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A tiny & dead-simple jQuery plugin for sortable tables.
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A tiny & dead-simple jQuery plugin for sortable tables.

Here's a basic demo.


Just add jQuery & the tablesort plugin to your page:

<script src=""></script>
<script src="jquery.tablesort.js"></script>

Basic use

Call the appropriate method on the table you want to make sortable:


The table will be sorted when the column headers are clicked.

Your table must have thead and tbody elements, and should follow this general format:


If you want some imageless arrows to indicate the sort, just add this to your CSS:

th.sorted.ascending:after {
    content: "  \2191";

th.sorted.descending:after {
    content: " \2193";

How cells are sorted

At the moment cells are naively sorted using string comparison. By default, the <td>'s text is used, but you can easily override that by adding a data-sort-value attribute to the cell. For example to sort by a date while keeping the cell contents human-friendly, just add the timestamp as the data-sort-value:

<td data-sort-value="1331110651437">March 7, 2012</td>

This allows you to sort your cells using your own criteria without having to write a custom sort function. It also keeps the plugin lightweight by not having to guess & parse dates.

Defining custom sort functions

If you have special requirements (or don't want to clutter your markup like the above example) you can easily hook in your own function that determines the sort value for a given cell.

Custom sort functions are attached to <th> elements using data() and are used to determine the sort value for all cells in that column:

// Sort by dates in YYYY-MM-DD format
$('thead').data('sortBy', function(th, td, tablesort) {
    return new Date(td.text());

// Sort hex values, ie: "FF0066":
$('thead th.hex').data('sortBy', function(th, td, tablesort) {
    return parseInt(td.text(), 16);

// Sort by an arbitrary object, ie: a Backbone model:
$('thead th.personID').data('sortBy', function(th, td, tablesort) {
    return App.People.get(td.text());

Sort functions are passed three parameters:

  • the <th> being sorted on
  • the <td> for which the current sort value is required
  • the tablesort instance


The following events are triggered on the <table> element being sorted, 'tablesort:start' and 'tablesort:complete'. The event and tablesort instance are passed as parameters:

$('table').on('tablesort:start', function(event, tablesort) {
    console.log("Starting the sort...");

$('table').on('tablesort:complete', function(event, tablesort) {
    console.log("Sort finished!");

tablesort instances

A table's tablesort instance can be retrieved by querying the data object:

$('table').tablesort(); // Make the table sortable.
var tablesort = $('table').data('tablesort'); // Get a reference to it's tablesort instance


tablesort.$table        // The <table> being sorted.
tablesort.$th           // The <th> currently sorted by (null if unsorted).
tablesort.index         // The column index of tablesort.$th (or null).
tablesort.direction     // The direction of the current sort, either 'asc' or 'desc' (or null if unsorted).
tablesort.settings      // Settings for this instance (see below).


// Sorts by the specified column and, optionally, direction ('asc' or 'desc').
// If direction is omitted, the reverse of the current direction is used.
tablesort.sort(th, direction);



Here are the supported options and their default values:

$.tablesort.defaults = {
    debug: $.tablesort.DEBUG,   // Outputs some basic debug info when true.
    asc: 'sorted ascending',    // CSS classes added to `<th>` elements on sort.
    desc: 'sorted descending'

You can also change the global debug value which overrides the instance's settings:

$.tablesort.DEBUG = false;


  • Guess common datatypes (dates, numbers, etc)
  • Multi-column sorting


As always, all suggestions, bug reports/fixes, and improvements are welcome.

Help with any of the following is particularly appreciated:

  • Performance improvements
  • Making the code as concise/efficient as possible
  • Browser compatibility

Please fork and send pull requests, or report an issue.

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