jQuery: the offset() method

In jQuery, the offset() method returns an object containing the properties top and left, which specify the current offsets of the element with respect to the whole document. This method can be used either as a getter or as a setter. In this post I'll show you a practical example which makes use of this method for creating a simple drop down menu.

Suppose that we have a markup structure like the following:

<ul id="navigation">

 <li><a href="#">Home</a></li>
 <li class="sub">
  <a href="#">About</a>
   <li><a href="#">Us</a></li>
   <li><a href="#">Our projects</a></li>
   <li><a href="#">This site</a></li>  
 <li><a href="#">Contacts</a></li>


The submenu has to be shown exactly under the active list item when a user hovers the corresponding link. Here's how we can do with jQuery:

$(function() {

  $('li.sub', '#navigation').each(function() {
    var $li = $(this);
    var $a = $li.find('a:first');
    var height = $li.parent().height();
    var left = $a.offset().left;
    $li.find('ul').css('opacity', 0);
    $a.mouseover(function() {
      $a.next().offset({top: height, left: left}).animate({
        opacity: 1
      }, 'slow');
    $a.next().mouseleave(function() {
        opacity: 0
      }, 'slow', function() {
        $(this).css('top', '-1000em');


As you can see, the offset() method is first used as a getter to obtain the left offset of the active link and then used as a setter to absolutely position the submenu just under the active item. The syntax used above is the normal syntax used for all the JavaScript object literals. You can see a demo below.


Live demo

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