jQuery plugin to add "Create New" link to select element
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Rails Flexible Select jQuery Plugin

Rails Flexible Select solves a common problem. Often we want the user to choose an option from a drop select or, if they cannot find the option they need, create a new option. There are lots solutions to this problem but most are just too powerful for such a simple task (e.g. ajax autocomplete).

Flexible Select keeps things as simple as possible. The plugin adds a 'Create New' link inside a standard html drop select. When clicked, the link opens an ordinary javascript prompt window where the user can type a name. After clicking “Ok”, this value gets sent back to the server via ajax and the newly created option is automatically added to the select element and set as the selected option.

If you've ever added a category in basecamp, Flexible Select provides the exact same functionality.

How to make it work

Just add a 'flexible_select' attribute to an ordinary collection_select and set the value as the url where you'd like the ajax request sent. For example:

<%=  collection_select(:post, :category_id, Category.all, :id, :name, {:prompt => true}, :flexible_select => categories_path(:format => :json)) %>

Then call the plugin on all elements with an attribute of 'flexible_select':


Finally, you'll need to make a controller action to recieve the ajax request. You can do whatever you like here, but it should return a json object with both a 'value' and an 'id'. Flexible Select needs these values to create the html option that will be added to drop select. A typical action would look something like:

def flexible_select_create
  @category = Category.find_or_create_by_name(params[:name])
  respond_to do |format|
    format.json { render :json => { :value => @category.id, :name => @category.name }.to_json }

Configuration options

The defaults are pretty sensible but if you'd like to change things up a bit, you can pass the following options when calling the plugin:

    params_name: "name",              // name of the parameters sent to server
    button_text: "-- Create New --",  // text for the link inside drop select
    prompt_text: "Please Enter Name"  // what appears in javascript popup box

Styling with CSS

The plugin provides a hook for styling the 'Create New' link. You're free to do whatever you like, but here's some reasonable styles to get you started:

option.create_link {
  background: #B7D94D;
  color: white;
  text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.25);
  text-align: center;
  cursor: pointer;
  font-size: 13px;
  margin: 2px auto 5px;
  border-bottom: 0 solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.25);

Note that option elements do not always style consistently across browsers.

Will this only work with Rails?

No. It will work with anything. The script will send the ajax request regardless of what language you're using. Of course, you'll need to handle things a bit differently on the server-side but it shouldn't be too difficult.