Category Archives: JavaScript

How to Make HTML5 Autofocus Work in IE

If you want to use HTML5’s autofocus attribute and make it work in all browsers, here’s an easy way to do it in one line of jQuery. This code will bail out and do nothing if the browser supports HTML5 autofocus.

$(function() {

How it Works

  1. [autofocus]: Find all attributes with the autofocus attribute…
  2. :not(:focus): …but not the ones that are already focused. This results in a list of length 0 in any HTML5-capable browser, so nothing more will happen.
  3. .eq(0): Get the first one since it doesn’t make sense to focus multiple elements.
  4. .focus(): Set focus to it.

JSConf 2011: See How Twitter Built a Single-Page Web App

I just submitted my proposal to speak at JSConf 2011 in Portland on May 2-3. Well actually I don’t plan to fill both entire days.

My title: “Exposing New Twitter’s Secrets (Without a TSA Full Body Scan).”

Want to build your own single-page web app? If my proposal is accepted, come attend my talk and we’ll reverse-engineer New Twitter to see how they did it. Maybe you will get some good insight and ideas.

How to Distinguish a User-Aborted AJAX Call from an Error

Let’s say you’re writing a LOLcats app and you want to be all user-friendly and show an adorable little kitty-cat error message whenever an AJAX call fails. So you write an error handler using your favorite cross-browser library (mine is jQuery), something like this:

  $.ajax( { url: "someUrl", success: function() {
    // do something impressive with the results
  }, error: function() {
    showError("Ohs noes. Tell me when you fix your AJAX.");
  } } );

But you start using your app and you notice that your error message also appears when you navigate away from the page before an AJAX call has finished, or when you hit Escape to cancel the AJAX call. That kind of sucks—it looks ugly to have the error message appear when there really was no error.

I did a little looking around and found what looks like a cross-browser-friendly way to tell if an error really occurred or if something else happened, like the user navigating away or hitting Escape.

The trick is to check the response headers in the XMLHttpRequest object. If there are no response headers (null or empty string, depending on the browser), the server did not respond yet. That means the user aborted.

Here’s a function that takes an XMLHttpRequest and tells you if the user aborted it.

   * Returns true if the user hit Esc or navigated away from the
   * current page before an AJAX call was done. (The response
   * headers will be null or empty, depending on the browser.)
   * NOTE: this function is only meaningful when called from
   * inside an AJAX "error" callback!
   * The 'xhr' param is an XMLHttpRequest instance.
  function userAborted(xhr) {
    return !xhr.getAllResponseHeaders();

And here is the updated application code to call this new function. You can easily adapt this to another JavaScript library than jQuery:

  $.ajax( { url: "someUrl", success: function() {
    // do something impressive with the results
  }, error: function(xhr, textStatus, errorThrown) {
    if (!userAborted(xhr)) {
      showError("Ohs noes. Tell me when you fix your AJAX.");
  } } );

Oh, did that “textStatus” and “errorThrown” catch your eye? I already looked at those. You can’t use them to tell if the user aborted. They return the same values whether the user aborted or the server returned with an error. (I only tested a 500 error.)