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Moving: mouseover/out, mouseenter/leave

Let's dive into more details about events that happen when mouse moves between elements.

Mouseover/mouseout, relatedTarget

The mouseover event occurs when a mouse pointer comes over an element, and mouseout -- when it leaves.

These events are special, because they have a relatedTarget.

For mouseover:

  • -- is the element where the mouse came over.
  • event.relatedTarget -- is the element from which the mouse came.

For mouseout the reverse:

  • -- is the element that mouse left.
  • event.relatedTarget -- is the new under-the-pointer element (that mouse left for).
In the example below each face feature is an element. When you move the mouse, you can see mouse events in the text area.

Each event has the information about where the element came and where it came from.

[codetabs src="mouseoverout" height=280]

```warn header="relatedTarget can be `null`" The `relatedTarget` property can be `null`.

That's normal and just means that the mouse came not from another element, but from out of the window. Or that it left the window.

We should keep that possibility in mind when using event.relatedTarget in our code. If we access event.relatedTarget.tagName, then there will be an error.

## Events frequency

The `mousemove` event triggers when the mouse moves. But that doesn't mean that every pixel leads to an event.

The browser checks the mouse position from time to time. And if it notices changes then triggers the events.

That means that if the visitor is moving the mouse very fast then DOM-elements may be skipped:


If the mouse moves very fast from `#FROM` to `#TO` elements as painted above, then intermediate `<div>` (or some of them) may be skipped. The `mouseout` event may trigger on `#FROM` and then immediately `mouseover` on `#TO`.

In practice that's helpful, because if there may be many intermediate elements. We don't really want to process in and out of each one.

From the other side, we should keep in mind that we can't assume that the mouse slowly moves from one event to another. No, it can "jump".

In particular it's possible that the cursor jumps right inside the middle of the page from out of the window. And `relatedTarget=null`, because it came from "nowhere":


<div style="display:none">
In case of a fast move, intermediate elements may trigger no events. But if the mouse enters the element (`mouseover`), when we're guaranteed to have `mouseout` when it leaves it.

Check it out "live" on a teststand below.

The HTML is two nested `<div>` elements. If you move the mouse fast over them, then there may be no events at all, or maybe only the red div triggers events, or maybe the green one.

Also try to move the pointer over the red `div`, and then move it out quickly down through the green one. If the movement is fast enough then the parent element is ignored.

[codetabs height=360 src="mouseoverout-fast"]

"Extra" mouseout when leaving for a child

Imagine -- a mouse pointer entered an element. The mouseover triggered. Then the cursor goes into a child element. The interesting fact is that mouseout triggers in that case. The cursor is still in the element, but we have a mouseout from it!

That seems strange, but can be easily explained.

According to the browser logic, the mouse cursor may be only over a single element at any time -- the most nested one (and top by z-index).

So if it goes to another element (even a descendant), then it leaves the previous one. That simple.

There's a funny consequence that we can see on the example below.

The red <div> is nested inside the blue one. The blue <div> has mouseover/out handlers that log all events in the textarea below.

Try entering the blue element and then moving the mouse on the red one -- and watch the events:

[codetabs height=360 src="mouseoverout-child"]

  1. On entering the blue one -- we get mouseover [target: blue].
  2. Then after moving from the blue to the red one -- we get mouseout [target: blue] (left the parent).
  3. ...And immediately mouseover [target: red].

So, for a handler that does not take target into account, it looks like we left the parent in mouseout in (2) and returned back to it by mouseover in (3).

If we perform some actions on entering/leaving the element, then we'll get a lot of extra "false" runs. For simple stuff may be unnoticeable. For complex things that may bring unwanted side-effects.

We can fix it by using mouseenter/mouseleave events instead.

Events mouseenter and mouseleave

Events mouseenter/mouseleave are like mouseover/mouseout. They also trigger when the mouse pointer enters/leaves the element.

But there are two differences:

  1. Transitions inside the element are not counted.
  2. Events mouseenter/mouseleave do not bubble.

These events are intuitively very clear.

When the pointer enters an element -- the mouseenter triggers, and then doesn't matter where it goes while inside the element. The mouseleave event only triggers when the cursor leaves it.

If we make the same example, but put mouseenter/mouseleave on the blue <div>, and do the same -- we can see that events trigger only on entering and leaving the blue <div>. No extra events when going to the red one and back. Children are ignored.

[codetabs height=340 src="mouseleave"]

Event delegation

Events mouseenter/leave are very simple and easy to use. But they do not bubble. So we can't use event delegation with them.

Imagine we want to handle mouse enter/leave for table cells. And there are hundreds of cells.

The natural solution would be -- to set the handler on <table> and process events there. But mouseenter/leave don't bubble. So if such event happens on <td>, then only a handler on that <td> can catch it.

Handlers for mouseenter/leave on <table> only trigger on entering/leaving the whole table. It's impossible to get any information about transitions inside it.

Not a problem -- let's use mouseover/mouseout.

A simple handler may look like this:

// let's highlight cells under mouse
table.onmouseover = function(event) {
  let target =; = 'pink';

table.onmouseout = function(event) {
  let target =; = '';
[codetabs height=480 src="mouseenter-mouseleave-delegation"]

These handlers work when going from any element to any inside the table.

But we'd like to handle only transitions in and out of <td> as a whole. And highlight the cells as a whole. We don't want to handle transitions that happen between the children of <td>.

One of solutions:

  • Remember the currently highlighted <td> in a variable.
  • On mouseover -- ignore the event if we're still inside the current <td>.
  • On mouseout -- ignore if we didn't leave the current <td>.

That filters out "extra" events when we are moving between the children of <td>.

The details are in the [full example](sandbox:mouseenter-mouseleave-delegation-2).
Here's the full example with all details:

[codetabs height=380 src="mouseenter-mouseleave-delegation-2"]

Try to move the cursor in and out of table cells and inside them. Fast or slow -- doesn't matter. Only `<td>` as a whole is highlighted unlike the example before.


We covered events mouseover, mouseout, mousemove, mouseenter and mouseleave.

Things that are good to note:

  • A fast mouse move can make mouseover, mousemove, mouseout to skip intermediate elements.
  • Events mouseover/out and mouseenter/leave have an additional target: relatedTarget. That's the element that we are coming from/to, complementary to target.
  • Events mouseover/out trigger even when we go from the parent element to a child element. They assume that the mouse can be only over one element at one time -- the deepest one.
  • Events mouseenter/leave do not bubble and do not trigger when the mouse goes to a child element. They only track whether the mouse comes inside and outside the element as a whole.