Detect which word has been clicked on within a text

I am building a JS script which at some point is able to, on a given page, allow the user to click on any word and store this word in a variable.

I have one solution which is pretty ugly and involves class-parsing using jQuery: I first parse the entire html, split everything on each space " ", and re-append everything wrapped in a <span class="word">word</span>, and then I add an event with jQ to detect clicks on such a class, and using $(this).innerHTML I get the clicked word.

This is slow and ugly in so many ways and I was hoping that someone knows of another way to achieve this.

PS: I might consider running it as a browser extension, so if it doesn't sound possible with mere JS, and if you know a browser API that would allow that, feel free to mention it !

A possible owrkaround would be to get the user to highlight the word instead of clicking it, but I would really love to be able to achieve the same thing with only a click !

Answers:

Answer

As far as I know, adding a span for each word is the only way to do this.

You might consider using Lettering.js, which handles the splitting for you. Though this won't really impact performance, unless your "splitting code" is inefficient.

Then, instead of binding .click() to every span, it would be more efficient to bind a single .click() to the container of the spans, and check event.target to see which span has been clicked.

Answer

The only cross-browser (IE < 8) way that I know of is wrapping in span elements. It's ugly but not really that slow.

This example is straight from the jQuery .css() function documentation, but with a huge block of text to pre-process:

http://jsfiddle.net/kMvYy/

Here's another way of doing it (given here: jquery capture the word value ) on the same block of text that doesn't require wrapping in span. http://jsfiddle.net/Vap7C/1

Answer

Here are improvements for the accepted answer:

$(".clickable").click(function (e) {
    var selection = window.getSelection();
    if (!selection || selection.rangeCount < 1) return true;
    var range = selection.getRangeAt(0);
    var node = selection.anchorNode;
    var word_regexp = /^\w*$/;

    // Extend the range backward until it matches word beginning
    while ((range.startOffset > 0) && range.toString().match(word_regexp)) {
      range.setStart(node, (range.startOffset - 1));
    }
    // Restore the valid word match after overshooting
    if (!range.toString().match(word_regexp)) {
      range.setStart(node, range.startOffset + 1);
    }

    // Extend the range forward until it matches word ending
    while ((range.endOffset < node.length) && range.toString().match(word_regexp)) {
      range.setEnd(node, range.endOffset + 1);
    }
    // Restore the valid word match after overshooting
    if (!range.toString().match(word_regexp)) {
      range.setEnd(node, range.endOffset - 1);
    }

    var word = range.toString();
});?
Answer

-EDIT- What about this? it uses getSelection() binded to mouseup

<script type="text/javascript" src="jquery-1.6.3.min.js"></script>
<script>
$(document).ready(function(){
    words = [];
    $("#myId").bind("mouseup",function(){
        word = window.getSelection().toString();
        if(word != ''){
            if( confirm("Add *"+word+"* to array?") ){words.push(word);}
        }
    });
    //just to see what we've got
    $('button').click(function(){alert(words);});
});
</script>

<div id='myId'>
    Some random text in here with many words huh
</div>
<button>See content</button>

I can't think of a way beside splitting, this is what I'd do, a small plugin that will split into spans and when clicked it will add its content to an array for further use:

<script type="text/javascript" src="jquery-1.6.3.min.js"></script>
<script>
//plugin, take it to another file
(function( $ ){
$.fn.splitWords = function(ary) {
    this.html('<span>'+this.html().split(' ').join('</span> <span>')+'</span>');
    this.children('span').click(function(){
        $(this).css("background-color","#C0DEED");
        ary.push($(this).html());
    });
};
})( jQuery );
//plugin, take it to another file

$(document).ready(function(){
    var clicked_words = [];
    $('#myId').splitWords(clicked_words);
    //just to see what we've stored
    $('button').click(function(){alert(clicked_words);});
});
</script>

<div id='myId'>
    Some random text in here with many words huh
</div>
<button>See content</button>
Answer

Here is a completely different method. I am not sure about the practicality of it, but it may give you some different ideas. Here is what I am thinking if you have a container tag with position relative with just text in it. Then you could put a span around each word record its offset Height, Width, Left, and Top, then remove the span. Save those to an array then when there is a click in the area do a search to find out what word was closest to the click. This obviously would be intensive at the beginning. So this would work best in a situation where the person will be spending some time perusing the article. The benefit is you do not need to worry about possibly 100s of extra elements, but that benefit may be marginal at best.

Note I think you could remove the container element from the DOM to speed up the process and still get the offset distances, but I am not positive.

Answer

And another take on @stevendaniel's answer:

$('.clickable').click(function(){
   var sel=window.getSelection();
   var str=sel.anchorNode.nodeValue,len=str.length, a=b=sel.anchorOffset;
   while(str[a]!=' '&&a--){}; if (str[a]==' ') a++; // start of word
   while(str[b]!=' '&&b++<len){};                   // end of word+1
   console.log(str.substring(a,b));
});
<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/2.1.1/jquery.min.js"></script>

<p class="clickable">The objective can also be achieved by simply analysing the
string you get from <code>sel=window.getSelection()</code>. Two simple searches for
the next blank before and after the word, pointed to by the current position
(<code>sel.anchorOffset</code>) and the work is done:</p>

<p>This second paragraph is <em>not</em> clickable. I tested this on Chrome and Internet explorer (IE11)</p>

Answer

This is a followup on my comment to stevendaniels' answer (above):

In the first code section above, range.setStart(node, (range.startOffset - 1)); crashes when run on the first word in a "node," because it attempts to set range to a negative value. I tried adding logic to prevent that, but then the subsequent range.setStart(node, range.startOffset + 1); returns all but the first letter of the first word. Also, when words are separated by a newline, the last word on the previous line is returned in addition to the clicked-on word. So, this needs some work.

Here is my code to make the range expansion code in that answer work reliably:

while (range.startOffset !== 0) {                   // start of node
    range.setStart(node, range.startOffset - 1)     // back up 1 char
    if (range.toString().search(/\s/) === 0) {      // space character
        range.setStart(node, range.startOffset + 1);// move forward 1 char
        break;
    }
}

while (range.endOffset < node.length) {         // end of node
    range.setEnd(node, range.endOffset + 1)     // forward 1 char
    if (range.toString().search(/\s/) !== -1) { // space character
        range.setEnd(node, range.endOffset - 1);// back 1 char
        break;
    }
}
Answer

What looks like a slightly simpler solution.

document.addEventListener('selectionchange', () => {
  const selection = window.getSelection();
  const matchingRE = new RegExp(`^.{0,${selection.focusOffset}}\\s+(\\w+)`);
  const clickedWord = (matchingRE.exec(selectiaon.focusNode.textContent) || ['']).pop();
});

I'm testing

Answer

The selected solution sometimes does not work on Russian texts (shows error). I would suggest the following solution for Russian and English texts:

function returnClickedWord(){
    let selection = window.getSelection(),
        text = selection.anchorNode.data,
        index = selection.anchorOffset,
        symbol = "a";
    while(/[a-zA-z0-9?-??-?]/.test(symbol)&&symbol!==undefined){
        symbol = text[index--];
    }
    index += 2;
    let word = "";
    symbol = "a";
    while(/[a-zA-z0-9?-??-?]/.test(symbol) && index<text.length){
        symbol = text[index++];
    word += symbol;
    }
    alert(word);
}
document.addEventListener("click", returnClickedWord);
Answer

Here's a solution that will work without adding tons of spans to the document (works on Webkit and Mozilla and IE9+):

http://jsfiddle.net/Vap7C/15/

<p class="clickable">some words</p>

$(".clickable").click(function(e) {
    s = window.getSelection();
    var range = s.getRangeAt(0);
    var node = s.anchorNode;
    while (range.toString().indexOf(' ') != 0) {
        range.setStart(node, (range.startOffset - 1));
    }
    range.setStart(node, range.startOffset + 1);
    do {
        range.setEnd(node, range.endOffset + 1);

    } while (range.toString().indexOf(' ') == -1 && range.toString().trim() != '' && range.endOffset < node.length);
    var str = range.toString().trim();
    alert(str);
});?

in IE8, it has problems because of getSelection. This link ( Is there a cross-browser solution for getSelection()? ) may help with those issues. I haven't tested on Opera.

I used http://jsfiddle.net/Vap7C/1/ from a similar question as a starting point. It used the Selection.modify function:

s.modify('extend','forward','word');
s.modify('extend','backward','word');

Unfortunately they don't always get the whole word. As a workaround, I got the Range for the selection and added two loops to find the word boundaries. The first one keeps adding characters to the word until it reaches a space. the second loop goes to the end of the word until it reaches a space.

This will also grab any punctuation at the end of the word, so make sure you trim that out if you need to.

Answer

For the sake of completeness to the rest of the answers, I am going to add an explanation to the main methods used:

  • window.getSelection(): This is the main method. It is used to get information about a selection you made in text (by pressing the mouse button, dragging and then releasing, not by doing a simple click). It returns a Selection object whose main properties are anchorOffset and focusOffset, which are the position of the first and last characters selected, respectively. In case it doesn't make total sense, this is the description of anchor and focus the MDN website I linked previously offers:

    The anchor is where the user began the selection and the focus is where the user ends the selection

    • toString(): This method returns the selected text.

    • anchorOffset: Starting index of selection in the text of the Node you made the selection.
      If you have this html:

      <div>aaaa<span>bbbb cccc dddd</span>eeee/div>
      

      and you select 'cccc', then anchorOffset == 5 because inside the node the selection begins at the 5th character of the html element.

    • focusOffset: Final index of selection in the text of the Node you made the selection.
      Following the previous example, focusOffset == 9.

    • getRangeAt(): Returns a Range object. It receives an index as parameter because (I suspect, I actually need confirmation of this) in some browsers such as Firefox you can select multiple independent texts at once.

      • startOffset: This Range's property is analogous to anchorOffset.
      • endOffset: As expected, this one is analogous to focusOffset.
      • toString: Analogous to the toString() method of the Selection object.

Aside from the other solutions, there is also another method nobody seems to have noticed: Document.caretRangeFromPoint()

The caretRangeFromPoint() method of the Document interface returns a Range object for the document fragment under the specified coordinates.

If you follow this link you will see how, in fact, the documentation provides an example that closely resembles what the OP was asking for. This example does not get the particular word the user clicked on, but instead adds a <br> right after the character the user clicked.

function insertBreakAtPoint(e) {
  let range;
  let textNode;
  let offset;

  if (document.caretPositionFromPoint) {
    range = document.caretPositionFromPoint(e.clientX, e.clientY);
    textNode = range.offsetNode;
    offset = range.offset;    
  } else if (document.caretRangeFromPoint) {
    range = document.caretRangeFromPoint(e.clientX, e.clientY);
    textNode = range.startContainer;
    offset = range.startOffset;
  }
  // Only split TEXT_NODEs
  if (textNode && textNode.nodeType == 3) {
    let replacement = textNode.splitText(offset);
    let br = document.createElement('br');
    textNode.parentNode.insertBefore(br, replacement);
  }
}

let paragraphs = document.getElementsByTagName("p");
for (let i = 0; i < paragraphs.length; i++) {
  paragraphs[i].addEventListener('click', insertBreakAtPoint, false);
}
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr,
sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat,
sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum.
Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.</p>

It's just a matter to get the word by getting all the text after the previous and before the next blank characters.

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