5 HTML Features You Might Not Know About

For a language so simple and easy to learn, HTML surely offers an unexpected amount of useful features, many of which most of us don’t even know about. It’s hard to keep up with times and you may think that all “you might not know” articles must be about the most recent tags, HTML also has some quite helpful features that are already around for a while.

From checking spelling to adding keyboard shortcuts, in this article, I’ll show you five less-widely known HTML features.

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1. Check spelling as you type

The spellcheck attribute prompts browsers to check spellings while a user is typing an element. This attribute is global, meaning, you can add it to any HTML tag.

However, it only works on elements that can take text input. Having it global is useful because it can be inherited by child elements. For instance, add it to a <div> tag and all of its child elements that take text input will inherit this attribute.

Spell checking works on all text <input> types: text, search, url, and email. It also works on <textarea>, and editable elements (elements with contenteditable attribute).

Its value can be an empty string, true, or false. The empty string and true will enable the spell checker.

<input type="text" spellcheck="true"
placeholder="Type something here">
<p contenteditable="true" spellcheck="true">
  Type something here
</p>

In the above code, both the <div> and <p> tags will check spellings when a user is typing into them.

If the user has disabled spell checking in the browser settings the spelling won’t be checked, even if spellcheck was added.

2. Be safe from compromised CDN resources

It is pretty common to host resources, such as scripts and stylesheet files, through CDNs. But, if the CDN gets compromised, so do those hosted files, and if any fetched resource is compromised on your website, so does your site!

See what Mozilla Developer Network says about the problem:

… using CDNs also comes with a risk, in that if an attacker gains control of a CDN, the attacker can inject arbitrary malicious content into files on the CDN (or replace the files completely) and thus can also potentially attack all sites that fetch files from that CDN.

To prevent this, Subresource Integrity (SRI) was introduced in early 2014 by W3C. This scheme compares the hash value (the result of applying a hash function to an input) of a resource to validate it.

Say, there’s a JavaScript file at https://example.com/example.js. First, you apply a hash function to that file, then add the produced hash value to the integrity attribute of the <script> tag that imports example.js to your website.

<script src="https://example.com/example.js"
integrity="sha384-Li9vy3DqF8tnTXuiaAJuML3ky+er10rcgNR/VqsVpcw+ThHmYcwiB1pbOxEbzJr7"
crossorigin="anonymous"></script>

Now, whenever a web page of your site with the above code has to load example.js, the browser first applies the hash function, and loads and runs example.js only when its hash value matches the integrity value.

If example.com was compromised and example.js was interfered with then the hash value of example.js won’t match the integrity value.

Most common CDNs already provide SRI integrity values, but you can also generate one here.

3. Override form targets in submit buttons

You’re most likely familiar with the target attribute, the one that decides where a hyperlinked resource opens, for instance on the same page or in a new tab. You might also know that the same target attribute used in the <form> tag decides where the response from the form submission is shown.

In one of the early drafts of HTML5, formtarget was defined along with four other form submission attributes: formaction, formenctype, formmethod, and formnovalidate.

These attributes can be used with submit buttons, and they override their respective attributes in the <form> tag to which the buttons belong to.

So, when a form is submitted using a button that has a formtarget attribute, the response is shown according to the formtarget value, instead of the target value of <form>.

<form action="/save" target="_self" >
  <input type="submit" name="save"  />
  <input type="submit" name="print" formaction="/print"
  formtarget="_blank" />
</form>

In the above code, when the form is submitted using the second submit button (print ), the response will appear in a new browsing context, like in a new tab.

4. Hide elements semantically

When it comes to hiding elements, we all went through different phases of hiding elements: using opacity:0, visibility:hidden, height:0; width:0, display:none, text-indent:-999px in our CSS file.

Each method has its purpose, none of them are redundant, and so isn’t this one: the hidden HTML attribute. If an element has hidden specified on it, it’ll be hidden.

<div hidden>...</div>

It works the same way as the display:none; CSS rule; the element with the hidden attribute doesn’t get rendered on the page. Any script inside the element will be executed, and if it’s a form control it’ll be submitted along with other form controls during form submission.

However, the benefit of hidden is that it’s semantically appropriate, after all, HTML5 is all about semantics and hidden is part of the HTML5 entourage!

Moreover, when an element is hidden, it’s to be hidden in all platforms, not just in web browsers but in screenreaders, TV, projectors, etc.

It’s also not style-dependent, even if you strip away the author CSS from a page, the element will remain hidden. Whereas in the case of display:none; that won’t happen. So, think of hidden as the ironclad version of display:none;.

5. Add keyboard shortcuts

The accesskey global attribute was already defined in HTML4 and it creates a keyboard shortcut with which the user can operate an element on the page.

The key combination for a shortcut will depend on two things:

  1. the accesskey value that we give to an element
  2. the pre-assigned keys used by a browser for the same element
Accesskey table
IMAGE: Mozilla Developer Network

Take this example:

<button accesskey="v" onclick="alert('View Click')">
  View
</button>

In Firefox, if you press the key combination Alt + Shift + V (or Alt + Control + V in macOS) you’ll get the alert “View Clicked”.

Since the predefined browser keys varies with each browser and OS, it is recommended you let the users know of the key combinations used for the shortcuts.

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