Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Offscreen Images and Caching[22.1.3 JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, 5th Edition]

22.1.2. Traditional Image Rollovers
The main feature of the Image object is that its src property is read/write. You can read this property to obtain the URL from which an image was loaded, and, more importantly, you can set the src property to make the browser load and display a new image in the same space.
The ability to dynamically replace one image with another in an HTML document opens the door to any number of special effects, from animation to digital clocks that update themselves in real time. In practice, the most common use for image replacement is to implement image rollovers, in which an image changes when the mouse pointer moves over it. (To prevent jarring visual effects, the new image should be the same size as the original.) When you make images clickable by placing them inside your hyperlinks, rollover effects are a powerful way to invite the user to click on the image.[*] This simple HTML fragment displays an image within an <a> tag and uses JavaScript code in the onmouseover and onmouseout event handlers to create a rollover effect:
[*] No discussion of image rollovers is complete without pointing out that they can also be implemented using the CSS :hover pseudoclass to apply different CSS background images to elements when the mouse "hovers" over them. Unfortunately, making CSS image rollovers work portably is difficult. In practice, :hover is more useful when applied to hyperlinks containing text, rather than images.
<a href="help.html"
<img name="helpimage" src="images/help.gif" border="0">
Note that in this code fragment, the <img> tag has a name attribute that makes it easy to refer to the corresponding Image object in the event handlers of the <a> tag. The border attribute prevents the browser from displaying a blue hyperlink border around the image. The event handlers of the <a> tag do all the work: they change the image that is displayed simply by setting the src property of the image to the URLs of the desired images. These event handers are placed on the <a> tag for the benefit of very old browsers that support those handlers only on specific tags, such as <a>. In virtually every browser deployed today, you can also put the event handlers on the <img> tag itself, which simplifies the image lookup. The event-handler code can then refer to the Image object with the this keyword:
<img src="images/help.gif"
Image rollovers are strongly associated with clickability, so this <img> tag should still be enclosed in an <a> tag or given an onclick event handler.

22.1.3. Offscreen Images and Caching
In order to be viable, image rollovers and related effects need to be responsive. This means that you need some way to ensure that the necessary images are "prefetched" into the browser's cache. To force an image to be cached, you first create an Image object using the Image( ) constructor. Next, load an image into it by setting the src property of this object to the desired URL. This image is not added to the document, so it does not become visible, but the browser nevertheless loads and caches the image data. Later, when the same URL is used for an onscreen image, it can be quickly loaded from the browser's cache, rather than slowly loaded over the network.
The image-rollover code fragment shown in the previous section did not prefetch the rollover image it used, so the user might notice a delay in the rollover effect the first time she moves the mouse over the image. To fix this problem, modify the code as follows:
<script>(new Image( )).src = "images/help_rollover.gif";</script>
<img src="images/help.gif"

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