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CSS3 Attribute Selectors

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

The power of CSS Selectors can not be understated; for, without them, there would be no simple means by which developers could target specific elements for styling in a manner abstracted from, or external to, the actual markup to which the styles will bind.

In addition to some of the more common Simple Selectors, such as Type Selectors, Class Selectors and Id Selectors, we have have Attribute Selectors, which, as the name implies, allow us to match elements based on their attributes.

Attribute Presence and Value Selectors

CSS2 introduced four Attribute Selectors; referred to as Attribute Presence and Value Selectors, which allow for coarse grained matching of specific elements based on their attributes and / or attribute values. These include the following:

e[attr]
Where e is an element and [attr] is an attribute of element e. For example, p[title] would match all p tags with a title, regardless of the value of the title.
e[attr=val]
Where e is an element and [attr=val] represent an attribute of element e which contains the exact value of val. For example, p[title="Example 1"] would match all p tags with a title which equals “Example 1” exactly.
e[attr~=val]
Where e is an element and [attr~=val] is an attribute of element e which has a value containing a whitespace-separated list of words, one of which equals val exactly. For example, p[title~="Example-1a"] would match all p tags with a title containing the word “Example-1a” in a list of whitespace delimited words.
e[attr|=val]
Where e is an element and [attr|=val] is an attribute of element e that has a value of val exactly, or begins with val immediately followed by a hyphen “-“. For example, p[title!="Example"] would match all p tags with a title containing the word “Example-“, followed by any other value, such as “Example-1”, “Example-A”, etc..

View Example

Substring Matching Attribute Selectors

In addition to the above Attribute Presence and Value Selectors, CSS3 expands on this by defining three additional Attribute Selectors; referred to as Substring Matching Attribute Selectors. These additions allow for fine grained matching of specific elements based on their attribute values.

In simplest terms, the new Attribute Selectors in CSS3 can be used to match an element with a given attribute whose value begins, ends or contains a certain value. The following is a basic description and example of each new Attribute Selector:

e[attr^=val]
Where e is an element and [attr^=val] is an attribute of element e which contains a value that begins with val.
e[attr$=val]
Where e is an element and [attr$=val] represent an attribute of element e which contains a value that ends with val.
e[attr*=val]
Where e is an element and [attr*=val] is an attribute of element e which has a value that contains val.

View Example

To summarize, there are a total of seven Attribute Selectors in CSS3, three of which are new. Whether used for general matches, such as global Attributes; e.g. *[hreflang|=en] or more specific matches, such as chaining; e.g, a[href^="https"][target="_blank"], Attribute Selectors provide a powerful mechanism for selecting both general and specific content within a page.