Detecting Screen Orientation Change

Browsers provide different means to detect screen orientation:

Documentation in the Mozilla Developer Network (linked above) states the first to be deprecated but currently still in the WhatWG Living Standard, whereas its documentation on the latter differs from the W3C documentation.

According to documentation, detection of screen orientation change can be achieved by implementing handlers for the events

  • window.orientationchange
  • screen.orientation.change
  • window.matchMedia() listener
  • window.resize

but specific browsers may not support all of these events, with window.resize being the catch-all solution if everything else fails.

So based on SO answers and this blog and this blog I came up with a solution that currently seems to work, and a couple of findings:

  • window.orientation gives the angle on mobile browsers only – desktop browsers always contain 0 (zero).
  • Similarly, window.onorientationchange is only supported by mobile browsers.
  • screen.orientation (and its browser-spezific siblings mozOrientation and msOrientation) contains the angle in its angle property. IE11 does support support screen.orientation on Win7. Mobile Chrome (35) and the Android 4.4.2 Browser do not seem to support it either.
  • Of the browsers I tested, none seem to implement the event screen.orientation.onchange.
  • Orientation change can be detected using the window.matchMedia() listener on both mobile and desktop browsers which support mediaqueries and its orientation selector.
  • In desktop browsers, orientation can only be derived from $(window).width() and $(window).height(), or from the .matches property of a matchMedia listener.

Note that all this need not apply for older browsers, not even the values of window.orientation! (See SO, SO, SO, Giff’s note)

So here now is my JavaScript code for screen orientation change detection:

function doOnOrientationChange(src)
{
  if (window.console && console.log) 
    console.log("width " + $(window).width() + " height " + $(window).height());

  var orientation = { 
    angle: window.orientation,
    type: ("onorientationchange" in window) ? "mobile" : "desktop"  
  };

  if (window.screen) {
    var o = window.screen.orientation || window.screen.mozOrientation 
      || window.screen.msOrientation || orientation;
    orientation = { angle: o.angle, type: o.type };
  } else if ((window.orientation === 0) || window.orientation) {
    orientation = { angle: window.orientation, type: "" + window.orientation + " degrees" };
  }
 
  if (!("onorientationchange" in window)) {
    var w = $(window).width(), h =$(window).height();
    var a = (w > h) ? 90 : 0;
    orientation.angle = a;
    if (window.console && console.log) 
      console.log("angle := " + a + " " + orientation.angle);
  }
 
  var jsonOrientation = JSON.stringify(
    { angle: orientation.angle, type: orientation.type });

  switch(orientation.angle) 
  { 
    case -90:
    case 90:
      // we are in landscape mode
      $().toastmessage('showNoticeToast', src + ' landscape ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      if (window.console && window.console.log) console.log(src + ' landscape ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      $("#orientation").text(src + ' landscape ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      break; 
    case 0:
    case 180:
      // we are in portrait mode
      $().toastmessage('showNoticeToast', src + ' portrait ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      if (window.console && window.console.log) console.log(src + ' portrait ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      $("#orientation").text(src + ' portrait ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      break; 
    default:
      // we have no idea
      $().toastmessage('showNoticeToast', src + ' unknown ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      if (window.console && window.console.log) console.log(src + ' unknown ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      $("#orientation").text(src + ' unknown ' + " " + jsonOrientation);
      break; 
  }
}

$(function () {

  if ("onorientationchange" in window) 
    window.addEventListener('orientationchange', 
      function() { doOnOrientationChange("window.orientationchange"); });
  //window.addEventListener('resize', 
  //    function() { doOnOrientationChange("window.resize") });
  if (window.screen && window.screen.orientation && window.screen.orientation.addEventListener)
    window.screen.orientation.addEventListener('change', 
      function() { doOnOrientationChange("screen.orientation.change"); });

  if (window.matchMedia) {
    var mql = window.matchMedia("(orientation: portrait)");
    mql.addListener(function(m) {
      if (m.matches) {
        doOnOrientationChange("mql-portrait");
      } else {
        doOnOrientationChange("mql-landscape");
      }
    });
  }

  doOnOrientationChange("init");
});

(I put the window.resize handler into comments because it generates too may events on desktop browsers.)

In this sample code, detection change only causes output of angle and orientation type to

  • $().toastmessage() – a jQuery extension
  • console.log
  • $(“#orientation”).text() – a jQuery call

Of course, your handlers may perform some useful actions…

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