🔬 Using :focus-within to style focus states in a multi-select dropdown (#72)

July 20, 2022

Happy Wednesday!

I've been working on building a multi-select dropdown this week at work. One of the requirements is that it supports keyboard handling.

Material UI has a similar multi-select dropdown to the one I'm building. The image below represents an example of a dropdown panel with a multiple unfocused dropdown checkbox items, and one focused dropdown checkbox item.

Screenshot of a focused dropdown checkbox item

When a user navigates through the dropdown panel with arrow keys, the focused dropdown checkbox item should show the lighter gray style.

Building this is a bit trickier than one might expect though, because while the browser automatically focuses on the actual checkbox, it doesn't apply a focus state on the container that wraps it. Let's dig in!

Here's a basic example of how a DropdownCheckboxItem can be structured:

const DropdownCheckboxItem = (props: { label: string }) => { const { label } = props; return ( <label className="dropdown-checkbox-item-label"> <input type="checkbox" /> {label} </label> ); };

As a user navigates within the dropdown panel using the arrow keys, the browser will handle focusing each <input type="checkbox" /> in the panel. But we need to apply a focus state to the whole <label />, not the <input />.

The :focus-within pseudo-class allows us to capture that the nested <input /> has been focused by the browser, and then apply whatever focus styles we'd like to the parent, which in this case is the <label /> tag.

.dropdown-checkbox-item-label { // apply unfocused label styles here } .dropdown-checkbox-item-label:focus-within { // apply focused label styles here }

Huge shoutout to Jimmy Wilson for showing me the :focus-within pseudoclass!

Talk soon,


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