6.7 Drag and drop

This section defines an event-based drag-and-drop mechanism.

This specification does not define exactly what a drag-and-drop operation actually is.

On a visual medium with a pointing device, a drag operation could be the default action of a mousedown event that is followed by a series of mousemove events, and the drop could be triggered by the mouse being released.

When using an input modality other than a pointing device, users would probably have to explicitly indicate their intention to perform a drag-and-drop operation, stating what they wish to drag and where they wish to drop it, respectively.

6.7.1 Introduction

To make an element draggable is simple: give the element a draggable attribute, and set an event listener for dragstart that stores the data being dragged.

The event handler typically needs to check that it's not a text selection that is being dragged, and then needs to store data into the DataTransfer object and set the allowed effects (copy, move, link, or some combination).

For example:

<p>What fruits do you like?</p>
<ol ondragstart="dragStartHandler(event)">
 <li draggable="true" data-value="fruit-apple">Apples</li>
 <li draggable="true" data-value="fruit-orange">Oranges</li>
 <li draggable="true" data-value="fruit-pear">Pears</li>
</ol>
<script>
  var internalDNDType = 'text/x-example'; // set this to something specific to your site
  function dragStartHandler(event) {
    if (event.target instanceof HTMLLIElement) {
      // use the element's data-value="" attribute as the value to be moving:
      event.dataTransfer.setData(internalDNDType, event.target.dataset.value);
      event.dataTransfer.effectAllowed = 'move'; // only allow moves
    } else {
      event.preventDefault(); // don't allow selection to be dragged
    }
  }
</script>

To accept a drop, the drop target has to have a dropzone attribute and listen to the drop event.

The value of the dropzone attribute specifies what kind of data to accept (e.g. "string:text/plain" to accept any text strings, or "file:image/png" to accept a PNG image file) and what kind of feedback to give (e.g. "move" to indicate that the data will be moved).

Instead of using the dropzone attribute, a drop target can handle the dragenter event (to report whether or not the drop target is to accept the drop) and the dragover event (to specify what feedback is to be shown to the user).

The drop event allows the actual drop to be performed. This event needs to be canceled, so that the dropEffect attribute's value can be used by the source (otherwise it's reset).

For example:

<p>Drop your favorite fruits below:</p>
<ol dropzone="move string:text/x-example" ondrop="dropHandler(event)">
 <!-- don't forget to change the "text/x-example" type to something
 specific to your site -->
</ol>
<script>
  var internalDNDType = 'text/x-example'; // set this to something specific to your site
  function dropHandler(event) {
    var li = document.createElement('li');
    var data = event.dataTransfer.getData(internalDNDType);
    if (data == 'fruit-apple') {
      li.textContent = 'Apples';
    } else if (data == 'fruit-orange') {
      li.textContent = 'Oranges';
    } else if (data == 'fruit-pear') {
      li.textContent = 'Pears';
    } else {
      li.textContent = 'Unknown Fruit';
    }
    event.target.appendChild(li);
  }
</script>

To remove the original element (the one that was dragged) from the display, the dragend event can be used.

For our example here, that means updating the original markup to handle that event:

<p>What fruits do you like?</p>
<ol ondragstart="dragStartHandler(event)" ondragend="dragEndHandler(event)">
 ...as before...
</ol>
<script>
  function dragStartHandler(event) {
    // ...as before...
  }
  function dragEndHandler(event) {
    if (event.dataTransfer.dropEffect == 'move') {
      // remove the dragged element
      event.target.parentNode.removeChild(event.target);
    }
  }
</script>

6.7.2 The drag data store

The data that underlies a drag-and-drop operation, known as the drag data store, consists of the following information:

When a drag data store is created, it must be initialised such that its drag data store item list is empty, it has no drag data store default feedback, it has no drag data store bitmap and drag data store hot spot coordinate, its drag data store mode is protected mode, and its drag data store allowed effects state is the string "uninitialized".

6.7.3 The DataTransfer interface

DataTransfer objects are used to expose the drag data store that underlies a drag-and-drop operation.

interface DataTransfer {
           attribute DOMString dropEffect;
           attribute DOMString effectAllowed;

  readonly attribute DataTransferItemList items;

  void setDragImage(Element image, long x, long y);

  /* old interface */
  readonly attribute DOMString[] types;
  DOMString getData(DOMString format);
  void setData(DOMString format, DOMString data);
  void clearData(optional DOMString format);
  readonly attribute FileList files;
};
dataTransfer . dropEffect [ = value ]

Returns the kind of operation that is currently selected. If the kind of operation isn't one of those that is allowed by the effectAllowed attribute, then the operation will fail.

Can be set, to change the selected operation.

The possible values are "none", "copy", "link", and "move".

dataTransfer . effectAllowed [ = value ]

Returns the kinds of operations that are to be allowed.

Can be set (during the dragstart event), to change the allowed operations.

The possible values are "none", "copy", "copyLink", "copyMove", "link", "linkMove", "move", "all", and "uninitialized",

dataTransfer . items

Returns a DataTransferItemList object, with the drag data.

dataTransfer . setDragImage(element, x, y)

Uses the given element to update the drag feedback, replacing any previously specified feedback.

dataTransfer . types

Returns an array listing the formats that were set in the dragstart event. In addition, if any files are being dragged, then one of the types will be the string "Files".

data = dataTransfer . getData(format)

Returns the specified data. If there is no such data, returns the empty string.

dataTransfer . setData(format, data)

Adds the specified data.

dataTransfer . clearData( [ format ] )

Removes the data of the specified formats. Removes all data if the argument is omitted.

dataTransfer . files

Returns a FileList of the files being dragged, if any.

DataTransfer objects are used during the drag-and-drop events, and are only valid while those events are being fired.

6.7.3.1 The DataTransferItemList interface

Each DataTransfer object is associated with a DataTransferItemList object.

interface DataTransferItemList {
  readonly attribute unsigned long length;
  getter DataTransferItem (unsigned long index);
  DataTransferItem? add(DOMString data, DOMString type);
  DataTransferItem? add(File data);
  void remove(unsigned long index);
  void clear();
};
items . length

Returns the number of items in the drag data store.

items[index]

Returns the DataTransferItem object representing the indexth entry in the drag data store.

items . remove(index)

Removes the indexth entry in the drag data store.

items . clear()

Removes all the entries in the drag data store.

items . add(data)
items . add(data, type)

Adds a new entry for the given data to the drag data store. If the data is plain text then a type string has to be provided also.

6.7.3.2 The DataTransferItem interface

Each DataTransferItem object is associated with a DataTransfer object.

interface DataTransferItem {
  readonly attribute DOMString kind;
  readonly attribute DOMString type;
  void getAsString(FunctionStringCallback? _callback);
  File? getAsFile();
};

callback FunctionStringCallback = void (DOMString data);
item . kind

Returns the drag data item kind, one of: "string", "file".

item . type

Returns the drag data item type string.

item . getAsString(callback)

Invokes the callback with the string data as the argument, if the drag data item kind is Plain Unicode string.

file = item . getAsFile()

Returns a File object, if the drag data item kind is File.

6.7.4 The DragEvent interface

The drag-and-drop processing model involves several events. They all use the DragEvent interface.

[Constructor(DOMString type, optional DragEventInit eventInitDict)]
interface DragEvent : MouseEvent {
  readonly attribute DataTransfer? dataTransfer;
};

dictionary DragEventInit : MouseEventInit {
  DataTransfer? dataTransfer;
};
event . dataTransfer

Returns the DataTransfer object for the event.

Although, for consistency with other event interfaces, the DragEvent interface has a constructor, it is not particularly useful. In particular, there's no way to create a useful DataTransfer object from script, as DataTransfer objects have a processing and security model that is coordinated by the browser during drag-and-drops.

6.7.5 Events summary

The following events are involved in the drag-and-drop model.

Event Name Target Cancelable? Drag data store mode dropEffect Default Action
dragstart Source node &check; Cancelable Read/write mode "none" Initiate the drag-and-drop operation
drag Source node &check; Cancelable Protected mode "none" Continue the drag-and-drop operation
dragenter Immediate user selection or the body element &check; Cancelable Protected mode Based on effectAllowed value Reject immediate user selection as potential target element
dragexit Previous target element Protected mode "none" None
dragleave Previous target element Protected mode "none" None
dragover Current target element &check; Cancelable Protected mode Based on effectAllowed value Reset the current drag operation to "none"
drop Current target element &check; Cancelable Read-only mode Current drag operation Varies
dragend Source node Protected mode Current drag operation Varies

Not shown in the above table: all these events bubble, and the effectAllowed attribute always has the value it had after the dragstart event, defaulting to "uninitialized" in the dragstart event.

6.7.6 The draggable attribute

All HTML elements may have the draggable content attribute set. The draggable attribute is an enumerated attribute. It has three states. The first state is true and it has the keyword true. The second state is false and it has the keyword false. The third state is auto; it has no keywords but it is the missing value default.

The true state means the element is draggable; the false state means that it is not. The auto state uses the default behavior of the user agent.

An element with a draggable attribute should also have a title attribute that names the element for the purpose of non-visual interactions.

element . draggable [ = value ]

Returns true if the element is draggable; otherwise, returns false.

Can be set, to override the default and set the draggable content attribute.

6.7.7 The dropzone attribute

All HTML elements may have the dropzone content attribute set. When specified, its value must be an unordered set of unique space-separated tokens that are ASCII case-insensitive. The allowed values are the following:

copy

Indicates that dropping an accepted item on the element will result in a copy of the dragged data.

move

Indicates that dropping an accepted item on the element will result in the dragged data being moved to the new location.

link

Indicates that dropping an accepted item on the element will result in a link to the original data.

Any keyword with eight characters or more, beginning with the an ASCII case-insensitive match for the string "string:"

Indicates that items with the drag data item kind Plain Unicode string and the drag data item type string set to a value that matches the remainder of the keyword are accepted.

Any keyword with six characters or more, beginning with an ASCII case-insensitive match for the string "file:"

Indicates that items with the drag data item kind File and the drag data item type string set to a value that matches the remainder of the keyword are accepted.

The dropzone content attribute's values must not have more than one of the three feedback values (copy, move, and link) specified. If none are specified, the copy value is implied.

An element with a dropzone attribute should also have a title attribute that names the element for the purpose of non-visual interactions.

In this example, a div element is made into a drop target for image files using the dropzone attribute. Images dropped into the target are then displayed.

<div dropzone="copy file:image/png file:image/gif file:image/jpeg" ondrop="receive(event, this)">
 <p>Drop an image here to have it displayed.</p>
</div>
<script>
 function receive(event, element) {
   var data = event.dataTransfer.items;
   for (var i = 0; i < data.length; i += 1) {
     if ((data[i].kind == 'file') && (data[i].type.match('^image/'))) {
       var img = new Image();
       img.src = window.createObjectURL(data[i].getAsFile());
       element.appendChild(img);
     }
   }
 }
</script>