• This page describes Version 4 techniques.
  • iframes are not supported by Netscape 4.
  • iframes inside layers are buggy in Opera 6 (solved in 7). Even outside layers, they can be very buggy in Opera 5 on Mac.
  • WebTV reloads the entire page when reloading an iframe.
  • Using location.href in an iframe to change the page in the iframe does not work in Explorer 4 and 5.0 on Windows and Opera.

    On this page I give a short overview of accessing iframes from the page they’re on. Not surprisingly, there are some browser considerations.

    An iframe is an inline frame, a frame that, while containing a completely separate page with its own URL, is nonetheless placed inside another HTML page. This gives very nice possibilities in web design. The problem is to access the iframe, for instance to load a new page into it. This page explains how to do it.

    Frame or object?

    The fundamental question is whether the iframe is seen as a frame or as an object.

    As you might have guessed, the answer depends on the browser. But it also depends on which attributes you assign to the iframe.

    NAME attribute

    The most important rule is to give any iframe you create a name attribute, even if you also use an id.

    <iframe src="iframe_page1.html"

    Most browsers need the name attribute to make the iframe part of the frame hierarchy. Some browsers (notably Netscape 6) need the id to make the iframe accessible as an object. By assigning both attributes to the iframe you keep your options open. But name is far more important than id.


    I want to change the source of the test iframe below so that it toggles between page 1 and page 2. I tried four lines of code.

    Example 2
    <iframe src="iframe_page1.html"

    Accessing the iframe

    So for a complete cross–browser experience you should give the iframe a name and use the


    syntax. As far as I know this always works.

    Accessing the document

    Accessing the document inside the iframe is quite simple, provided you use the name attribute. To count the number of links in the document in the iframe, do

    Accessing the parent

    Just like with real frames, parent works from the iframe in all browsers: it accesses the parent window (ie. the window in which the iframe is defined). Try the link in page 1 in the iframe for a test.

    Changing the page from the iframe itself

  • Using location.href in an iframe to change the page in the iframe does not work in Explorer 4 and 5.0 on Windows and Opera 6.
  • Now we come to a surprisingly difficult part: changing the page in the iframe from the iframe itself. Simple links work:

    <a href="iframe_page1.html">normal link</a>

    However, suppose you have to do it through JavaScript. The normal way is

    location.href ='iframe_page1.html'

    But when you do this from an iframe, it doesn’t work in Explorer 4.0 and 5.0 on Windows and Opera! A simple alert(location.href) works fine: it shows the URL of the current page. But changing the location.href has no effect whatsoever. This is obviously a bug.

    Changing location.href works fine in Explorer on Mac, Explorer 5.5+ on Windows and Netscape 6.