HTML <form> Tag

The HTML <form> tag represents a form in an HTML document.

The <form> tag is used in conjunction with form-associated elements. To create a form, you typically nest form-associated elements inside the opening/closing <form> tags. You can also use the form attribute within those elements to reference the ID of the form to use.

Syntax

The <form> tag is written as <form></form> with any number of form-associated elements nested between the start and end tags. The <form> tag usually has an action attribute specified (which specifies the page that will process the form). It can also have other attributes. See below under "Template" for a list of attributes that can be used with the <form> element.

Like this:

<form action="process_form.cfm" method="get">
	Form-associated elements here...
</form>

Here's an example that contains three <input> elements and two <label> elements:

<form action="process_form.cfm" method="get">
	<label>First Name: <input name="first_name"></label>
	<label>Last Name: <input name="last_name"></label>
	<input type="submit" value="Submit">
</form>

Examples

Basic Form

Here's a form that is used to collect the user's name details.

Using an Element's form Attribute

It is possible to associate an element with a form by using that element's form attribute. Form-associated elements have this attribute that allow you to explicitly specify which form should be used for that element.

If using an element's form attribute, you must specify the id of the form you wish to associate the element with.

In the following example, I've placed all the form-associated elements outside of the <form> element. But I've purposely associated only two elements with the form (to demonstrate the effect of the form attribute). The first name has been associated with a form but the last name has not. Therefore, the last name is not submitted with the form and the action page doesn't acknowledge the users' last name.

Form-Associated Elements

Here are the form-associated elements (i.e. elements that can have a form-owner).

Attributes

Attributes can be added to an HTML element to provide more information about how the element should appear or behave.

There are 3 kinds of attributes that you can add to your HTML tags: Element-specific, global, and event handler content attributes.

The <form> element accepts the following attributes.

Element-Specific Attributes

This table shows the attributes that are specific to the <form> tag/element.

AttributeDescription
accept-charsetSpecifies a list of character encodings that the server accepts. The default value is "UNKNOWN".
actionSpecifies a URI/URL of the page that will process the form.
autocompleteSpecifies whether the form fields should be automatically completed based on the user's history (i.e. based on previous forms that the user has completed). This relieves the user from having to re-enter form data that could easily be re-populated from previous form history (such as address information).

The autocomplete attribute is an enumerated attribute which has two states; "on" and "off". The default value is "on".

Note that is it possible to set the form's autocomplete to one value, then specify a different value against specific fields within that form.

enctypeSpecifies the content type used to encode the form data set when it's submitted to the server.

Possible values:

  • application/x-www-form-urlencoded (Default value.)
  • multipart/form-data (Use this when uploading files.)
  • text/plain (Use this when uploading files.)
methodSpecifies the HTTP method to use when the form is submitted.

Possible values:

  • get (The form data is appended to the URL when submitted. This is the default value.)
  • post (The form data is not appended to the URL.)
  • dialog (Closes the dialog box in which the form finds itself, if any, and otherwise does not submit.)
nameAssigns a name to the form. This is used when referencing the form with stylesheets or scripts. If there are multiple forms, the name of each form must be unique.
novalidateSpecifies that the form should not be validated during submission.

This is a boolean attribute. If the attribute is present, its value must either be the empty string or a value that is an ASCII case-insensitive match for the attribute's canonical name, with no leading or trailing whitespace (i.e. either novalidate or novalidate="novalidate").

Possible values:

  • [Empty string]
  • novalidate
targetSpecifies the browsing context to load the destination indicated in the action attribute.

Possible values:

  • _blank
  • _self
  • _top
  • _parent

Global Attributes

The following attributes are standard across all HTML5 elements. Therefore, you can use these attributes with the <form> tag , as well as with all other HTML tags.

  • accesskey
  • class
  • contenteditable
  • contextmenu
  • dir
  • draggable
  • dropzone
  • hidden
  • id
  • inert
  • itemid
  • itemprop
  • itemref
  • itemscope
  • itemtype
  • lang
  • spellcheck
  • style
  • tabindex
  • title
  • translate

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 global attributes.

Event Handler Content Attributes

Event handler content attributes enable you to invoke a script from within your HTML. The script is invoked when a certain "event" occurs. Each event handler content attribute deals with a different event.

Below are the standard HTML5 event handler content attributes.

Again, you can use any of these with the <form> element, as well as any other HTML5 element.

  • onabort
  • oncancel
  • onblur
  • oncanplay
  • oncanplaythrough
  • onchange
  • onclick
  • oncontextmenu
  • ondblclick
  • ondrag
  • ondragend
  • ondragenter
  • ondragexit
  • ondragleave
  • ondragover
  • ondragstart
  • ondrop
  • ondurationchange
  • onemptied
  • onended
  • onerror
  • onfocus
  • onformchange
  • onforminput
  • oninput
  • oninvalid
  • onkeydown
  • onkeypress
  • onkeyup
  • onload
  • onloadeddata
  • onloadedmetadata
  • onloadstart
  • onmousedown
  • onmousemove
  • onmouseout
  • onmouseover
  • onmouseup
  • onmousewheel
  • onpause
  • onplay
  • onplaying
  • onprogress
  • onratechange
  • onreadystatechange
  • onscroll
  • onseeked
  • onseeking
  • onselect
  • onshow
  • onstalled
  • onsubmit
  • onsuspend
  • ontimeupdate
  • onvolumechange
  • onwaiting

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 event handler content attributes.

Differences Between HTML 4 & HTML 5

The accept attribute was dropped in HTML5.

HTML5 introduced two attributes that weren't in HTML 4. These are:

  • autocomplete
  • novalidate

Also, HTML5 has added the ability for form-associated elements to become associated with a <form> element by using the form-associated element's form attribute.

To see more detail on the two versions see HTML5 <form> Tag and HTML4 <form> Tag. Also check out the links to the official specifications below.

Template

Here's a template for the <form> tag with all available attributes for the tag (based on HTML5). These are grouped into attribute types, each type separated by a space. In many cases, you will probably only need one or two (if any) attributes. Simply remove the attributes you don't need.

For more information on attributes for this tag, see HTML5 <form> Tag and HTML4 <form> Tag.

<form  
 accept-charset=""
 action=""
 autocomplete=""
 enctype=""
 method=""
 name=""
 novalidate=""
 target=""
 
 accesskey=""
 class=""
 contenteditable=""
 contextmenu=""
 dir=""
 draggable=""
 dropzone=""
 hidden=""
 id=""
 itemid=""
 itemprop=""
 itemref=""
 itemscope=""
 itemtype=""
 lang=""
 spellcheck=""
 style=""
 tabindex=""
 title=""
 translate=""

 onabort=""
 onautocomplete=""
 onautocompleteerror=""
 onblur=""
 oncancel=""
 oncanplay=""
 oncanplaythrough=""
 onchange=""
 onclick=""
 onclose=""
 oncontextmenu=""
 oncuechange=""
 ondblclick=""
 ondrag=""
 ondragend=""
 ondragenter=""
 ondragexit=""
 ondragleave=""
 ondragover=""
 ondragstart=""
 ondrop=""
 ondurationchange=""
 onemptied=""
 onended=""
 onerror=""
 onfocus=""
 oninput=""
 oninvalid=""
 onkeydown=""
 onkeypress=""
 onkeyup=""
 onload=""
 onloadeddata=""
 onloadedmetadata=""
 onloadstart=""
 onmousedown=""
 onmouseenter=""
 onmouseleave=""
 onmousemove=""
 onmouseout=""
 onmouseover=""
 onmouseup=""
 onmousewheel=""
 onpause=""
 onplay=""
 onplaying=""
 onprogress=""
 onratechange=""
 onreset=""
 onresize=""
 onscroll=""
 onseeked=""
 onseeking=""
 onselect=""
 onshow=""
 onsort=""
 onstalled=""
 onsubmit=""
 onsuspend=""
 ontimeupdate=""
 ontoggle=""
 onvolumechange=""
 onwaiting=""
	>
</form>

Tag Details

For more details about the <form> tag, see HTML5 <form> Tag and HTML4 <form> Tag.

Specifications

Here are the official specifications for the <form> element.

What's the Difference?

W3C creates "snapshot" specifications that don't change once defined. So the HTML5 specification won't change once it becomes an official recommendation. WHATWG on the other hand, develops a "living standard" that is updated on a regular basis. In general, you will probably find that the HTML living standard will be more closely aligned to the current W3C draft than to the HTML5 specification.