W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > March 2010

Re: Customize HTML5 forms placeholder style

From: Tab Atkins Jr. <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2010 20:59:57 -0500
Message-ID: <dd0fbad1003161859v12e3a158q2c0c93f754fccd6c@mail.gmail.com>
To: Mounir Lamouri <mounir.lamouri@gmail.com>
Cc: www-style@w3.org
On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 1:28 PM, Mounir Lamouri <mounir.lamouri@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> I have already opened this discussion in whatwg mailing list [1] but we
> did not reach a consensus and I have been told to use this mailing list
> which seems more appropriate.
> To summarize, the placeholder attribute is now available in Gecko [2]
> and Webkit and we are now face of the placeholder customization [3] [4]
> [5]. Indeed, styling input or textarea can make the default placeholder
> style inappropriate.
> There is two ways to do that: using a pseudo-element or a pseudo-class.
> If it is a pseudo-element, the properties that will applied have to be
> limited probably like the :first-line pseudo-element.
> The pros and cons related to both ways are detailed in the discussion in
> whatwg mailing list. I would like to know your opinion and maybe get a
> consensus and write a specification before implementing something in Gecko.
> [1]
> http://lists.whatwg.org/pipermail/whatwg-whatwg.org/2010-February/thread.html#25190
> [2] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=457800
> [3] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=457801
> [4] https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=21227
> [5] https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=21299

So that people don't have to go diving into other lists and bugs, let
me summarize the issues:

First, we may want to be able to style the placeholder.  This is
mainly so that, when we're styling the input, the placeholder doesn't
accidentally become unreadable.  (Frex, if the input's background was
changed to a light gray, that would make it unreadable with the
current placeholder styling, which is light gray text.)

Second, we may want to be able to style the input based on whether
it's in the placeholder state.  For example, we may want to put a
special border on inputs that are showing a placeholder, to draw extra
attention to them.  This can *almost* be done with existing selectors:
"input[placeholder]:not(:focus)".  That does not capture the fact that
the input is empty of text, though, which is the final requirement for
the placeholder state.  It's also pretty complex, so even if there was
a pseudoclass for no-content inputs, it would be an extremely unwieldy
selector that the average author can't be expected to write.

There are two suggested ways to address one or both of these.

1) A :placeholder pseudoclass, which matches an input that has the
placeholder attribute, is currently empty of text, and which is not
currently focused.

2) A ::placeholder pseudoelement, which represents the placeholder
text itself.  This pseudoelement only exists when the input is in the
placeholder state.

#1 addresses both requirements.  However, it has a problem with
cascading.  If an author only sets the color on the input, the
placeholder will automatically be that color, rather than light gray.
The author has to set a color on both "input" and "input:placeholder"
to get it to work as expected.  This won't break any pages (that
aren't already broken by bad color choices for input text), but it is
slightly suboptimal.  I'm not sure how many existing pages use
@placeholder and set a text color on inputs (probably very few), but
this would be a change in behavior for them.

#2 only addresses the first requirement, but it does not have the
cascading issue that #1 does.  However, it requires us to define what
properties can be applied to ::placeholder.  These would be equivalent
to the properties that can be applied to ::value (defined in CSS3 UI),
but these are not defined yet either.

Received on Wednesday, 17 March 2010 02:00:46 UTC

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