This guest post was written by Laura Charles Johnson, the documentation team manager for MicroStrategy. In her role, Ms. Johnson’s favorite responsibility is to turn junior writers into power Flare users. She’s done that with 9 writers so far. Ms. Johnson has used Flare since version 1 and is a certified Advanced Flare Developer and trainer.

Using tabs in your Flare topics is a great way to layer information on a page, and progressively show content to the reader. The user requests content to be displayed by clicking (or perhaps hovering over) the content’s corresponding tab.

First, let’s look at how tabs look in production. Here’s the default state.

tab 1 default hover state

And here’s another tab in its hover state.

 tab 2 default hover state

To try it yourself, go here.

To make these tabs work, there are three pieces involved and I will explain each one.

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript


For those of you familiar with Codepen, here’s a pen with all the code you need:

If you’re not familiar with CodePen, let’s talk. It’s a pretty awesome tool for writing and testing code before you put it in MadCap Flare. When you open the Codepen link, you’ll see the following:

HYML codepen testing tool

The first section of the code is the <ul> that allows you to create the tab labels.

HTML codepen testing tool first section

These labels should include text that you would like to have displayed as the title of each tab (i.e., “Product Documentation”, “Video Tutorials” and “Knowledge Base Articles”).

tab labels

The second section is where you will place content to appear when you click on a different tab.

 HTML codepen testing tool second section

Each div tag contains the content of a tab.

The content inside the <div> tags are what you want to put inside each tab. For example, when a user clicks on the “Product Documentation” tab, the following content within the red box will appear.

content inside the div tags

Ok, let’s talk about the parts of the code.

The Unordered List

First, we want to give the <ul> tag a style class because its behavior will be different from all other <ul> tags in the project. This <ul> will have a class named ‘tabs.’

adding a style class

Next, we want to make sure that each <li> tag, or tab label, has its own ‘data-tab’ designation. You need this for the JavaScript. I went the easy route and just named each one ‘tab-1,’ ‘tab-2,’ etc. Keep in mind that you want this to be generic so you can use this tab code wherever you want throughout your projects.

adding a data tab designation

Next, you’ll see that each <li> shares a class, ‘tab-link,’ but the first <li> has a 2nd class, ‘current.’ It’s a tag with multiple classes. If you’ve not come across tags with multiple classes, that’s ok. It happens all the time and browsers are fine with it.

tab link current
tab content current

The ‘current’ is important because it tells the browser which tab and which tab content to open first.

The <Div> Tags

After you have your <ul> created, we can move on to the <div> tag. Each <div> has the ‘tab-content’ class applied because we want to make sure that the behavior is separate from any other <div> tags.

applying tab content class

Don’t forget that one of the <div> tags needs to have the ‘current’ class assigned so the browser knows to show that content when the page loads.

current class div

Next, you’ll notice that each <div> tag has its own ID and that it is identical to the data-tabs in the <li> tags that we looked at a few minutes ago. This is key because it tells the browser which <div> is associated with which tab. So, whatever you name them, make sure they match between the <li> tags and the <div> tags.

associating div tab with tags

Last is the tab content. In this example, the contents of the tab are surrounded by a <p> tag. But you could put anything here like I did in the second tab.

tab content tab

I’ve added the following:

  • A Flare dropdown
  • An ordered list
  • An image
  • A video

So, consider the tab content a container where you can put absolutely anything you’d put in a topic – although you should avoid H1s because there should only be one of those per topic/web page.

Let’s look at our tabs right now in CodePen. That’s the cool thing about CodePen, it renders your code instantly, so you can perfect it before adding it to Flare and having to build your project every time. (Super time saver!!).

tabs view from codepen tool

Yeah, that’s boring and certainly does not look like tabs! But, we have the code (AKA the skeleton) in place. Now we have to add some muscle (JavaScript) and skin (CSS).


Here’s the JavaScript file that we have in our js folder located in our Resources folder. You may not have a js folder since it’s not a default folder in a Flare project. You should create one now.

accessing javascript file in flare resources folder

To create a .js file, open your favorite code editing tool (Notepad++ is a great choice). Copy the code in the .js section of the Codepen I provided and paste it in a new file in Notepad++. Save it as a .js file to the Resources > js folder that you’ve created and it will be ready for use.

saving as .js file

Don’t be intimidated if you’re not familiar with JavaScript. When I open the file, this is all there is. I’ll explain what it does next.

javascript from codepen tool

Long story short, this code tells the browser to remove the ‘current’ class from the default tab and add it to whichever tab is clicked next. When the user clicks on a tab other than the one open, this JavaScript tells the browser to close the open tab content and open the clicked-on one…and to move the ‘current’ look and feel from the previous tab to the clicked-on one.

What do you actually need to know to make the tabs work?

Simple: just add this line of code in the <head> of your masterpage:

how to make the tabs clickable

We have a lot of custom code in the head of our masterpage, so you likely won’t be adding this to line 113. Don’t panic if you’re on line 4!

You’re good to go! It will just sit there not bothering anything until you add tabs somewhere. You are done with the JavaScript part of this. YEAH!

We’ve now added the muscle…now let’s add the skin, AKA the CSS.


I don’t want to freak you out…but the CSS for this is a bit long. I have it at around 80 lines long including nice spacing and comments at the beginning and end.

(Again, the code is available in my CodePen to just copy and paste into your stylesheet.)

Let’s start at the beginning. I’m not going to discuss every line – just the ones that aren’t your every day CSS and are important to the look and feel of the tabs.

Important note: as you build this in Flare, you’ll likely be checking out the topic via the XML Editor. It will not look right and it definitely won’t work (that’s why I really recommend using Codepen first). Do not panic. This is to be expected. If your page looks kind of like this, you’re golden.

copy paste css into stylesheet

OK, let's have some CSS fun.

*Tip: When you’re ready to add this to Flare, I recommend opening your stylesheet in the internal text editor or in your favorite code editor. This isn’t a requirement, but it does make adding blocks of CSS much easier and faster. To open the internal text editor in Flare, right-click on your stylesheet and select Open with > Internal Text Editor. Copy and paste the CSS from Codepen into your stylesheet.

First, we need to remove the bullets from the list. List-style:none makes that happen.

remove bullet list
remove bullet list 2

Now we want to make the list shift from vertical to horizontal, make a pointer appear when someone hovers over a tab, change the color, and add some padding between each list item. To do this, I added the following:

shifting the list from vertical to horizontal

Now our tabs are looking a little more like tabs.

tabs view

And you’ll see a pointer appear when you hover over a tab.

point hover over tab

Next, we want the ‘current’ tab to have its own look. To my ‘current’ class, I added the following:

 css tab highlighting red
visual tab is highlighted red

Now I want a faint gray line to appear under the non-current tabs. So I’ll create an :after selector with the color.

 css adding faint grey line to tabs

Here’s the line. Notice how it only appears under the closed tabs. It makes the current tab look open.

visual of adding faint grey line to tabs

That’s great – but I still see all the content from all tabs. I only want to see tab 1 content. Let’s do that next. The trick here is the display:none. It makes everything with the class of .tab-content disappear.

 css making content on tab to be hidden
visual of  making content on tab to be hidden

I’ve taken it a little too far because now even the tab 1 content is missing. But Progress! Let’s put tab 1 content back in. That’s where that ‘current’ class comes in.

 css adding conent back to tab one

I use display:inherit to make sure that the ‘current’ tab content appears. ‘Inherit’ here essentially discards the display:none of the .tab-content class and, instead, “inherits” the display:block from a parent tag, in this case a <div> tag. Does it sound weird, yes? Does it work, absolutely!

And it’s back!

visual of  adding conent back to tab one

Now I’ll add some styles for the hover state of the non-current tabs. In this instance, I want the tab to turn gray and the text to be black so there’s still good contrast between text and background. So I’ll create a :hover pseudo-class.

css adding styles for hover state

It’s happening!

visual of  adding styles for hover state

Now I want to make sure that the ‘current’ tab doesn’t change when someone hovers over it. So I set the .current:hover state to the same settings as .current. That way, nothing changes.

 css adjusting hover

It looks so good!

visual for adjusting hover

As you click across, the content should change.

You know what this means? You. Have. Made. Tabs. If this is your first foray into JavaScript, you did great!

Have questions? Post them below.