Is there a way to make text unselectable on an HTML page? [duplicate]

I'm building an HTML UI with some text elements, such as tab names, which look bad when selected. Unfortunately, it's very easy for a user to double-click a tab name, which selects it by default in many browsers.

I might be able to solve this with a JavaScript trick (I'd like to see those answers, too) -- but I'm really hoping there's something in CSS/HTML directly that works across all browsers.

Answers:

Answer

In most browsers, this can be achieved using CSS:

*.unselectable {
   -moz-user-select: -moz-none;
   -khtml-user-select: none;
   -webkit-user-select: none;

   /*
     Introduced in IE 10.
     See http://ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/HTML5/msUserSelect/
   */
   -ms-user-select: none;
   user-select: none;
}

For IE < 10 and Opera, you will need to use the unselectable attribute of the element you wish to be unselectable. You can set this using an attribute in HTML:

<div id="foo" unselectable="on" class="unselectable">...</div>

Sadly this property isn't inherited, meaning you have to put an attribute in the start tag of every element inside the <div>. If this is a problem, you could instead use JavaScript to do this recursively for an element's descendants:

function makeUnselectable(node) {
    if (node.nodeType == 1) {
        node.setAttribute("unselectable", "on");
    }
    var child = node.firstChild;
    while (child) {
        makeUnselectable(child);
        child = child.nextSibling;
    }
}

makeUnselectable(document.getElementById("foo"));
Answer

All of the correct CSS variations are:

-webkit-touch-callout: none;
-webkit-user-select: none;
-khtml-user-select: none;
-moz-user-select: none;
-ms-user-select: none;
user-select: none;
Answer

For Firefox you can apply the CSS declaration "-moz-user-select" to "none". Check out their documentation, user-select.

It's a "preview" of the future "user-select" as they say, so maybe Opera or WebKit-based browsers will support that. I also recall finding something for Internet Explorer, but I don't remember what :).

Anyway, unless it's a specific situation where text-selecting makes some dynamic functionality fail, you shouldn't really override what users are expecting from a webpage, and that is being able to select any text they want.

Answer

I'm finding some level of success with the CSS described here http://www.quirksmode.org/css/selection.html:

::selection {
    background-color: transparent;
}

It took care of most of the issues I was having with some ThemeRoller ul elements in an AIR application (WebKit engine). Still getting a small (approx. 15 x 15) patch of nothingness that gets selected, but half the page was being selected before.

Answer

Absolutely position divs over the text area with a z-index higher and give these divs a transparent GIF background graphic.

Note after a bit more thought - You'd need to have these 'covers' be linked so clicking on them would take you to where the tab was supposed to, which means you could/should do this with the anchor element set to display:box, width and height set as well as the transparent background image.

Answer

For an example of why it might be desirable to suppress selection, see SIMILE TImeline, which uses drag-and-drop to explore the timeline, during which accidental vertical mouse movement causes the labels to be highlighted unexpectedly, which looks weird.

Answer

For Safari, -khtml-user-select: none, just like Mozilla's -moz-user-select (or, in JavaScript, target.style.KhtmlUserSelect="none";).

Answer

"If your content is really interesting, then there is little you can ultimately do to protect it"

That's true, but most copying, in my experience, has nothing to do with "ultimately" or geeks or determined plagiarists or anything like that. It's usually casual copying by clueless people, and even a simple, easily defeated protection (easily defeated by folks like us, that is) works quite well to stop them. They don't know anything about "view source" or caches or anything else... heck, they don't even know what a web browser is or that they're using one.

Answer

Here's a Sass mixin (scss) for those interested. Compass/CSS 3 doesn't seem to have a user-select mixin.

// @usage use within a rule
// ex. img {@include user-select(none);}
// @param assumed valid user-select value
@mixin user-select($value)
{
    & {
        -webkit-touch-callout: $value;
        -webkit-user-select: $value;
        -khtml-user-select: $value;
        -moz-user-select: $value;
        -ms-user-select: $value;
        user-select: $value;
    }
}

Though Compass would do it in a more robust way, i.e. only add support for vendors you've chosen.

Answer

If it looks bad you can use CSS to change the appearance of selected sections.

Answer

Any JavaScript or CSS method is easily circumvented with Firebug (like Flickr's case).

You can use the ::selection pseudo-element in CSS to alter the highlight color.

If the tabs are links and the dotted rectangle in active state is of concern, you can remove that too (consider usability of course).

Answer

There are many occasions when turning off selectability enhances the user experience.

For instance allowing the user to copy a block of text on the page without copying the text of any interface elements associated with it (that would become interspersed within the text being copied).

Answer

Images can be selected too.

There are limits to using JavaScript to deselect text, as it might happen even in places where you want to select. To ensure a rich and successful career, steer clear of all requirements that need ability to influence or manage the browser beyond the ordinary... unless, of course, they are paying you extremely well.

Answer

The following works in Firefox interestingly enough if I remove the write line it doesn't work. Anyone have any insight why the write line is needed.

<script type="text/javascript">
document.write(".");
document.body.style.MozUserSelect='none';
</script>
Answer
<script type="text/javascript">

/***********************************************
* Disable Text Selection script- © Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com)
* This notice MUST stay intact for legal use
* Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code

***********************************************/


function disableSelection(target){

    if (typeof target.onselectstart!="undefined") //IE route
        target.onselectstart=function(){return false}

    else if (typeof target.style.MozUserSelect!="undefined") //Firefox route
        target.style.MozUserSelect="none"

    else //All other route (ie: Opera)
        target.onmousedown=function(){return false}

    target.style.cursor = "default"
}



//Sample usages
//disableSelection(document.body) //Disable text selection on entire body
//disableSelection(document.getElementById("mydiv")) //Disable text selection on element with id="mydiv"


</script>

EDIT

Code apparently comes from http://www.dynamicdrive.com

Answer

Try this:

<div onselectstart="return false">some stuff</div>

Simple, but effective... works in current versions of all major browsers.

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