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HTML Drag and Drop interfaces enable applications to use drag and drop features in Firefox and other browsers. For example, with these features, the user can select draggable elements with a mouse, drag the elements to a droppable element, and drop those elements by releasing the mouse button. A translucent representation of the draggable elements follows the mouse pointer during the drag operation.

For web sites, extensions, and XUL applications, you can customize the types of elements can become draggable elements, and the type of feedback the draggable elements produce, and the droppable elements.

This document is an overview of HTML drag and drop. It includes a description of the interfaces, the basic steps to add drag and drop support to an application and a summary of the interoperability of the interfaces.

Drag Events

HTML drag and drop uses the DOM event model and drag events inherit from mouse events. A typical drag operation begins when a user selects a draggable element with a mouse, moves the mouse to a droppable element and then releases the mouse. During the operations, several event types are fired and some event types might be fired many times (for example the drag and dragover event types).

All of the drag event types have an associated global event handler. Each drag event type and drag global attribute has a reference document that describes the event. The following table provides a short description of the event types and a link to the reference documents.

Event On Event Handler Description
drag ondrag Fired when an element or text selection is being dragged.
dragend ondragend Fired when a drag operation is being ended (for example, by releasing a mouse button or hitting the escape key). (See Finishing a Drag.)
dragenter ondragenter Fired when a dragged element or text selection enters a valid drop target. (See Specifying Drop Targets.)
dragexit ondragexit Fired when an element is no longer the drag operation's immediate selection target.
dragleave ondragleave Fired when a dragged element or text selection leaves a valid drop target.
dragover ondragover Fired when an element or text selection is being dragged over a valid drop target (every few hundred milliseconds).
dragstart ondragstart Fired when the user starts dragging an element or text selection. (See Starting a Drag Operation.)
drop ondrop Fired when an element or text selection is dropped on a valid drop target. (See Performing a Drop.)

Note that dragstart and dragend events are not fired when dragging a file into the browser from the OS.

Interfaces

The HTML drag and drop interfaces are DragEvent, DataTransfer, DataTransferItem and DataTransferItemList.

The DragEvent interface has a constructor and one property, the dataTransfer property which is a DataTransfer object. DataTransfer objects include the drag event's state such as the type of drag being done (for example copy or move), the drag's data (one or more items) and the type of each drag item (a MIME type). DataTransfer objects also have methods to add items to the drag's data and to remove a drag item. The DragEvent and DataTransfer interfaces should be the only ones needed to add HTML drag and drop capabilities to an application. However, note Firefox supports some Gecko-specific extensions to the DataTransfer object that may be used, although those extensions will only work on Firefox.

Each DataTransfer object contains an items property which is a list of DataTransferItem objects. Each DataTransferItem object represents a single drag item and each item has a kind property which is the kind of data (either string or file) and a type property which is the data item's type (i.e. MIME type). The DataTransferItem object also has methods to get the drag item's data.

The DataTransferItemList object is a list of DataTransferItem objects. The list object has methods to: add a drag item to the list, remove a drag item from the list and clear the list of all drag items.

A key difference between the DataTransfer and DataTransferItem interfaces is that the former uses the synchronous getData() method to access a drag item's data, whereas the later uses the asynchronous getAsString() method to access a drag item's data.

Note: the DragEvent and DataTransfer interfaces are broadly interoperable with desktop browsers. However, the DataTransferItem and DataTransferItemList interfaces have limited browser support. See Interoperability for more information about drag and drop interoperability.

Gecko-specific interfaces

Mozilla and Firefox support some features not in the standard drag and drop model. These are convenience functions to facilitate dragging multiple items and dragging non-string data (such as files). For more information, see Dragging and Dropping Multiple Items. Additionally, see the DataTransfer reference page for all of the Gecko-specific properties and Gecko-specific methods.

The basics

This section provides a summary of the basic steps to add drag and drop functionality to an application. Each section includes a description of the step, a short code example, and links to additional information.

Identify what is draggable

To make an element draggable requires adding the draggable attribute plus the ondragstart global event handler, as shown in the following code sample

function dragstart_handler(ev) {
 console.log("dragStart");
 // Add the target element's id to the data transfer object
 ev.dataTransfer.setData("text/plain", ev.target.id);
}

<body>
 <p id="p1" draggable="true" ondragstart="dragstart_handler(event);">This element is draggable.</p>
</body>

See the draggable attribute reference and the Drag operations guide for more information.

Define the drag's data

The application is free to include any number of data items in a drag operation. Each data item is a string of a particular type, typically a MIME type such as text/html.

Each drag event has a dataTransfer property that holds the event's data. This property (which is a DataTransfer object) also has methods to manage drag data. The setData() method is used to add an item to the drag data, as shown in the following example.

function dragstart_handler(ev) {
  // Add the drag data
  ev.dataTransfer.setData("text/plain", ev.target.id);
  ev.dataTransfer.setData("text/html", "<p>Example paragraph</p>");
  ev.dataTransfer.setData("text/uri-list", "http://developer.mozilla.org");
}

For a list of common data types used for drag and drop (such as text, HTML, links, and files), see Recommended Drag Types and for more information about drag data, see Drag Data.

Define the drag image

By default, the browser supplies an image that appears beside the mouse pointer during a drag operation. However, an application may define a custom image by using the setDragImage() method as shown in the following example.

function dragstart_handler(ev) {
  // Create an image and then use it for the drag image.
  // NOTE: change "example.gif" to an existing image or the image 
  // will not be created and the default drag image will be used.
  var img = new Image(); 
  img.src = 'example.gif'; 
  ev.dataTransfer.setDragImage(img, 10, 10);
}

To learn more about drag feedback images, see Setting the Drag Feedback Image.

Define the drag effect

The dropEffect property is used to control the feedback (typically visual) the user is given during a drag and drop operation. It affects which cursor the browser displays while dragging. For example, when the user hovers over a target drop element, the browser's cursor may indicate the type of operation that will occur.

Three effects may be defined: 

copy indicates that the data being dragged will be copied from its present location to the drop location. 

move indicates that the data being dragged will be moved

link indicates that some form of relationship or connection will be created between the source and drop locations. 

During the drag operation, the drag effects may be modified to indicate that certain effects are allowed at certain locations. If allowed, a drop may occur at that location.

The following example shows how to use this property.

function dragstart_handler(ev) {
  // Set the drag effect to copy
  ev.dataTransfer.dropEffect = "copy";
}

See Drag Effects for more details.

Define a drop zone

By default, the browser prevents anything from happening when dropping something onto the HTML element. To change that behavior so that an element becomes a drop zone or is droppable, the element must have either an ondropover or ondrop global event handler attribute. The following example shows how to use those attributes and includes basic event handlers for each attribute.

function dragover_handler(ev) {
 ev.preventDefault();
 // Set the dropEffect to move
 ev.dataTransfer.dropEffect = "move"
}
function drop_handler(ev) {
 ev.preventDefault();
 // Get the id of the target and add the moved element to the target's DOM
 var data = ev.dataTransfer.getData("text");
 ev.target.appendChild(document.getElementById(data));
}
<body>
 <div id="target" ondrop="drop_handler(event);" ondragover="dragover_handler(event);">Drop Zone</div>
</body>

Note each handler calls preventDefault() to prevent additional event processing for this prevent (such as touch events or pointer events).

For more information, see Specifying Drop Targets.

Handle the drop effect

The handler for the drop event is free to process the drag data in an application specific way. Typically, an application will use the getData() method to retrieve drag items and process them accordingly. Additionally, application semantics may differ depending on the value of the dropEffect and/or the state of modifier keys.

The following example shows a drop handler getting the source element's id from the drag data and then using the id to move the source element to the drop element.

function dragstart_handler(ev) {
 ev.preventDefault();
 // Add the target element's id to the data transfer object
 ev.dataTransfer.setData("text/plain", ev.target.id);
 ev.dropEffect = "move";
}
function drop_handler(ev) {
 ev.preventDefault();
 // Get the id of the target and add the moved element to the target's DOM
 var data = ev.dataTransfer.getData("text");
 ev.target.appendChild(document.getElementById(data));
}
<body>
 <p id="p1" draggable="true" ondragstart="dragstart_handler(event);">This element is draggable.</p>
 <div id="target" ondrop="drop_handler(event);" ondragover="dragover_handler(event);">Drop Zone</div>
</body>

For more information, see Performing a Drop.

Drag end

At the end of a drag operation, the dragend event fires at the source element - the element that was the target of the drag start. This event fires whether the drag completed or was canceled. The dragend event handler can check the value of the dropEffect property to determine if the drag operation succeeded or not.

For more information about handling the end of a drag operation, see Finishing a Drag.

Interoperability

As can be seen in the DataTransferItem interface's Browser Compatibility table, drag-and-drop interoperability is relatively broad among desktop browsers (except the DataTransferItem and DataTransferItemList interfaces have less support). This data also indicates drag and drop support among mobile browsers is very low.

Examples and demos

See also