display: none vs opacity: 0 vs visibility: hidden

There are three common CSS properties to make an element invisible:
  • display: none
  • opacity: 0
  • visibility: hidden

Differences

  1. display: none doesn't take space when the element is rendered. The other ways still take the space normally.
  2. The browser will not response to any events of element which uses either display: none or visibility: hidden. The visibility: hidden style behaves like a combination of opacity: 0 and pointer-events: none.
  3. Regarding the accessibility, opacity: 0 is the only property which makes the element accessible in the tab order, and the element's content can be read by screen readers.
  4. Applying display: none or opacity: 0 will effect on child elements. visibility: hidden, on the other hand, doesn't change the visibility of any children.
  5. It's worth noting that if you want to measure the size of element, then you can't use display: none at all.
    As mentioned in the first difference, an element with display: none doesn't take any space on the page. Hence, all properties related to the element size, such as clientHeight, clientWidth, height, offsetHeight, offsetWidth, scrollHeight, scrollWidth and width are zero.
    All properties returned by the getBoundingClientRect() method are zero as well.
    Similarly, an element with visibility: hidden will have empty inner text (equivalent with the innerText property).

Tip

With Chrome DevTools, you can hide any element in the page by right clicking the element, and then click Hide element.
Hide element with Chrome DevTools
Hide element with Chrome DevTools
In order to do that without breaking the layout, Chrome adds a CSS class named __web-inspector-hide-shortcut__ to the element:
.__web-inspector-hide-shortcut__ {
    visibility: hidden !important;
}
As mentioned above, applying the visibility style to an element doesn't effect on any children, so Chrome adds a following style to make all children invisible:
.__web-inspector-hide-shortcut__ * {
    visibility: hidden !important;
}

Good to know

Nowadays, it's very easy for us to set the opacity for given element and its children with a single line of CSS:
.overlay {
    opacity: 0.75;
}
Many years ago, when the web developers have to deal with the old browsers such as Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8, here is what we have to do in order to support various browsers:
.overlay {
    /* For IE 5, 6, 7 */
    filter: alpha(opacity=75);
    
    /* For IE 8 */
    -ms-filter: "progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(Opacity=75)";
    
    /* For Netscape */
    -moz-opacity: 0.75;
    
    /* For Safari 1.x */
    -khtml-opacity: 0.75;
    
    /* Our good friends */
    opacity: 0.75;
}
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