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HTML5 Drag and Drop Anything

This readme is meant to be read like a slide presentation.

Each header is a new slide.

Code accompanying the presentation is also checked in to this repo.

This is all online here:

About Me


HTML5 Drag and Drop

  • Higher level than mouse events

  • Can drag any div, image or link

  • Can drag files and links from your desktop

  • Limitation: Some quirks and browser incompatibilities

  • Limitation: Doesn't map to mobile very well


Images, Links, and Draggable

Images and links are draggable by default

You can make any div draggable

<div id="box" draggable="true" class="blue square"></div>

This leaves the item in place, and drags an indicator

Simple Drag Events

Demo: examples/simple.html

You can bind to dragstart and dragend to know when an item is dragged

var box = document.getElementById("box")
box.addEventListener("dragstart", function(e) {
  // == box
  // inspect the event

box.addEventListener("dragend", function(e) {


box.addEventListener("drag", function(e) {
  // called constantly as you hold the drag

These are important for setting data and changing the visual appearance

Simple Drop Events

Add another element to drag things on to

<div id="target" class="target"></div>

dragenter and dragleave do what you'd expect

var target = document.getElementById("target")
target.addEventListener("dragenter", function(e) {
  // give the user visual feedback"draggingOver")

target.addEventListener("dragleave", function(e) {"draggingOver")

dragover is called continuously when over your area (even when not moving)

target.addEventListener("dragover", function(e) {
  // this gets called a lot!

Accepting a Drop

You must cancel the dragover event to indicate you accept that kind of drag

target.addEventListener("dragover", function(e) {
  return false

target.addEventListener("drop", function(e) {
  // dropped! Check out e.dataTransfer

Note that dragleave is not called on a drop.

Dragging Data

Demo: examples/data.html

We usually want to drag something. Think about it as data, not HTML.

Use the dataTransfer object to share data between events

box.addEventListener("dragenter", function(e) {
    e.dataTransfer.setData("text/plain", "hello!")

Then you can read that data in the drop event

target.addEventListener("drop", function(e) {
    var message = e.dataTransfer.getData("text/plain") 
    console.log("message:", message)

The format type is arbitrary, except in IE. IE requires "Text" or "Url".

I can't find a way to set an object, but you could serialize an object.

e.dataTransfer.setData("something", JSON.stringify({key: "value"}))

Accepting only certain things

Demo: examples/buckets.html

Put enough information onto the event to let you decide later

source.addEventListener("dragstart", function(e) {
    e.dataTransfer.setData("text/message", "hello")

Decide whether to cancel (accept) the drag in dragover. Consider using the types array

target.addEventListener("dragenter", function(e) {
    if (e.dataTransfer.types[0] == "text/message") {"draggingOver")

target.addEventListener("dragover", function(e) {
    if (e.dataTransfer.types[0] == "text/message") {
        return false

Remember dragover gets called a lot. You don't want to deserialize JSON every time.

Visuals: setDragImage

Demo: examples/visuals.html

You can change the visual indicator for the drag, and control where the pointer is

source.addEventListener("dragstart", function(e) {
    var img = document.createElement("img")
    img.src = "img/drag-indicator.png"
    e.dataTransfer.setDragImage(img, 0, 0)

You can set it to a div instead, but it only works if the div is already displayed somewhere.

// this works
var div = document.getElementById("indicator")

// neither of these work. They aren't in the DOM
var div = document.getElementById("indicator").cloneNode()
var div = document.createElement("div")

// customize it
div.innerHTML = "dragging stuff"

e.dataTransfer.setDragImage(div, 0, 0)

You can also set it to a canvas

Visuals: Manipulate the dragged item

Any changes affect both the original item AND the indicator

source.addEventListener("dragstart", function(e) {
    // updates both! = 0.5

If you set the drag image to another element, you can control them separately

source.addEventListener("dragstart", function(e) { = 0.5
    var img = document.getElementById("indicator")
    e.dataTransfer.setDragImage(img, 0, 0)

Visuals: Highlight the drop target

It can be good to show where they should put something.

Listen on document because you want to show before its dragged over your item

document.addEventListener("dragenter", function(e) {
    if (event is a name)

    else if (event is a food)

Visuals: Greedy sub-elements grabbing the drag

In the data example, we lose our highlight over existing elements.

dragleave is fired over the main element

  • set pointer-events: none on the children
  • do some kind of hit test inside your leave handler
  • set a timer in dragover instead of clearing in leave
  • keep track of the currently entered element and don't clear if its a descendant

Visuals: Moving the item instead of the indicator

There's no way to do this with the drag and drop API.

You'll have to use mouse events instead, then manually move the item.

You can get close by hiding the original and calling setDragImage with a copy

Native Dragging: URLs and Images

Demo: examples/images.html

You can drag links and images across browser windows.

Chrome and Safari populate text/uri-list (according to the spec). IE sets "url"

target.addEventListener('drop', function(e) {
    // don't let the browser switch to an image!

    // read the data
    var url = e.dataTransfer.getData("url") || e.dataTransfer.getData("text/uri-list")
    var img = document.createElement("img")
    img.src = url

All browsers seem to populate text/html

You could drag a link to anything, including JSON data. (download it)

Native Dragging: Files

Demo: examples/files.html

If you drag files onto something droppable it populates dataTransfer.files.

Just stick the files into a FormData

target.addEventListener('drop', function(e) {
    var formData = new FormData()
    formData.append('file', e.dataTransfer.files[0])
    // then POST it to your server with formData as the body

You can render a preview with FileReader

var reader = new FileReader()
reader.onload = function (event) {
  var image = new Image()
  image.src =

Browser Support

The code here should work in modern versions of all 4 major browsers.

Consider using Modernizr to check for the availability of these features.


The Drag and Drop API doesn't really map cleanly on mobile devices.

Some mobile browsers are working on it, but it's never going to be perfect because gestures mean something: drag means to scroll the page.

Use touch events instead or a gesture framework to create a different mobile experience.

Sortable List

I wanted to create a sortable list, but I ran out of time.

Here's a great jQuery plugin that uses the drag and drop API for reference.

Out of Time

Drop effect/effectAllowed