Coding with Jesse

Detecting focus of a browser window

If you have some constantly running Ajax or JavaScript updates on a page, it might be nice to pause these when the browser is minimized or in the background, or when the user switches to another tab. After all, there's no sense in using the user's CPU and network if they aren't even watching what you're doing.

To achieve this, we can use the window.onfocus and window.onblur events like this:

function onBlur() {
	document.body.className = 'blurred';
function onFocus(){
	document.body.className = 'focused';

if (/*@cc_on!@*/false) { // check for Internet Explorer
	document.onfocusin = onFocus;
	document.onfocusout = onBlur;
} else {
	window.onfocus = onFocus;
	window.onblur = onBlur;

These events work in every major browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer 6/7, Safari & Opera).

Unfortunately, there's no way to tell with JavaScript if the browser is visible to the user. For example, they might be chatting on IM in a small window in front of the browser. You'll also find that the page is 'blurred' when you click into the location bar of the browser (except in Safari). You might want to display a message like "PAUSED" (think Super Mario Brothers) so people know why everything has stopped moving.

I've set up a demo page where you can try this out.

[Update October 14, 2008 - Seems the blur event handler would fire in Internet Explorer when the focus went from the body to an input or link. I've changed them to use document.onfocusin and document.onfocusout instead, which seems to work better. Now, putting focus from the body into an input causes them both to be fired, but one right after the other (onfocusout, onfocusin) resulting in a final "focused" state.]

Published on May 16th, 2007. © Jesse Skinner

About the author

Jesse Skinner

Hi, I'm Jesse Skinner. I'm a web development coach & consultant. I teach web development teams how to scale up their server infrastructure, improve automated testing and monitoring, reduce costs, and modernize their legacy systems. I focus on empowering teams through customized training and coaching.

Feel free to email me. I'm eager to hear about your challenges and see how I can make your life easier.