Non-element Selectors Module Level 1

W3C First Public Working Draft, 3 June 2014

This version:
Latest version:
Editor’s Draft:
www-style@w3.org with subject line “[selectors-nonelement] … message topic …”(archives)
Test Suite:
None Yet
(Invited Expert)
Tab Atkins Jr. (Google)


Non-element Selectors extends [SELECTORS4] and allow selecting other kinds of document nodes than elements. This is useful when selectors are used as a general document query language.

Non-element Selectors are not intended to be used in CSS, but only as a separate query language in other host environments. CSS is a language for describing the rendering of structured documents (such as HTML and XML) on screen, on paper, in speech, etc.

Status of this document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. A list of current W3C publications and the latest revision of this technical report can be found in the W3C technical reports index at http://www.w3.org/TR/.

This document is a First Public Working Draft.

Publication as a First Public Working Draft does not imply endorsement by the W3C Membership. This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite this document as other than work in progress.

The (archived) public mailing list www-style@w3.org (see instructions) is preferred for discussion of this specification. When sending e-mail, please put the text “selectors-nonelement” in the subject, preferably like this: “[selectors-nonelement] …summary of comment…

This document was produced by the CSS Working Group (part of the Style Activity).

This document was produced by a group operating under the 5 February 2004 W3C Patent Policy. W3C maintains a public list of any patent disclosures made in connection with the deliverables of the group; that page also includes instructions for disclosing a patent. An individual who has actual knowledge of a patent which the individual believes contains Essential Claim(s) must disclose the information in accordance with section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

Selectors are a very popular mechanism for selecting things in HTML and XML content. They are not used only in CSS [CSS3SYN] but also as a standalone query language in libraries like jQuery, in newer standardized browser APIs like [SELECTORS-API] and in other Web standards like ITS 2.0.

The [SELECTORS4] specification only defines selectors for selecting element nodes from the document, but some uses of Selectors would like to select other types of nodes as well. This specification extends [SELECTORS4] with additional selectors that can be used for selecting non-element nodes in a document tree.

Note: Currently the draft only defines means for selecting and matching attribute nodes, but other kinds of nodes, such as comments or processing instructions, might be supported in the future.

2 Non-element Selectors

2.1 Attribute node selector

An attribute node selector represents an attribute node in a document tree. Its syntax is:

  ::attr() = ::attr( <namespace-attr>? )
  <namespace-attr> = [ <na-prefix>? '|' ]? <na-name>
  <na-prefix> = <ident> | '*'
  <na-name> = <ident> | '*'

No whitespace is allowed between the tokens of <namespace-attr>.

<namespace-attr> is divided into two halves: an optional prefix preceding a '|' character, and an attribute name following it.

If the <na-prefix> is provided as an <ident>, it must match a declared namespace prefix, in which case the selector only matches attributes in that namespace; if it doesn’t match a declared namespace prefix, the selector matches nothing. If the <na-prefix> is provided as a * character, the selector matches attributes in any namespace. If the <na-prefix> is omitted, the selector only matches attributes in no namespace.

If the <na-name> is an <ident>, the selector matches attributes with that name. If the <na-name> is a * character, the selector matches attributes with any name.

If the <namespace-attr> is omitted entirely, the selector matches any attribute in any namespace.

The selector matches an attribute node with the given namespace and name on the originating element, if such an attribute exists.

The selector uses pseudo-element syntax.

The following ITS rules use an attribute node selector to switch off translatability of title attribute on abbr elements.
  <rules xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/11/its"
    <translateRule selector="abbr::attr(title)" translate="no"/>

Although entirely valid in Selectors used in the scope of CSS, attribute node selectors never generate boxes.


Document conventions

Conformance requirements are expressed with a combination of descriptive assertions and RFC 2119 terminology. The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in the normative parts of this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119. However, for readability, these words do not appear in all uppercase letters in this specification.

All of the text of this specification is normative except sections explicitly marked as non-normative, examples, and notes. [RFC2119]

Examples in this specification are introduced with the words "for example" or are set apart from the normative text with class="example", like this:

This is an example of an informative example.

Informative notes begin with the word "Note" and are set apart from the normative text with class="note", like this:

Note, this is an informative note.

Conformance classes

Conformance to this specification is defined for three conformance classes:

style sheet
A CSS style sheet.
A UA that interprets the semantics of a style sheet and renders documents that use them.
authoring tool
A UA that writes a style sheet.

A style sheet is conformant to this specification if all of its statements that use syntax defined in this module are valid according to the generic CSS grammar and the individual grammars of each feature defined in this module.

A renderer is conformant to this specification if, in addition to interpreting the style sheet as defined by the appropriate specifications, it supports all the features defined by this specification by parsing them correctly and rendering the document accordingly. However, the inability of a UA to correctly render a document due to limitations of the device does not make the UA non-conformant. (For example, a UA is not required to render color on a monochrome monitor.)

An authoring tool is conformant to this specification if it writes style sheets that are syntactically correct according to the generic CSS grammar and the individual grammars of each feature in this module, and meet all other conformance requirements of style sheets as described in this module.

Partial implementations

So that authors can exploit the forward-compatible parsing rules to assign fallback values, CSS renderers must treat as invalid (and ignore as appropriate) any at-rules, properties, property values, keywords, and other syntactic constructs for which they have no usable level of support. In particular, user agents must not selectively ignore unsupported component values and honor supported values in a single multi-value property declaration: if any value is considered invalid (as unsupported values must be), CSS requires that the entire declaration be ignored.

Experimental implementations

To avoid clashes with future CSS features, the CSS2.1 specification reserves a prefixed syntax for proprietary and experimental extensions to CSS.

Prior to a specification reaching the Candidate Recommendation stage in the W3C process, all implementations of a CSS feature are considered experimental. The CSS Working Group recommends that implementations use a vendor-prefixed syntax for such features, including those in W3C Working Drafts. This avoids incompatibilities with future changes in the draft.

Non-experimental implementations

Once a specification reaches the Candidate Recommendation stage, non-experimental implementations are possible, and implementors should release an unprefixed implementation of any CR-level feature they can demonstrate to be correctly implemented according to spec.

To establish and maintain the interoperability of CSS across implementations, the CSS Working Group requests that non-experimental CSS renderers submit an implementation report (and, if necessary, the testcases used for that implementation report) to the W3C before releasing an unprefixed implementation of any CSS features. Testcases submitted to W3C are subject to review and correction by the CSS Working Group.

Further information on submitting testcases and implementation reports can be found from on the CSS Working Group’s website at http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/Test/. Questions should be directed to the public-css-testsuite@w3.org mailing list.


Normative References

S. Bradner. Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels. URL: http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2119.txt
Elika J. Etemad; Tab Atkins Jr.. Selectors Level 4. 2 May 2013. W3C Working Draft. (Work in progress.) URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/WD-selectors4-20130502/

Informative References

Tab Atkins Jr.; Simon Sapin. CSS Syntax Module. 5 November 2013. W3C Working Draft. (Work in progress.) URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/WD-css-syntax-3-20131105/
Anne van Kesteren; Lachlan Hunt. Selectors API Level 1. 21 February 2013. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/REC-selectors-api-20130221/


Property index

No properties defined.