Window and Element Resizing Annoyances in Internet Explorer

This has been an interesting day. In less than 8 hours, I’ve had to tackle the following IE nuisances:

document.body vs. document.documentElement

In IE 6, in order to access the current width of the window in JavaScript you need to get document.body.clientWidth only if you’re in quirks mode. If you’re in standards mode, this property not only still exists, but it means something entirely different! It instead refers to the width of the body element.

This causes real trouble for some scripts when the value of the this variable seems to suddenly become frozen or fixed at a single value instead of changing appropriately on a window resize event. Instead of document.body.clientWidth, in standards mode, use document.documentElement.clientWidth. (Reference table at

Internet Explorer crashes when attempting min-width

If you use IE’s proprietary expression() syntax to script a CSS value, beware of calculating widths or heights that exactly match the value you’d like to set. If you do something like the following to set a minimum width on #someElement, IE will crash when you actually resize that element to be 500 pixels wide.

#someElement { width: expression(document.body.clientWidth < 500 ? "500px" : "auto"); }

Instead of doing the above, you should check for almost exactly the size you want, like so:

#someElement { width: expression(document.body.clientWidth < 501 ? "500px" : "auto"); }

However, the really important thing to keep in mind is that the minimum width you’re testing (501 in that second case) needs to be at least one pixel greater than the total content and padding width of the element. So if you have an element that needs to be no less than 500 pixels wide but also has 10 pixels of left and right padding, you need to check not for 501 pixels in width, but rather for 521 pixels in width. (Reference on