A RESTful unobtrusive jQuery Inplace-Editor and a helper as a Rails Gem
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Best In Place

Build Status The Unobtrusive in Place editing solution


Best in Place is a jQuery based AJAX Inplace-Editor that takes profit of RESTful server-side controllers to allow users to edit stuff with no need of forms. If the server have standard defined REST methods, particularly those to UPDATE your objects (HTTP PUT), then by adding the Javascript file to the application it is making all the fields with the proper defined classes to become user in-place editable.

The editor works by PUTting the updated value to the server and GETting the updated record afterwards to display the updated value.



  • Compatible with text inputs
  • Compatible with textarea
  • Compatible with select dropdown with custom collections
  • Compatible with custom boolean values (same usage of checkboxes)
  • Sanitize HTML and trim spaces of user's input on user's choice
  • Displays server-side validation errors
  • Allows external activator
  • ESC key destroys changes (requires user confirmation)
  • Autogrowing textarea
  • Helper for generating the best_in_place field only if a condition is satisfied
  • Provided test helpers to be used in your integration specs
  • Custom display methods

##Usage of Rails 3 Gem

###best_in_place best_in_place object, field, OPTIONS


  • object (Mandatory): The Object parameter represents the object itself you are about to modify
  • field (Mandatory): The field (passed as symbol) is the attribute of the Object you are going to display/edit.


  • :type It can be only [:input, :textarea, :select, :checkbox] or if undefined it defaults to :input.
  • :collection: In case you are using the :select type then you must specify the collection of values it takes. In case you are using the :checkbox type you can specify the two values it can take, or otherwise they will default to Yes and No.
  • :path: URL to which the updating action will be sent. If not defined it defaults to the :object path.
  • :nil: The nil param defines the content displayed in case no value is defined for that field. It can be something like "click me to edit". If not defined it will show "-".
  • :activator: Is the DOM object that can activate the field. If not defined the user will making editable by clicking on it.
  • :sanitize: True by default. If set to false the input/textarea will accept html tags.
  • :html_attrs: Hash of html arguments, such as maxlength, default-value etc.
  • :inner_class: Class that is set to the rendered form.
  • :display_as: A model method which will be called in order to display this field.

###best_in_place_if best_in_place_if condition, object, field, OPTIONS

It allows us to use best_in_place only if the first new parameter, a condition, is satisfied. Specifically:

  • Will show a normal best_in_place if the condition is satisfied
  • Will only show the attribute from the instance if the condition is not satisfied

Say we have something like

<%= best_in_place_if condition, @user, :name, :type => :input %>

In case condition is satisfied, the outcome will be just the same as:

<%= best_in_place @user, :name, :type => :input %>

Otherwise, we will have the same outcome as:

<%= @user.name %>

It is a very useful feature to use with, for example, Ryan Bates' CanCan, so we only allow BIP edition if the current user has permission to do it.

##TestApp and examples A test_app was created, and can be seen in action in a running demo on heroku.

Examples (code in the views):


<%= best_in_place @user, :name, :type => :input %>

<%= best_in_place @user, :name, :type => :input, :nil => "Click me to add content!" %>


<%= best_in_place @user, :description, :type => :textarea %>


<%= best_in_place @user, :country, :type => :select, :collection => [[1, "Spain"], [2, "Italy"], [3, "Germany"], [4, "France"]] %>

Of course it can take an instance or global variable for the collection, just remember the structure [[key, value], [key, value],...]. The key can be a string or an integer.


<%= best_in_place @user, :receive_emails, :type => :checkbox, :collection => ["No, thanks", "Yes, of course!"] %>

The first value is always the negative boolean value and the second the positive. Structure: ["false value", "true value"]. If not defined, it will default to Yes and No options.

Controller response and respond_with_bip

Your controller should respond to json as it's the format used by best in place javascript. A simple example would be:

class UserController < ApplicationController
  def update
    @user = User.find(params[:id])

    respond_to do |format|
      if @user.update_attributes(params[:user])
        format.html { redirect_to(@user, :notice => 'User was successfully updated.') }
        format.json { head :ok }
        format.html { render :action => "edit" }
        format.json { render :json => @user.errors.full_messages, :status => :unprocessable_entity }

If you respond with a json like {:display_as => "New value to show"} with status 200 (ok), then the updated field will show New value to show after being updated. This is needed in order to support the custom display methods, and it's automatically handled if you use the new method to encapsulate the responses:

    respond_to do |format|
      if @user.update_attributes(params[:user])
        format.html { redirect_to(@user, :notice => 'User was successfully updated.') }
        format.json { respond_with_bip(@user) }
        format.html { render :action => "edit" }
        format.json { respond_with_bip(@user) }

This will be exactly the same as the previous example, but with support to handle custom display methods.

##Using custom display methods

As of best in place 1.0.3 you can use custom methods in your model in order to decide how a certain field has to be displayed. You can write something like:

= best_in_place @user, :description, :type => :textarea, :display_as => :mk_description

Then instead of using @user.description to show the actual value, best in place will call @user.mk_description. This can be used for any kind of custom formatting, text with markdown, currency values, etc...

Because best in place has no way to call that method in your model from javascript after a successful update, the only way to display the new correct value after an edition is to use the provided methods to respond in your controllers, or implement the same in your own way.

If you respond a successful update with a json having a display_as key, that value will be used to update the value in the view. The provided respond_with_bip handles this for you, but if you want you can always customize this behaviour.

##Non Active Record environments We are not planning to support other ORMs apart from Active Record, at least for now. So, you can perfectly consider the following workaround as the right way until a specific implementation is done for your ORM.

Best In Place automatically assumes that Active Record is the ORM you are using. However, this might not be your case, as you might use another ORM (or not ORM at all for that case!). Good news for you: even in such situation Best In Place can be used!

Let's setup an example so we can illustrate how to use Best In Place too in a non-ORM case. Imagine you have an awesome ice cream shop, and you have a model representing a single type of ice cream. The IceCream model has a name, a description, a... nevermind. The thing is that it also has a stock, which is a combination of flavour and size. A big chocolate ice cream (yummy!), a small paella ice cream (...really?), and so on. Shall we see some code?

class IceCream < ActiveRecord::Base
  serialize :stock, Hash

  # consider the get_stock and set_stock methods are already defined

Imagine we want to have a grid showing all the combinations of flavour and size and, for each combination, an editable stock. Since the stock for a flavour and a size is not a single and complete model attribute, we cannot use Best In Place directly. But we can set it up with an easy workaround.

In the view, we'd do:

// @ice_cream is already available
- flavours = ... // get them somewhere
- sizes = ... // get them somewhere
    - ([""] + flavours).each do |flavour|
      %th= flavour
  - sizes.each do |size|
      %th= size
      - flavours.each do |flavour|
        - v = @ice_cream.get_stock(:flavour => flavour, :size => size)
        %td= best_in_place v, :to_i, :type => :input, :path => set_stock_ice_cream_path(:flavour => flavour, :size => size)

Now we need a route to which send the stock updates:

TheAwesomeIceCreamShop::Application.routes.draw do

  resources :ice_creams, :only => :none do
    member do
      put :set_stock


And finally we need a controller:

class IceCreamsController < ApplicationController::Base
  respond_to :html, :json


  def set_stock
    flavour = params[:flavour]
    size = params[:size]
    new_stock = (params["fixnum"] || {})["to_i"]

    @ice_cream.set_stock(new_stock, { :flavour => flavour, :size => size })
    if @ice_cream.save
      head :ok
      render :json => @ice_cream.errors.full_messages, :status => :unprocessable_entity



And this is how it is done!

##Test Helpers Best In Place has also some helpers that may be very useful for integration testing. Since it might very common to test some views using Best In Place, some helpers are provided to ease it.

As of now, a total of four helpers are available. There is one for each of the following BIP types: a plain text input, a textarea, a boolean input and a selector. Its function is to simulate the user's action of filling such fields.

These four helpers are listed below:

  • bip_area(model, attr, new_value)
  • bip_text(model, attr, new_value)
  • bip_bool(model, attr)
  • bip_select(model, attr, name)

The parameters are defined here (some are method-specific):

  • model: the model to which this action applies.
  • attr: the attribute of the model to which this action applies.
  • new_value (only bip_area and bip_text): the new value with which to fill the BIP field.
  • name (only bip_select): the name to select from the dropdown selector.


###Rails 3.1 and higher

Installing best_in_place is very easy and straight-forward, even more thanks to Rails 3.1. Just begin including the gem in your Gemfile:

gem "best_in_place"

After that, specify the use of the jquery, jquery.purr and best in place javascripts in your application.js:

//= require jquery
//= require jquery.purr
//= require best_in_place

Then, just add a binding to prepare all best in place fields when the document is ready:

$(document).ready(function() {
  /* Activating Best In Place */

You are done!

###Rails 3.0 and lower

Installing best_in_place for Rails 3.0 or below is a little bit different, since the master branch is specifically updated for Rails 3.1. But don't be scared, you'll be fine!

Rails 3.0 support will be held in the 0.2.X versions, but we have planned not to continue developing for this version of Rails. Nevertheless, you can by implementing what you want and sending us a pull request.

First, add the gem's 0.2 version in the Gemfile:

gem "best_in_place", "~> 0.2.0"

After that, install and load all the javascripts from the folder /public/javascripts in your layouts. They have to be in the order:

  • jquery
  • jquery.purr
  • best_in_place

You can automatize this installation by doing

rails g best_in_place:setup

Finally, as for Rails 3.1, just add a binding to prepare all best in place fields when the document is ready:

$(document).ready(function() {
  /* Activating Best In Place */


If the script is used with the Rails Gem no html tags will be allowed unless the sanitize option is set to true, in that case only the tags [b i u s a strong em p h1 h2 h3 h4 h5 ul li ol hr pre span img] will be allowed. If the script is used without the gem and with frameworks other than Rails, then you should make sure you are providing the csrf authenticity params as meta tags and you should always escape undesired html tags such as script, object and so forth.

<meta name="csrf-param" content="authenticity_token"/>
<meta name="csrf-token" content="YOUR UNIQUE TOKEN HERE"/>


  • Client Side Validation definitions
  • Accepting more than one handler to activate best_in_place fields


Fork the project on github

$ git clone <<your fork>
$ cd best_in_place
$ bundle

Prepare the test app

$ cd test_app
$ bundle
$ bundle exec rake db:test:prepare
$ cd ..

Run the specs

$ bundle exec rspec spec/

Bundler / gem troubleshooting

  • make sure you've run the bundle command for both the app and test_app!
  • run bundle update < (in the right place) for any gems that are causing issues


###Master branch (and part of the Rails 3.0 branch)

  • v.0.1.0 Initial commit
  • v.0.1.2 Fixing errors in collections (taken value[0] instead of index) and fixing test_app controller responses
  • v.0.1.3 Bug in Rails Helper. Key wrongly considered an Integer.
  • v.0.1.4 Adding two new parameters for further customization urlObject and nilValue and making input update on blur.
  • v.0.1.5 Attention: this release is not backwards compatible. Changing params from list to option hash, helper's refactoring, fixing bug with objects inside namespaces, adding feature for passing an external activator handler as param. Adding feature of key ESCAPE for destroying changes before they are made permanent (in inputs and textarea).
  • v.0.1.6-0.1.7 Avoiding request when the input is not modified and allowing the user to not sanitize input data.
  • v.0.1.8 jslint compliant, sanitizing tags in the gem, getting right csrf params, controlling size of textarea (elastic script, for autogrowing textarea)
  • v.0.1.9 Adding elastic autogrowing textareas
  • v.1.0.0 Setting RSpec and Capybara up, and adding some utilities. Mantaining some HTML attributes. Fix a respond_with bug (thanks, @moabite). Triggering ajax:success when ajax call is complete (thanks, @indrekj). Setting up Travis CI. Updated for Rails 3.1.
  • v.1.0.1 Fixing a double initialization bug
  • v.1.0.2 New bip_area text helper to work with text areas.
  • v.1.0.3 replace apostrophes in collection with corresponding HTML entity, thanks @taavo. Implemented :display_as option and adding respond_with_bip to be used in the controller.

###Rails 3.0 branch only

  • v.0.2.0 Added RSpec and Capybara setup, and some tests. Fix countries map syntax, Allowing href and some other HTML attributes. Adding Travis CI too. Added the best_in_place_if option. Added ajax:success trigger, thanks to @indrekj.
  • v.0.2.1 Fixing double initialization bug.
  • v.0.2.2 New bip_area text helper.

##Authors, License and Stuff

Code by Bernat Farrero from Itnig Web Services (it was based on the original project of Jan Varwig) and released under MIT license.

Many thanks to the contributors: Roger Campos, Jack Senechal and Albert Bellonch.