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The $.fn.sendkeys Plugin

This post is obsolete. Please see the updated post.

The phone pad below is messed up in Internet Explorer. I know. I don't care anymore. The plugin, however, works.

	$('div.test input:button').click(function(){
		$('.output').sendkeys($('div.test input:text').val());
	$('.phonepad input').click(function(){
		$('.output').sendkeys( || this.value);
	$('.output:first').bind('keypress', function(evt){
		$('#keypress').text($('#keypress').text()+' '+evt.which);
	}).bind('sendkeys', function(evt){
		$('#sendkeys').text($('#sendkeys').text()+' '+evt.which);

<textarea class="output"></textarea>
<input type="text" class="output" />
<div class="phonepad"><input type="button" name="{leftarrow}" value="&larr;"/><input type="button" name="{rightarrow}" value="&rarr;"/><input type="button" name="{backspace}" value="BS"/><input type="button" value="7" /><input type="button" value="8" /><input type="button" value="9" /><input type="button" value="4" /><input type="button" value="5" /><input type="button" value="6" /><input type="button" value="1" /><input type="button" value="2" /><input type="button" value="3" /><input type="button" value="*" /><input type="button" value="0" /><input type="button" value="#" /></div>
<div class="test"><input type="text" /><input type="button" value="test"/></div>
<div id="keypress">keypress event.which:</div>
<div id="sendkeys">sendkeys event.which:</div>

The $.fn.sendkeys Plugin

I wanted to make a general-purpose onscreen keypad, and wasted a huge amount of time trying to find a way to simulate a keypress. $(element).trigger("keypress",...) won't work. Neither will keyup or keydown. For security reasons, I guess, you can't tell an element to pretend a key was pressed. The browser is too worried that you will access menus or something.

So I wrote my own plugin and named it after Microsoft's sendkeys which does similar things. For any element elem that is a <textarea> or <input type="text">, $(elem).sendkeys(string) inserts string at the insertion point or selection. It's the insertion point sensitivity that makes it more sophisticated than elem.value += string.


Download $.fn.sendkeys.

You can use it on more than one element at a time, like any plugin, but it looks funny, since the insertion point only blinks on the last element (see the example above).

Internet Explorer (of course!) causes a bit of trouble, since input elements do not retain the location of the insertion point when focus returns to them. I have to store the insertion point in $.data(elem, 'sendkeys.selection'), which works, but on first use it always appends to the string rather than inserting.

In the example above, the "test" button will insert whatever is in the text field into the output on top.

It might work on other elements, but there are no guarantees.

Special keys

Some special keys are defined, namely {backspace} to delete backwards, {del} to delete forwards, and {rightarrow} and {leftarrow} to move the insertion point. {selectall} selects the entire field. {{} inserts a { by itself. So $(elem).sendkeys('1234') inserts 1234, $(elem).sendkeys('123{backspace}4') inserts 124, and $(elem).sendkeys('1234{leftarrow}{leftarrow}{leftarrow}{del}') inserts 134.

I used Microsoft's key-escaping notation rather than backslashes because putting backslashes in strings means escaping them, and I always get lost in the forest of slashes. Unlike the Microsoft function, this does not use metacharacters (+^%~).


There are no options to the plugin call itself, but the $.fn.sendkeys.defaults object contains the functions to deal with special keys. It defaults to:

$.fn.sendkeys.defaults = {
	'{backspace}': backspace,
	'{rightarrow}': rightarrow,
	'{leftarrow}': leftarrow,
	'{del}': del,
	'{{}': function() {, '{')},
	'simplechar': simplechar // the default function

where the backspace, rightarrow, leftarrow and del functions are browser-specific. You can create synonyms easily, like $.fn.sendkeys.defaults['{BS}'] = $.fn.sendkeys.defaults['{backspace}']. $.fn.sendkeys.defaults.simplechar is the workhorse insertion function. You can define your own special key functions as function(<string>), where the argument is the name of the special key and this is bound to the element.

Thus, $.fn.sendkeys.defaults['{alert}'] = function(s) {alert(this.value}}.

The plugin also pulls custom special keys from the jQuery cache with the key 'sendkeys', so

$.data(elem, 'sendkeys', {
	'{alert}' : function(s) {alert(this.value}}

will use that function on that element only.


To help simulate an actual keypress, the plugin does a trigger('keypress') with the event keyCode, charCode and which all set to the ascii value of the letter sent. This is only triggered with simplechar; special characters do not trigger that event.

In addition, trigger('sendkeys') (a custom event) is executed, with event.which set to the original string that was sent.

{ 11 } Comments

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