Chosen.js in the Django admin

Published on 2011-12-13 16:00:48+00:00
chosenjs   django   javascript   jquery   python   web  

Update Nov 23, 2013: I've written a little app (django-chosenadmin) that'll automatically add this to every app.

Quite some time ago, I ran across the chosen.js plugin for jQuery and Prototype (I'm using the jQuery flavor). My first thought upon seeing this was, "This would rock in Django's admin app." Yet for some reason, I didn't make that happen.

Until recently.

I maintain a project where about 10 people use the admin app extensively. They manage several apps that have foreign keys to django's User model. This works well enough, but there are a few thousand user accounts. That makes the default <select> elements fairly unwieldy, and the <select multiple> widgets are just horrendous!

Fortunately, the chosen.js plugin is fairly straighforward to install for the admin. You'll first need to grab a copy of chosen.js and (if you want to use them) the default CSS and sprite files. I just grabbed the most current version from github.

My static files are organized as follows. Note that I put chosen's CSS & sprite files in a subdirectory named chosen:


Now, you can override the admin app's change_form.html template (be sure to get a copy for your version of django. You can do this by putting your own copy of the template in your project's templates directory (see your TEMPLATE_DIRS setting). For me, that looks like this:


In that template, there's an extrahead block. At the bottom of that block, you need to include a link to the plugin and the css file. Since this is a jQuery plugin, you'll also need to include a link to jQuery. (Even though django's admin comes bundled with jQuery, it's namespaced, so to use a 3rd-party plugin, you need your own copy of the library. See this note)

    src="{{ STATIC_URL }}js/chosen.jquery.min.js" 
<link rel="stylesheet" href="{{ STATIC_URL }}css/chosen/chosen.css"/>

Now, you can apply the chosen plugin to all <select> elements!

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

However, this has one unfortunate side effect. Django's admin app contains a custom multi-select widget, that normally looks like this:

django admin custom multi-select

The chosen plugin dutifully mangles the custom widget, which is probably not what you want:

django admin custom multi-select

The admin app's custom widget includes javascript that gets loaded after the page loads. Luckily, it includes a filtered class on the elements to which it is applied. So, we need the chosen plugin to load after the admin app's javascript has run.

The only what I got that to work was to use setTimeout. This is definitely a hack, and I'd love to see a more elegant solution... but it works. So, the previous code to initialize the chosen plugin would be replaced with the following:

<script type="text/javascript">
setTimeout(function() {
}, 1000);

Now the plugin gets loaded about 1 second after the page is finished loading, so you get both the admin app's custom multi-select widget and the chosen.js plugin. There's a visible delay before the plugin gets loaded, but you could tweak the second argument to minimize this somewhat. For my needs, the benefits of the more usable interface for <select> elements outweigh the cost of loading the plugin.