Keyboard Event Handling: onkeydown

JavaScript FAQ | Keyboard & Mouse Events FAQ  

Question: Which key did the user press?

Answer: To find out which key the user has pressed, your script should check the keydown event properties:

  • keydown event.keyCode (the key code of the key just pressed)
  • keydown event.shiftKey (true if the event occured while Shift was pressed)
  • keydown event.ctrlKey (true if the event occured while Ctrl was pressed)
  • keydown event.altKey (true if the event occured while Alt was pressed)

    (Similarly, to identify the key that the user just released, use the keyup event properties.)

    Click here and press any key - the key name will be displayed below:

    This example uses the function fromKeyCode that maps the keydown event keyCode value back to the corresponding key name. Here is the source code of this example:

    function keydownHandler(e) {
      var evt = e ? e:event;
      var keyCode = evt.keyCode;
      var sModifiers = ''
          +(evt.ctrlKey  ? 'Ctrl ' :'')
          +(evt.shiftKey ? 'Shift ':'')
          +(evt.altKey   ? 'Alt '  :'') ;
      document.getElementById('sKeyCode').innerHTML =
      if (keyCode==16 || keyCode==17 || keyCode==18)
           ' key: '+sModifiers;
      else document.getElementById('sKeyName').innerHTML=
           ' key: '+sModifiers
      //return true to allow the browser's default response
      //return false to cancel the default response 
      return true;
    //Register the keydown event handler:

    Caution: Do not use the keypress event for analyzing keys. Unlike keydown, the keypress event is suitable for identifying characters rather than keys; keypress may or may not occur for special/functional keys, while keydown and keyup events are triggered for practically every key.* This is precisely why we use the keydown event here: we want to be able to identify every key (or as many keys as realistically possible).

    * The keydown event is not normally triggered for the PrntScrn key; keyup is triggered for PrntScrn in most browsers.

    See also:

  • Keyboard event properties
  • Which character did the user type?
  • Copyright © 1999-2012,