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Taming the Select

So, having a good time with SELECT? Probably not. That's why today, Chris Heilmann will be teaching you the ups and downs of making things look the way your client wants things to look. After all, you do want to get paid, don't you?

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By: Chris Heilmann
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 50
November 15, 2004
  1. · Taming the Select
  2. · DOM to the rescue
  3. · But wait, there is more!
  4. · The Script

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Taming the Select
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Of all the form elements in HTML, SELECT is the enfant terrible. It behaves nicely when kept as is, but as soon as we try to teach it some style manners, it'll go ballistic on us. Some browsers allow for border, others allow for a different font, some just don't allow any styling at all.

Partly this is our own fault; we shouldn't try to redesign form elements to blend into the page design. Users know their form elements and know what to do with them, if we change the look of the elements, they will have to adapt. Form elements cannot be recognized subconsciously any longer - the user has to find them. It is up to us to decide if we can afford that.

That being true, we will still have to redesign form elements, as the design or the client dictates it, and we want them to pay us. It doesn't hurt mentioning the drawbacks, though.

Styling the select

One of the most designer-annoying features of SELECTs is that they are as wide as their longest option. We cannot force them to have a certain width and make the options wrap. Most browsers will cut off options that are longer than the defined width, something that may render them useless.

Taming the Select

Example of how different browsers render a styled select with a fixed width

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