HTML <form> Tag
<form> tag represents a form in an HTML document.
<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.
<form> tag is written as
</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
Here's a form that is used to collect the user's name details.
Using an Element's
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.
Here are the form-associated elements (i.e. elements that can have a form-owner).
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.
<form> element accepts the following attributes.
This table shows the attributes that are specific to the
|accept-charset||Specifies a list of character encodings that the server accepts. The default value is "UNKNOWN".|
|action||Specifies a URI/URL of the page that will process the form.|
|autocomplete||Specifies 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.
|enctype||Specifies the content type used to encode the form data set when it's submitted to the server.
|method||Specifies the HTTP method to use when the form is submitted.
|name||Assigns 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.|
|novalidate||Specifies 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
|target||Specifies the browsing context to load the destination indicated in the
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.
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.
For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 event handler content attributes.
Differences Between HTML 4 & HTML 5
accept attribute was dropped in HTML5.
HTML5 introduced two attributes that weren't in HTML 4. These are:
Also, HTML5 has added the ability for form-associated elements to become associated with a
<form> element by using the form-associated element's
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.
Here are the official specifications for the
- HTML5 Specification (W3C)
- HTML Living Standard (WHATWG)
- Current W3C Draft (the next version that is currently being worked on)
- HTML 4 (W3C)
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.