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4.10.13 The textarea element

Categories:
Flow content.
Phrasing content.
Interactive content.
Listed, labelable, submittable, and resettable form-associated element.
Palpable content.
Contexts in which this element can be used:
Where phrasing content is expected.
Content model:
Text.
Content attributes:
Global attributes
autofocus
cols
dirname
disabled
form
maxlength
name
placeholder
readonly
required
rows
wrap
DOM interface:
interface HTMLTextAreaElement : HTMLElement {
           attribute boolean autofocus;
           attribute unsigned long cols;
           attribute DOMString dirName;
           attribute boolean disabled;
  readonly attribute HTMLFormElement? form;
           attribute long maxLength;
           attribute DOMString name;
           attribute DOMString placeholder;
           attribute boolean readOnly;
           attribute boolean required;
           attribute unsigned long rows;
           attribute DOMString wrap;

  readonly attribute DOMString type;
           attribute DOMString defaultValue;
           attribute DOMString value;
  readonly attribute unsigned long textLength;

  readonly attribute boolean willValidate;
  readonly attribute ValidityState validity;
  readonly attribute DOMString validationMessage;
  boolean checkValidity();
  void setCustomValidity(DOMString error);

  readonly attribute NodeList labels;

  void select();
           attribute unsigned long selectionStart;
           attribute unsigned long selectionEnd;
           attribute DOMString selectionDirection;

  void setSelectionRange(unsigned long start, unsigned long end, optional DOMString direction);
};

The textarea element represents a multiline plain text edit control for the element's raw value. The contents of the control represent the control's default value.

The raw value of a textarea control must be initially the empty string.

A newline in a textarea element, and in its raw value, should separate paragraphs for the purposes of the Unicode bidirectional algorithm. This requirement may be implemented indirectly through the style layer. For example, an HTML+CSS user agent could implement these requirements by implementing the CSS 'unicode-bidi' property. [BIDI] [CSS]

The readonly attribute is a boolean attribute used to control whether the text can be edited by the user or not.

Constraint validation: If the readonly attribute is specified on a textarea element, the element is barred from constraint validation.

A textarea element is mutable if it is neither disabled nor has a readonly attribute specified.

When a textarea is mutable, its raw value should be editable by the user: the user agent should allow the user to edit, insert, and remove text, and to insert and remove line breaks in the form of "LF" (U+000A) characters. Any time the user causes the element's raw value to change, the user agent must queue a task to fire a simple event that bubbles named input at the textarea element. User agents may wait for a suitable break in the user's interaction before queuing the task; for example, a user agent could wait for the user to have not hit a key for 100ms, so as to only fire the event when the user pauses, instead of continuously for each keystroke.

A textarea element has a dirty value flag, which must be initially set to false, and must be set to true whenever the user interacts with the control in a way that changes the raw value.

When the textarea element's textContent IDL attribute changes value, if the element's dirty value flag is false, then the element's raw value must be set to the value of the element's textContent IDL attribute.

The reset algorithm for textarea elements is to set the element's value to the value of the element's textContent IDL attribute.

If the element is mutable, the user agent should allow the user to change the writing direction of the element, setting it either to a left-to-right writing direction or a right-to-left writing direction. If the user does so, the user agent must then run the following steps:

  1. Set the element's dir attribute to "ltr" if the user selected a left-to-right writing direction, and "rtl" if the user selected a right-to-left writing direction.

  2. Queue a task to fire a simple event that bubbles named input at the textarea element.

The cols attribute specifies the expected maximum number of characters per line. If the cols attribute is specified, its value must be a valid non-negative integer greater than zero. If applying the rules for parsing non-negative integers to the attribute's value results in a number greater than zero, then the element's character width is that value; otherwise, it is 20.

The user agent may use the textarea element's character width as a hint to the user as to how many characters the server prefers per line (e.g. for visual user agents by making the width of the control be that many characters). In visual renderings, the user agent should wrap the user's input in the rendering so that each line is no wider than this number of characters.

The rows attribute specifies the number of lines to show. If the rows attribute is specified, its value must be a valid non-negative integer greater than zero. If applying the rules for parsing non-negative integers to the attribute's value results in a number greater than zero, then the element's character height is that value; otherwise, it is 2.

Visual user agents should set the height of the control to the number of lines given by character height.

The wrap attribute is an enumerated attribute with two keywords and states: the soft keyword which maps to the Soft state, and the hard keyword which maps to the Hard state. The missing value default is the Soft state.

The Soft state indicates that the text in the textarea is not to be wrapped when it is submitted (though it can still be wrapped in the rendering).

The Hard state indicates that the text in the textarea is to have newlines added by the user agent so that the text is wrapped when it is submitted.

If the element's wrap attribute is in the Hard state, the cols attribute must be specified.

For historical reasons, the element's value is normalised in three different ways for three different purposes. The raw value is the value as it was originally set. It is not normalized. The API value is the value used in the value IDL attribute. It is normalized so that line breaks use "LF" (U+000A) characters. Finally, there is the form submission value. It is normalized so that line breaks use U+000D CARRIAGE RETURN U+000A LINE FEED (CRLF) character pairs, and in addition, if necessary given the element's wrap attribute, additional line breaks are inserted to wrap the text at the given width.

The element's API value is defined to be the element's raw value with the following transformation applied:

  1. Replace every U+000D CARRIAGE RETURN U+000A LINE FEED (CRLF) character pair from the raw value with a single U+000A LINE FEED (CRLF) character.

  2. Replace every remaining U+000D CARRIAGE RETURN character from the raw value with a single U+000A LINE FEED (CRLF) character.

The element's value is defined to be the element's raw value with the following transformation applied:

  1. Replace every occurrence of a "CR" (U+000D) character not followed by a "LF" (U+000A) character, and every occurrence of a "LF" (U+000A) character not preceded by a "CR" (U+000D) character, by a two-character string consisting of a U+000D CARRIAGE RETURN U+000A LINE FEED (CRLF) character pair.

  2. If the element's wrap attribute is in the Hard state, insert U+000D CARRIAGE RETURN U+000A LINE FEED (CRLF) character pairs into the string using a UA-defined algorithm so that each line has no more than character width characters. For the purposes of this requirement, lines are delimited by the start of the string, the end of the string, and U+000D CARRIAGE RETURN U+000A LINE FEED (CRLF) character pairs.

The maxlength attribute is a form control maxlength attribute controlled by the textarea element's dirty value flag.

If the textarea element has a maximum allowed value length, then the element's children must be such that the code-unit length of the value of the element's textContent IDL attribute is equal to or less than the element's maximum allowed value length.

The required attribute is a boolean attribute. When specified, the user will be required to enter a value before submitting the form.

Constraint validation: If the element has its required attribute specified, and the element is mutable, and the element's value is the empty string, then the element is suffering from being missing.

The placeholder attribute represents a hint (a word or short phrase) intended to aid the user with data entry. A hint could be a sample value or a brief description of the expected format. The attribute, if specified, must have a value that contains no "LF" (U+000A) or "CR" (U+000D) characters.

For a longer hint or other advisory text, the title attribute is more appropriate.

The placeholder attribute should not be used as an alternative to a label.

User agents should present this hint to the user, after having stripped line breaks from it, when the element's value is the empty string and the control is not focused (e.g. by displaying it inside a blank unfocused control).

The dirname attribute is a form control dirname attribute.

The form attribute is used to explicitly associate the textarea element with its form owner. The name attribute represents the element's name. The disabled attribute is used to make the control non-interactive and to prevent its value from being submitted. The autofocus attribute controls focus.

textarea . type

Returns the string "textarea".

textarea . value

Returns the current value of the element.

Can be set, to change the value.

The cols, placeholder, required, rows, and wrap attributes must reflect the respective content attributes of the same name. The cols and rows attributes are limited to only non-negative numbers greater than zero. The cols attribute's default value is 20. The rows attribute's default value is 2. The dirName IDL attribute must reflect the dirname content attribute. The maxLength IDL attribute must reflect the maxlength content attribute, limited to only non-negative numbers. The readOnly IDL attribute must reflect the readonly content attribute.

The type IDL attribute must return the value "textarea".

The defaultValue IDL attribute must act like the element's textContent IDL attribute.

The value attribute must, on getting, return the element's API value; on setting, it must set the element's raw value to the new value, set the element's dirty value flag to true, and should then move the text entry cursor position to the end of the text field, unselecting any selected text and resetting the selection direction to none.

The textLength IDL attribute must return the code-unit length of the element's API value.

The willValidate, validity, and validationMessage attributes, and the checkValidity() and setCustomValidity() methods, are part of the constraint validation API. The labels attribute provides a list of the element's labels. The select(), selectionStart, selectionEnd, selectionDirection, and setSelectionRange() methods and attributes expose the element's text selection. The autofocus, disabled, form, and name IDL attributes are part of the element's forms API.

Here is an example of a textarea being used for unrestricted free-form text input in a form:

<p>If you have any comments, please let us know: <textarea cols=80 name=comments></textarea></p>

To specify a maximum length for the comments, one can use the maxlength attribute:

<p>If you have any short comments, please let us know: <textarea cols=80 name=comments maxlength=200></textarea></p>

To give a default value, text can be included inside the element:

<p>If you have any comments, please let us know: <textarea cols=80 name=comments>You rock!</textarea></p>

To have the browser submit the directionality of the element along with the value, the dirname attribute can be specified:

<p>If you have any comments, please let us know (you may use either English or Hebrew for your comments):
<textarea cols=80 name=comments dirname=comments.dir></textarea></p>