longdesc (HTML attribute)

Spec
Depr. Version
No HTML 4.01
Browser support (more…)
IE8 FF2 SA4 OP10 CH2
None None None None None

Syntax

longdesc="Long description of frame content"

Description

For non-visual browsers (for example, people accessing web content using screen reader software), it can be difficult to understand what each frame in a frameset is used for. The simplest way to identify a frame’s content/purpose is with the title (coming soon!) attribute (as shown in the example, it should only be a brief description - a helpful summary rather than an unnecessarily overcomplicated hurdle). In order to provide more information/orientation for non-visual browsers, you may use the longdesc attribute to point to a file that contains a complete description of the frame’s purpose or content.

Example

The longdesc attribute refers to a .txt:

<frameset rows="100,*" >
 <frame src="header.html" frameborder="1"
 name="nav" title="Navigation window"/>
 <frame src="home.html" frameborder="0"
 name="main" title="Main window" longdesc="main-description.txt"/>
</frameset>

Value

URL for a file which contains the extra descriptive text, most likely a simple .txt file.

Compatibility

Internet Explorer Firefox Safari Opera Chrome
5.5 6.0 7.0 8.0 1.0 1.5 2.0 1.3 2.0 3.1 4.0 9.2 9.5 10.0 2.0
None None None None None None None None None None None None None None None

The longdesc attribute has almost zero practical use, even with today’s good standards-aware browsers. Despite the best intentions, no browser on the support charts makes it clear to the user when there is extra information for the frame in the form of a descriptive text file. But why would they need to, though? If you can see the content, the content effectively explains itself! (But given that the longdesc is intended for non-visual browsers, it’s not surprising that the browsers tested do not do anything with this attribute.)

In place of (or even in addition to) the longdesc attribute, it may be appropriate to include a quick summary of the page in the document itself. However, that very much depends on the type of content - it may not be suitable for all pages.

A better approach to creating a complex page with framesets and then having an additional maintenance overhead of a descriptive file for a frame is simply to avoid framesets altogether - keep it simple.

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