What are valid values for the id attribute in HTML?

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Top 5 Answer for What are valid values for the id attribute in HTML?

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97

For HTML 4, the answer is technically:

ID and NAME tokens must begin with a letter ([A-Za-z]) and may be followed by any number of letters, digits ([0-9]), hyphens ("-"), underscores ("_"), colons (":"), and periods (".").

HTML 5 is even more permissive, saying only that an id must contain at least one character and may not contain any space characters.

The id attribute is case sensitive in XHTML.

As a purely practical matter, you may want to avoid certain characters. Periods, colons and '#' have special meaning in CSS selectors, so you will have to escape those characters using a backslash in CSS or a double backslash in a selector string passed to jQuery. Think about how often you will have to escape a character in your stylesheets or code before you go crazy with periods and colons in ids.

For example, the HTML declaration <div id="first.name"></div> is valid. You can select that element in CSS as #first\.name and in jQuery like so: $('#first\\.name'). But if you forget the backslash, $('#first.name'), you will have a perfectly valid selector looking for an element with id first and also having class name. This is a bug that is easy to overlook. You might be happier in the long run choosing the id first-name (a hyphen rather than a period), instead.

You can simplify your development tasks by strictly sticking to a naming convention. For example, if you limit yourself entirely to lower-case characters and always separate words with either hyphens or underscores (but not both, pick one and never use the other), then you have an easy-to-remember pattern. You will never wonder "was it firstName or FirstName?" because you will always know that you should type first_name. Prefer camel case? Then limit yourself to that, no hyphens or underscores, and always, consistently use either upper-case or lower-case for the first character, don't mix them.


A now very obscure problem was that at least one browser, Netscape 6, incorrectly treated id attribute values as case-sensitive. That meant that if you had typed id="firstName" in your HTML (lower-case 'f') and #FirstName { color: red } in your CSS (upper-case 'F'), that buggy browser would have failed to set the element's color to red. At the time of this edit, April 2015, I hope you aren't being asked to support Netscape 6. Consider this a historical footnote.

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90

From the HTML 4 specification:

ID and NAME tokens must begin with a letter ([A-Za-z]) and may be followed by any number of letters, digits ([0-9]), hyphens ("-"), underscores ("_"), colons (":"), and periods (".").

A common mistake is to use an ID that starts with a digit.

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80

You can technically use colons and periods in id/name attributes, but I would strongly suggest avoiding both.

In CSS (and several JavaScript libraries like jQuery), both the period and the colon have special meaning and you will run into problems if you're not careful. Periods are class selectors and colons are pseudo-selectors (eg., ":hover" for an element when the mouse is over it).

If you give an element the id "my.cool:thing", your CSS selector will look like this:

#my.cool:thing { ... /* some rules */ ... } 

Which is really saying, "the element with an id of 'my', a class of 'cool' and the 'thing' pseudo-selector" in CSS-speak.

Stick to A-Z of any case, numbers, underscores and hyphens. And as said above, make sure your ids are unique.

That should be your first concern.

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67

jQuery does handle any valid ID name. You just need to escape metacharacters (i.e., dots, semicolons, square brackets...). It's like saying that JavaScript has a problem with quotes only because you can't write

var name = 'O'Hara'; 

Selectors in jQuery API (see bottom note)

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55

Strictly it should match

[A-Za-z][-A-Za-z0-9_:.]* 

But jQuery seems to have problems with colons, so it might be better to avoid them.

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