup elements etc are a few pixels off in a lot of cases.

    Also note that if an element (or a parent of the element) has a display of none then IE will raise an exception when accessing size/position attributes rather than returning 0 as Firefox does.

  • Get the screen size (Getting the viewable area of the screen):

    • Firefox: window.innerWidth/innerHeight
    • IE standards mode: document.documentElement.clientWidth/clientHeight
    • IE quirks mode: document.body.clientWidth/clientHeight

  • Document scroll position/mouse position: This one is actually not defined by the w3c so is non-standard even in Firefox. To find the scrollLeft/scrollTop of the document:

    • Firefox and IE in quirks mode: document.body.scrollLeft/scrollTop
    • IE in standards mode: document.documentElement.scrollLeft/scrollTop
    • NOTE: Some other browsers use pageXOffset/pageYOffset as well.

      function getDocScrollPos() {
       var x = document.body.scrollLeft ||
               document.documentElement.scrollLeft ||
               window.pageXOffset || 0,
           y = document.body.scrollTop ||
               document.documentElement.scrollTop ||
               window.pageYOffset || 0;
       return [x, y];

    In order to get the position of the mouse cursor, evt.clientX and evt.clientY in mousemove events will give the position relative to the document without adding the scroll position so the previous function will need to be incorporated:

    var mousepos = [0, 0];
    document.onmousemove = function(evt) {
     evt = evt || window.event;
     if (typeof evt.pageX != 'undefined') {
      // Firefox support
      mousepos = [evt.pageX, evt.pageY];
     } else {
      // IE support
      var scrollpos = getDocScrollPos();
      mousepos = [evt.clientX+scrollpos[0], evt.clientY+scrollpos[1]];


  • <textarea> and <input> selections: selectionStart and selectionEnd are not implemented in IE, and there’s a proprietary “ranges” system in its place, see also Caret position in textarea, in characters from the start.

  • Getting the currently selected text in the document:

    • Firefox: window.getSelection().toString()
    • IE: document.selection.createRange().text

Getting elements by ID:

  • document.getElementById can also refer to the name attribute in forms (depending which is defined first in the document) so it’s best not to have different elements which have the same name and id. This dates back to the days when id wasn’t a w3c standard. document.all (a proprietary IE-specific property) is significantly faster than document.getElementById, but it has other problems as it always prioritizes name before id. I personally use this code, falling back with additional checks just to be sure:

    function getById(id) {
     var e;
     if (document.all) {
      e = document.all[id];
      if (e && e.tagName && e.id === id) {
       return e;
     e = document.getElementById(id);
     if (e && e.id === id) {
      return e;
     } else if (!e) {
      return null;
     } else {
      throw 'Element found by "name" instead of "id": ' + id;

Problems with read only innerHTML:

  • IE does not support setting the innerHTML of col, colGroup, frameSet, html, head, style, table, tBody, tFoot, tHead, title, and tr elements. Here’s a function which works around that for table-related elements:

    function setHTML(elm, html) {
     // Try innerHTML first
     try {
      elm.innerHTML = html;
     } catch (exc) {
      function getElm(html) {
       // Create a new element and return the first child
       var e = document.createElement('div');
       e.innerHTML = html;
       return e.firstChild;
      function replace(elms) {
       // Remove the old elements from 'elm'
       while (elm.children.length) {
       // Add the new elements from 'elms' to 'elm'
       for (var x=0; x<elms.children.length; x++) {
      // IE 6-8 don't support setting innerHTML for
      // TABLE, TBODY, TFOOT, THEAD, and TR directly
      var tn = elm.tagName.toLowerCase();
      if (tn === 'table') {
       replace(getElm('<table>' + html + '</table>'));
      } else if (['tbody', 'tfoot', 'thead'].indexOf(tn) != -1) {
       replace(getElm('<table><tbody>' + html + '</tbody></table>').firstChild);
      } else if (tn === 'tr') {
       replace(getElm('<table><tbody><tr>' + html + '</tr></tbody></table>').firstChild.firstChild);
      } else {
       throw exc;

    Also note that IE requires adding a <tbody> to a <table> before appending <tr>s to that <tbody> element when creating using document.createElement, for example:

    var table = document.createElement('table');
    var tbody = document.createElement('tbody');
    var tr = document.createElement('tr');
    var td = document.createElement('td');
    // and so on

Event differences:

  • Getting the event variable: DOM events aren’t passed to functions in IE and are accessible as window.event. One common way of getting the event is to use e.g.
    elm.onmouseover = function(evt) {evt = evt||window.event}
    which defaults to window.event if evt is undefined.

  • Key event code differences: Key event codes vary wildly, though if you look at Quirksmode or JavaScript Madness, it’s hardly specific to IE, Safari and Opera are different again.

  • Mouse event differences: the button attribute in IE is a bit-flag which allows multiple mouse buttons at once:

    • Left: 1 (var isLeft = evt.button & 1)
    • Right: 2 (var isRight = evt.button & 2)
    • Center: 4 (var isCenter = evt.button & 4)

      The W3C model (supported by Firefox) is less flexible than the IE model is, with only a single button allowed at once with left as 0, right as 2 and center as 1. Note that, as Peter-Paul Koch mentions, this is very counter-intuitive, as 0 usually means ‘no button’.

      offsetX and offsetY are problematic and it’s probably best to avoid them in IE. A more reliable way to get the offsetX and offsetY in IE would be to get the position of the relatively positioned element and subtract it from clientX and clientY.

      Also note that in IE to get a double click in a click event you’d need to register both a click and dblclick event to a function. Firefox fires click as well as dblclick when double clicking, so IE-specific detection is needed to have the same behaviour.

  • Differences in the event handling model: Both the proprietary IE model and the Firefox model support handling of events from the bottom up, e.g. if there are events in both elements of <div><span></span></div> then events will trigger in the span then the div rather than the order which they’re bound if a traditional e.g. elm.onclick = function(evt) {} was used.

    “Capture” events are generally only supported in Firefox etc, which will trigger the div then the span events in a top down order. IE has elm.setCapture() and elm.releaseCapture() for redirecting mouse events from the document to the element (elm in this case) before processing other events, but they have a number of performance and other issues so should probably be avoided.

    • Firefox:

      Attach: elm.addEventListener(type, listener, useCapture [true/false])
      Detach: elm.removeEventListener(type, listener, useCapture)
      (type is e.g. 'mouseover' without the on)

    • IE: Only a single event of a given type on an element can be added in IE – an exception is raised if more than one event of the same type is added. Also note that the this refers to window rather than the bound element in event functions (so is less useful):

      Attach: elm.attachEvent(sEvent, fpNotify)
      Detach: elm.detachEvent(sEvent, fpNotify)
      (sEvent is e.g. 'onmouseover')

  • Event attribute differences:

    • Stop events from being processed by any other listening functions:

      Firefox: evt.stopPropagation()
      IE: evt.cancelBubble = true

    • Stop e.g. key events from inserting characters or stopping checkboxes from getting checked:

      Firefox: evt.preventDefault()
      IE: evt.returnValue = false
      Note: Just returning false in keydown, keypress, mousedown, mouseup, click and reset will also prevent default.

    • Get the element which triggered the event:

      Firefox: evt.target
      IE: evt.srcElement

    • Getting the element the mouse cursor moved away from: evt.fromElement in IE is evt.target in Firefox if in an onmouseout event, otherwise evt.relatedTarget

    • Getting the element the mouse cursor moved to: evt.toElement in IE is evt.relatedTarget in Firefox if in an onmouseout event, otherwise evt.target

    • Note: evt.currentTarget (the element to which the event was bound) has no equivalent in IE.

Solution 2:

Check also for commas such as these or similar if any in your code

var o={

the last comma (following value2) will be tolerated by Firefox, but not IE

Solution 3:

If you stick to using jQuery or YUI as your post is tagged, you should have minimal differences between browsers…that’s what the frameworks are for, to take care of these cross-browser differences for you.

For an example, look at the quirksmode DOM traversal page, according to it IE doesn’t support most things…while true, the frameworks do, for example IE doesn’t support elem.childElementCount, but in jQuery: $(elem).children().size() works to get this value, in every browser. You’ll find there’s something in the library to handle 99% of the unsupported cases across browsers, at least with script…with CSS you might have to move to plugins for the library, a common example of this is to get rounded corners working in IE…since it has no CSS support for such.

If however you start doing things directly, like document.XXX(thing), then you’re not in the library, you’re doing javascript directly (it’s all javascript, but you get the point :), and this might or might not cause issues, depending on how drunk the IE team was when implementing that particular function.

With IE you’re more likely to fail on styling coming out right than raw javascript issues, animations a few pixels off and that sort of thing, much more-so in IE6 of course.

Solution 4:

getElementbyID will also match against the name attribute in IE, but not other browsers, and IE will select whichever it finds first.


 var foo = document.getElementById('bar');

<input name="bar" type="text" />  //IE will get this element
<span id="bar"> Hello, World! </span>  //FF,Safari,Chrome will get this element

Solution 5:

There are loads of things, but one trap I used to fall in was that many browsers accepts JSON without quoted names, while ie6 and ie7 does not.

{ name: "Jakob" } // will often work, but not in ie6/ie7
{ "name": "Jakob" } // Better!

Edit: To clarify, this is only an issue when actual JSON is required, as opposed to an object literal. JSON is a subset of the object literal syntax and is meant as a data exchange format (like XML) which is why it’s designed to be pickier.

Solution 6:

Differing JavaScript Support

IE doesn’t support (most of) the extensions added to JavaScript since 1.5.

New in 1.6

  • Array Methods – indexOf(), lastIndexOf(), every(), filter(), forEach(), map(), some()
  • for each ... in – iterates values instead of property names.

New in 1.7

New in 1.8

  • Array Methods – reduce(), reduceRight()
  • Shortcuts for defining functions.

Some of these things require you to specify a version number of JavaScript to run under (which will break under IE), but some things like [1,2,3].indexOf(2) might not seem like that big a deal, until you try to run it in IE