A bunch of buttons in a row

View the Project on GitHub dwachss/toolbar


Javascript abstraction of a toolbar, that tries to emulate the behavior of the example. It is meant to be used with my bililiteRange ex implementation.


toolbar.js: the code. No dependencies, but assumes a modern browser (tested on Edge (the Chromium version), Chrome and Firefox).

toolbar.html: simple demo.

toolbar2.html: Another simple demo that includes a Hebrew onscreen keyboard and some hacks with CSS.


It assumes a page structure like

<div id=toolbar></div>
<textarea id=editor></div>


function run (command) {
  this.value += command;

// create a toolbar with two buttons, one that appends "foo" to the text area and one that appends "bar"
const t = new Toolbar (document.querySelector('#toolbar'), document.querySelector('#editor'), run);



const t = new Toolbar (container: Element, target: Element, func: Function [, label: string]);

container is the HTML element that will be turned into a toolbar. target is the element that the toolbar will affect. Each toolbar has only one function that is called for each button on the toolbar; it takes one argument that is set to the data-command attribute of the actual button clicked, and this is set to target.

The aria-label attribute of container is set to the label argument, if present. container.role is set to toolbar. keyup listeners are set on container for the left and right arrow keys, to move between buttons when the toolbar is focused with the tab key. Letters (A-Z, case insensitive) activate the buttons (“A” clicks the first button, “B” the second, etc.) The Escape key returns the focus to target. tabindex is set with the roving tabindex method so it is possible to tab into and out of the toolbar.

The contextmenu event is captured on target, when that event is triggered by the Menu key (right clicking remains unaffected) to focus on the first toolbar that was defined on container. So when in the container, hitting the Menu key then “A” clicks the first button.

The aria-controls attribute of container is set to the id of target. If target does not have an id, one is created.

button method

t.button(name: string, command: string, title: string);

Appends a new button element, as <button name=${name} class=${name} data-command=${command} title=${title} tabindex=-1></button>. (The name used as a class name has all spaces removed; otherwise it would be an illegal class name). If command is undefined, it is set to name. If title is undefined it is omitted. (The tabindex is set to 0 when the button is clicked, which marks it as active when the user tabs into the toolbar). Clicking the button runs func(command) as described above.

Returns the button element created.

toggleButton method

t.toggleButton(name: string, command: string, title: string);

Creates a button exactly like button but adds a click listener that toggles the aria-pressed attribute between true and false (note that the standard uses those words, rather than toggling the attribute itself).

Returns the button element created.

element method

t.element(el: Element or string);

Simply appends el (as the element or as HTML) to the end of the toolbar. To have the element respond to arrow keys and tabs correctly, make sure it has tabindex=-1. t.element('<br>) is a convenient way to have the toolbar span two lines.

Returns the element appended.

observerElement method

t.observerElement (el: Element or string, attr: string);

Appends el with element above, then sets up a MutationObserver on the target element of the toolbar, responding to changes in the attr attribute of that element. When a change happens, the new value of the attribute is added as a class of the element. The old value is removed. Use CSS to change the appearance of the element.

For example, if your editor sets the value of the attribute "data-write-state" to "dirty" when the text has changed, "clean" when the new text is saved, and "pending" while it is being saved, then t.observerElement('<span id=writeindicator >', 'data-write-state') will set the class of span#writeindicator to dirty, clean, or pending as soon as the attribute changes.

Changes in styles (only inline styles, set with can be observed as well, with The property can be in camelCase or kebab-case. So to monitor the font family, use t.observerElement(el, 'style.fontFamily'). Values will have spaces removed before using them as class names.

Returns the element appended.

observerButton method

t.observerButton(name: string, command: string, attr: string, title: string);

Combines button and observerElement. Simplly returns t.observerElement(t.button (name, command, string), attr).

buttons method

t.buttons(buttons: array of arrays);

Convenience method to append a number of buttons. Calls t.button with each element of buttons as the argument array:

buttons.forEach(button => this.button(...button));

Returns an array of the button elements created.


The buttons have no content; they are meant to have content added with ::before pseudo-elements, like:

[role="toolbar"] button::before {
  content: attr(name);

labels each button with its name. Since the name is also used as the class, it is easy to customize:

[role="toolbar"] button.swap::before {
  content: 'Switcheroo';

or use emojis or FontAwesome as content.

Buttons that are clicked with the letter shortcut get the highlight class for 400 milliseconds, and toggle buttons should indicate that they are pressed. This works:

	[role="toolbar"] button.highlight, [role=toolbar] button[aria-pressed="true"] {
		background: linear-gradient(ThreeDHighlight, ThreeDHighlight, ButtonFace);
		border: 2px inset buttonface;
		border-radius: 4px;

The toolbar that is capturing the Menu key gets a class capturing-menu. This allows me to make a sort of tooltip to help with the letter shortcuts:

		counter-reset: buttoncounter;

/* complicated selector. I want the button::after element to be a letter (the content = counter(...upper-alpha)
   and that displayed overlying the button (position: absolute, width: 100%, left: 0) but very translucent (opacity: 20%).
   But I only want them displayed on the context-menu capturing toolbar, since that's where I would want to use a keyboard-only shortcut,
   and only when the button is focused but not from the mouse: that's :focus-within:not(:active) */
	[role="toolbar"].capturing-menu:focus-within:not(:active) button::after {
		content: counter(buttoncounter, upper-alpha);
		position: absolute;
		opacity: 20%;
		z-index: 1;
		top: -0.3em;
		left: 0;
		width: 100%;
		font-size: 200%;
		font-family: sans-serif;
		font-style: normal;
		color: black;
		font-weight: bold;

Other functions

Toolbar.for(element: Element) function

Returns the first toolbar that was defined for an element, or null if there is no such toolbar.

Toolbar.getAttribute (element: Element, attr: string)

Returns element.getAttribute(attr), however, interprets an attribute of the form as a CSS style (either camelCase or kebab-case are fine): Toolbar.getAttribute(element, 'style.color') returns window.getComputedStyle(element)['color'].

Toolbar.getAttribute (element: Element, attr: string, state: string)

Similarly, does element.setAttribute(attr, state) with special handling of

Toolbar.toggleAttribute function

Convenience function to change and attribute or style property between two values.

Toolbar.toggleAttribute (el: Element, attr: string, states: [state0: string, state1: string]);

If the value of the attribute el[attr] is state0 then it is changed to state1. Otherwise, change it to state0.

so Toolbar.toggleAttribute(el, 'style.display', ['block', 'none']) will alternately show and hide the element. Toolbar.toggleAttribute(el, 'spellcheck', ['true', 'false']) will toggle spellchecking.