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Link icon

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Development stage

In research

Alpha components have not been thoroughly tested by developers. Learn more about component maturity.

The link icon adds an icon next to links that go:

  • Outside your website (an external link)
  • To a PDF

The external link icon is a box with an arrow pointing to the upper-right corner. For people using a screen reader, it will announce the full URL.

The PDF icon is the letters PDF surrounded by a box outline. For people using a screen reader, it will announce that the link is a PDF file.

These icons tell people they are leaving the current website in some way.

Knowing that a link goes a PDF lets people decide if they want to open it. This may be helpful to people using mobile devices with limited data plans.

If a link is both external and a PDF, only the PDF icon will appear. It’s more important to tell people they’re going to a PDF than it is to tell them that it’s not hosted on the same site.

When and how to use it

This is a required component when using the Design System. Use it whenever you implement the Design System as it addresses some accessibility issues.

Once an engineer has installed this feature, content creators do not need to take separate action to apply either link icon.

How not to use it

Do not modify the link icon when you install it.

Demo and sample markup


<a href="">PDF link to California State Parks map</a>
<a href="">External link to Google</a>


Machine nameds-link-icon

Project installation

The instructions assume familiarity with npm package management tool, modern JavaScript techniques, and Sass.

  1. npm i @cagov/ds-link-icon
  2. Use import¹ or require to include the component’s JavaScript in your page or compiler.
  3. Add the sample markup to your HTML.
  4. Refer to the Content model section for notes on mapping your data to the sample markup.
  5. Note that the <a> tags must be inside the <main> tag and external link to icons are required.

CDN installation

We recommend using a build system and bundling your JavaScript for faster performance. If you do not use a build system, you can include the code from our CDN with a script tag.


<script type="module" src=""></script>

Other dependencies

This component uses icons from the CAGov font library. Include the font library in your project to ensure the icons appear.

CSS variables

The following CSS variables are used in this component:

  • --primary-700
  • --primary-900

All CSS variables define their own fallback value so you do not have to use additional CSS unless you want to change them. You may define your own value for the variable by adding your own style rules. Here is an example defining the global hex value for a CSS variable named “--primary-700”:


:root {
  --primary-700: #165ac2;

CSS exceptions

There are cases when external link icon is not needed or messing the existing design. Here are the cases when external link icon is disabled:


.cagov-card, // card-grid component links
.wp-block-button__link, // buttons inside of design system hero banner
.footer-social-links a, // social icons links
img ~, // links that are using images
svg ~, // links that are using SVG icons
.pdf-link-icon ~ // links to PDF files


Component-specific accessibility review

  • Make sure that link icon span has aria-hidden="true” attribute.

Standard accessibility review

As a component in Alpha status, this component must pass the following accessibility reviews every time a new version is published:

  • Tested with the [axe]( accessibility tool and passes all automated WCAG Level AA checks
  • Reviewed with the VoiceOver screen reader on desktop
  • Verified keyboard navigation and that all actionable elements of the component are reachable via keyboard commands only
  • Reviewed component layout on a variety of screen sizes

Progressive enhancement

This component uses a custom element defined in JavaScript in addition to HTML and CSS. Edge, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome support custom elements. If the JavaScript for this component is not delivered or supported, the component will not display. This is the desired behavior because this component is not critical for site interaction. It uses CSS variables to inherit design token values. Token definitions are not required because these style rules provide fallback values.

Content model

Requires a main tag and activates on a tags. Automatically detects links and appends necessary icons to them.

Contributor/developer documentation