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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 overlaid 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!


Size: 5.5 KB (core) (including Popper: 12.8 KB)

(core) means the core JS & CSS. If importing more themes, animations, plugins, or addons, the size will increase.

Tippy is an abstraction over Popper and provides a set of features and defaults that make creating tooltip and popover elements easy.

But, how does Tippy compare to other solutions?

#Comparison with Popper.js

Size: 7.3 KB

Popper.js is a positioning engine, not a tooltip library. Popper's only goal is to position an absolutely positioned element (the tooltip) near another element (the reference).

Since the element is absolutely positioned, naively centering it above the reference element can cause it to:

  • Overflow the boundary (viewport, window, scrollParent) and therefore get cut off
  • Overlap its reference element (due to overflow prevention), so it should flip to the opposite side
  • Detach from the reference element if inside a scrolling container

Popper solves all of these problems. The expected logic to do this is very complex, so this is effectively a "baseline" library if you want to even use popper elements (tooltips, popovers, dropdowns) in your app in the first place without them having poor UX.

If you want to build the appearance and behavior of your popper elements from scratch, this is a fantastic library. If you want "out of the box" (abstracted) behavior, then using Tippy might be better.

Tippy takes advantage of Popper as a dependency, so you can use them together without incurring additional cost:

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 CSS tooltip libraries like Microtip or Balloon.css

Size: 1 KB

CSS tooltips can be tiny in size, but come with some drawbacks:

  • Lack of positioning engine means overflow prevention & flipping are not possible
  • Interactivity can be complicated or inaccessible
  • Using HTML content within them is cumbersome (especially with UI libraries like React), with limited dynamism for updating content or reacting to state
  • No dynamic arrow positioning or features like followCursor

#Comparison with Tooltipster

Size: 10 KB (including jQuery: 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 deal-breaker! 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.