A to Z CSS: Enabled

:enabled and :disabled are pseudo classes that allow the styling of different states of form inputs, ones that are clickable or can have text entered into them (enabled) or those that can’t (disabled).

All form controls are enabled by default but can be disabled by adding the disabled attribute in HTML. This can also be manipulated by JavaScript based on conditions on the page.

Browser Support

:enabled and :disabled are supported in IE9+


There’s a number of pseudo classes in CSS.

These pseudo classes help us style different states and target specific elements based on their relationship or position to other elements.

The :enabled and :disabled pseudo classes style form elements that can or cannot be filled in or selected.

An enabled element is one that can be clicked, selected, receive focus or accept text input – a disabled element is one that cannot.

Elements are enabled by default but can be disabled using the disabled attribute in HTML.

Enabled / Disabled form fields

The user agent provides some default styling for disabled elements. Let’s take a look

I’ve got two sets of inputs and buttons here.

They are both in their default state of enabled which we can demonstrate by styling them with the :enabled pseudo class, giving them a dark grey background and a blue text color.

If I now add the disabled attribute to the HTML of the first set of inputs, the user agent styles for disabled fields takes over and our :enabled styles do not as the inputs are no longer enabled. We can control the styling of disabled inputs in CSS with the :disabled pseudo class.

Use case

Let’s take a look at a real-world use case.

Here we have the payment step for ordering some food online. In this stage of the form, the payment method is requested and the choice is either cash or card.

If we want to pay by card, the fields for the card holder, card number, start date, expiry date and security code are enabled. If we want to pay with cash, these details aren’t needed and we can disable them. This can’t be done with CSS alone, but we can use a bit of Javascript or jQuery to handle the interaction.

When we change the payment method the script checks whether the radio button with the ID of cash is :checked. This is another pseudo class that determines state – in this case, the checked or unchecked state of a checkbox or radio button. If cash is checked, we add the disabled attribute to all the inputs and select menus in the card fields container. We also add an is-disabled class to the labels which will allow these to be given different styles too.

We can then style these in CSS, making the color of the text and the background of the inputs a light grey to show that they’re no longer enabled.

AtoZ CSS: Learn CSS and sharpen your front-end skills

AtoZ CSS is a video screencast series that tackles one CSS topic per letter of the alphabet. From auto to z-index, take a deep dive into a single property, value, selector or concept each week.


Guy Routledge

Guy is a consultant front-end developer specialising in front-end architecture and Sass-flavoured CSS. Building on years of experience, he has recently worked with a range of clients in the UK and internationally as well as numerous individuals and creative agencies and also teaches a range of courses and workshops. Away from client work and the classroom, he is currently building a library of video screencasts and courses on his favourite web topics. You can read more about Guy and his latest musings on his blog. When not in front of the computer or catching up on the latest web drama, he has a keen interest in property investment and fine food and wine and someday plans to open his own restaurant.