bindWithDelay jQuery Plugin

Sometimes, I want to have a JavaScript event that doesn’t fire until the native event stops firing for a short timeout. I’ve needed to use that pattern in almost every project I have worked on.

For example, you want to use JavaScript to resize an iframe to 100% height when the window resizes. The resize() event can fire dozens of times, and calculating and setting the new height can slow down your page. I used to implement it like this:

var timeout;
function doResize(e) {
   clearTimeout(timeout);
   timeout = setTimeout(function() {
      // run some code
   }, 200);
}
$(function() {
   $(window).bind("resize",doResize);
});

Notice that there are extra variables that you have to deal with, and extra indentation. You could at least clean up the global variable using closures, but you get the idea.

I wrote a plugin to make this pattern easier, it is called “bindWithDelay”. The source code is online, as is a mini project page with a demo.

This is what the same code looks like with the plugin:

function doResize(e) {
      // run some code
}
$(function() {
   $(window).bindWithDelay("resize", doResize, 200);
})

Radio button within a repeater problem

Recently I was developing a system to create tests and test questions.  For these tests our client wanted multiple choice questions.  To implement this I decided to have a list of textboxes for the answer text, and a radio button for each textbox to select the correct answer.   I knew that a RadioButtonList couldn’t have anything other than a radio button and text, so I went with a repeater.

<asp:Repeater ID="rptRadios" runat="server">
    <HeaderTemplate>
        <ul>
    </HeaderTemplate>
    <ItemTemplate>
        <li>
            <asp:RadioButton ID="rbRadio" runat="server" GroupName="RadioGroup" />
            &nbsp;
            <asp:TextBox runat="server" ID="txtRadio"></asp:TextBox>
        </li>
    </ItemTemplate>
    <FooterTemplate>
        </ul>
    </FooterTemplate>
</asp:Repeater>

Doing it this way caused the group name of each radio button to be inconsistent, because of the repeater. After a while of researching and not finding any good solutions I decided to try changing the group name of the radio buttons using jQuery.

$("input:radio").attr('name', 'RadioGroup');

That gave me the radio button functionality that I wanted, but it prevented me from getting the selected radio button on postback. So I decided to just implement the radio button functionality manually.

var radios = $("input:radio");
radios.click(function() {
     radios.removeAttr('checked');
     $(this).attr('checked', 'checked');
     return true;
});

Which gave me the correct functionality and I could still get the selected radio button and textbox on postback. Probably not the most elegant solution, but I couldn’t find any other way to do it.

Also I needed to make sure at least one of the radio buttons was selected so I added a CustomValidator that called a javascript function.

function ValidateRadioButtons(sender, args) {
     args.IsValid = $("input:radio:checked").size() > 0;
}

Using jQuery and YQL to get an RSS feed from a site

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Finding an RSS feed on a site can sometimes be a hassle.  Browsers have started introducing a feature that will include an RSS icon in the address bar when the browser finds the site has an RSS feed.  I thought it would be nice to allow users to just enter in a web address and let us do the work finding the RSS feed for the site.  I looked into how browsers were accomplishing this and found that browsers look for a <link> tag in the <head> of the document with the type attribute of “application/rss+xml”.

Now that we know what to look for, how do we go about determining if the website provided has the correct <link> tag?  I decided to let YQL do the work for me.  I loaded up the YQL Query Console and began testing some queries.  On the right hand side, there are different Data Tables you can use.  I scrolled down to “data” and selected the “html” option which allows you to query the html of any site.

The example that you start out with looks similar to this:

select * from html where url="http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=yhoo" and xpath='//div[@id="yfi_headlines"]/div[2]/ul/li/a'

From this example it is easy to see which URL is being queried and the XPath that is being used to find elements on the page.  If you aren’t familiar with  XPath, check out the W3 XPath documentation.  So now we just plug in the URL of the site we want to search and change the XPath to whatwe need to use to find the <link> elements. Now the query looks like this:

select * from html where url="https://lanitdev.wordpress.com/" and xpath='//link[@type="application/rss+xml"]'

In the query console, be sure to select the JSON radio button and then click the “Test” button.  You will see JSON output that looks like the following:

feeds({
    "query":{
    "count":"1",
    "created":"2010-02-26T09:08:43Z",
    "lang":"en-US",
    "updated":"2010-02-26T09:08:43Z",
    "uri":"http://query.yahooapis.com/v1/yql?q=select+*+from+html+where+url%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Flanitdev.wordpress.com%22+and%0A++++++xpath%3D%27%2F%2Flink%5B%40type%3D%22application%2Frss%2Bxml%22%5D%27",
    "results":{
        "link":{
            "href":"https://lanitdev.wordpress.com/feed/",
            "rel":"alternate",
            "title":"The Lanit Development Blog RSS Feed",
            "type":"application/rss+xml"
        }
    }
}
});

We can see from the JSON that we found 1 feed and we get all the information to go along with it.

Now that we have a proper YQL query, let’s use some jQuery to create a form that retrieves these feeds for us.  I am going to create a simple form where a user inputs a url and then outputs a list of RSS feeds or a message stating that an RSS feed couldn’t be found.

The form is straightforward.  I just have a textbox and a button.  I also have an unordered list which I’ll use to display the list of RSS feeds.

<table>
    <tr>
        <td>
            <label><input type="text" id="website" /></label>
        </td>
        <td>
            <input id="getrss" type="button" value="Get RSS" />
        </td>
    </tr>
</table>

<ul id="rsslist">
</ul>

Next is the jQuery.  We will attach an event to the button that will hit the YQL URL and return JSON that we can parse and get the data we need.  The YQL URL we will be using is found in the YQL Query Console next to where you entered the query.  There is a box called “The REST Query” which has the query that we will use.  The only modification I made to the rest query was that I took out the URL that was in there and replaced with with the jQuery value from the textbox.

$(function(){
    $("#getrss").click(function(){
        $("#rsslist").empty();
        $.ajax({
            type: "GET",
            url: "http://query.yahooapis.com/v1/public/yql?q=select%20*%20from%20html%20where%20url%3D%22"  + $("#website").val() + "%22%20and%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20xpath%3D'%2F%2Flink%5B%40type%3D%22application%2Frss%2Bxml%22%5D'&format=json&diagnostics=false",
            dataType: "json",
            success: function(data){
                if (data.query.count == 1){
                    $("#rsslist").append("<li><a  href='" + data.query.results.link.href + "'>" + data.query.results.link.title + "</a></li>");
                }
                else if (data.query.count > 1){
                    for (var i = 0; i < data.query.results.link.length; i++)
                    {
                        var link = data.query.results.link[i];
                        $("#rsslist").append("<li><a  href='" + link.href + "'>" + link.title + "</a></li>");
                    }
                } else {
                    $("#rsslist").append("<li>No RSS feed found</li>");
                }
             },
             error: function(){
                 console.log("error");
             }
        });
     });
})

When the AJAX request finishes successfully we check to see if any feeds are returned and if there are, we loop through them and display them.

I created a demo page using jsbin.com so you can see this in action. View Demo

I hope this small example gives you an idea how you can use jQuery and YQL to accomplish other interesting challenges.

Bing Maps API – Getting Started

Lanit had recently been researching getting a mapping API set up for use in various projects. Ultimately, due to ease of use and licensing, we settled on the Bing Maps API.

The goal of the first project using these maps was to plot a fairly large number of items with known locations on a simple map of Missouri.

Starting out, you must first include a reference to the bing maps in your page:

<script type='text/javascript' src='http://ecn.dev.virtualearth.net/mapcontrol/mapcontrol.ashx?v=6.2&mkt=en-us'/>

After that, create some objects that you’re going to plot. For our implementation, all the needed information is stored on the page -so these properties are just getting values from these.

function Item($container) {
    var item = this;
    var lngBox = $container.find("input.lng");
    var latBox = $container.find("input.lat");
    item.getLat = function() { return latBox.val(); };
    item.getLng = function() { return lngBox.val(); };
    item.Icon = “img/iconhere”;
    item.Title = “Title Here”;
}

Item.prototype.plot = function(map) {
    var item = this;
    item.getPosition(function(latLng) {
    var thisPin = new VEShape(VEShapeType.Pushpin, latLng);
    thisPin.SetCustomIcon(item.Icon);
    thisPin.SetTitle(Item.Title);
    var pinPoint = map.AddShape(thisPin);
});};

It’s worth noting here the “plot” is expecting an object of type “VEMap”, and will then position a point of type VEShape at the position of the item.

For our implementation, we had static addresses with Latitudes and Longitudes already saved. If your implementation will need to geocode addresses, the “GetLat” and “GetLng” functions will need to be replaced with calls to the geocode service.

After creating these objects, we’ll load the map on page load and plot the objects

var settings = {
              mapOpts: {container: "map", // id of map 
             containerheight: 550, 
           width: 600, 
zoom: 7, 
center: new VELatLong(38.208142, -92.381362) },
elementClick: function() { }// this code is run when a plotted item is clicked
};

$(function() {

    $("#" + settings.mapOpts.container).css({
        'width': settings.mapOpts.width, // the API will not automatically set the height/width of the container object – this must be done before the maps are loaded.
        'height': settings.mapOpts.height,
        'position': 'relative'
    });

    // creates a map in the dom object by ID
    var map = new VEMap(settings.mapOpts.container);

    // attach an event to the item clicks -
    map.AttachEvent("onclick", function(e) {
        if (e.elementID != null) { // call the click function using the Pin element
            var shape = map.GetShapeByID(e.elementID);
            settings.elementClick(shape);
        }
    });

    // this renders the map to the page
    map.LoadMap(settings.mapOpts.center, settings.mapOpts.zoom, null, false, null, false);

    // disable zooming on mouse wheel
    map.AttachEvent("onmousewheel", function(e) {
        var mouseWheel = -e.mouseWheelChange / 2;
        window.scrollBy(0,mouseWheel);
        return true;
    });

    // plot the items on the map
    var items = $("#itemContainer").find("div.itemContainer");
    items.each(function() {
        var item = new Item($(this));
        item.plot(map);
   });
});

You can see some implementation decisions here – the pages were pretty unusable with the default functionality to scroll on mouse wheel, so that was disabled.

Loading images last with jQuery

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There are lots of ways to make your webpages faster and more responsive. YSlow is a great tool to help you find many great ways to make a particular page faster.

One of the best things you can do is reduce the number of requests (css/js/images/etc) to the server. Typically, this would mean that you would combine files – merge all of your JS and CSS (and minify while you are at it), and use CSS Sprites to combine images.

One major problem of using CSS Sprites is that it can be quite painful to maintain. Over time, if you want to add or change some of your images – you basically need to rebuild and replace the combined images and all of the CSS rules specifying coordinates. Sometimes, this makes the CSS Sprite technique unreasonable to implement.

In one such case, we had about 50 images in one application that were causing the page to take a long time to load. These images were previews of some different design choices that the user could make. The design choices themselves (and their previews) were database driven so that we can add new designs through an admin interface. So, CSS Spriteing the previews would seriously hamper that flexibility.

One other design consideration was that the previews weren’t that important – the page was fully functional and usable without the images. In fact, the designs weren’t even visible until you toggled the design menu.

There is a lazy loader plugin for jQuery already available here – but it didn’t fit our needs. Instead of skipping images in order to get the page working as soon as possible (and initiate the load once the page is usable) – it is made to skip loading offscreen images until they are scrolled into view. It might have somewhat worked for our needs – but I thought it was better to load the images as soon as possible, instead of waiting for the design menu to be expanded to initiate the load. That way, most of the time the designs would be visible by the time they open the menu – but it wouldn’t interfere with the rest of the interface.

My solution was to set the src for all of the previews to a single animated loading image – like one you can get here. Then, I set a custom attribute on the image for the real preview’s url. Finally, some jQuery code runs after the page is done loading which replaces each src attribute with the url in the custom attribute, which will load the real image.

Sample HTML:

<ul>
    <li templateid="7bcf8f23-fdd0-45c5-a429-d2ffb59e47f0" class="selected"><span>3D Dots
        Dark</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/7bcf8f23-fdd0-45c5-a429-d2ffb59e47f0/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="3D Dots Dark" />
    </li>
    <li templateid="b1a09e28-629e-472a-966e-fc98fc269607"><span>3D Dots Lite</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/b1a09e28-629e-472a-966e-fc98fc269607/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="3D Dots Lite" />
    </li>
    <li templateid="e121d26a-9c8f-466f-acc7-9a79d5e8cfa9"><span>Beauty</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/e121d26a-9c8f-466f-acc7-9a79d5e8cfa9/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="Beauty" />
    </li>
    <li templateid="322e4c7a-33e7-4e05-bb72-c4076a83a3d0"><span>Black and White</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/322e4c7a-33e7-4e05-bb72-c4076a83a3d0/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="Black and White" />
    </li>
    <li templateid="57716da9-91ef-4cf0-82f1-722d0770ad7f"><span>Blank</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/57716da9-91ef-4cf0-82f1-722d0770ad7f/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="Blank" />
    </li>
    <li templateid="a79e1136-db47-4acd-be3e-2daf4522796d"><span>Blue Leaves</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/a79e1136-db47-4acd-be3e-2daf4522796d/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="Blue Leaves" />
    </li>
    <li templateid="03cb737d-4da7-46d5-b4e4-5ad4b4a3aaf4"><span>Blue Open</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/03cb737d-4da7-46d5-b4e4-5ad4b4a3aaf4/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="Blue Open" />
    </li>
    <li templateid="899dff2f-38ba-44f7-9fe2-af66e62674a4"><span>Compass</span>
        <img src="/static/img/ajax-loader-small.gif" deferredsrc="/resources/899dff2f-38ba-44f7-9fe2-af66e62674a4/preview.jpg"
            class="deferredLoad" alt="Compass" />
    </li>
</ul>

Sample javascript:

$(function(){
        $("img.deferredLoad").each(function() {
            var $this = $(this);
            $this.attr("src", $this.attr("deferredSrc")).removeClass("deferredLoad");
        });
});

Getting the width of a hidden element with jQuery using width()

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UPDATE #3: It needs to be noted that the fix introduced in jQuery 1.4.4 is only for the width() and height() methods.  If you need inner/outer dimensions the method below still needs to be used.  I have updated the method to return height/width, outer height/width, and inner height/width.  There is an optional parameter to include margins in the outer dimension calculations.  Thanks Ryan and Fred for the heads up.

UPDATE #2: jQuery 1.4.4 was released today (11/11/2010) and included in the release was an update to the width() and height() methods.z  Each method will now return the correct dimension of the element if it is within a hidden element.  For further information, you can view the bug report.

UPDATE #1: Based on the feedback in the comments regarding the use of the swap method, I am updating this post with a solution from Ryan Wheale.  He created a function to return the dimensions of an element that is hidden or nested within 1 more hidden elements.  Here is the code that he posted below in his comment:

//Optional parameter includeMargin is used when calculating outer dimensions
(function($) {
$.fn.getHiddenDimensions = function(includeMargin) {
    var $item = this,
        props = { position: 'absolute', visibility: 'hidden', display: 'block' },
        dim = { width:0, height:0, innerWidth: 0, innerHeight: 0, outerWidth: 0, outerHeight: 0 },
        $hiddenParents = $item.parents().andSelf().not(':visible'),
        includeMargin = (includeMargin == null)? false : includeMargin;

    var oldProps = [];
    $hiddenParents.each(function() {
        var old = {};

        for ( var name in props ) {
            old[ name ] = this.style[ name ];
            this.style[ name ] = props[ name ];
        }

        oldProps.push(old);
    });

    dim.width = $item.width();
    dim.outerWidth = $item.outerWidth(includeMargin);
    dim.innerWidth = $item.innerWidth();
    dim.height = $item.height();
    dim.innerHeight = $item.innerHeight();
    dim.outerHeight = $item.outerHeight(includeMargin);

    $hiddenParents.each(function(i) {
        var old = oldProps[i];
        for ( var name in props ) {
            this.style[ name ] = old[ name ];
        }
    });

    return dim;
}
}(jQuery));

This basically performs the same operations as the swap method.  This is safer to use in case the swap method is removed from the jQuery core.

I have tested this in multiple cases and each time the correct results were returned.

Thanks Ryan.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Original post

I recently ran into a problem with jQuery’s width().  The problem is with a visible element that is inside a hidden element will return a value of 0 instead of its’ actual calculated width.  After messing around with it for a little bit I finally came up with a solution.  The method I used involved adding some CSS properties to the hidden element.  The CSS properties involved are position, visibility, and display.

//$HiddenItem is the element that is wrapping the element that you want the width of
//$Item is the element you want the width of

$HiddenItem.css({
    position: "absolute",
    visibility: "hidden",
    display: "block"
})
$Item.width();

$HiddenItem.css({
    position: "",
    visibility: "",
    display: ""
})

After setting the above CSS properties on the element, you can then call width() and the correct value will be returned. After you call the width() method you should clear the properties in order to return the element to the way it was.

Setting the properties to an empty string is probably not the best way to do it though. What if there was a position value already set? Using this method would clear out that initial values of the CSS properties.

I found the swap() method to be handy in this situation. I found this method while looking through the jQuery source code.

 // A method for quickly swapping in/out CSS properties to get correct calculations swap: function( elem, options, callback ) {      var old = {};       // Remember the old values, and insert the new ones      for ( var name in options ) {           old[ name ] = elem.style[ name ];           elem.style[ name ] = options[ name ];      }       callback.call( elem );       // Revert the old values      for ( var name in options ){          elem.style[ name ] = old[ name ];      } } 

By using the swap method, the old CSS properties will be remembered and reapplied after finding the width of the element. The swap method takes in 3 parameters:

  1. The element that you would like to swap the CSS properties on
  2. CSS key/value pairs that you want to change
  3. A callback function to call after the properties are set

To rewrite the above to use the swap method I would do the following:

var props = { position: "absolute", visibility: "hidden", display: "block" };
var itemWidth = 0;

$.swap($HiddenItem[0], props, function(){
     itemWidth = $Item.width();
});

//Use itemWidth

I coded up a small example on jsbin. Here is the link http://jsbin.com/ofine3/2.

$HiddenItem.width();

jQuery Custom Selector for selecting elements by exact text :textEquals

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I needed a way to find labels based on the text that they contained.  I thought about using :contains() for this, but in this particular case the text items I was searching on were names and I could have similar names that :contains() could incorrectly match on.  For instance, if I was searching for “Banks, Tim” and there was an item with the text “Banks, Timothy” I would get both items returned.  This is not the behavior I was looking for.

I decided to write a little custom selector to match on exact text.  Here is the code for the custom selector:

$.expr[':'].textEquals = function(a, i, m) {
return $(a).text().match("^" + m[3] + "$");
};

What is happening here is I am using a regular expression to test if the start and end of the element’s text matches the string passed in.  Now I could search for the name “Banks, Tim” on a label element like this:

$("label:textEquals('Banks, Tim')");