Understanding what goes on with textarea selection with JavaScript

I am working on an in-browser editor within a textarea. I have started looking for some information on dealing with textarea selection and found this jQuery plugin, fieldSelection that does some simple manipulation.

However, it doesn't explain what's going on.

I want to understand more on textarea selection in JavaScript, preferably with a description of both pre-DOM3 and post-DOM30 scenarios.

Answers:

Answer

Start with PPK's introduction to ranges. Mozilla developer connection has info on W3C selections. Microsoft have their system documented on MSDN. Some more tricks can be found in the answers here.

In addition to incompatible interfaces you'll be happy to know that there is extra bizarreness going on with textarea nodes. If I remember correctly they behave as any other nodes when you select them in IE, but in other browsers they have an independent selection range which is exposed via the .selectionEnd and .selectionStart properties on the node.

Additionally, you should really take a look at .contentEditable as a means to edit things live. From the release of Firefox3, this is now supported by all browsers.

Answer

I've just adopted the solution presented by user357565, and recoded for jQuery direct use:

(function ($) {
  $.fn.get_selection = function () {
    var e = this.get(0);
    //Mozilla and DOM 3.0
    if('selectionStart' in e) {
      var l = e.selectionEnd - e.selectionStart;
      return { start: e.selectionStart, end: e.selectionEnd, length: l, text: e.value.substr(e.selectionStart, l) };
    }
    else if(document.selection) {    //IE
      e.focus();
      var r = document.selection.createRange();
      var tr = e.createTextRange();
      var tr2 = tr.duplicate();
      tr2.moveToBookmark(r.getBookmark());
      tr.setEndPoint('EndToStart',tr2);
      if (r == null || tr == null) return { start: e.value.length, end: e.value.length, length: 0, text: '' };
      var text_part = r.text.replace(/[\r\n]/g,'.'); //for some reason IE doesn't always count the \n and \r in length
      var text_whole = e.value.replace(/[\r\n]/g,'.');
      var the_start = text_whole.indexOf(text_part,tr.text.length);
      return { start: the_start, end: the_start + text_part.length, length: text_part.length, text: r.text };
    }
    //Browser not supported
    else return { start: e.value.length, end: e.value.length, length: 0, text: '' };
  };

  $.fn.set_selection = function (start_pos,end_pos) {
    var e = this.get(0);
    //Mozilla and DOM 3.0
    if('selectionStart' in e) {
      e.focus();
      e.selectionStart = start_pos;
      e.selectionEnd = end_pos;
    }
    else if (document.selection) { //IE
      e.focus();
      var tr = e.createTextRange();

      //Fix IE from counting the newline characters as two seperate characters
      var stop_it = start_pos;
      for (i=0; i < stop_it; i++) if( e.value[i].search(/[\r\n]/) != -1 ) start_pos = start_pos - .5;
      stop_it = end_pos;
      for (i=0; i < stop_it; i++) if( e.value[i].search(/[\r\n]/) != -1 ) end_pos = end_pos - .5;

      tr.moveEnd('textedit',-1);
      tr.moveStart('character',start_pos);
      tr.moveEnd('character',end_pos - start_pos);
      tr.select();
    }
    return this.get_selection();
  };

  $.fn.replace_selection = function (replace_str) {
    var e = this.get(0);
    selection = this.get_selection();
    var start_pos = selection.start;
    var end_pos = start_pos + replace_str.length;
    e.value = e.value.substr(0, start_pos) + replace_str + e.value.substr(selection.end, e.value.length);
    this.set_selection(start_pos,end_pos);
    return {start: start_pos, end: end_pos, length: replace_str.length, text: replace_str};
  };

  $.fn.wrap_selection = function (left_str, right_str, sel_offset, sel_length) {
    var the_sel_text = this.get_selection().text;
    var selection =  this.replace_selection(left_str + the_sel_text + right_str );
    if(sel_offset !== undefined && sel_length !== undefined) 
      selection = this.set_selection(selection.start +  sel_offset, selection.start +  sel_offset + sel_length);
    else if(the_sel_text == '') 
      selection = this.set_selection(selection.start + left_str.length, selection.start + left_str.length);
    return selection;
  };
}(jQuery));

I hope someone finds it useful!

Answer

the only thing i can add is that it seem (didn't acually try it) that this should scroll all the way up whenever you manpulate the content. an eay remedy is to wrap the line that does

e.value =

with two lines to copy and restore scrollTop, like so:

var rememberScrollTop = e.scrollTop;
e.value = .... (same as in user357565 snippet)
e.scrollTop = rememberScrollTop;
Answer
function get_selection(the_id)
{
    var e = document.getElementById(the_id);

    //Mozilla and DOM 3.0
    if('selectionStart' in e)
    {
        var l = e.selectionEnd - e.selectionStart;
        return { start: e.selectionStart, end: e.selectionEnd, length: l, text: e.value.substr(e.selectionStart, l) };
    }
    //IE
    else if(document.selection)
    {
        e.focus();
        var r = document.selection.createRange();
        var tr = e.createTextRange();
        var tr2 = tr.duplicate();
        tr2.moveToBookmark(r.getBookmark());
        tr.setEndPoint('EndToStart',tr2);
        if (r == null || tr == null) return { start: e.value.length, end: e.value.length, length: 0, text: '' };
        var text_part = r.text.replace(/[\r\n]/g,'.'); //for some reason IE doesn't always count the \n and \r in the length
        var text_whole = e.value.replace(/[\r\n]/g,'.');
        var the_start = text_whole.indexOf(text_part,tr.text.length);
        return { start: the_start, end: the_start + text_part.length, length: text_part.length, text: r.text };
    }
    //Browser not supported
    else return { start: e.value.length, end: e.value.length, length: 0, text: '' };
}

function replace_selection(the_id,replace_str)
{
    var e = document.getElementById(the_id);
    selection = get_selection(the_id);
    var start_pos = selection.start;
    var end_pos = start_pos + replace_str.length;
    e.value = e.value.substr(0, start_pos) + replace_str + e.value.substr(selection.end, e.value.length);
    set_selection(the_id,start_pos,end_pos);
    return {start: start_pos, end: end_pos, length: replace_str.length, text: replace_str};
}

function set_selection(the_id,start_pos,end_pos)
{
    var e = document.getElementById(the_id);

    //Mozilla and DOM 3.0
    if('selectionStart' in e)
    {
        e.focus();
        e.selectionStart = start_pos;
        e.selectionEnd = end_pos;
    }
    //IE
    else if(document.selection)
    {
        e.focus();
        var tr = e.createTextRange();

        //Fix IE from counting the newline characters as two seperate characters
        var stop_it = start_pos;
        for (i=0; i < stop_it; i++) if( e.value[i].search(/[\r\n]/) != -1 ) start_pos = start_pos - .5;
        stop_it = end_pos;
        for (i=0; i < stop_it; i++) if( e.value[i].search(/[\r\n]/) != -1 ) end_pos = end_pos - .5;

        tr.moveEnd('textedit',-1);
        tr.moveStart('character',start_pos);
        tr.moveEnd('character',end_pos - start_pos);
        tr.select();
    }
    return get_selection(the_id);
}

function wrap_selection(the_id, left_str, right_str, sel_offset, sel_length)
{
    var the_sel_text = get_selection(the_id).text;
    var selection =  replace_selection(the_id, left_str + the_sel_text + right_str );
    if(sel_offset !== undefined && sel_length !== undefined) selection = set_selection(the_id, selection.start +  sel_offset, selection.start +  sel_offset + sel_length);
    else if(the_sel_text == '') selection = set_selection(the_id, selection.start + left_str.length, selection.start + left_str.length);
    return selection;
}

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