normalize (W3C DOM Core method)

Version Depr. Static
DOM2 No No
Browser support (more…)
IE6+ FF1.5+ SA1.3+ OP9+
Buggy Full Full Full



The example above will normalize the sub-tree underneath node.


No arguments


Puts this node's sub-tree in a state whereby only structural nodes separate Text nodes.

When a document is first loaded there will be only one Text node for each block of text. Operations such as splitText may divide blocks of text into multiple sibling Text nodes, as may creating and adding new Text nodes, but such divisions will not persist between sessions. The normalize method merges adjacent nodes to [re]create the load state of a single Text node for each block of text.

Tip: normalize doesn’t remove useless whitespace

However this operation doesn't remove whitespace-only Text nodes, because they're not empty — they contain whitespace, and although whitespace is usually insignificant, an implementation should not presume that.

Therefore even a normalized node may have a different subtree between browsers — for example, Firefox counts whitespace-only text nodes as part of the DOM, whereas Internet Explorer ignores them. To gain a truly uniform DOM you can use a whitespace stripping method, such as this one by Alex Vincent:

function cleanWhitespace(node)
  for (var i=0; i<node.childNodes.length; i++)
    var child = node.childNodes[i];
    if(child.nodeType == 3 && !/\S/.test(child.nodeValue))
    if(child.nodeType == 1)
  return node;

The example above will remove all text nodes that only contain whitespace, making the sub-tree underneath node consistent between browsers, and can be called like this:


So if we started with this HTML:

<blockquote class="yoda">
    When nine-hundred years old you reach,
    look as good you will not!

Running cleanWhitespace on the <blockquote> element would produce this result:

<blockquote class="yoda"><p>When nine-hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not!</p></blockquote>


Internet Explorer Firefox Safari Opera
5.5 6.0 7.0 1.5 2.0 3.0 1.3 2.0 3.0 9.0 9.5
None Buggy Buggy Full Full Full Full Full Full Full Full

Internet Explorer 5.5 doesn't implement this method, and will throw an error if it's used.

Note: Unconfirmed bug in IE6

It has been reported that this method can cause some early versions of Internet Explorer 6 to crash. However since I can’t replicate confirm this, it is not documented as a known bug.

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