June 26, 2022

Window sizes and scrolling

How do we find the width and height of the browser window? How do we get the full width and height of the document, including the scrolled out part? How do we scroll the page using JavaScript?

For this type of information, we can use the root document element document.documentElement, that corresponds to the <html> tag. But there are additional methods and peculiarities to consider.

Width/height of the window

To get window width and height, we can use the clientWidth/clientHeight of document.documentElement:

For instance, this button shows the height of your window:

Not window.innerWidth/innerHeight

Browsers also support properties like window.innerWidth/innerHeight. They look like what we want, so why not to use them instead?

If there exists a scrollbar, and it occupies some space, clientWidth/clientHeight provide the width/height without it (subtract it). In other words, they return the width/height of the visible part of the document, available for the content.

window.innerWidth/innerHeight includes the scrollbar.

If there’s a scrollbar, and it occupies some space, then these two lines show different values:

alert( window.innerWidth ); // full window width
alert( document.documentElement.clientWidth ); // window width minus the scrollbar

In most cases, we need the available window width in order to draw or position something within scrollbars (if there are any), so we should use documentElement.clientHeight/clientWidth.

DOCTYPE is important

Please note: top-level geometry properties may work a little bit differently when there’s no <!DOCTYPE HTML> in HTML. Odd things are possible.

In modern HTML we should always write DOCTYPE.

Width/height of the document

Theoretically, as the root document element is document.documentElement, and it encloses all the content, we could measure the document’s full size as document.documentElement.scrollWidth/scrollHeight.

But on that element, for the whole page, these properties do not work as intended. In Chrome/Safari/Opera, if there’s no scroll, then documentElement.scrollHeight may be even less than documentElement.clientHeight! Weird, right?

To reliably obtain the full document height, we should take the maximum of these properties:

let scrollHeight = Math.max(
  document.body.scrollHeight, document.documentElement.scrollHeight,
  document.body.offsetHeight, document.documentElement.offsetHeight,
  document.body.clientHeight, document.documentElement.clientHeight

alert('Full document height, with scrolled out part: ' + scrollHeight);

Why so? Better don’t ask. These inconsistencies come from ancient times, not a “smart” logic.

Get the current scroll

DOM elements have their current scroll state in their scrollLeft/scrollTop properties.

For document scroll, document.documentElement.scrollLeft/scrollTop works in most browsers, except older WebKit-based ones, like Safari (bug 5991), where we should use document.body instead of document.documentElement.

Luckily, we don’t have to remember these peculiarities at all, because the scroll is available in the special properties, window.pageXOffset/pageYOffset:

alert('Current scroll from the top: ' + window.pageYOffset);
alert('Current scroll from the left: ' + window.pageXOffset);

These properties are read-only.

Also available as window properties scrollX and scrollY

For historical reasons, both properties exist, but they are the same:

  • window.pageXOffset is an alias of window.scrollX.
  • window.pageYOffset is an alias of window.scrollY.

Scrolling: scrollTo, scrollBy, scrollIntoView


To scroll the page with JavaScript, its DOM must be fully built.

For instance, if we try to scroll the page with a script in <head>, it won’t work.

Regular elements can be scrolled by changing scrollTop/scrollLeft.

We can do the same for the page using document.documentElement.scrollTop/scrollLeft (except Safari, where document.body.scrollTop/Left should be used instead).

Alternatively, there’s a simpler, universal solution: special methods window.scrollBy(x,y) and window.scrollTo(pageX,pageY).

  • The method scrollBy(x,y) scrolls the page relative to its current position. For instance, scrollBy(0,10) scrolls the page 10px down.

    The button below demonstrates this:

  • The method scrollTo(pageX,pageY) scrolls the page to absolute coordinates, so that the top-left corner of the visible part has coordinates (pageX, pageY) relative to the document’s top-left corner. It’s like setting scrollLeft/scrollTop.

    To scroll to the very beginning, we can use scrollTo(0,0).

These methods work for all browsers the same way.


For completeness, let’s cover one more method: elem.scrollIntoView(top).

The call to elem.scrollIntoView(top) scrolls the page to make elem visible. It has one argument:

  • If top=true (that’s the default), then the page will be scrolled to make elem appear on the top of the window. The upper edge of the element will be aligned with the window top.
  • If top=false, then the page scrolls to make elem appear at the bottom. The bottom edge of the element will be aligned with the window bottom.

The button below scrolls the page to position itself at the window top:

And this button scrolls the page to position itself at the bottom:

Forbid the scrolling

Sometimes we need to make the document “unscrollable”. For instance, when we need to cover the page with a large message requiring immediate attention, and we want the visitor to interact with that message, not with the document.

To make the document unscrollable, it’s enough to set document.body.style.overflow = "hidden". The page will “freeze” at its current scroll position.

Try it:

The first button freezes the scroll, while the second one releases it.

We can use the same technique to freeze the scroll for other elements, not just for document.body.

The drawback of the method is that the scrollbar disappears. If it occupied some space, then that space is now free and the content “jumps” to fill it.

That looks a bit odd, but can be worked around if we compare clientWidth before and after the freeze. If it increased (the scrollbar disappeared), then add padding to document.body in place of the scrollbar to keep the content width the same.



  • Width/height of the visible part of the document (content area width/height): document.documentElement.clientWidth/clientHeight

  • Width/height of the whole document, with the scrolled out part:

    let scrollHeight = Math.max(
      document.body.scrollHeight, document.documentElement.scrollHeight,
      document.body.offsetHeight, document.documentElement.offsetHeight,
      document.body.clientHeight, document.documentElement.clientHeight


  • Read the current scroll: window.pageYOffset/pageXOffset.

  • Change the current scroll:

    • window.scrollTo(pageX,pageY) – absolute coordinates,
    • window.scrollBy(x,y) – scroll relative the current place,
    • elem.scrollIntoView(top) – scroll to make elem visible (align with the top/bottom of the window).
Tutorial map


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