Lightbox (JavaScript)

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A typical lightbox image display

Lightbox is a JavaScript technique used to display images and other web content similar to a modal dialogs where the image is shown up center filling most of the screen, and the rest of the window is dimmed out.[1] The fundamental difference is that when a modal dialogs is used "the main window can't be used", a Lightbox does not stop this fundamental functionality. In a Lightbox, users can simply press the "tab" key to access links, buttons, or any other page elements; acknowledging the UI element will remain.

The term Lightbox was originally the name of a specific JavaScript plugin, written by Lokesh Dhakar.[2] However, common usage of the term has evolved to encompass Lightbox-style JavaScript plugins and effects in general.


The technique gained widespread popularity due to its simple yet elegant style and easy implementation. The original Lightbox plugin used two JavaScript libraries, Prototype Javascript Framework[3] and,[4] for its animations and positioning. In April 2012, the plugin was rewritten for jQuery.[5] The open-source nature of Lightbox encouraged developers to modify and fork the code, resulting in plugins such as Colorbox, Magnific Popup, Slimbox or Thickbox.


Lightbox scripts are dependent upon a browser's JavaScript compatibility,[4] though the simplicity of implementations and the maturity of such scripts make this dependency mostly irrelevant. Many Lightbox scripts use unobtrusive JavaScript. Browsers that do not load the script for whatever reason can instead simply load the image as a separate page load, losing the Lightbox effect but still retaining the ability to display the image.[6]


  1. ^ Jakob Nielsen, Alertbox. "10 Best Application UIs". 
  2. ^ Dhakar, Lokesh. "Lightbox JS". Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  3. ^ Herrington, Jack D. "Ajax and XML: Ajax for lightboxes". IBM DeveloperWorks. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  4. ^ a b Schmitt, Christopher (2006). CSS Cookbook. O'Reilly. p. 204. ISBN 0-596-52741-1. 
  5. ^ Dhakar, Lokesh. "Lightbox2". Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  6. ^ Zervaas, Quentin (2007). Practical Web 2.0 Applications with PHP. Springer. p. 423. ISBN 1-59059-906-3.