Firefox, ALT Tags, and Tooltips

By Deane Barker on November 9, 2004

Extension Room :: Popup ALT Attributes: Interesting little flamewar going on over at the Mozilla Extension Room. First, here’s something I didn’t know:

The ALT tag for images is NOT supposed to produce a little tooltip when you mouseover an image, according to the HTML spec. This is supposed to be the job of the TITLE tag.

Firefox has never done this for ALT tags, correctly obeying the spec. This always confused me, because some images would pop a tooltip and others wouldn’t. Apparently the ones that did also had a TITLE tag, unbeknowst to me.

However, IE has always done it for the ALT tag too, which actually seems reasonable to me. I don’t see the harm.

So someone created an extention for Firefox to “fix” this problem. Not everyone was pleased:

It’s a shame people are producing extensions like this. ALT is the text that is to replace the image if for whatever reason the image doesn’t load. The tooltip text is supposed to be the value of the TITLE attribute.

Flaming ensued:

It’s a shame people are #*X?@ing about the availability of plugins that allow me to view pages in the way I see fit. It’s not as if the mozilla team is forcing you to view pages a certain way and I’ll be damned if I can’t view pages the way I want, regardless of how you code them. If you are blind, can not load images or are saddened by the weakening of the w3c’s role in developing web standards then do not download this plugin.



  1. In fact, thinking a bit further into the subject, it’s entirely possible that things like this are actually pretty dangerous.

    This plugin appeals to a certian small subset of the internet at large, a good portion of which are developers. So, instead of using this to say “Hey guys, just start using TITLE tags like you’re supposed to. It’s no big deal.”, we say “Let’s just make it so we don’t have to do anything different at all.” I think this is a very small representation of the very large issues that keep web standards from being the norm.

  2. I think freedom and flexibility are one of Firefox’s strenghts. Default behavior should stick to W3C standard, then you have the choice to play around with extensions, alternative stylesheet, XUL, whatever.

  3. “Apparently the ones that did also had a TITLE tag, unbeknowst to me.”

    Not necessarily “also”; the TITLE attribute is not dependant on the ALT attribute.

  4. but alt tags are required to be xhtml compliant. i think emulating this behavior is a bad idea. i like to use the alt ant title tags for different things. the alt is really to describe the picture in case it doesn’t load or a text-based browser or screen reader is being used. titles are great for little extras like instructions, fun facts, and the like that show up only if the user cares enough to mouse over the image. this modified behavior means that everything you put into your title tags isn’t displayed. it’s like deciding not to display p tags because spans can do a lot of the same stuff.

  5. I am sighted, can load images, and don’t give a s#@! about the W3C’s role in anything, but I do know something about the history of ALT and TITLE attributes. Netscape 4 got it wrong, using the ALT attribute as a tooltip. IE emulated that behavior. Then people complained that that was wrong (true), and Microsoft listened (amazing but true), and IE was changed to use the TITLE attribute as the tooltip. However, if no TITLE attribute is present, then it will still use the ALT attribute as a tooltip, to emulate Netscape 4’s behavior.

  6. Why exactly is this bad practice anyway? Just because the spec says it doesn’t mean its the most logical, or the optimum. I mean if you think about it, this sort of alteration actually adds useful functionality to your browser.

    1) If people wan’t tool tips which read the same as the ALT text, they dont have to write both in. Which is good for two reasons. Firstly, lazy developers have to type less, and secondly it means you have to download less redundant data which means smaller pages which means faster load times.

    2) If people wan’t a seperate Tooltip which is different from the ALT text, they can define the TITLE attribute anyway. It’s not like the ALT tag has to or should override the TITLE tag.

    Wheres the bad side? So what if it means people can be a little bit lazier? (which it doesn’t. because its an extension. If you want cross-browser support properly your going to have to define both anyway) I honestly can’t see any logical reason to dislike this plugin. The only people whining about this is those who are subjucated to the W3C and can’t manage to think for themselves. “It’s what the specs say” is not a reason.

  7. specs should be followed and work towards changing the spec

    incorrect is incorrect – do we emulate bad specs from opera just because we think they do it right as opposed to those that write the specs?

  8. The long and short of it is that Firefox isn’t emulating IE here. An extension is. Don’t like it? Don’t use the extension. Personally, I’d use it. I also wish there was an extension that would render customized scroll bars like IE can.

  9. Alex, ALT text was never intended to be seen and the ALT and TITLE content should be different. The spec is quite clear and, IMHO, correct about this. The most pratical example I can think of would be an icon in a web application.

    The Image’s ALT: Iconographic white document with text

    The link surrounding the icon might have a TITLE of: Edit this document’s title, body, and summary.

    Similarly, you may want to give a photo in a news article a lengthy ALT describing the location, time, and people involved – but place the copyright info in the TITLE (though it would be more appropriate in a cite tag… but ehh… big media companies and their CMSes)

    That said, if someone wants to implement a Firefox plugin to make all strong tags blink repeatedly … I mean, that’s their choice.

  10. “The most pratical example I can think of would be an icon in a web application.

    The Image’s ALT: Iconographic white document with text” This would be incorrect usage of the alt attribute as well. If for whatever reason I can’t see your image (I’m blind, I’m using lynx, I’d rather have my phone read the page to me than squint at the tiny screen, …) having “Iconographic white document with text” in its place is completely useless to me. A better value for alt would be “Edit” or “Edit this document”.

    “Similarly, you may want to give a photo in a news article a lengthy ALT describing the location, time, and people involved”

    An image that is itself a piece of content is a less clear-cut case. IMO alt’s purpose is better served with a summation of the information conveyed by the photo than a description of the scene; for example, with a vacation photo “Leif, Monica and I had lots of fun boating in the Okanagan” is preferable to “Leif, Monica and I in a houseboat on a calm lake with lots of maple trees behind us”.

    longdesc=”” is for descriptions, alt=”” is for text that conveys the same meaning as an image.

  11. Cool to keep the core as pure as possible, to handle alt and title attributes as the spec dictates. But, hands-off my extensions! these can be freely created by third parties to satisfy whatever needs or wants they have, and sorry, but those are out of anyone’s control. Now, do you want to see a flame war between browser so-called ‘purists’ and other er, shall we call them ‘progressives’? Why doesn’t Moz/Gecko/Firefox support picture fonts (Webdings, etc)?

  12. In general, I agree with those that believe the alt text should not display as a tooltip, and I appreciate the fact the the Mozilla team will not violate the specifaction to introduce such a harmful feature.

    However, I also accept that people have a right to customise Firefox however they see fit, for their own use. So, the availability of an extension that provides the behaviour for those that want it is not a problem, and I think those that participate the flame war need to stop and think about the situation a little more.

    Although, I will never use the extension, nor recommend its use to anyone, it is their choice, and if they want Firefox to mimic the harmful behaviour of IE and NN4, then so be it.

  13. Ohh go on then I’ll chip in.

    As long as the core browser follows the specs I’m a happy bunny. If developers choose to ignore those specs then on their head be it.

    If, as a web user, I want to use this extension I should have the choice to do just that.

    Spotted what’s missing yet?


    I didn’t know that about ALT and TITLE tags either and it sounds like a lot of developers don’t (or they’d use them correctly, right?). Maybe the author of this extension should expand on this a little in the description. That way people how decide to use it will at least KNOW that the sites they are viewing that use ALT instead of TITLE are not coded to the W3 spec.

    I think this is less about the extension than the understanding of WHY the W3 spec should be followed. Alex said “Just because the spec says it doesn’t mean its the most logical, or the optimum. ” And I agree. HOWEVER if that is true then YOU SHOULD BE WORKING TO CHANGE THE SPEC!! Not ignoring it.

  14. “The ALT tag for images is NOT supposed to produce a little tooltip when you mouseover an image, according to the HTML spec. “

    The HTML spec does not say that a visual UserAgent cannot display ALT text as a tooltip. The reason why Mozilla does not display ALT text as a tooltip is not because doing so would violate the spec, but because designers tend to abuse the ALT attribute by expecting a tooltip to be displayed when they should be using the TITLE attribute instead. Mozilla is simply trying to discourage this practice.

    Here it is in their words:

    “Mozilla doesn’t display the alt attribute as a tooltip, because it has been observed that doing so encourages authors to misuse the attribute.” — Source:

    People who are outraged by this Firefox extension or Internet Explorer’s behaviour in this regard really don’t know what they are talking about. A UserAgent can choose to expose any part of a hypertext document to a user in any way it chooses. This does not violate the HTML spec, because the HTML spec doesn’t govern such issues.

    The real issue here is web developers who abuse the ALT attribute, not with the way in which a browser chooses to expose hypertext information to a user.

  15. I read a trackback the other day for this post that pointed out something about the title: it’s not an “ALT tag” as I say. It’s an attribute, not a tag. I don’t know what I was thinking there.

  16. its a pain in the ass….so many different renderings of data in different browsers..makes life very hard for us web designers.

  17. “Just because the spec says it doesn’t mean its the most logical, or the optimum. ” And I agree. HOWEVER if that is true then YOU SHOULD BE WORKING TO CHANGE THE SPEC!! Not ignoring it.”

    If the entire history of graphical browsers teaches us one lesson, it’s this: ignoring the spec is the most effective way of changing it.

  18. specs are set for a reason. There are reasons why there is a market for new browser (firefox) that follows the W3 specs closer. Not that i’m surprised that micro$oft got another product wrong. :P

  19. I’m frankly astonished that so many people care so deeply about alt text not being displayed. I’m yet more astonished that I feel moved to type anything about it, but, apparently, I do. I certainly agree title text should be displayed at the tooltip if it’s present; however, enforcing the “minimum” standard, just so that people won’t code badly, seems to me unnecessary. People do code badly, even good coders. It’s not stupidity or laziness; occasionally we all make a tpyo, it’s very easy to do. IE renders “idiot code”, like using an opening tag in some cases where someone has forgotten the slash. This would be evil if it caused good code to render badly, but it doesn’t (that’s down to other IE bugs, instead).

    I had an idea about this a while ago, though. Should browsers be very strict, or very lenient? What if you have to write something badly in order to make it work with a buggy browser? I thought — why not have a switch? You can have absolute rigidity for testing your page, and some flexibility for reading the page of someone who writes terrible HTML but has some useful content you need. I don’t want to have to export an otherwise useful page to a text editor just because someone can’t code HTML, to take an extreme possibility. Moreover, it’s my opinion that making it harder to write good code so only good coders will try actually makes for worse code in the long run — like a speed chicane, which forces you to drive more slowly by making the road more dangerous, thereby holding the probability of an accident constant — assuming you aren’t driving the opposite way to a speed demon.

  20. I agree that the standard is ultimately there to protect the intent, but extensions are just that…. extensions. If I want to have one that diplays the temperature in Australia in every tooltip, I think that’s acceptable.

    As for the idea of a “switch”, I think that’s an excellent idea. The inclusion of a “pedantic” or “insanelystrictlikemy2ndgradeteacher” switch would allow a single browser to be both a communications tool (read: plain old window to the web) as well as a development tool… In fact, I would love to see that implemented in a number of data gathering tools (rss aggregators, various xml consumption tools, etc.)

    When all is said and done, though, the purpose of Firefox is to provide an alternative to IE’s lackluster performance and functionality. The quality of that browser (IE, that is) has impacted the quality of content on the web. Which is to say that we might not be having this conversation if not for the non-conforming functionality that IE has which compensates for a lacking title tag…

  21. Hi all!

    My opinion, being a long time curser of the non standard hell of markup incompatibility.

    Any plugins are welcome – they work at the consumers discretion – as long as the browser adheres to standards. This goes for the browser implementation of HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS and Javascript. It makes the whole publishing process so much easier.

    As a publisher I may code however I want and the blame is on me if the result is not what I want in every browser. But if my markup and logic complies to a declared standard, the presentation of my efforts should be consistent.

    For a bad example ( as of april 2005 ), go to my page :-)

    The workarounds for non compliant browsers is still a nightmare, although diminshing and hats off for the Mozilla gang for teaching us to follow standards. I didn’t know of the title attribute until now, when I searched the webb for comments. I knew the reason for the alt attribute ( Lynx & al ) and that making it into a tooltip was fine.

    But let’s learn and use standars. It’s relly cool! /Bertil

  22. Damn, I’m glad I found out about that extension. As a developer, it’s really frustrating to have to go to the code to see if I remembered to add an alt tag for each image. It’s nice to just mouse over everything in a browser to check. Those people who complain and who think this is a bad idea live in very small worlds.

  23. as a notoriously amateurish and lazy developer I didn’t even know about the TITLE tag being the correct standard for displaying tool tips and had always used ALT … stumbling upon this thread whilst trying to fathom why Firefox refused to display the tips…

    as for whether or not one should advocate the use of this plug in – well , I couldn’t really give a monkey’s either way.


  24. pesonally, am a littlle bit happy about firefox but its got lots of plugin probs which does not help the issue of web stardards… most importantly i would like to know why ALT tags cant be dispalyed in firefox…..and how can it be displayed.

  25. I find tooltips very handy – and it comes down to the fact that I want to see them. I’m going to install the extension to do so – because most of the sites I use still put the tooltip in the ALT tag. These sites put significant investment into design at a time when popular browsers were using the ALT tag for tootips – and there was no alternative!

    I’m all for standards but I’m going to install a extension – rather than wait for all the sites I visit to invest a ton of man hours into updating their sites.

  26. Seems to me that All of you coders only care about how easy it is for You to Code. If the spec writers and “specs” really cared about users who have problems reading their pages one of the best places to start is with bigger fonts.

    Hard coding an eight or six point font onto a page is stupid! Take this very page for example, can’t change its size to make it readable. So I have to turn on the “Magnifier” just to read it. I’m not blind but enough already.

    All of you need to think in a bigger picture. What good is any code if at the end of the day, you just piss-off the very people your tags were ment to help? or if it can’t be seen by a normal human eye?

  27. You are able to increase or decrease the size of the fonts on this page within a single browser without the use of “Magnifier.” I assume most people do not have a problem reading the text here, but you can always increase them (CTRL + ADD_KEY) or reduce your screen resolution.

  28. Its interesting to note that WYSIWYG editors such as Macromedia’s Dreamweaver do not offer the ‘Title’ tag as a standard image attribute, rather you must add this in code view on your own :-/

  29. It strikes me as highly entertaining that people call a popup tooltip “Harmful behaviour” as though some unscrupulous coder might try and infect a poor defenceless ALT tag with a hard-drive-erasing virus.

    Please, without all the overly-emotive B/S, can any please give ONE, just ONE, CLEAR, UNCLUTTERED example of how this actually IS ‘Harmful behaviour’, or are you all just monkey sitting in your virtual trees jibbering over who’s got the biggest banana?

    Replies to here, flames to, thanks. No junk mail, no spam, no circulars or coupon books please, newspapers in the top slot only. Have a nice fries with that.

  30. I found this thread with Google after wondering why the page I was viewing claimed to show tooltips but they only worked in IE. I hadn’t realised there was a problem before and the comments of other writers suggest it’s not just me (in my defence, I’m not a web author).
    As Firefox becomes more popular and most (rather than some) html developers test on Firefox, this issue will sort itself out, providing no one changes the current defualt behaviour of Firefox for ALT attributes. Perhaps with more people using the extension, fewer people will complain to site authors about the problem, but I don’t think that is likely to have a large effect.
    To my mind, there are two questions raised here: whether displaying the ALT attribute as a tooltip in the absence of a TITLE attribute actually is against the standard and whether clarifying the standard in favour of this extenision’s behaviour would be a good idea.
    Standards are good (sometimes even when they advocate a less than optimal way of doing something, for whatever reason) because everyone is working from the same page. I should have thought this was self evident. Having said this, I think the standard is ambiguous: it says TITLE attributes should be represented as tooltips but says nothing about what to do in the absence of TITLE attributes. I’m not necessarily an advocate of removal of ambiguity in general though. If we hadn’t had the freedom to innovate with browsers because the standard was so rigidly described, many of the positive changes that have come about since HTML version 1.0 would not have been made.
    In this specific case, I think I agree with the Mozilla dev team. ALT is for describing a picture for those who cannot (or will not) see the image. If this behaviour is subverted into giving tooltips for those looking at the images (even if these attributes are only used in the absence of a TITLE attrib), then the original purpose is lost and it is a good purpose.
    I would therefore be in favour of pressing the W3C to recommend (nothing stronger) that ALT not be used for tooltips and waiting until the growing Firefox market share forces developers to change their coding practices. In the end, the W3C standard describes the parts and purpose of HTML. The interpretation of the code into visual (or audible, or whatever) elements is the choice of the user and I would argue very strongly for that and therefore for the existence of this extension.

  31. Oh for Loki’s sake! The W3C is not the Catholic Church people! What is it with all these software zealots who act like religious fanatics? Yes, there’s a standard. No, a lot of people don’t follow it. It’s not the crusades. You harp about crap like this because its a standard but no one says anything about all this awful java crap floating around the web. Want to bend yourselves to a meaning ful cause? How about stopping the things that ARE HARMFUL! Java, active-x, php, flash and all this other lame-ass, cut & paste “I can’t compile Hello World in clean C but I can code active script to render in other people’s browsers” nonsense is why the web sucks now. A bunch of lame no-coding “Web-Designers” who wouldn’t know a true coding standard if it bit them in the ass writing cutsy little scripts that do meaningless crap in my browser. The web has ruined it self with this junk you people came up with and you expect me to care about something thats along the lines of a brace-style preference when it comes down to it?! Give me a break.

  32. Firefox sucks. It’s clearly slower than IE and follows “the rules” so strictly that sloppily designed web pages don’t display correctly. And now I find out why my tool tips don’t display…. because of their dogmatic adherence to standards. I don’t know what they hype is about that browser, it just plain sucks. Now, with all the comments I’ve read here… I’m still not clear on something seemingly simple.. Is firefox able to display tooltips or not? Ok yes, I uderstand, Title is the correct way to display them, but then Netscape allowed alt to display them, IE copied netscrapes bug and so they display tooltips when either Title or Alt is used… but what about Firefox? I can’t get firefox to display tooltips when I use Title or Alt.. is there anyway to get firefox to show tool tips? no? ok, confirming it sucks. Tool tips are super valuable when you want to explain the meaning of small graphic icons, users just hover their cursor over the icon and can read what it does rather than having to click it to find out…. as much as I don’t like the evil empire of Redmond, mozilla just plain sucks.

  33. I can’t believe that grown up people are actually fighting about this. If you don’t like the extension, don’t install it. It’s not your right to decide how other people run their Firefox/browsing experience. I personally feel it’s just a bunch of elitists who are complaining about this. Anything that makes things easier for the average person, they don’t like.

  34. When the alt attribute is shown as a tooltip, it may overlay the text next to the image (for example). The alt attribute is for when the IMAGE fails to load!

    If a programmer wants a quick little popup, they can use the title attribute, even for tables, cells, spans or form elements.

    I think it is sad that we expect SO MUCH PERFECTION from Micro$oft so we lambbaste them all the time, but we like that their programs can handle “sloppy code”. We expect bugfree code from their programmers.

    Why not expect web developers to do it RIGHT? All web developers that produce documents for the general public or for a slice of the general public should make sure their sites look good in more than ONE browser. AND, if you are going to use only one browser, make it one that CAN’T handle sloppy code, you hack!

    Checking your pages on another OS isn’t a bad idea either!

    If you won’t trouble with making sure your pages look right for everybody, just do us all a favor and step away from the keyboard.

  35. well im one of these people that has problems making the pages appear in Firefox, i generally use templates for my websites and welcome this plug-in as im not experienced with web design and although i have 4 sites up and running – i have no idea how to fix the img thing – something thats eluded me for a while – but my html programming is getting better so in the meantime if there is a plug-in to help with this problem then im all for it

  36. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. First off, the plug-in isn’t meant to be for developers to get away from doing things the “right” way. It’s there for the sites you don’t control. If you need to have the TITLE set and it was developed only using ALT, you don’t have much of a choice, do you!? Anyone arguing against the plug-in is a moron. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. It’s that simple.

    As far as ALT vs. TITLE is concerned, I honestly didn’t know the difference. I didn’t even know the IMG tag supported the TITLE attribute. I think that anything that can help users get what they want out of web sites – yes, even non-compliant sites – is a good thing. If you don’t like it, don’t use it – just shut the hell up about it all. Damn idiots.

  37. +1 vote for Firefox continuing to follow well though-out standards and IE changing to follow suit. I should be able to place ALT text on an image without it showing up when it’s not supposed to. That’s what TITLE is for.

  38. All of this would be great if Firefox actually displayed title text as tool tips, which it does not! ie might be wrong in displaying alt text as tool tips, but at least, if the title is there, it displays that instead. Firefox displays nothing.

  39. I do believe FireFox is doing the right thing…….if you try to render tooltips with title, FF cuts them off at 40-50 charechters…

    I need to display a lot more text then 40-50 chars as tooltips in firefox…(dont ask me why…..the customer wants, the customer gets) If Firefox wants to implements standrards, it should do so correctly….

    Any workaround to this???

  40. It turns out that the Yahoo! Page Builder thingy has a “tool tip” attribute you can edit that adds the text you enter to the ALT tag. I asked the guy I know who uses it (who asked me how to get Firefox to view that “mouseover text stuff”) if there is a TITLE attribute and he said all there is “tool tip”. Someone oughta get on Yahoo!’s case for perpetuating the badness.

  41. Hey, Steve. If you’re still reading this 6 months later, use mouseover and java script.

  42. well it’s all well and good that alt should be used differently from title but why then do the wysiwyg editors not allow you to specify a title tag for images when you place them in your document but they do allow an alt tag.?

    i think if people really want to stick to the specs (which i try to do best i can) then they should petition the wysiwyg editors makers to include the ability to add title tags without referring to code for every image on there site.!!!

    so everyone email macromedia and adobe and everyone else to get this included as a standard feature to there programs.!!!

    oh i really dont see the problem with ie showing alt if title tags arent defined……

  43. Specs, schmecks. This makes navigating a site with java pop-up graphics menus nearly impossible.

    I am sighted and 99% of my graphics files load with no problems.

    I just came from a site that used a java menu system and shows graphic buttons with the nav links on a mouseover. But – if I hover over the link to actually, you know, see the menu options, the ‘tooltip’ text of the alt tag covers up the first couple menu items partially or completely.

    Just let me turn that ‘feature’ off so I don’t have to have my menus obstructed while my browser decides to help me read the perfectly legible text.

    Have all the arguments about semantics you like – I still can’t navigate your site like this.

  44. Hi All!

    Of course, there are standards to follow, however, it appears that people NEED this functionality. So, just to let us be little bit more relaxed while gurus are working on standards I’ve adopted “MultiPopup” script originally written by Emrah BASKAYA to work in Firefox 2.0.

    Files (both user.js and xpi versions) are here

    If there it “title” in tag, script will show it, if not, it will look for “alt”.

    Enjoy … and sorry for work against the standards :-p

  45. I have low vision and do NOT use a screen reader. I need to see the alt text in text as a tooltip because some images are hard for me to read. Turning off images all together would make the page less usable for me. Thus, I would really like to see Firefox have an option without an extension to see the alt attribute as a tooltip. The whole purpose of the alt tag is for people who can’t distinguish the image, Firefox is not meeting my needs because the default program does not support his. Many corporate customers are not able to install extensions.

  46. 95% of sites only have Alt for images and no title. Of course I want to see the tooltip text of the Alt tag! In Dreamweaver you only have Alt for images and if I want to add TITLE to the image, it shows error! I made hundreds of sites with dreamweaver and I didn’t know that Title tag even exists! Firefox should show a tooltip with the ALT text if the Title tag is not present!

  47. What puzzles me isn’t that Firefox would play with the alt attribute, but that it continues to butcher (truncate) title tooltips, a fault which apparently goes back to the turn of the millenium.
    The alt attribute, for non-displayed images, was intended to be brief (80 characters being the more common recommendation) … but the title attribute was intended precisely for more extended information, with no such limit, such as would work better as a tooltip than in the body of the document. I use them to enhance schedules that can’t incorporate all the useful information in any other way, and they’re great.
    Is there any explanation of this? How difficult can it be? Opera and IE both use it as intended. Have Firefox fans simply come to accept this behavior?

  48. …silly question – why not just made the ALT spec do both?

    Is it really earth shattering that the ALT or TITLE tags do their own little thing, or can do both?

    Me thinks it is just a peeing contest. Ok, it was a spec, but in reality, 85%+ browsers ‘abuse’ it. So apart from being a stick in the mud, will this really lead to the downfall of the W3C if they adapt or change the “rules” for the ALT tag?

    I mean, big deal, just means more hand coding. Dreamweaver uses ALT tags and one has to manually put in the TITLE command for each picture. Waste my time, not being lazy, just one more thing to keep an eye on.

    What does Google use for ranking, ALT or TITLE tags?


  49. Here’s Dreamweaver help on the TITLE tag:

    Setting Title properties There is only one title property: the title of the page. The title appears in the title bar of the Document window in Dreamweaver as well as in the browser?s title bar when you view the page in most browsers. The title also appears in the toolbar. Enter the page title in the Title text box

  50. I think that Alt is not a standard tag for displaying tooltips. Although IE displays tooltips if Alt is used. It is IE’s fault. Title is the right tag to do so.

  51. Standards-compliant ua behavior is good. Not allowing common users to view important information on most (even tho not standard-compliant) webs is evil. Users know nothing about standards, they just want to use the webs as before. Imagine that FF would not display pages with at least one error at all. Imagine it would not display pages with bad grammar or spelling… Get it? Those who argue against allowing displaying ALTs as tooltips apparently never USED any webpages (except the w3c validator).

  52. Specs or not, I wonder why FF renders tooltips on a straight line, sometimes truncating the text. Not that I want to publish the Holy Bible on a tooltip, but it could at least show a complete sentence without the goddamned ellipses. Is truncating text one of the W3C specs too?

  53. The problem is that the frickin’ TITLE tag truncates at 100 characters, while the ALT tag doesn’t. If they want us to use the tag, make it work properly.

    I personally think it’s a bad move my Mozilla to not emulate Internet Explorer perfectly. They have the biggest market share. Guess which browser is going to be developed for. And how many people are going to think that Firefox is the one with the deficiency.

    It sounds to me that the developers are rules junkies who have a pet peeve.

  54. Of course the specs doesn’t say that – its just the zealots at Firefox HQ who are more interested in their own egos than actually making a browser which is useful to the end user. It is amazing that 4 years later they still haven’t fixed their “alt” tag stupidity.

  55. “The real issue here is web developers who abuse the ALT attribute, not with the way in which a browser chooses to expose hypertext information to a user.”

    False. The problem is a browser that doesn’t render what people expect. Still today people are wondering why Firefox doesn’t do it this way. They are not doing it the correct way, regardless of the way they spin it. They should fix it.

  56. I love how so few of these comments seem to grasp the point here – most users don’t call up the designer of a website and go ‘hey, I’d like to see the tooltips on your pics – go change your ALTs to TITLEs.’ It’s a matter of being able to use your browser to get past bad design to what you need, like changing default colors so you can read dark grey on black text, or enlarging tiny tiny text. Yes, they shouldn’t be doing it, yes, it’s kind of lazy not to include both. Until there’s actually a way to punish people for bad web design, we’ll just have to find a way to work around it.

  57. we need to make a movement. I mean a huge freaking movement. Like burn people at steaks for not following standards. And i don’t care about the regular developer dude. I am talking about the guys who develop IE and other stuff. There is a freaking standard for everything in this world but web. how retarted. and we are supposed to be the pioneers, the future of our world, and we can’t even come together to write a freaking set of rules for web. Think of all the seconds, minutes, hours, days wasted on dudes like us searching the web to figure out a hack for this and that browser. So much effort wasted just cause the people at the top can’t get together and put the foot down and say: this is how we are going to communicate. At this point in time this is not an issue for some developer dudes at W3C. I am talking about presidents of countries coming together on these standards. So many things are online now, and should be and will be. This is serious crap. And knowing us developers we’re all like: ohhh it should be this and that and freedom and screw it man this is like as important as space exploration and there should be freaking standards followed just like airplane traffic has it’s. IE should be disqualified for a couple of years. Like banned by the governments. It’s that serious. Just remember how much waste this is producing. Disgusting. Fudge you all that are not following standards. And i am not talking about the regular little developer, but the guys writing IE and etc…shame on you. Future depends on you guys and you are playing a intellectual snob game. It’s funny. Ha! HAHAHAH! IT could have been so far ahead by now…sad…someone should just go there and bitchslap them until they come onto common grounds.

    ps. i repeat – this is not our little guys problem – we are a drop in the ocean. This is higher shit. mothers….

    just a dude

  58. Well, in one sense this thread has been very informative. I found it while trying to figure out why my tooltips weren’t showing up in Firefox. Now I know.

    I suppose it’s a good thing that the browser has called my attention to this spec.

    On the other hand, I suppose I really don’t understand why this spec exists. And, in fact, I’m highly alarmed by what Shawn said in an early comment:

    “Alex, ALT text was never intended to be seen and the ALT and TITLE content should be different. The spec is quite clear and, IMHO, correct about this. The most pratical example I can think of would be an icon in a web application.”

    My Note: Actually, the ALT text is intended to be seen… in lieu of seeing the image itself. Just because it’s not intended to be seen by those who can see the image, doesn’t mean that it’s not intended to be seen by anybody at all. Big distinction.

    Continuing the quote:

    “The Image’s ALT: Iconographic white document with text

    The link surrounding the icon might have a TITLE of: Edit this document’s title, body, and summary.

    Similarly, you may want to give a photo in a news article a lengthy ALT describing the location, time, and people involved – but place the copyright info in the TITLE (though it would be more appropriate in a cite tag… but ehh… big media companies and their CMSes) “

    My Note: … what a horrible practice.

    The ALT tag has one purpose: to give useful information about the image, whenever necessary, to people who cannot see the image itself!

    I fully agree with Brendan Taylor’s response, and would add that, if I were a blind person listening to such a page on an audio reader (a perfect example of the exact kind of person for whom the ALT text is intended), the presence of such alt text would really, really annoy me. It would just clutter up the webpage, and tell me absolutely nothing useful at all.

    Personally, I have yet to encounter a situation where the ALT and TITLE should be different:

    Image links:

    • When you mouse over an image link in an image-capable browser, you should see information about that image link that gives you a clue about where you’ll go if you click it.

    • If you’re reading the page in a browser that doesn’t have image capabilities, then instead of the image, you should see information about that image link that gives you a clue about where you’ll go if you click it.

    Images that are not links:

    If an image is not a link, but just an image, odds are it’s just there for cosmetic purposes. It shouldn’t clutter up browsers that can’t see the cosmetics, with information that isn’t at all relevant to the intended audience. And, not too surprisingly, you probably don’t want such images to display a tool tip either. (I generally just have empty strings in the ALT text for these… and my pages test as compliant in the W3C validation service. I conform to specs; I just think very carefully about who the intended audience is.)

    Again, ALT text is there just to provide any useful information to people who can’t see the image in their browser. If there is no information about the image that is useful to people who can’t see the image, than their browsers should just skip over them. Hence the empty strings. (Browsers that can’t see images, or browsers reading content aloud, simply skip empty ALT strings. You still have to have an ALT string so the browser knows what to do with the image, but you don’t have to have anything in it. And, for purely cosmetic images – images that serve no purpose other than cosmetic – you shouldn’t have anything in it.)

    On second thought, I did think of a moment when something should display ALT text but not a tool tip: if you have a web page that specifically says something like, “And here is the picture!” followed by a picture, there should probably be some ALT text to tell those who couldn’t see it, where the picture was.

    Just my $.02. This is actually the main reason I’m posting – I’m not a blind person, but if I were, it would be very irritating if something like the ALT tag, which was specifically developed for people like me (as well as others who can’t see images when browsing, for whatever reason), was used in a way that is of no use to me whatsoever. That just screams, “inconsiderate.”

    Anyway, going back to the original topic of this thread… for browsing purposes (not coding purposes), I personally want to see the ALT text (except for when an alternate TITLE is provided, of course) when I browse, so I like that this extension exists.

  59. please could u tell me how can i use alt tag in mozila firefox because i can see alt tag in “E” , “safari” netscap please tell me how can i use alt tag in mozila

  60. I always wondered why I wasn’t getting the ALT tags in Firefox and now I know. I’ll be updating my code now to implement this in the correct way.

    Many Thanks.


  61. I agree title is preferred, but many times we use websites and web-based applications that treat alt value as tool tip. And the owner has no interest or ability to change. How else are we to get a reminder of a button’s function? Someday hopefully all designers will understand alt and title, but until then I’d rather not fire up IE so I can use a site.

  62. Many web developers (myself included) have never gone to school for this. We learn by doing. We learn by seeing what others have done. We learn by reverse engineering.

    Because IE had/has a huge market share, a lot of those developers (myself included) have always seen the alt attribute rendered as a tooltip. This is not harmful in any way. If the standard does not compel FF to render it, then the developers of FF have the option of not rendering it. That does not make it WRONG for another browser, or a browser extension, to render it.

    I believe a browser should, to the best of it’s ability, render the author’s intention. Since NN4 and IE set a precedence that has led authors to expect a certain rendering, then I think rendering alt as tooltip makes good sense.

    My $0.02

  63. You see, after years of using IE, we were taught bad practices. We got used to do things the non-standard way. So along comes a popular browser like FireFox and starts adhering to W3C, and now we’re all p*ssed off about it. Hey, don’t blame Firefox, blame IE.

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