An easy way to make Grails views act like forms, allows you to click on a text element and edit the value in place, without navigating to an 'edit' page.
Groovy JavaScript CSS
Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Latest commit ec4bc2e Jan 23, 2014 @charlesread more onsuccess work
Failed to load latest commit information.


A simple Grails plugin providing a tablig that allows you to make spans editable. It is very easy to implement, as easy as any other of the delivered Grails input taglib tags (like g:textField and g:select).

The plugin's taglib tags create spans that display data, when the span is clicked the span is hidden and an input element appears, allowing you to edit the data, when you click out of (blur) the input element (or select an entry, in the case of the single select input element) the input element is hidden and the span reappears, containing the new value that was just input. The new data can be persisted either by submitting the form or using AJAX, which is built right in.

The plugin effectively combines the show and edit controller actions that grails generate-controller might produce, the result is a single view that both displays data and allows you to edit it inline, without having to navigate to another page.


You first need to include the plugin resources (just some Javascript) in your view with the <sf:resources> tag

<sf:resources />

If you were to use Grails to generate controllers and views it would make a template for the form (_form.gsp) and views for editing and showing entries (edit.gsp and, respectively). The form template (_form.gsp) would contain taglib tags like g:textfield for inputing data, while the view for showing the data (show.gsp) would contain taglib tags for displaying data (like g:fieldValue). The idea is that we want to replace these tags that only display data with plugin tags that show the data and allow you to edit inline and add a form that will submit the data on the page to a controller action that will save the data (like the update action that might be created with grails create-controller).

Let's say you have used Grails to create the controller and views for a class called User, your _form.gsp might look like this:

<g:textField name="firstName" value="${userInstance?.firstName}"/>
<g:textField name="lastName" value="${userInstance?.lastName}"/>

Your show.gsp might look like this:

<g:fieldValue bean="${userInstance}" field="firstName"/>
<g:fieldValue bean="${userInstance}" field="lastName"/>

And your edit.gsp might look something like this:

<g:form method="post">
    <g:hiddenField name="id" value="${userInstance?.id}" />
    <g:hiddenField name="version" value="${userInstance?.version}" />
    <g:render template="form"/>
    <fieldset class="buttons">
        <g:actionSubmit class="save" action="update" ... />
        <g:actionSubmit class="delete" action="delete" ... />

We basically want to kind combine all three of these and rewrite show.gsp as something like this:

<g:form method="post">
    <g:hiddenField name="id" value="${userInstance?.id}" />
    <g:hiddenField name="version" value="${userInstance?.version}" />
    <sf:textField name="firstName" value="${userInstance?.firstName}"/>
    <sf:textField name="lastName" value="${userInstance?.lastName}"/>
    <fieldset class="buttons">
        <g:actionSubmit class="save" action="update" ... />
        <g:actionSubmit class="delete" action="delete" ... />

The only thing that's really different about this form, as compared to any other Grails form, is the namespace of the taglib tags (notice that g:textField is replaced by sf:textField)


The usage as detailed above clearly involves creating an actual form and submitting that form in order to persist changes to the database. The plugin allows you to, with very little effort, have data persisted via AJAX as soon as the element is changed.

AJAX Usage

The process for AJAXifying a span2field field is virtually identical to the process for creating a non-AJAX span2field field. You create the field exactly as you would as detailed above, you only have to add two additional attributes to the taglib tags:

  • ajax="true", just a toggle to tell the plugin to use AJAX
  • domainInstance="${domainInstance}", the instance of the domain class that you wish to update

For example:

<sf:textField ajax="true" domainInstance="${userInstance}" name="firstName" value="${userInstance?.firstName}"/>
<sf:textField ajax="true" domainInstance="${userInstance}" name="lastName" value="${userInstance?.lastName}"/>

By default, when a span2field input field is blurred an AJAX call will be made to the update action in the ajax controller that is included in the plugin. The update action is pretty good at doing what it needs to do in order to persist the data, but you may want to post the data to a different controller/action, which is made possible with two additional taglib attributes:

  • controller, used for specifying the conroller that contains the action that will persist the data
  • action used for specifying the action in the controller that will persist the data

For example:

<sf:textField ajax="true" domainInstance="${userInstance}" controller="user" action="updateFirstName" name="firstName" value="${userInstance?.firstName}"/>

<sf:textField ajax="true" domainInstance="${userInstance}" controller="user" action="updateLastName" name="lastName" value="${userInstance?.lastName}"/>

The advantage to using the controller/action included with the plugin is that you don't have to worry about making actions for each element to be persisted, but it clearly lacks the flexibility that would be afforded by making your own controller/action to handle persistence.

Data Passed to the Controller/Action (by the AJAX call)

Several parameters are passed to the receiving controller during an AJAX call:

  • id, the ID of the domain instance that is being persisted
  • value, the value that needs to be persisted, with <select multiple> this comes in the form of a comma-delimited list of values
  • field, the name of the field that needs to be persisted - firstName, for example
  • clazz, the name of the class that has data that needs to be persisted - com.charlesread.User, for example (this is why the domainInstance attribute is used)
  • selectClazz, the name of the class that is used as the data source with select tags - com.charlesread.State, for example - this will be the same class that is used in the from attribute of the sf:select tag
  • type, indicates what type of element is being changed - like textField, textArea, selectSingle , selectMultiple, or checkBox

The included controller/action (ajax/update) makes good use of these parameters to persist data, but you are free to use them in your own controllers and actions.


The Javascript function that does the AJAX call currently has two callbacks that can be specified in the onSuccess and onFailure tag attributes, for example:

<sf:checkBox onSuccess="if (data.status == 200) { alert('nice!'); }" ajax="true" domainInstance="${demoInstance}" name="checkBox" value="${demoInstance?.checkBox}" />

This snippet of code will produce the following AJAX call:

    success:function(data,textStatus){if (data.status == 200) { alert('nice!');};},

As you can see, the onSuccess attribute manifests itself as the assignment of an anonymous function function(data,textStatus){}, here the data parameter is a JSON object containing the status code and a few other attributes, it will look something like this:

    "error":"no error"

The onError attribute becomes the assignment of a function function(XMLHttpRequest,textStatus,errorThrown){}.

More information on these functions is available in the jQuery AJAX documentation.

Default onSuccess and onFailure Callbacks

By default, these events trigger the color of the text in the span element to flash a color upon the success or failure of saving the domain object (green or red, respectively). You can override this by setting your own callbacks (as described above), or by setting the relevant configuration option in Config.groovy, as shown below:

span2field {
    onSuccess {
        defaultAction = true //set this to false to disable the "text color flash"
        color = 'green' //change the color of the "text color flash", use any color understood by CSS
    onFailure {
        defaultAction = true
        color = 'red'



The tag syntax of each tag is exactly that of its delivered counterpart, that's because the plugin is using the delivered taglibs to actually produce the input element. So see the Grails documentation for the delivered taglib tag syntax.

Available Tags

All tags are in the namespace sf. Currently, the available tags are:

  • sf:textField
  • sf:textArea
  • sf:select (single and multiple, the span for a multiple select input element will contain a ul)
  • sf:checkBox

A few notes about the checkBox:

  1. The sf:checkBox tag responds to two additional attributes: checkedText and uncheckedText, these represent the text to be displayed in the span that takes the place of the checkbox. If they are not specified sf:checkBox relies on the Grails formatBoolean taglib to determine what text to display in the span.
  2. sf:checkBox works slightly differently than the other tags. Like all others it displays a span that when clicked allows you to edit the value of the underlying input field (a text field, a select list, etc.), but unlike the other tags, the span created by sf:checkBox does not display an actual checkbox input element when it is clicked, rather the text in the span toggles between the values of the checkedText and uncheckedText attributes (or values returned by formatBoolean).
  3. The spans corresponding to checked and unchecked checkboxes will respond to the editableCheckBoxChecked and editableCheckBoxUnchecked CSS classes, respectively.


Each span created will respond the .editableSpan CSS class, this is useful if you want to change the styling of every span that is created. The spans also respond to classes named to represent what kind of field is being represented. For example, the span created by the sf:textArea tag will respond to the .editableTextAreaSpan CSS class, this is useful if you only want to style the spans of a certain type.

Each input element responds to similarly named CSS classes. Each input element responds to the .editableInput and .editable<INPUT_TYPE>Input classes. For example, the input element created by the <sf:select multiple> tag will respond to the .editableSelectMultipleInput CSS class.