Better full screen mode with the Keyboard Lock API

Use the Keyboard Lock API to capture the Escape key in full screen mode.

If you've ever played a full screen web game that popped up an in-game dialog that you instinctively canceled with the Escape key, you probably found yourself kicked out of full screen mode. This frustrating experience is caused by the fact that dialog and full screen mode "fight" for the Escape key. It's an unequal battle because, by default, full screen mode always wins. But how can you make the dialog the winner for the Escape key? This is where the Keyboard Lock API comes into play.

Press the Escape key to exit full screen mode.

Browser support

Browser Support

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Use the Keyboard Lock API

The Keyboard Lock API is available on navigator.keyboard. The lock() method of the Keyboard interface returns a promise after enabling the capture of key presses for any or all of the keys on the physical keyboard. This method can only capture keys that are granted access by the underlying operating system. Luckily the Escape key is one of them.

If your app has a full screen mode, use the Keyboard Lock API as a progressive enhancement by capturing the Escape key when requesting full screen. Unlock (that is, no longer capture) the keyboard when leaving full screen mode using the unlock() method of the Keyboard interface.

// Feature detection.
const supportsKeyboardLock =
    ('keyboard' in navigator) && ('lock' in navigator.keyboard);

if (supportsKeyboardLock) {
  document.addEventListener('fullscreenchange', async () => {
    if (document.fullscreenElement) {
      // The magic happens here… 🦄
      await navigator.keyboard.lock(['Escape']);
      console.log('Keyboard locked.');
    console.log('Keyboard unlocked.');

This means that when the user is in full screen mode, pressing Escape cancels the dialog per default. If the user presses and holds the Escape key, they can still exit full screen mode. The best of both worlds.

Press and hold the Escape key to exit full screen mode.


You can test both the default and the progressively enhanced variants in the demo. The demo's source code is less clean than the snippet before, because it needs to show both behaviors.

Better full screen mode demo.

In practice

To use this progressive enhancement in practice, just copy the previous snippet. It's designed to work with no required changes, even with existing full screen code. As an example see this PR for the game Freeciv. Once the PR is merged, you can cancel all in-game dialogs by pressing Escape.

GitHub pull request that adds keyboard lock to the Freeciv game.

A bonus bookmarklet

Not all apps or games that support full screen mode will be open-source or accept your patches, the following bookmarklet can be added to your bookmarks bar and clicked to enable better full screen mode.