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Default Button for HTML Forms with Multiple Buttons

by Tom Rothe on 15.09.2022

Let’s say you create a wizard in a HTML form. One button saves the data and goes back; the other saves and navigates forward. Since the back button appears first in the markup, it will be used when we press Enter. However in this case we want the second button to be the default. Now we have three different options:

  1. Add a hidden submit button with the same action first (☹️ duplication)
  2. Put the desired submit button first and move it to the correct place via CSS (☹️ may not be feasible, may result in cumbersome styling)
  3. Change the handling of the return key in all form inputs via JavaScript (☹️ needs javascript)

None of the options are ideal. We choose the 3rd because most browsers have JavaScript enabled. Here the code to adapt the behavior:

document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', (ev) => {
  for (const defaultSubmitInput of document.querySelectorAll('[data-default-submit]')) {
    const surroundingForm = defaultSubmitInput.form;
    for (const formInput of surroundingForm.querySelectorAll('input')) {
      if (formInput.dataset.ignoreDefaultSubmit != undefined) { continue; }
      formInput.addEventListener('keypress', (ev) => {
        if (ev.keyCode == 13) {
          // if we would use surroundingForm.submit(),
          // the submit button's name & value would not sent as part of the post data
          // however, this might be required by the backend code

And here the HTML markup:

<!-- example markup -->
<form action="" method="get">
  <input type="text" name="field1">
  <input type="submit" name="submit" value="other action">
  <input type="submit" name="submit" value="default action" data-default-submit> <!-- used when enter key is pressed -->

Happy Coding!


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