Ajax In Place Autocomplete Editor for CakePHP

The Scriptaculous InPlaceEditor and Autocompleter are very useful, and I needed a combination of them: when you click on a field to edit it, the Autocompleter comes up with a list of options, then after you choose an option and click “ok”, the ID of the selected element is sent to the server and the new text is sent back for display.

Here is the code used in my view:

// data to be displayed for editing
$fk_data = $input_data[$ForeignModelName][$foreign_column_name];

$editor_data =
“<td $display_style>\n




style=\”opacity: 1; display: none;\”>
<script type=\”text/javascript\”>
var editor=new Ajax.InPlaceEditor(
{cols: $size,
var request=\”value=\”+id;
return request;
Object.extend(editor, {
_createEditField: editor.createEditField,
createEditField: function() {
new Ajax.Autocompleter(
{paramName: ‘q’ ,minChars: 2, frequency: 0.2,
afterUpdateElement: function(txt, li)
id = li.id.replace(‘auto_’,”);

$output .= $editor_data;

Here is the function editInPlaceDropDown, which is located in appController.php. It receives the ID of the row being edited as part of the URL, and receives the new value as the request variable ‘value’.

function editInPlaceDropDown($ForeignModelName, $foreign_column_name, $ModelName, $col_name, $rowId)

$ForeignModelName = text_input_filter($ForeignModelName);
$foreign_column_name = text_input_filter($foreign_column_name);
$ModelName = text_input_filter($ModelName);
$column_name = text_input_filter($col_name);
$rowId = integer_input_filter($rowId);
$value = integer_input_filter($_REQUEST[‘value’]);

$this->layout = ‘ajax’;

if (!$this->RequestHandler->isAjax()) {
return true;

$this->$ModelName->id = $rowId;

$this->$ModelName->saveField($column_name, $value, true);

$new_value = $this->$ModelName->find(“$rowId = $ModelName.id”);

$new_value = $new_value[$ForeignModelName][$foreign_column_name];

$this->set(‘new_value’, $new_value);

Here is the autocomplete function, located in appController.php. It receives parameter “q” and returns the selection list, in the format documented in the comment.

function autocomplete($ForeignModelName, $foreign_column_name)

$ForeignModelName = text_input_filter($ForeignModelName);
$foreign_column_name = text_input_filter($foreign_column_name);

$this->layout = ‘ajax’;

if (!$this->RequestHandler->isAjax()) {
return true;

$text = text_input_filter($_REQUEST[‘q’]);

$text = strtolower($text);
$data = $this->$ForeignModelName->findall(“lower($foreign_column_name) LIKE ‘%$text%'”, ”, “$ForeignModelName.$foreign_column_name ASC”);

$new_value = “<ul>\n”;
foreach ($data as $row=>$value) {
$new_value .= “<li id=\”auto_{$value[$ForeignModelName][‘id’]}\”>
$new_value .= “</ul>\n”;

/*Sample output:
<li id=\”auto_12\”>Hi Bill</li>
<li id=\”auto_3\”>Hi Hairy!</li>
<li id=\”auto_5\”>Hi Holly</li>
<li id=\”auto_14\”>Hi Lovey</li>
</ul>”; */

$this->set(‘new_value’, $new_value);

The first

displays the text to be edited. The second

is used to display the drop down option list (by autocompleter). It has an initial style to not be visible.

The basic operation is this: Moving the cursor over the text field with the ajax InPlaceEditor causes it to be highlighted in yellow. Clicking on it changes it to an input form and activates the ajax autocomplete, via the object.extend, which causes inPlaceEditor’s internal function createEditField to be overridden by the one we define here (thanks to reference 1 for this approach!). The autocompleter sends parameter q, containing the text that has been typed into the input field, to the autocomplete function on the server; which returns the option choices in the following format:

<li id=\”auto_12\”>Hi Bill</li>
<li id=\”auto_3\”>Hi Hairy!</li>
<li id=\”auto_5\”>Hi Holly</li>
<li id=\”auto_14\”>Hi Lovey</li>

The afterUpdateElement function called by autoComplete gets the ID of the selected

  • . When “ok” is clicked, the callback function in inPlaceEditor sends a parameter in the form of value=ID to the editInPlaceDropDown function on the server, which saves the field in the database, then reads the new text value and returns it to the inPlaceEditor for display.

Many thanks to the following sources for their help:

  1. inplaceeditor + autocompleter on Ruby on Rails: Spinoffs
  2. Ajax Autocomplete With Scriptaculous by MetaPundit
  3. Extending Prototype.js by Elf M. Sternberg
  4. Ajax.In Place Editor on Scriptaculous Wiki
  5. Ajax.Autocompleter on Scriptaculous Wiki
  6. Ajax.In Place Collection Editor on Scriptaculous Wiki

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  1. Hi – I was looking for exactly this sort of thing and came across your article.

    I have converted your view code into a new helper.

    My generated JavaScript looks fine but the autocomplete doesn’t work.

    Have you got a working example I can look at?

  2. Wow, I’m pleased you found that article useful. I’ve started to use Ext with prototype, and although the models are different enough to cause a headache, the resulting power once you get them straight is astounding.

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