← 4.12 LinksTable of contents5.3 Origin →
  1. 5 Loading Web pages
    1. 5.1 Browsing contexts
      1. 5.1.1 Nested browsing contexts
        1. 5.1.1.1 Navigating nested browsing contexts in the DOM
      2. 5.1.2 Auxiliary browsing contexts
        1. 5.1.2.1 Navigating auxiliary browsing contexts in the DOM
      3. 5.1.3 Secondary browsing contexts
      4. 5.1.6 Browsing context names
    2. 5.2 The Window object
      1. 5.2.2 APIs for creating and navigating browsing contexts by name
      2. 5.2.3 Accessing other browsing contexts
      3. 5.2.4 Named access on the Window object
      4. 5.2.6 Browser interface elements

5 Loading Web pages

5.1 Browsing contexts

A browsing context is an environment in which Document objects are presented to the user.

A tab or window in a Web browser typically contains a browsing context, as does an iframe.

Each browsing context has a corresponding WindowProxy object.

A browsing context has a session history, which lists the Document objects that that browsing context has presented, is presenting, or will present. At any time, one Document in each browsing context is designated the active document.

Each Document is associated with a Window object. A browsing context's WindowProxy object forwards everything to the browsing context's active document's Window object.

In general, there is a 1-to-1 mapping from the Window object to the Document object. In one particular case, a Window can be reused for the presentation of a second Document in the same browsing context, such that the mapping is then 2-to-1. This occurs when a browsing context is navigated from the initial about:blank Document to another, with replacement enabled.

A Document does not necessarily have a browsing context associated with it. In particular, data mining tools are likely to never instantiate browsing contexts.


A browsing context can have a creator browsing context, the browsing context that was responsible for its creation. If a browsing context has a parent browsing context, then that is its creator browsing context. Otherwise, if the browsing context has an opener browsing context, then that is its creator browsing context. Otherwise, the browsing context has no creator browsing context.

If a browsing context A has a creator browsing context, then the Document that was the active document of that creator browsing context at the time A was created is the creator Document.

5.1.1 Nested browsing contexts

Certain elements (for example, iframe elements) can instantiate further browsing contexts. These are called nested browsing contexts. If a browsing context P has a Documents D with an element E that nests another browsing context C inside it, then C is said to be nested through D, and E is said to be the browsing context container of C. If the browsing context container element E is in the Document D, then P is said to be the parent browsing context of C and C is said to be a child browsing context of P. Otherwise, the nested browsing context C has no parent browsing context.

A browsing context A is said to be an ancestor of a browsing context B if there exists a browsing context A' that is a child browsing context of A and that is itself an ancestor of B, or if there is a browsing context P that is a child browsing context of A and that is the parent browsing context of B.

A browsing context that is not a nested browsing context has no parent browsing context, and is the top-level browsing context of all the browsing contexts for which it is an ancestor browsing context.

The transitive closure of parent browsing contexts for a nested browsing context gives the list of ancestor browsing contexts.

The list of the descendant browsing contexts of a Document d is the (ordered) list returned by the following algorithm:

  1. Let list be an empty list.

  2. For each child browsing context of d that is nested through an element that is in the Document d, in the tree order of the elements nesting those browsing contexts, run these substeps:

    1. Append that child browsing context to the list list.

    2. Append the list of the descendant browsing contexts of the active document of that child browsing context to the list list.

  3. Return the constructed list.

A Document is said to be fully active when it is the active document of its browsing context, and either its browsing context is a top-level browsing context, or it has a parent browsing context and the Document through which it is nested is itself fully active.

Because they are nested through an element, child browsing contexts are always tied to a specific Document in their parent browsing context. User agents must not allow the user to interact with child browsing contexts of elements that are in Documents that are not themselves fully active.

A nested browsing context can have a seamless browsing context flag set, if it is embedded through an iframe element with a seamless attribute.

A nested browsing context can in some cases be taken out of its parent browsing context (e.g. if an iframe element is removed from its Document). In such a situation, the nested browsing context has no parent browsing context, but it still has the same browsing context container and is still nested through that element's Document. Such a nested browsing context is not a top-level browsing context, and cannot contain Documents that are fully active. Furthermore, if a browsing context container (such as an iframe) is moved to another Document, then the parent browsing context of its nested browsing context will change.

window . top

Returns the WindowProxy for the top-level browsing context.

window . parent

Returns the WindowProxy for the parent browsing context.

window . frameElement

Returns the Element for the browsing context container.

Returns null if there isn't one.

Throws a SECURITY_ERR exception in cross-origin situations.

5.1.2 Auxiliary browsing contexts

It is possible to create new browsing contexts that are related to a top-level browsing context without being nested through an element. Such browsing contexts are called auxiliary browsing contexts. Auxiliary browsing contexts are always top-level browsing contexts.

An auxiliary browsing context has an opener browsing context, which is the browsing context from which the auxiliary browsing context was created.

The opener IDL attribute on the Window object, on getting, must return the WindowProxy object of the browsing context from which the current browsing context was created (its opener browsing context), if there is one, if it is still available, and if the current browsing context has not disowned its opener. On setting, if the new value is null then the current browsing context must disown its opener; if the new value is anything else then the user agent must ignore the new value.

5.1.3 Secondary browsing contexts

User agents may support secondary browsing contexts, which are browsing contexts that form part of the user agent's interface, apart from the main content area.

5.1.4 Browsing context names

Browsing contexts can have a browsing context name. By default, a browsing context has no name (its name is not set).

A valid browsing context name is any string with at least one character that does not start with a U+005F LOW LINE character. (Names starting with an underscore are reserved for special keywords.)

A valid browsing context name or keyword is any string that is either a valid browsing context name or that is an ASCII case-insensitive match for one of: _blank, _self, _parent, or _top.

5.2 The Window object

[ReplaceableNamedProperties] 
interface Window {
  // the current browsing context
  readonly attribute WindowProxy window;
  readonly attribute WindowProxy self;
  readonly attribute Document document;
           attribute DOMString name; 
  [PutForwards=href] readonly attribute Location location;
  readonly attribute History history;
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute BarProp locationbar;
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute BarProp menubar;
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute BarProp personalbar;
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute BarProp scrollbars;
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute BarProp statusbar;
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute BarProp toolbar;  void close();
  void stop();
  void focus();
  void blur();

  // other browsing contexts
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute WindowProxy frames;
  [Replaceable] readonly attribute unsigned long length;
  readonly attribute WindowProxy top;
           attribute WindowProxy opener;
  readonly attribute WindowProxy parent;
  readonly attribute Element frameElement;
  WindowProxy open(in optional DOMString url, in optional DOMString target, in optional DOMString features, in optional DOMString replace);
  getter WindowProxy (in unsigned long index);
  getter any (in DOMString name);

  // the user agent
  readonly attribute Navigator navigator; 
  readonly attribute ApplicationCache applicationCache;

  // user prompts
  void alert(in DOMString message);
  boolean confirm(in DOMString message);
  DOMString prompt(in DOMString message, in optional DOMString default);
  void print();
  any showModalDialog(in DOMString url, in optional any argument);

  // event handler IDL attributes
           attribute Function onabort;
           attribute Function onafterprint;
           attribute Function onbeforeprint;
           attribute Function onbeforeunload;
           attribute Function onblur;
           attribute Function oncanplay;
           attribute Function oncanplaythrough;
           attribute Function onchange;
           attribute Function onclick;
           attribute Function oncontextmenu;
           attribute Function oncuechange;
           attribute Function ondblclick;
           attribute Function ondrag;
           attribute Function ondragend;
           attribute Function ondragenter;
           attribute Function ondragleave;
           attribute Function ondragover;
           attribute Function ondragstart;
           attribute Function ondrop;
           attribute Function ondurationchange;
           attribute Function onemptied;
           attribute Function onended;
           attribute Function onerror;
           attribute Function onfocus;
           attribute Function onhashchange;
           attribute Function oninput;
           attribute Function oninvalid;
           attribute Function onkeydown;
           attribute Function onkeypress;
           attribute Function onkeyup;
           attribute Function onload;
           attribute Function onloadeddata;
           attribute Function onloadedmetadata;
           attribute Function onloadstart;
           attribute Function onmessage;
           attribute Function onmousedown;
           attribute Function onmousemove;
           attribute Function onmouseout;
           attribute Function onmouseover;
           attribute Function onmouseup;
           attribute Function onmousewheel;
           attribute Function onoffline;
           attribute Function ononline;
           attribute Function onpause;
           attribute Function onplay;
           attribute Function onplaying;
           attribute Function onpagehide;
           attribute Function onpageshow;
           attribute Function onpopstate;
           attribute Function onprogress;
           attribute Function onratechange;
           attribute Function onreadystatechange;
           attribute Function onredo;
           attribute Function onreset;
           attribute Function onresize;
           attribute Function onscroll;
           attribute Function onseeked;
           attribute Function onseeking;
           attribute Function onselect;
           attribute Function onshow;
           attribute Function onstalled;
           attribute Function onstorage;
           attribute Function onsubmit;
           attribute Function onsuspend;
           attribute Function ontimeupdate;
           attribute Function onundo;
           attribute Function onunload;
           attribute Function onvolumechange;
           attribute Function onwaiting;
};
Window implements EventTarget;
window . window
window . frames
window . self

These attributes all return window.

window . document

Returns the active document.

document . defaultView

Returns the Window object of the active document.

5.2.1 APIs for creating and navigating browsing contexts by name

window = window . open( [ url [, target [, features [, replace ] ] ] ] )

Opens a window to show url (defaults to about:blank), and returns it. The target argument gives the name of the new window. If a window exists with that name already, it is reused. The replace attribute, if true, means that whatever page is currently open in that window will be removed from the window's session history. The features argument is ignored.

window . name [ = value ]

Returns the name of the window.

Can be set, to change the name.

window . close()

Closes the window.

window . stop()

Cancels the document load.

5.2.2 Accessing other browsing contexts

window . length

Returns the number of child browsing contexts.

window[index]

Returns the indicated child browsing context.

5.2.3 Named access on the Window object

window[name]

Returns the indicated element or collection of elements.

5.2.4 Browser interface elements

To allow Web pages to integrate with Web browsers, certain Web browser interface elements are exposed in a limited way to scripts in Web pages.

Each interface element is represented by a BarProp object:

interface BarProp {
           attribute boolean visible;
};
window . locationbar . visible

Returns true if the location bar is visible; otherwise, returns false.

window . menubar . visible

Returns true if the menu bar is visible; otherwise, returns false.

window . personalbar . visible

Returns true if the personal bar is visible; otherwise, returns false.

window . scrollbars . visible

Returns true if the scroll bars are visible; otherwise, returns false.

window . statusbar . visible

Returns true if the status bar is visible; otherwise, returns false.

window . toolbar . visible

Returns true if the toolbar is visible; otherwise, returns false.