Joseph Hallenbeck

I dabbling more and more with JavaScript lately. In the past my solutions to most site-related problems has been to write server-side PHP modules to add whatever functionality I needed. Since I started using WordPress to manage my site content, I started finding myself using JavaScript to ease-up on the amount of html that I need to type into my post boxes. Take Lightbox for an example. Lightbox is a pretty amazing piece of JavaScript that easily creates animated slideshows out of a series of image links. I use it on my art and photography pages. The problem with Lightbox? Telling Lightbox to animate a link rather than just link straight to the pictures is very verbose. For example to create this animation:

Ivan Sketch “This ink wash panel from my webcomic ‘Ivan @ the End of the World,’ shows my growing interest in the use of water-based ink washes to depict gradient shading in my works.”

I need to type the following into WordPress:

<span style="color: #009900;"><<a href="http://december.com/html/4/element/a.html"><span style="color: #000000; font-weight: bold;">a</span></a> <span style="color: #000066;">title</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"This ink wash panel from my webcomic Ivan @ the End of the World, </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">          shows my growing interest in the use of water-based ink washes to </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">          depict gradient shading in my works."</span></span>
<span style="color: #009900;">   <span style="color: #000066;">rel</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"lightbox[sketch]"</span> </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">   <span style="color: #000066;">href</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"/images/art/sketch_ivan.jpg"</span> ></span>
    <span style="color: #009900;"><<a href="http://december.com/html/4/element/img.html"><span style="color: #000000; font-weight: bold;">img</span></a> <span style="color: #000066;">class</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"aligncenter"</span> </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">         <span style="color: #000066;">src</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"/images/art/sketch_ivan.jpg"</span> </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">         <span style="color: #000066;">alt</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"Ivan Panel"</span> <span style="color: #000066;">width</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"60%"</span> <span style="color: #66cc66;">/</span>></span>
<span style="color: #009900;"><<span style="color: #66cc66;">/</span><a href="http://december.com/html/4/element/a.html"><span style="color: #000000; font-weight: bold;">a</span></a>></span>

Why so much text? First, Lightbox uses the anchor’s title attribute to generate a caption rather than the image’s alt text. The result is the repetition of the string value for the alt and title attributes. Second, lightbox uses the anchor tag’s href value to direct the browser to load the full resolution image. This allows the image tag to point to a smaller thumbnail picture. Yet in most cases of blogging, the thumbnail is just the original picture reduced to fit into the blog’s div. If this is the case than the href attribute on the anchor is merely replicating the src attribute on the image tag. What we really want, is to shorten the monstrosity above into this:

<span style="color: #009900;"><<a href="http://december.com/html/4/element/a.html"><span style="color: #000000; font-weight: bold;">a</span></a>></span>
    <span style="color: #009900;"><<a href="http://december.com/html/4/element/img.html"><span style="color: #000000; font-weight: bold;">img</span></a> <span style="color: #000066;">class</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"aligncenter"</span> </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">         <span style="color: #000066;">src</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"/images/art/sketch_ivan.jpg"</span> </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">         <span style="color: #000066;">alt</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"This ink wash panel from my webcomic 'Ivan @ the End of the World,' </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">              shows my growing interest in the use of water-based ink washes to </span>
<span style="color: #009900;">              depict gradient shading in my works."</span> <span style="color: #000066;">width</span><span style="color: #66cc66;">=</span><span style="color: #ff0000;">"60%"</span>></span>
<span style="color: #009900;"><<span style="color: #66cc66;">/</span><a href="http://december.com/html/4/element/a.html"><span style="color: #000000; font-weight: bold;">a</span></a>></span>

So much shorter! But how? The solution is in a very simple JavaScript function that I wrote which adds the Lightbox script to all images surrounded by empty anchor tags:

<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>  lightboxThis is a convenient method <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">for</span> transforming all anchored
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>  images <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">in</span> a specified div into lightbox images. <span style="color: #660066;">To</span> use
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>  lightboxThis call it during the onload event <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">in</span> the  tag
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>  and pass it the divId <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">for</span> images that should be lightboxed.
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>  <span style="color: #339933;">@</span>param string divId The unique id<span style="color: #339933;">,</span> all images wrapped <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">in</span> empty anchor
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   tags <span style="color: #009900;">(</span><span style="color: #339933;">&</span>lt<span style="color: #339933;">;</span>a<span style="color: #339933;">>&</span>lt<span style="color: #339933;">;/</span>a<span style="color: #339933;">></span><span style="color: #009900;">)</span> <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">in</span> the specified div will be transformed into
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   lighbox images. <span style="color: #660066;">Note</span><span style="color: #339933;">:</span> <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">this</span> method uses the img alt attribute
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   to determine the caption and will only work <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">if</span> an alt tag is
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   included <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">in</span> each image<span style="color: #339933;">,</span> <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">if</span> no caption is desired <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">set</span> the alt
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   attribute to alt<span style="color: #339933;">=</span><span style="color: #3366CC;">" "</span>.
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>  <span style="color: #339933;">@</span>param optional bool group If <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">this</span> parameter is <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">set</span> to <span style="color: #003366; font-weight: bold;">true</span> than
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   lighboxThis will group all images <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">in</span> the specified div into
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   a lighbox group with the name of the unique div id as the
<span style="color: #339933;">*</span>   group name <span style="color: #009900;">(</span>e.<span style="color: #660066;">g</span>. <span style="color: #660066;">rel</span><span style="color: #339933;">=</span><span style="color: #3366CC;">"lighbox[divId]"</span><span style="color: #009900;">)</span>
<span style="color: #339933;">*/</span>
<span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">function</span> lightboxThis<span style="color: #009900;">(</span>divId<span style="color: #339933;">,</span> group<span style="color: #009900;">)</span> <span style="color: #009900;">{</span>
    <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">var</span> anchors <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> document.<span style="color: #660066;">getElementById</span><span style="color: #009900;">(</span>divId<span style="color: #009900;">)</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">getElementsByTagName</span><span style="color: #009900;">(</span><span style="color: #3366CC;">"a"</span><span style="color: #009900;">)</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span>
    <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">for</span> <span style="color: #009900;">(</span>i <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> <span style="color: #CC0000;">0</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span> i <span style="color: #339933;">&</span>lt<span style="color: #339933;">;</span> anchors.<span style="color: #660066;">length</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span> i<span style="color: #339933;">++</span><span style="color: #009900;">)</span> <span style="color: #009900;">{</span>
        <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">var</span> innerChild <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> <span style="color: #CC0000;">0</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span>
    innerChild <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> anchors<span style="color: #009900;">[</span>i<span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">getElementsByTagName</span><span style="color: #009900;">(</span><span style="color: #3366CC;">"img"</span><span style="color: #009900;">)</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span>
    <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">if</span> <span style="color: #009900;">(</span>innerChild<span style="color: #009900;">[</span><span style="color: #CC0000;">0</span><span style="color: #009900;">]</span> <span style="color: #339933;">&&</span> <span style="color: #339933;">!</span>anchors<span style="color: #009900;">[</span>i<span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">href</span><span style="color: #009900;">)</span> <span style="color: #009900;">{</span>
        anchors<span style="color: #009900;">[</span>i<span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">href</span> <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> innerChild<span style="color: #009900;">[</span><span style="color: #CC0000;">0</span><span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">src</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span>
        anchors<span style="color: #009900;">[</span>i<span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">title</span> <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> innerChild<span style="color: #009900;">[</span><span style="color: #CC0000;">0</span><span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">alt</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span>
        <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">if</span><span style="color: #009900;">(</span><span style="color: #339933;">!</span>group<span style="color: #009900;">)</span> <span style="color: #009900;">{</span> anchors<span style="color: #009900;">[</span>i<span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">rel</span> <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> <span style="color: #3366CC;">"lightbox"</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span> <span style="color: #009900;">}</span>
            <span style="color: #000066; font-weight: bold;">else</span> <span style="color: #009900;">{</span> anchors<span style="color: #009900;">[</span>i<span style="color: #009900;">]</span>.<span style="color: #660066;">rel</span> <span style="color: #339933;">=</span> <span style="color: #3366CC;">"lightbox["</span><span style="color: #339933;">+</span>divId<span style="color: #339933;">+</span><span style="color: #3366CC;">"]"</span><span style="color: #339933;">;</span> <span style="color: #009900;">}</span>
    <span style="color: #009900;">}</span>
    <span style="color: #009900;">}</span>
<span style="color: #009900;">}</span>

If you’re interested in implementing this on your own blog simply copy the function into your WordPress theme’s header and surround it with tags. Then you need to add the following to your theme’s <body> tag:

body onload<span style="color: #339933;">=</span><span style="color: #3366CC;">"lightboxThis('blog_area')"</span><span style="color: #339933;">></span>

Where ‘blog_area’ is the name for the div id where your blog’s posts reside.

"Automatic Lightbox on WordPress via JavaScript" by Joseph Hallenbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Support this and future posts on