Gracefully degrading Ajax sorter for list views for Rails
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Good Sort

Hate not having the right way™ to do column sorting in list (collection) views? Well, fear not my dear friend, for good_sort has arrived.

It does Ajax for those with JS and regular links for those without.

It just works™ with will_paginate?



To perform a system wide installation:

gem source -a
gem install JasonKing-good_sort

Then add it to your config/environment.rb:

config.gem 'JasonKing-good_sort', :lib => 'good_sort'


script/plugin install git://

git submodule

git submodule add git:// vendor/plugins/good_sort



sort_on :name, :updated_at


def index
  @authors = Author.all( Author.sort_by(params[:sort]) )

  if request.xhr?
    return render :partial => 'authors'


<div id="authors">
  <%= render :partial => 'authors' %>


        sort_headers_for :author, %w{name ranking phone updated_at} do |header|
          "Last Changed" if header == 'updated_at'
    <% @authors.each do |author| -%>
      <td><%=h %></td>
      <td><%=h author.ranking %></td>
      <td><%=h %></td>
      <td><%=h author.updated_at %></td>
    <% end -%>

That's simple enough isn't it?

The sort_headers_for helper will make a heading for each one of the elements in the array you pass in - if it's one of the fields that you've set sorting on in your model (using the sort_on class method).


ActiveRecord::Base.sort_on( *args )

This is the class method that you use in your model in order to let good_sort know which attributes of your model can be used to sort the collection. Obviously these can't be virtual attributes because we're generating SQL here (if you don't know what virtual attributes are then google is your friend).

As well as attributes in your model, you can also supply belongs_to association names which will make good_sort sort your collection based on the fields in a JOINed table.

class Author < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :state
  sort_on :name, :updated_at, :state

The convention is that this will use the name attribute of the associated model, but if you want the sorting done using a different field then you can just specify it using key => value style params, like so:

class Author < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :state
  sort_on :name, :updated_at, :state => :long_name

If you're confident that you know what you're doing, then you can also specify a string for the value of the associated attribute, in which case good_sort will just trust you and use this as the ORDER BY clause. Make sure you qualify your field names with the join table name if there's any ambiguity. Like so:

class Author < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :state
  sort_on :name, :updated_at, :state => "COALESCE( states.long_name, states.short_name, '' )"

There's also no requirement to cram it all in on one line, you can have multiple sort_on declarations, and they will just be accumulated.

ActiveRecord::Base.sort_by( params[:sort] )

This produces a :order hash suitable to be merged into your Model.find (or Model.paginate) parameters based on the :field and :down input parameters.

ActionView::Base#sort_headers_for( model_name, header_array, options = {}, &block )

With no options, this will create <th> elements for each element of the header_array, they will be given an id which, for the name field of our author example would be author_header_name. If it has sorting set for it with sort_on in your model, then it will also be wrapped in a gracefully degrading re-sorting ajaxified link which will replace the element with id of pluralized model name, so for our author example it will replace the element with the id of "authors" (it will also show/hide an element with id of "spinner" during the request). If the list is already sorted by that field, then a class of either "up" or "down" will be added to the <th> element.

So, all of those things can be overridden. The options you can pass in are as follows:

  • :spinner - The id of the element to show/hide during the AJAX request, defaults to :spinner
  • :tag - The type of element to wrap your header links in, defaults to :th
  • :header - Options passed to the content_tag for the :tag wrapper.
  • No defaults, but :id is set to <model>\_header\_<field> and :class will have "up" or "down" added to it appropriately.
  • :remote - Options passed to link\_to\_remote as second arg, see the docs for link\_to\_remote for these options, defaults below:
  • :update - Defaults to the lower-case pluralized and underscored version of your model name - ie. model_name.tablelize
  • :before - Defaults to showing the :spinner element (whatever you set that to, or "spinner" if you don't set it).
  • :complete - Defaults to hiding the :spinner element
  • :method - :get - you probably shouldn't change this
  • :url - No point in setting this, it is overridden with the link URL.
  • :html - Options pass to the link\_to\_remote as the third argument, see the docs for link\_to\_remote for these, defaults below:
  • :title - Defaults to "Sort by #{sort_field_tag}". If you embed the sort_field_tag attribute in your string then that will be replaced with the field_name.titlize for you, eg: :title => "Order by #{sort_field_tag}" If you want anything fancier then you can override sort\_header\_title and do whatever you want.
  • :html - No point in setting this, it is overridden with the link URL.

Finally, if you pass a block, then it will be yielded to for each field in your header_array, and you can provide different text to be displayed for as many of the headings as you like.

As long as you require good_sort after you've required will_paginate then good_sort will override the will_paginate view helper to inject the params needed to ensure that the page links will all know about the sorting column. The only caveat is that the call to will_paginate needs to be within the partial that is rendered by the AJAX call so that it is re-rendered when you sort.