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jQuery Tokeninput: A Tokenizing Autocomplete Text Entry


Tokeninput is a jQuery plugin which allows your users to select multiple items from a predefined list, using autocompletion as they type to find each item. You may have seen a similar type of text entry when filling in the recipients field sending messages on facebook.


  • Intuitive UI for selecting multiple items from a large list
  • Easy to skin/style purely in css, no images required
  • Supports any backend which can generate JSON, including PHP, Rails, Django,
  • Smooth animations when results load
  • Select, delete and navigate items using the mouse or keyboard
  • Client-side result caching to reduce server load
  • Crossdomain support via JSONP
  • Callbacks when items are added or removed from the list
  • Preprocess results from the server with the onResult callback
  • Programatically add, remove, clear and get tokens
  • Customize the output format of the results and tokens


List style

Vertical list style item selection

List style

Facebook style item selection

Installation & Setup

Create a server-side script to handle search requests

Create a server-side script (PHP, Rails,, etc) to generate your search results. The script can fetch data from wherever you like, for example a database or a hardcoded list. Your script must accept a GET parameter named q which will contain the term to search for. E.g.

Your script should output JSON search results in the following format:

    {"id":"1035","name":"Desperate Housewives"},

You may optionally specify an attribute of "readonly" and set it to true if you would like some of the tokens to be non-removable:

    {"id":"1035","name":"Desperate Housewives"},

Note that you may omit "readonly" on entities where it is not necessary. This attribute is acceptable wherever JSON entities are passed, e.g. .tokenInput("add") (see Methods section below).

Include and initialize the plugin

Include jQuery and Tokeninput Javascript and stylesheet files on your page, and attach to your text input: Tokeninput stylesheet:

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="yourfiles/jquery.tokeninput.js"></script>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="yourfiles/token-input.css" />

<script type="text/javascript">
$(document).ready(function () {


The tokeninput takes an optional second parameter on intitialization which allows you to customize the appearance and behaviour of the script, as well as add your own callbacks to intercept certain events. The following options are available:

Search Settings

Option Description Default
method The HTTP method (eg. GET, POST) to use for the server request. "GET"
queryParam The name of the query param which you expect to contain the search term on the server-side. "q"
searchDelay The delay, in milliseconds, between the user finishing typing and the search being performed. 300
minChars The minimum number of characters the user must enter before a search is performed. 1
propertyToSearch The javascript/json object attribute to search. "name"
jsonContainer The name of the json object in the response which contains the search results. This is typically used when your endpoint returns other data in addition to your search results. Use null to use the top level response object. null
crossDomain Force JSONP cross-domain communication to the server instead of a normal ajax request. Note: JSONP is automatically enabled if we detect the search request is a cross-domain request. false

Pre-population Settings

Option Description Default
prePopulate Prepopulate the tokeninput with existing data. Set to an array of JSON objects, eg: [{id: 3, name: "test"}, {id: 5, name: "awesome"}] to pre-fill the input. null

Display Settings

Option Description Default
hintText The text to show in the dropdown label which appears when you first click in the search field. "Type in a search term"
noResultsText The text to show in the dropdown label when no results are found which match the current query. "No results"
searchingText The text to show in the dropdown label when a search is currently in progress. "Searching..."
deleteText The text to show on each token which deletes the token when clicked. If you wish to hide the delete link, provide an empty string here. Alternatively you can provide a html string here if you would like to show an image for deleting tokens. "&times;"
animateDropdown Set this to false to disable animation of the dropdown true
theme Set this to a string, eg "facebook" when including theme css files to set the css class suffix
resultsLimit The maximum number of results shown in the drop down. Use null to show all the matching results. null
resultsFormatter A function that returns an interpolated HTML string for each result. Use this function with a templating system of your choice, such as jresig microtemplates or mustache.js. Use this when you want to include images or multiline formatted results function(item){ return "<li>" + item.propertyToSearch + "</li>" }
tokenFormatter A function that returns an interpolated HTML string for each token. Use this function with a templating system of your choice, such as jresig microtemplates or mustache.js. Use this when you want to include images or multiline formatted tokens. Quora's people invite token field that returns avatar tokens is a good example of what can be done this option. function(item){ return "<li><p>" + item.propertyToSearch + "</p></li>" }

Tokenization Settings

Option Description Default
tokenLimit The maximum number of results allowed to be selected by the user. Use null to allow unlimited selections. null
tokenDelimiter The separator to use when sending the results back to the server. ","
preventDuplicates Prevent the user from selecting a token that has already been selected? false
tokenValue The value of the token input when the input is submitted. Set it to id in order to get a concatenation of token IDs, or to name in order to get a concatenation of names. "id"


Option Description Default
onResult A function to call whenever we receive results back from the server. You can use this function to pre-process results from the server before they are displayed to the user. null
onAdd A function to call whenever the user adds another token to their selections. null
onDelete A function to call whenever the user removes a token from their selections. null
onReady A function to call after initialization is done and the tokeninput is ready to use. null


Method Description
selector.tokenInput("add", {id: x, name: y}); Add a new token to the tokeninput with id x and name y.
selector.tokenInput("remove", {id: x}); Remove the tokens with id x from the tokeninput.
selector.tokenInput("remove", {name: y}); Remove the tokens with name y from the tokeninput.
selector.tokenInput("clear"); Clear all tokens from the tokeninput.
selector.tokenInput("get"); Gets the array of selected tokens from the tokeninput (each item being an object of the kind {id: x, name: y}).

Reporting Bugs or Feature Requests

Please report any bugs or feature requests on the github issues page for this project here:


Tokeninput is released under a dual license. You can choose either the GPL or MIT license depending on the project you are using it in and how you wish to use it.