Indrek Lasn
Jul 7, 2018 · 4 min read

Let’s Talk About Events, More Specifically Pointer Events.

What are pointer events?

Back in the good old days, we only had a mouse, and listening for events was simple. The web content assumed the user’s pointing device would be a mouse.

Nowadays we have many devices which don’t correlate to having a mouse, like phones with touch surface or pens.

How can we listen for events if the user doesn’t have a mouse?

Touch events to the rescue!

The touch events’ interfaces are relatively low-level APIs that can be used to support application-specific multi-touch interactions, such as a two-finger gesture.

A multi-touch interaction starts when a finger (or stylus) first touches the contact surface. Other fingers may subsequently touch the surface and optionally move across the touch surface. The interaction ends when the fingers are removed from the surface. During this interaction, an application receives touch events during the start, move and end phases.

Adding touch event listeners is rather simple, but you have to support both the touch and mouse:,console,output

Try this example on your phone, and try using it on the desktop version to split the screen and then inspect the console.log output.

testing touch events on iPhone

Supporting both the touch and mouse events can become very bloated and hard to maintain since you basically have to code events for different devices.

Pointer events to the rescue!
check out this awesome polyfill by the jQuery team to enable support for pointer events on most browsers

Remember our example above where we had 2 event listeners — one for the mouse and one for the touch?

Well, instead of writing two event listeners, we can simply change one of them to pointermove and remove the rest.

pointermove supports touch and mouse,console,output

It’s amazing what browsers can do today! Fingers crossed we have fully native experience inside browsers someday.

React recently launched version 16.4 with native pointer events support.

Let’s create a quick react project and try out these new nifty events. Update to the latest create-react-version and start the project.

Since pointer events support touch events, we want to test it on our phone, too. Open the app on your phone with via on your network: url.

Opening the react app with my phone

We start off by creating the same circle and declaring a state called hasCapture:

Next up, let’s add onPointerEnter and onPointerLeave — which is exactly how it sounds, when you hover over the element.

onPointerEnter and onPointerLeave

But what’s the difference between onPointerEnter and onMouseEnter?


In a nutshell, by using pointer-events, we’re supporting more devices. It’s probably the future way of doing events.

If you want to take your JavaScript abilities to the next level, I’d recommend reading the “You Don’t Know JS” book series.

Thanks for reading, stay awesome! ❤

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Indrek Lasn

Written by

Simplicity matters. Grow together. Follow me on Twitter @ co-founder @

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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