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jQuery Text Overflow plugin

This jQuery plugin implements a simplified version of the CSS3 text-overflow property. The text-overflow property allows stylesheet authors to specify how and where text should be clipped. This is usually done by adding an ellipsis character "" or three dots at the point the text should be cut off. Various browsers support this property, such as Opera, Internet Explorer and Safari. Firefox unfortunately does not. However, using this plugin you can simulate this functionality (well, as close as you can get without a native implementation.)

To use it you simply call the textOverflow method on elements you want clipped. Clipping is only applied when the browser does not support it natively. The following is an example of how to clip all header elements on a page using the default plugin settings.


The textOverflow method optionally supports an options object containing: the string to use for clipping the text, and a boolean to determine whether the plugin should automatically update the clipping when a change in the document has been detected.


The options object can contain the following properties:

The string to append to the content before it is clipped. Defaults to the ellipsis character "`…`". May also contain HTML, but the string itself is not subject to being clipped.
Automatically update the clipped text when the available space for the text becomes smaller or larger. Defaults to false (because it incurs some extra costs.)
True to remove trailing white-space at the point where content is clipped. False to leave the white-space. Defaults to true.
True to add the full text as a title attribute on the clipped element. Defaults to false.
Class name to add to the element whose content is clipped. Note that elements whose content fit in the container will not have this class name added.
True to clip content only at whole word boundaries. False might clip a word anywhere. Defaults to false.

The following example shows how to replace the default ellipsis character on all list elements with a three dot version, and turn on automatic updating.

    str: '...',
    autoUpdate: true

Please see the examples page for more examples on how to use the plugin.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Does this plugin support HTML elements inside the clipped content?

A: Yes.

Q: How do I use this in combination with browsers that support the text-overflow property?

A: Simply use the CSS3 text-overflow property as you would normally, e.g.

overflow: hidden;
white-space: nowrap;
text-overflow: ellipsis;

Then also call the textOverflow plugin method on the same elements. When a browser has native support for the text-overflow property, the text overflow plugin will let the browse handle it natively, and otherwise it will apply its own text truncation code. For more details, see the CSS and JavaScript text overflow example, or the Quirkmode's article on the text-overflow property.

Q: How do I restore the original contents of the clipped elements?

A: It depends on what your use case is. If you want to show more or less of the clipped element based on browser or element resize events, simply turn the autoUpdate functionality on. If you want to manually restore the original content, you'll have to store it somewhere yourself before applying the text overflow plugin.

Q: Text overflow doesn't work when applied to hidden elements (using display: none.)

A: This is caused by the browser taking the elements out of the page flow. When an element is not in the page flow it has zero width and height. The text overflow plugin uses the width and height to calculate where to clip the text, so it can not do its work when an element is hidden. There are two approaches to work around this problem: the most simple solution is to only call the text overflow plugin after you display the hidden elements. Alternatively you could position the hidden elements offscreen and set its visibility property to hidden and then measure it.


  • Devon Govett ― Original plugin.

  • Andrew A. Kononykhin ― Bug fix for markup reset on cloned elements.

  • Micky Hulse ― Bug report on ellipsis character encoding & incorrect DOM tree truncation.

  • Edward Shtern ― Suggestions for: className, title and wholeWord options.


This plugin is licensed under the new BSD license. To summarize the license; the plugin is completely free for commercial and non-commercial use and you can do with it whatever you want, except claim it as your own work.


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