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Why tooltips and popovers?

Both are elements positioned near a "reference" element, and are hidden until they are triggered. They help conserve space by hiding secondary information or functionality behind a hover or click. They are positioned outside the normal flow of the document so when they are triggered, they are overlayed on top of the existing UI without disrupting the flow of content.

Tippy.js distinguishes them in the following way:

  • A tooltip is an element containing simple text content describing a particular element. It's hidden until the user desires more information from the element, e.g. before deciding to click a button.
  • A popover is an interactive HTML tooltip. It can be a dropdown, menu, or any other kind of box that pops out from the normal flow of the document. This type of element contains non-vital functionality and can be hidden behind a click or hover to conserve space.

Both of these are called a "tippy" when using Tippy.js!

Why Tippy.js?

Tippy's goal is to be as powerful as possible in the smallest possible size using the simplest possible API. It wants to give the user the most control while making them do as little as possible and incurring small cost in terms of download size.

The most basic tooltip is achieved via an attribute without needing to touch JavaScript. Once you start needing more advanced use cases, Tippy gives you full power.

How does Tippy compare to other solutions? For example:

  • popper.js
  • tooltip.js
  • tooltipster
  • microtip
  • balloon.css

Tippy.js, including the CSS and Popper.js dependency, is about 15 kB in size.

Comparison with Popper.js

Size: 7 kB

Popper.js is a positioning engine, not a tooltip library. Popper's only goal is to position one element (the tooltip) near another element (the reference). For people who want full control over their tooltips' appearance and behavior, this is a fantastic library. If you want "out of the box" behavior, then using Tippy might be better.

Since Popper is a dependency of Tippy, you can use them together without incurring additional cost. If your bundler supports ES modules and the "module" field (both Parcel and Webpack support this):

import Popper from 'popper.js'
import tippy from 'tippy.js'

If you're using the CDN, the Popper constructor will already be available.

Comparison with Tooltip.js

Size: 8.5 kB

Tooltip.js is a small tooltip library built on top of Popper, much like Tippy is.

Unlike Tippy, however, it:

  • Does not come with styling or animations
  • Has no lifecycle functions for AJAX requests
  • Has no followCursor option
  • Is more complex to set up, particularly using HTML
  • Interactivity is not possible with a hover event
  • Is less accessible out of the box
  • Cannot update any option after the instance was created

Comparison with Tooltipster

Size: 40 kB

Tooltipster is a fantastic library with very similar functionality, but requires a jQuery dependency, unlike Tippy. To many people these days, this is a dealbreaker! jQuery's minzipped size is about 30 kB, and Tooltipster including CSS is about 10 kB. To people using frameworks like React, Vue, or Angular, it can be hard to deal with such a large dependency.

Tooltipster is also receiving less frequent updates than Tippy, its last version was released over a year ago (as of Feb 2019).

Comparison with Microtip and Balloon.css

Size: 1 kB

Both of these are pure CSS tooltip libraries. CSS tooltips can be tiny in size, but come with many drawbacks:

  • Lack of positioning engine makes flipping impossible (to best fit within viewport)
  • Will overflow in certain situations, particularly when close to the window edge
  • No lifecycle functions / API to initiate effects, such as AJAX
  • No followCursor option
  • No interactivity
  • No dynamic arrow positioning
  • Using HTML content within them (e.g. popovers) is cumbersome or not possible

If you don't need the above, then a CSS tooltip library might better fit your needs.

Why does Tippy come with Popper.js as a dependency?

Positioning "poppers" (elements that exist outside of the normal flow of the document), is quite complex, particularly when dealing with overflow and viewport awareness. Popper.js is actively maintained and very good at what it does, so there's no need to re-invent the wheel.