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The :active pseudo selector changes the appearance of a link while it is being activated (being clicked on or otherwise activated). It's usually only seen for a split second, and provides visual feedback that the element was indeed clicked. It's most typically used on anchor links (<a href="#">).

For instance, here's CSS that will make anchor links bump down one pixel (giving the impression of being pushed in three-dimensional space) in the active state:

See the Pen :active state by CSS-Tricks Team (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

Although it can apply to any element. With this, clicking anywhere on the page will make the whole page yellow:

See the Pen Demo of the :active psuedo class by CSS-Tricks Team (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

It is best practice to cover all of the "states", particularly for links. An easy way to remove that is "LOVE HATE" or

L :link
V :visited

H :hover
A :active

Doing them in that order is ideal.

a:link { /* Essentially means a[href], or that the link actually goes somewhere */
  color: blue;
a:visited {
  color: purple;
a:hover {
  color: green;
a:active {
  color: red;

Otherwise, say if you listed the :visited style last, if that link was visited it would override the :active and :hover declaration and the link would always be purple regardless if you were hovering or if the link was active (not ideal).

Other Resources

Browser Support

Chrome Safari Firefox Opera IE Android iOS
any 2.0.4+ any 4+ 4+ TBD TBD


  1. “to remove” or “to remember” ? As in a pneumonic? Whoa…

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