Creating dynamic context menu in Chrome Extension is failing

I am trying to create entries on the Chrome context menu based on what is selected. I found several questions about this on Stackoverflow, and for all of them the answer is: use a content script with a "mousedown" listener that looks at the current selection and creates the Context Menu.

I implemented this, but it does not always work. Sometimes all the log messages say that the context menu was modified as I wanted, but the context menu that appears is not updated.

Based on this I suspected it was a race condition: sometimes chrome starts rendering the context menu before the code ran completely.

I tried adding a eventListener to "contextmenu" and "mouseup". The later triggers when the user selects the text with the mouse, so it changes the contextmenu much before it appears (even seconds). Even with this technique, I still see the same error happening!

This happens very often in Chrome 22.0.1229.94 (Mac), occasionally in Chromium 20.0.1132.47 (linux) and it did not happen in 2 minutes trying on Windows (Chrome 22.0.1229.94).

What is happening exactly? How can I fix that? Is there any other workaround?

Here is a simplified version of my code (not so simple because I am keeping the log messages):


  "name": "Test",
  "version": "0.1",
  "permissions": ["contextMenus"],
  "content_scripts": [{
    "matches": ["http://*/*", "https://*/*"],
    "js": ["content_script.js"]
  "background": {
    "scripts": ["background.js"]
  "manifest_version": 2


function loadContextMenu() {
  var selection = window.getSelection().toString().trim();
  chrome.extension.sendMessage({request: 'loadContextMenu', selection: selection}, function (response) {
    console.log('sendMessage callback');

document.addEventListener('mousedown', function(event){
  if (event.button == 2) {
}, true);


function SelectionType(str) {
  if (str.match("^[0-9]+$"))
    return "number";
  else if (str.match("^[a-z]+$"))
    return "lowercase string";
    return "other";

chrome.extension.onMessage.addListener(function(msg, sender, sendResponse) {
  console.log("msg.request = " + msg.request);
  if (msg.request == "loadContextMenu") {
    var type = SelectionType(msg.selection);
    console.log("selection = " + msg.selection + ", type = " + type);
    if (type == "number" || type == "lowercase string") {
      console.log("Creating context menu with title = " + type);
      chrome.contextMenus.removeAll(function() {
        console.log("contextMenus.removeAll callback");
            {"title": type,
             "contexts": ["selection"],
             "onclick": function(info, tab) {alert(1);}},
            function() {
                console.log("ContextMenu.create callback! Error? " + chrome.extension.lastError);});
    } else {
      console.log("Removing context menu")
      chrome.contextMenus.removeAll(function() {
          console.log("contextMenus.removeAll callback");
    console.log("handling message 'loadContextMenu' done.");



The contextMenus API is used to define context menu entries. It does not need to be called right before a context menu is opened. So, instead of creating the entries on the contextmenu event, use the selectionchange event to continuously update the contextmenu entry.

I will show a simple example which just displays the selected text in the context menu entry, to show that the entries are synchronized well.

Use this content script:

document.addEventListener('selectionchange', function() {
    var selection = window.getSelection().toString().trim();
        request: 'updateContextMenu',
        selection: selection

At the background, we're going to create the contextmenu entry only once. After that, we update the contextmenu item (using the ID which we get from chrome.contextMenus.create).
When the selection is empty, we remove the context menu entry if needed.

// ID to manage the context menu entry
var cmid;
var cm_clickHandler = function(clickData, tab) {
    alert('Selected ' + clickData.selectionText + ' in ' + tab.url);

chrome.runtime.onMessage.addListener(function(msg, sender, sendResponse) {
    if (msg.request === 'updateContextMenu') {
        var type = msg.selection;
        if (type == '') {
            // Remove the context menu entry
            if (cmid != null) {
                cmid = null; // Invalidate entry now to avoid race conditions
            } // else: No contextmenu ID, so nothing to remove
        } else { // Add/update context menu entry
            var options = {
                title: type,
                contexts: ['selection'],
                onclick: cm_clickHandler
            if (cmid != null) {
                chrome.contextMenus.update(cmid, options);
            } else {
                // Create new menu, and remember the ID
                cmid = chrome.contextMenus.create(options);

To keep this example simple, I assumed that there's only one context menu entry. If you want to support more entries, create an array or hash to store the IDs.


  • Optimization - To reduce the number of chrome.contextMenus API calls, cache the relevant values of the parameters. Then, use a simple === comparison to check whether the contextMenu item need to be created/updated.
  • Debugging - All chrome.contextMenus methods are asynchronous. To debug your code, pass a callback function to the .create, .remove or .update methods.


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