W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > January 2013

Re: Styling HTML placeholder attribute

From: Tab Atkins Jr. <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2013 10:31:58 -0800
Message-ID: <CAAWBYDBP8EZGtcoC_Sgm9Eg9FRk_-e_Jd+kP+ZNLxztpLLpr1g@mail.gmail.com>
To: Brad Kemper <brad.kemper@gmail.com>
Cc: Sylvain Galineau <sylvaing@microsoft.com>, Mounir Lamouri <mounir@lamouri.fr>, www-style list <www-style@w3.org>
So, summary of the issue from the call.  This email also exists in
wiki from at <http://wiki.csswg.org/ideas/placeholder-styling> - if we
come up with anything new, it will be kept updated there.

The overarching issue is whether to use a pseudoclass or
pseudo-element.  A sub-issue here is how to style the placeholder
text; different methods bias us toward resolving the main issue in
different ways.

If we add a pseudoclass, it represents an input element in the state
of showing its placeholder.  Using a pseudoclass is generally more
powerful, as it lets you style the input in useful ways, such as
adding a border to all placeholder-showing inputs.

If we add a pseudo-element, it represents an inline element *inside
of* the input, wrapping the placeholder text.  This is more powerful
in a narrow way, as it lets you apply some properties to the text
without having them apply to the input as a whole, such as opacity.

Here are the options that we've come up with so far:

1. Add nothing new, use a :placeholder pseudoclass.  Specify that UA
styles for placeholders are roughly "input:placeholder { color: #999;

2. Add nothing new, use a ::placeholder pseudo-element.  Specify that
UA styles for placeholders are roughly "input::placeholder { opacity:
.5; }".

3. Add a :placeholder pseudoclass, and revive the ::value
pseudo-element that once existed in CSS3 UI.  Specify that UA styles
for placeholders are roughly "input:placeholder::value { opacity: .5;

4. Add a new 'color-opacity' or 'foreground-opacity' property, use a
:placeholder pseudoclass.  Specify that UA styles for placeholders
are roughly "input:placeholder { foreground-opacity: .5; }".

5. Adopt SVG's fill/fill-opacity/stroke/stroke-opacity properties,
specifying that they only apply to text, and use a :placeholder
pseudoclass.  Specify that UA styles for placeholders are roughly
"input:placeholder { fill-opacity: .5; }".

I think that #1 is bad.  It requires the author to remember to change
*two* 'color' properties whenever they change the 'background-color'
of an input.  dbaron states that FF's experience is that authors
generally don't, which matches my intuition.

I agree with Sylvain that #2 isn't great either - adding a
pseudo-element to solve such a specific problem feels like overkill,
and it doesn't allow some reasonable stylings that we think authors
will want to use.

#3 is a better variant of #2, as it gets us the best of both worlds.
However, nobody's cared much about ::value so far.  On the other hand,
two browsers *already have* ::placeholder, so switching the code over
to just always wrap the displayed value in a ::value (rather than only
sometimes, when it's a placeholder, wrapping it) probably isn't hard.

However, I prefer #4 and #5 the best, as they're nice generative
solutions that would additionally fulfill some long-standing dev
requests.  (Accidentally solving other problems beyond your own is a
great property for any solution to have. ^_^)  #5 is my favorite, as
lots of people have asked for the ability to stroke text, and fill it
with something other than flat colors (and WebKit already has prefixed
properties that allow this).  It also pulls some existing SVG
properties into CSS proper, which is always nice when it happens as it
reduces duplication across technologies.

So, I recommend we adopt #5.  We can look to WebKit's existing
properties for guidance in figuring out the fiddly details (like
sizing/positioning of images used for fill/stroke).  The properties
will probably go in Text Decoration, but we can figure out exactly
where to put them later.

Received on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 18:32:51 UTC

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