What Input?

A global utility for tracking the current input method (mouse, keyboard or touch).

What Input is now v5

Now with more information and less opinion!

What Input adds data attributes to the window based on the type of input being used. It also exposes a simple API that can be used for scripting interactions.

Changes from v4

  • Added: A the ability to add and remove custom callback function when the input or intent changes with whatInput.registerOnChange and whatInput.unRegisterOnChange.
  • Added: A data-whatelement attribute exposes any currently focused DOM element (i.e. data-whatelement="a" or data-whatelement="input").
  • Added: A data-whatclasses attribute exposes any currently focused element's classes as a comma-separated list (i.e. data-whatclasses="class1,class2").
  • Added: An API option to provide a custom array of keycodes that will be ignored.
  • Changed: Typing in form fields is no longer filtered out. The data-whatinput attribute immediately reflects the current input. The data-whatintent attribute now takes on the role of remembering mouse input prior to typing in or clicking on a form field.
  • Changed: If you use the Tab key to move from one input to another one - the data-whatinput attribute reflects the current input (switches to "keyboard").
  • Removed: whatInput.types() API option.
  • Removed: Bower support.
  • Fixed: Using mouse modifier keys (shift, control, alt, cmd) no longer toggles back to keyboard.

How it works

What Input uses event bubbling on the window to watch for mouse, keyboard and touch events (via mousedown, keydown and touchstart). It then sets or updates a data-whatinput attribute.

Pointer Events are supported but note that pen inputs are remapped to touch.

What Input also exposes a tiny API that allows the developer to ask for the current input, set custom ignore keys, and set and remove custom callback functions.

What Input does not make assumptions about the input environment before the page is interacted with. However, the mousemove and pointermove events are used to set a data-whatintent="mouse" attribute to indicate that a mouse is being used indirectly.


Check out the demo to see What Input in action.

Interacting with Forms

Since interacting with a form always requires use of the keyboard, What Input uses the data-whatintent attribute to display a "buffered" version of input events while form <input>s, <select>s, and <textarea>s are being interacted with (i.e. mouse user's data-whatintent will be preserved as mouse while typing).


Download the file directly.

Install via Yarn:

yarn add what-input

Install via NPM:

npm install what-input


Include the script directly in your project.

<script src="path/to/what-input.js"></script>

Or require with a script loader.

import 'what-input'

// or

import whatInput from 'what-input'

// or


// or

var whatInput = require('what-input')

// or

  paths: {
    whatInput: 'path/to/what-input'

require(['whatInput'], function() {})

What Input will start doing its thing while you do yours.

Basic Styling

 * only suppress the focus ring once what-input has successfully started

/* suppress focus ring on form controls for mouse users */
[data-whatintent="mouse"] *:focus {
  outline: none;

Note: If you remove outlines with outline: none;, be sure to provide clear visual :focus styles so the user can see which element they are on at any time for greater accessibility. Visit W3C's WCAG 2.0 2.4.7 Guideline to learn more.


Current Input

Ask What Input what the current input method is. This works best if asked after the events What Input is bound to (mousedown, keydown and touchstart).

whatInput.ask() // returns `mouse`, `keyboard` or `touch`

myButton.addEventListener('click', () => {
  if (whatInput.ask() === 'mouse') {
    // do mousy things
  } else if (whatInput.ask() === 'keyboard') {
    // do keyboard things

If it's necessary to know if mousemove is being used, use the 'intent' option. For example:

 * nothing has happened but the mouse has moved

whatInput.ask() // returns `initial` because the page has not been directly interacted with
whatInput.ask('intent') // returns `mouse` because mouse movement was detected

 * the keyboard has been used, then the mouse was moved

whatInput.ask() // returns `keyboard` because the keyboard was the last direct page interaction
whatInput.ask('intent') // returns `mouse` because mouse movement was the most recent action detected

Current Element

Ask What Input the currently focused DOM element.

whatInput.element() // returns a string, like `input` or null

Ignore Keys

Set a custom array of keycodes that will be ignored (will not switch over to keyboard) when pressed. A custom list will overwrite the default values.

 * default ignored keys:
 * 16, // shift
 * 17, // control
 * 18, // alt
 * 91, // Windows key / left Apple cmd
 * 93  // Windows menu / right Apple cmd

whatInput.ignoreKeys([1, 2, 3])

Custom Callbacks

Fire a function when the input or intent changes.

// create a function to be fired
var myFunction = function(type) {

// fire `myFunction` when the intent changes
whatInput.registerOnChange(myFunction, 'intent');

// fire `myFunction` when the input changes
whatInput.registerOnChange(myFunction, 'input');

// remove custom event


What Input works in all modern browsers. For compatibility with IE8, polyfills are required for:

  • addEventListener
  • IndexOf

Add your own, or grab the bundle included here.

<!--[if lte IE 8]>
  <script src="lte-IE8.js"></script>


Special thanks to Viget for their encouragement and commitment to open source projects. Visit to see more projects from Viget.

Thanks to mAAdhaTTah for the initial conversion to Webpack.

What Input is written and maintained by @ten1seven.


What Input is freely available under the MIT License.