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Getting the height of an element before added to the DOM

Is there any way to get an element’s height prior to appending it to the DOM? I know that clientHeight doesn’t work as I’ve tried and it always returns 0. Are there other methods that may return the height or does the element have to be a part of the DOM in order for the height to be calculated?

This is a sample of what I’m going for:

function test(a) {
    var a=document.createElement(a)
    a.style.top=(window.innerHeight/2-a.clientHeight/2)+'px' //fixed position in CSS
    document.body.appendChild(a)
    }

*Note: This is only a simplified version of the function I’m working on in order to project what I’m trying to achieve without all of the unneeded mess.

Answer

Elements don’t have a height, in any real sense, until they’ve been added to the DOM, as their styles cannot be evaluated until then.

You can get around this easily enough using visibility: hidden so that the element can be added to the DOM (and its height determined) without causing visible flickering.

function test(a) {
  var a = document.createElement(a);
  a.style.visibility = 'hidden';
  document.body.appendChild(a);
  a.appendChild(document.createTextNode('Hello'));
  a.style.fontStyle = 'italic';
  a.style.top=(window.innerHeight/2 - a.clientHeight/2) + 'px';
  a.style.visibility = '';
  return a;
}

test('p').style.background = '#0f0';
p { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; }

(This is working on the assumption that you’re using top because the element is absolutely positioned or fixed. If it weren’t, you’d need to make it so temporarily.) Hidden elements still take up space in the DOM (so their sizes must be calculated), but cannot actually be seen by the user.