CSS and ellipsis: Cross-browser practices

Every now and then, say twice a year, I run into the same problem: what is the best cross-browser ellipsis solution? Because I end up searching the internet everytime, I decided the write down my prefererred solution.

The problem is as follows: You have a long sentence and you want to show only the first line and end up with … (the ellipsis) and trunk the rest of the sentence. Of course you can implement a server side solution, but today I prefer a client-side one.

IE6 and IE7 are simple, they support the CSS-property text-overflow, as do the Webkit based browsers Safari and Chrome. Text-overflow is part of the coming CSS3-recommendation, by the way. Because the property is not standardized yet Opera has it’s own implementation -o-text-overflow, while IE8 in standards mode supports -ms-text-overflow.

The only hickup we encouter with Firefox. The current version (Firefox 3.5) still does not support this property… This leaves us for several workarounds:

  • Do nothing. All browsers will show an ellipsis, Firefox just shows nothing. My prefered solution, because it involves less time and effort.
  • Create a Firefox-only selector in your CSS. This can be handy is you have something like Browserhawk installed on your server. Is not 100% waterproof though. Don’t just add the sometimes suggested “:after-content” option. (With something like myclass:after { content: “…” } we could easy add ellipsis to Firefox, but other modern browsers would render the ellipsis twice.
  • Use the “:after-content” setting for all modern browsers and show the ellipsis in IE6 and IE7 with conditional comments.
  • Use a JavaScript solution. Check for example this nice jQuery plugin.
  • Use XUL.

The CSS at last:

.ellipsis { 
  display: block; 
  white-space: nowrap; 
  text-overflow: ellipsis;
  -o-text-overflow: ellipsis;
  -ms-text-overflow: ellipsis; 
  width: 230px;
  overflow: hidden;


Toggle the ellipsis view with jQuery:

$(".ellipsis").click( function() { $(this).toggleClass(".ellipsis") });


Not all options are tested. Please comment.


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