Twitter Bootstrap Scrollspy

Posted by jkahn on October 30, 2013 · 3 mins read

Implementing Twitter Bootstrap 3's Scrollspy plug-in took a bit of trial-and-error, below is my approach and findings for posterity sake (and perhaps someone else's benefit in the future):

My goal was to implement a menu listing on the left with content on the right for an FAQ page.  Bootstrap 3's navbar was not the right fit, the list-group was closer, but not perfect (more on that later).

A few findings of note:

  • Scrollspy is built to work with li elements that are children of an element of class .nav.  See Scrollspy source.
  • Scrollspy keeps an eye on any element with a scrollbar, but for most page, this is going to be the page itself, which in reality is the body element.  If you have a frame with scrollbars (a la the Bootstrap documentation sample), Scrollspy will work, but this is atypical.
  • While Scrollspy watches a scrollable element, events are fired on the navigation element.

Let's get to the details.  Bottom line is available as a JSFiddle.


The HTML used here is fairly simple, utilizing Bootstrap classes to style a left-hand navigation built with a list-group and content on the right.

<div class="row">
  <div class="col-sm-4 col-xs-4" id="nav">
    <ul class="nav list-group affix">
      <li class="list-group-item"><a href="#g1">Item 1</a></li>
      <li class="list-group-item"><a href="#g2">Item 2</a></li>
      <li class="list-group-item"><a href="#g3">Item 3</a></li>
      <li class="list-group-item"><a href="#g4">Item 4</a></li>
      <li class="list-group-item"><a href="#g5">Item 5</a></li>
  <div class="col-sm-8 col-xs-8">
    <section id="g1">Content 1</section>
    <section id="g2">Content 2</section>
    <section id="g3">Content 3</section>
    <section id="g4">Content 4</section>
    <section id="g5">Content 5</section>

Although possible, I chose not to use Bootstrap's declarative interface to add Scrollspy here because as part of a larger application, another template defines the body element.


As explained above, adding Scrollspy to the body element typically makes the most sense; however, some of the other articles / discussions on this topic seemed incorrect.

$(document).ready(function() {
  // plugin is applied to a scrollable element, targeting my navigation element
  $('body').scrollspy({ 'target': '#nav', 'offset': 10 });

  // listen for scrollspy events on the navigation element itself
  $('#nav').on('', function() {
    console.log('scroll spy!!')


Finally, a bit of CSS to pretty things up and style the list-group to look as desired (very simple approach for demonstration):

section {
 height: 250px;
 background-color: #eee;
 padding: 10px;
 margin: 10px 0;
li.list-group-item:hover {
 background-color: #eee;
 cursor: pointer;
} > a, > a:hover, > a:focus {
 color: #fff;
 background-color: #428BCA;

Depending on your content, you may need to change the offset.

That's it.  Again, the JSFiddle has a working example.