Wednesday, December 21

Custom ASP.NET Editable DropDownList


The ASP.NET DropDownList is an easy way to offer a set of selections for the user. However, if you want to allow the user to enter information not available in the drop down list, you will have to write your own JavaScript code or jQuery. This source code combines that work into a ASP.NET DLL control you can easily place on any ASP.NET web page.
The downloadable source project above uses the following technologies:
  • ASP.NET 4.0 / Webforms
  • C#
  • jQuery / JavaScript
  • CSS




You do not have to have knowledge with jQuery, JavaScript, or CSS to use the EditableDropDownList. The only requirement is that any page that references the EditableDropDownList also contains the proper links to the CSS and JavaScript files available in either of the downloadable files above. The source code download contains the class library project for the EditableDropDownList and a test website using the EditableDropDownList control.

Using the Code

To use the EditableDropDownList, you will need to follow these steps:
  1. Include a project reference to the EditableDropDownList.dll to your ASP.NET webforms project.
    • You can skip steps 2 and 5 by using the EditableDropDownList from your Visual Studio toolbox.
    • To do so, be sure that you are currently editing a web page so that you can get access to the toolbox and ASP.NET controls.
    • From your Visual Studio toolbox, right click to create a new tab or use an existing one to add the EditableDropDownListControl. Start by right clicking in the toolbox and select "Choose Items.." and then browse to where you have saved the EditableDropDownList.dll.
    • Once added, you can now double click or click and drag the EditableDropDownList to your web page to get started. This will automatically add the reference to your web project, place the proper code in the header of your web page, and add the control into your web page.
  2. Register the EditableDropDownList at the top of your web page.
    <%@ Register Assembly="EditableDropDownList" 
    Namespace="EditableControls" TagPrefix="editable" %> 
  3. Add these files to your website:
    • jquery-ui.css
    • img/ui-bg_flat_0_aaaaaa_40x100.png
    • img/ui-icons_222222_256x240.png
    • img/ui-icons_454545_256x240.png
    • img/ui-icons_888888_256x240.png
    • (Javascript files below should be referenced in this order below)
    • jquery-1.6.4.min.js (* or greater)
    • jquery.ui.core.js
    • jquery.ui.widget.js
    • jquery.ui.button.js
    • jquery.ui.position.js
    • jquery.ui.autocomplete.js
    • jquery.ui.combobox.js (This file is not a part of the jQuery library)
  4. Add the references to the CSS and JavaScript files in the page header:
    <head runat="server">
        <link href="css/jquery-ui.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />
        <script src="js/jquery-1.6.4.min.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
        <script src="js/jquery.ui.core.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
        <script src="js/jquery.ui.widget.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
        <script src="js/jquery.ui.button.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
        <script src="js/jquery.ui.position.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
        <script src="js/jquery.ui.autocomplete.js" type="text/javascript"></script> 
        <script src="js/jquery.ui.combobox.js" type="text/javascript"></script> 
  5. Add the script tags for the EditableDropDownList on your web page:
    <editable:EditableDropDownList ID="EditableDropDownList1" runat="server"> 
  6. Bind items to your drop down list either manually by adding ListItems to the EditableDropDownList or by binding to a DataSource.
    • Both examples can be found in the downloadable source code above.
  7. You're done! You can now work with your EditableDropDownList to find what options work best for you. I would love to hear some great feedback if you use this control on your site.

How is the EditableDropDownList Different from the Normal .NET DropDownList?

Here are the primary differences from the ASP.NET DropDownList control:
  • AutoPostBack is no longer available.
    • Unlike the DropDownList, the user now can enter a variety of information so the purpose of this control was not for a postback event after the user makes a selection. Please feel free to modify the source code if you need to add this functionality.
  • AutoWidth to fit the contents of the list items.
    • This functionality is a part of the browser and the <select> element. We are not using a select element for this control so it will be up to you to give a width that works well for the data that you are providing to the user.
  • Sorted [New/Added] (Boolean)
    • A new property "Sorted" has been added to allow you to automatically sort your items for you.
  • Duplicate entries will be ignored. If you have multiple entries provided in your drop down list, then only a single entry will be listed.
  • Blank dropdown list entries are not allowed. If you would like to provide a blank entry for the user to select, then I would suggest that you use "&nbsp;" as your display value.
  • If no dropdown list items are given or Enabled="false", then a simple text box will be displayed.
  • There may be some other properties that are available in the ASP.NET DropDownList like "DataTextFormatString" that will not work with the EditableDropDownList. If you would like to add this or any other functionality, you are welcome to modify the source code as needed.


If you would like to modify the look and feel of the EditableDropDownList, there are several ways of doing this:
  • Use CSS classes and set the CssClass property accordingly. (Be sure that the reference to your CSS file in the header is after the reference to the file "jquery-ui.css")
  • Set styles through the code behind of the page as you would with any ASP.NET control. (Example: EditableDropDownList1.Style.Add(HtmlTextWriterStyle.BackgroundColor, "#fefecc");)
  • Modify the jQuery CSS file "jquery-ui.css".
    • If you want to maintain a consistent look and feel throughout your website and everywhere that you use the EditableDropDownList, then this will be your best option.
    • Keep in mind that if you are using other jQuery UI controls, then changes will affect those controls as well.

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shibashish mohanty