Skip to content


Repository files navigation

🔭 Telescopic Text

An open-source library to help with creating expandable text.

Inspired by StretchText and TelescopicText.


I've been thinking a lot about creating a browsable store of knowledge that provides something useful at all distance scales (e.g. viewing the entire library, just a subcategory, a single file, etc.) and concepts like Telescopic Text are a first step in creating more information scales than just a single document level.

This library is meant to be the start for anyone to create telescopic text, including those who are non-technical.

Creating a telescopic text

To create some telescopic text, you can use your favorite note-taking app or text editor that supports bullet lists and start by writing a full sentence or two in a starting bullet:

Head to to use an interactive playground for writing in bullet lists and get the corresponding code that leverages this library to generate the interactive text for use on your own website.

NOTE: the parsing logic is robust to different indentation levels, but for most compatible experience, you should normalize the indentations so that each nested bullet is differentiated by a standard set of spaces. We also currently only support *, -, and + bullet indicators.


Create some expandable text using the bullet list format shown above. You can then test out how your poem looks and feels and get a basic code snippet that recreates it using the test bed!

See the full instructions below:

You can load it directly via CDN as follows: Put this anywhere inside the head of your HTML file.

  <script src=""></script>

or if you prefer to do the manual way, you can include the lib/index.js and lib/index.css files in your project.

The package exports a function called createTelescopicTextFromBulletedList that parses a bulleted list and returns a HTMLNode with your telescopic text inside.

Basic usage may look something like this:

  <script src=""></script>
  <div id="text-container"></div>

    const content = `
  * I 
    * Yawning, I
  * made tea`;
    const node = createTelescopicTextFromBulletedList(content);
    const container = document.getElementById("text-container");

Advanced Usage Options

For further, customization, we provide a configuration object that can be passed into the function for different behavior.

// The configuration for how you want telescopic text to be parsed and rendered
interface Config {
   * Character used to separate entries on the same level. Defaults to a single space (" ")
  separator?: string;
   * If true, allows sections to expand automatically on mouse over rather than requiring a click. Defaults to false.
  shouldExpandOnMouseOver?: boolean;
   * A mode that designates what form the input text is in and should be interpreted as. Defaults to 'text'.
  textMode?: TextMode;
   * Determines the wrapper element type for HTML elements. Defaults to 'span'.
  htmlContainerTag?: keyof HTMLElementTagNameMap;
   * Only valid when textMode is 'text'. Used to insert HTML element like blockquotes, line breaks, bold, and emphasis in plain text mode.
  specialCharacters?: TextReplacements;

You would use this by passing a custom configuration object into the function in order to override any of the defaults above. For example, this is how you would create telescopic text with custom HTML tags:

const content = `
* Some <b>rich</b> text
  * with <i>nested</i> <b>rich</b> text
const config = { textMode: TextMode.Html };
const poemContent = createTelescopicTextFromBulletedList(content, config);

You can check out a more detailed example in demo/index.html

If you are using plain 'text' as the textMode, you can also define an object containing special characters and the rules for how to replace them.

interface TextReplacements {
  // Each entry is keyed by its regex string match
  // It defines a function that takes in the current line of text as well as its parent node
  // and
  [key: string]: (lineText: string) => HTMLElement

// for example, here's a text replacement rule for bolding text that is wrapped with *
"\\*(.*)\\*": (lineText) => {
  const el = document.createElement("strong");
  return el;

By default, only these special characters have text replacements

  • line breaks (---)
  • bold (*...*)
  • emphasis (_..._) To disable this, you can pass in an empty object for special characters:
const poemContent = createTelescopicTextFromBulletedList(content, {
  specialCharacters: {},


// Default function to create a new `<div>` node containing the
// telescoping text from bullet points
function createTelescopicTextFromBulletedList(content: string, config?: Config);

Future Work

See our issues page for all the features we're thinking about exploring. Some examples include:

  • Supporting infinite expansion with ...
  • Concept of shapeshifting text in general... these are not always expansions.


  • NOTE: avoid the usage of export keyword. it breaks in browser and we haven't figured out how to support it cross-function.