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Ajax Autocomplete for jQuery

Ajax Autocomplete for jQuery allows you to easily create autocomplete/autosuggest boxes for text input fields.

It has no dependencies other than jQuery.

The standard jquery.autocomplete.js file is around 13KB when minified.


The following sets up autocomplete for input fields where options is an object literal that defines the settings to use for the autocomplete plugin. All available option settings are shown in the tables below.


General settings (local and Ajax)

Setting Default Description
noCache false Boolean value indicating whether to cache suggestion results
delimiter optional String or RegExp, that splits input value and takes last part to as query for suggestions. Useful when for example you need to fill list of comma separated values.
minChars 1 Minimum number of characters required to trigger autosuggest
triggerSelectOnValidInput true Boolean value indicating if select should be triggered if it matches suggestion
preventBadQueries true Boolean value indicating if it should prevent future Ajax requests for queries with the same root if no results were returned. E.g. if Jam returns no suggestions, it will not fire for any future query that starts with Jam
autoSelectFirst false If set to true, first item will be selected when showing suggestions
beforeRender optional function (container, suggestions) {} called before displaying the suggestions. You may manipulate suggestions DOM before it is displayed
formatResult optional function (suggestion, currentValue) {} custom function to format suggestion entry inside suggestions container
formatGroup optional function (suggestion, category) {} custom function to format group header
groupBy optional property name of the suggestion data object, by which results should be grouped
maxHeight 300 Maximum height of the suggestions container in pixels
width auto Suggestions container width in pixels, e.g.: 300, flex for max suggestion size and auto takes input field width
zIndex 9999 'z-index' for suggestions container
appendTo optional Container where suggestions will be appended. Default value document.body. Can be jQuery object, selector or HTML element. Make sure to set position: absolute or position: relative for that element
forceFixPosition false Suggestions are automatically positioned when their container is appended to body (look at appendTo option), in other cases suggestions are rendered but no positioning is applied. Set this option to force auto positioning in other cases
orientation bottom Vertical orientation of the displayed suggestions, available values are auto, top, bottom. If set to auto, the suggestions will be orientated it the way that place them closer to middle of the view port
preserveInput false If true, input value stays the same when navigating over suggestions
showNoSuggestionNotice false When no matching results, display a notification label
noSuggestionNotice No results Text or htmlString or Element or jQuery object for no matching results label
onInvalidateSelection optional function () {} called when input is altered after selection has been made. this is bound to input element
tabDisabled false Set to true to leave the cursor in the input field after the user tabs to select a suggestion

Event function settings (local and Ajax)

Event setting Function description
onSearchStart function (params) {} called before Ajax request. this is bound to input element
onHint function (hint) {} used to change input value to first suggestion automatically. this is bound to input element
onSearchComplete function (query, suggestions) {} called after Ajax response is processed. this is bound to input element. suggestions is an array containing the results
transformResult function(response, originalQuery) {} called after the result of the query is ready. Converts the result into response.suggestions format
onSelect function (suggestion) {} Callback function invoked when user selects suggestion from the list. this inside callback refers to input HtmlElement.
onSearchError function (query, jqXHR, textStatus, errorThrown) {} called if Ajax request fails. this is bound to input element
onHide function (container) {} called before container will be hidden

Local only settings

Setting Default Description
lookupLimit no limit Number of maximum results to display for local lookup
lookup n/a Callback function or lookup array for the suggestions. It may be array of strings or suggestion object literals
suggestion n/a Not a settings, but in the context of above row, a suggestion is an object literal with the following format: { value: 'string', data: any }
lookupFilter n/a function (suggestion, query, queryLowerCase) {} filter function for local lookups. By default it does partial string match (case insensitive)

Ajax only settings

Setting Default Description
serviceUrl n/a Server side URL or callback function that returns serviceUrl string
type GET Ajax request type to get suggestions
dataType text type of data returned from server. Either text, json or jsonp, which will cause the autocomplete to use jsonp. You may return a json object in your callback when using jsonp
paramName query The name of the request parameter that contains the query
params optional Additional parameters to pass with the request
deferRequestBy 0 Number of miliseconds to defer Ajax request
ajaxSettings optional Any additional Ajax Settings that configure the jQuery Ajax request

Default Options

Default options for all instances can be accessed via $.Autocomplete.defaults.

Instance Methods

Autocomplete instance has following methods:

  • setOptions(options): you may update any option at any time. Options are listed above.
  • clear: clears suggestion cache and current suggestions.
  • clearCache: clears suggestion cache.
  • disable: deactivate autocomplete.
  • enable: activates autocomplete if it was deactivated before.
  • hide: hides suggestions.
  • dispose: destroys autocomplete instance. All events are detached and suggestion containers removed.

There are two ways that you can invoke Autocomplete method. One is calling autocomplete on jQuery object and passing method name as string literal. If method has arguments, arguments are passed as consecutive parameters:

$('#autocomplete').autocomplete('setOptions', options);

Or you can get Autocomplete instance by calling autcomplete on jQuery object without any parameters and then invoke desired method.




<input type="text" name="country" id="autocomplete"/>

Ajax lookup:

    serviceUrl: '/autocomplete/countries',
    onSelect: function (suggestion) {
        alert('You selected: ' + suggestion.value + ', ' +;

Local lookup (no Ajax):

var countries = [
    { value: 'Andorra', data: 'AD' },
    // ...
    { value: 'Zimbabwe', data: 'ZZ' }

    lookup: countries,
    onSelect: function (suggestion) {
        alert('You selected: ' + suggestion.value + ', ' +;

Custom lookup function:

    lookup: function (query, done) {
        // Do Ajax call or lookup locally, when done,
        // call the callback and pass your results:
        var result = {
            suggestions: [
                { "value": "United Arab Emirates", "data": "AE" },
                { "value": "United Kingdom",       "data": "UK" },
                { "value": "United States",        "data": "US" }

    onSelect: function (suggestion) {
        alert('You selected: ' + suggestion.value + ', ' +;


Generated HTML markup for suggestions is displayed below. You may style it any way you'd like.

<div class="autocomplete-suggestions">
    <div class="autocomplete-group"><strong>NHL</strong></div>
    <div class="autocomplete-suggestion autocomplete-selected">...</div>
    <div class="autocomplete-suggestion">...</div>
    <div class="autocomplete-suggestion">...</div>

Style sample:

.autocomplete-suggestions { border: 1px solid #999; background: #FFF; overflow: auto; }
.autocomplete-suggestion { padding: 2px 5px; white-space: nowrap; overflow: hidden; }
.autocomplete-selected { background: #F0F0F0; }
.autocomplete-suggestions strong { font-weight: normal; color: #3399FF; }
.autocomplete-group { padding: 2px 5px; }
.autocomplete-group strong { display: block; border-bottom: 1px solid #000; }

Response Format

Response from the server must be JSON formatted following JavaScript object:

    // Query is not required as of version 1.2.5
    "query": "Unit",
    "suggestions": [
        { "value": "United Arab Emirates", "data": "AE" },
        { "value": "United Kingdom",       "data": "UK" },
        { "value": "United States",        "data": "US" }

Data can be any value or object. Data object is passed to formatResults function and onSelect callback. Alternatively, if there is no data you can supply just a string array for suggestions:

    "query": "Unit",
    "suggestions": ["United Arab Emirates", "United Kingdom", "United States"]

Non standard query/results

If your Ajax service expects the query in a different format, and returns data in a different format than the standard response, you can supply the "paramName" and "transformResult" options:

    paramName: 'searchString',
    transformResult: function(response) {
        return {
            suggestions: $.map(response.myData, function(dataItem) {
                return { value: dataItem.valueField, data: dataItem.dataField };

Grouping Results

Specify groupBy option of you data property if you wish results to be displayed in groups. For example, set groupBy: 'category' if your suggestion data format is:

    { value: 'Chicago Blackhawks', data: { category: 'NHL' } },
    { value: 'Chicago Bulls', data: { category: 'NBA' } }

Results will be formatted into two groups NHL and NBA.

Known Issues

If you use it with jQuery UI library it also has plugin named autocomplete. In this case you can use plugin alias devbridgeAutocomplete:

$('.autocomplete').devbridgeAutocomplete({ ... });

It seems that for mobile Safari click events are only triggered if the CSS of the object being tapped has the cursor set to pointer:

.autocomplete-suggestion { 
    cursor: pointer;

See issue #542


Ajax Autocomplete for jQuery is freely distributable under the terms of an MIT-style license.

Copyright notice and permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.


Tomas Kirda / @tkirda