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.

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.

Default Behavior

Persisting Input/Intent Across Pages

By default, What Input uses session storage to persist the input and intent values across pages. The benefit is that once a visitor has interacted with the page, subsequent pages won't have to wait for interactions to know the input method.

This behavior can be disabled by adding a data-whatpersist="false" attribute on either the <html> or <body>.

<html dir="ltr" lang="en" data-whatpersist="false">


<body data-whatpersist="false">

Session storage can be cleared at any time with:


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])

Specific Keys

Set a custom array of keycodes that will trigger the keyboard pressed intent (will not switch to keyboard unless these keys are pressed). This overrides ignoreKeys.

// only listen to tab keyboard press

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.



  • Fixed: Improved detection and respect for of data-whatpersist before DOMContentLoaded. Fix via FanFataL.


  • Fixed: Adds useCapture so events can be detected before preventDefault cancels them on local listeners (h/t jojo080889).

v5.2.8 - 5.2.10

  • Added: TypeScript definitions via greypants.


  • Fixed: Moves sourcemap to sit next to JavaScript package.


  • Fixed: adds DOMContentLoaded event before looking for data-whatpersist attribute on body.


  • Fixed: Hotfix for shaky support of dataset in IE10.


  • Added: Ability to add data-whatpersist="false" attribute to the <html> or <body> tag to disable usage of session storage to persist input/intent across pages.
  • Updated: Build tools and added linting.


  • Fixed: activeElement is null bug in IE is fixed (thanks @EasterPeanut).
  • Fixed: Mousewheel event detection works correctly again.


  • Fixed: iOS was occasionally reporting mouse because of event execution order.
  • Added: touchend to input map
  • Added: Allows buttons inside forms to be treated like other form inputs.
  • Added: iTouch intent indicator in demo page (it worked all along, you just couldn't see it).


  • Fixed: Increase buffering time by 20ms to fix iOS reporting mousedown
  • Fixed: Adds touchend to input map


  • Added: Sourcemap for the minified version.


  • Added: specificKeys functionality to allow overriding of keyboard keys list. Fix via bk3.


  • Fixed: Browsers with cookies turned off would throw an error with session storage. Fix via yuheiy.


  • Added: Session variable stores last used input and intent so subsequent page loads don't have to wait for interactions to set the correct input and intent state.
  • Removed: IE8 support.


  • Fixed: unRegisterOnChange failed to unregister items at index 0.


  • Fixed: Fail gracefully in non-DOM environments.


  • Fixed: Event buffer for touch was not working correctly.

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.


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. Thanks to greypants for adding TypeScript definitions.

What Input is written and maintained by @ten1seven.


What Input is freely available under the MIT License.