HTML5 Canvas Layout and Mobile Devices

Common problem with Canvas and mobile devices is how to get the canvas to fill the browser window properly. This can be tricky and require lots of tweaking and testing with different devices to get it exactly right.

Even if you get the size correctly defined, the rotation is another hurdle and the layout could break after orientation change or two.

I wrote an example of simple layout page, that should work both on desktops and mobile devices Android (>2.2) and iPhone/iPad. It should appear as following layout in all browsers shown here in the iPhone screenshots and not break on resize or orientation change.



The layout works also after rotation.


Page defines a canvas (green), that occupies most of the screen and under that a fixed height div (yellow) containing ‘Some Text Here’. On every resize the code draws black rectangle that is -10 pixels short from each canvas border and writes number of orientation changes and the resize events for debugging purposes. The document background is defined blue to reveal possible unwanted overflows.

How it works?


First the meta elements tell to mobile devices how to handle the page. No scaling and width is fixed to device width.

<meta name="viewport" content="user-scalable=no, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0, width=device-width">
<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes">

The document is wrapped in single div (“container”) that contains the canvas and the fixed height div.

   <div id="container">
     <canvas id="canvas">HTML5 Canvas not supported.</canvas>
     <div id="fix">Some Text Here</div>

Container is forced to fill the browser window by CSS rule that defines overflow as auto and width/height 100%.

    height: 100%;
    margin: 0;
    padding: 0;
    color: black;
    width: 100%;
    height: 100%;
    overflow: auto;

Canvas element is inside the container and has no initial height and width. It is defined as display block in CSS to avoid unwanted padding or margins. Canvas default display is inline, that is something you almost never want.

#container canvas {
    vertical-align: top;
    display: block;
    overflow: auto;

Finally div (“fix”) is defined with fixed height

#fix {
    background: yellow;
    height: 20px;

This is not enough though, and some JS handling is required for resize and the orientation change.


The JS listens both timeout and orientation change events and installs a timeout function that gets cancelled if browser sends several events rapidly.

var resizeTimeout;
$(window).resize(function() {
    resizeTimeout = setTimeout(resizeCanvas, 100);

var otimeout;
window.onorientationchange = function() {
    otimeout = setTimeout(orientationChange, 50);

Orientation change listener does nothing important, it just updates the counter for debugging purposes.

The resizeCanvas is more involved. When browser is iPhone it first increases the container height 60 pixels higher than the browser window height. This makes possible to scroll the window down and hide the iPhone Safari address bar.

if (ios) {
    // increase height to get rid off ios address bar
    $("#container").height($(window).height() + 60)
    setTimeout(function() { window.scrollTo(0, 1);  }, 100);

Then it gets the container width and height, that are height and width of the browser window.

var width = $("#container").width();
var height = $("#container").height();

And finally forces the canvas size and width to the required. The height is subtracted by 20 to leave room for the fixed height div.

cheight = height - 20; // subtract the fix div height
cwidth = width;

// set canvas width and height
$("#canvas").attr('width', cwidth);
$("#canvas").attr('height', cheight);

There could be better way to do this, but at least this seems to be pretty robust and works in all major desktop and mobile browsers.

Code is available in Github.