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Posted 4 Jun 2012


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Create a ComboBox web control with jQuery and ASP.NET

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4 Jun 2012CPOL5 min read
ComboBox is a common used control that has no default support by HTML specification and ASP.NET. In this article, I will present a ComboBox web control that is built with jQuery and ASP.NET.


ComboBox is a very common control that has no built-in support in HTML specification and in standard ASP.NET web control library, so the solution is to create one with JavaScript and wrapped up in ASP.NET custom control. You can use plain JavaScript to clip basic HTML elements into ComboBox, but it is very difficult to write, maintain, and support different browser. With the help of jQuery JavaScript library, this job becomes much easier.


The ComboBox web control I am looking for must meet following requirements:
1. Support bind data through standard data-bound properties and methods
There are data-bound properties and methods defined by .NET component specification to separate source data with binding logics. By complaint with this convention, ComboBox web control can be easily understand and used in any data binding scenario.
2. Allow select item from the dropdown list of ComboBox with mouse
3. Allow enter data in the textbox of ComboBox and use it to filter items in dropdown list, and then select expected item with keyboard

Create a web control

To let ComboBox web control can be used in ASP.NET web application, we will create it as a custom web control. Because ComboBox behaves similar to the combination of TextBox and DropDownList, so it’s better to inherit it from both TextBox and DropDownList. Unfortunately, C# doesn’t permit multi-inheritance, so we can only choose one as the base class. Due to the most important character of ComboBox is allowing user directly entering data in it, so I decided to let it inherit from TextBox. In the meantime, I implemented DataSource, DataSourceID, DataMember properties and DataBind method in ComboBox to support data binding usage though it’s not the subclass of standard DataBoundControl. Those data binding properties and methods will forward the call to internal DropDownList control. By doing this, I don’t need to spend much effort on writing data binding code. The internal DropDownList control that ComboBox contains is only used as storage for dropdown list items. ComboBox corresponding JavaScript file, ComboBox.js, will use those data for client rendering.
During the OnPreRender stage, ComboBox outputs ComboBox.js JavaScript file into client browser. ComboBox.js is the file contains all of client side logics.
During the Render stage, ComboBox creates a HTML block with basic HTML elements to represent client side ComboBox, later on, JavaScript code in ComboBox.js clips generated HTML elements into looking and behavior what we want.

ComboBox HTML block

ComboBox HTML block is like this

<span style="position:relative;" ComboBox="1" >
	<input name="ComboBox1" type="text" value="Item 2" id="ComboBox1" class="textbox" style="width:200px;" />
	<input type="button" value="V" />
	<select name="ctl02" tabindex="-1" style="display:none;">
		<option selected="selected" value="Item 1">Item 1</option>
		<option value="Item 2">Item 2</option>
		<option value="Item 3">Item 3</option>
	<div style="visibility:hidden; background-color:white"></div>
The outermost element is SPAN. It is used to contain all other elements for ComboBox control in HTML. There is a custom attribute ComboBox on it to flag SPAN as ComboBox container markup. And then a Text input element inside of SPAN is used to represent the textbox that user can enter data in ComboBox. The next element is a Button input that is used to represent the button of ComboBox. It uses “V” as button icon to distinguish with the built-in HTML select element. The following element is a Select that is used to store download list items. At the end, DIV is included in ComboBox to represent dropdown list of ComboBox. Despite nothing is initially contained in DIV, the bootstrap code in ComboBox.js will add a table into it and make it look and behave like a dropdown list.


This JavaScript file contains all logics for building up ComboBox in browser. Here I gave more detail explanation on purpose of each routing and method in ComboBox.

Initialize ComboBox (Bootsrapping)

After completed DOM rendering, bootstrapping code in ComboBox.js will go through below steps to initialize ComboBox:
1. Find all ComboBoxes on the page
2. Initialize each ComboBox by calling ComboBox_InitListData inside of jQuery .each API
3. Add click event handler for ComboBox’s dropdown button, “V” button
4. Add keydown and keyup event handler for ComboBox’s textbox
5. Add click event handler for document, so ComboBox’s dropdown list can be hidden when user click on anywhere other than ComboBox’s dropdown button

//initialize all ComboBoxes after DOM is fully loaded
$(function () {
    var $comboBoxs = $("span[ComboBox]"); //get all ComboBoxes. ComboBox is defined with span element that has ComboBox attribute

    //init each ComboBox with empty filter
    $comboBoxs.each(function (i, obj) {
        ComboBox_InitListData($(obj), "");

    //add click event handler for ComboBox "V" button
    $comboBoxs.find(":button").on("click", function (e) {
        ComboBox_HideList(); //hide all ComboBoxes' dropdown list first

        var $container = $(this).closest("span"); //get the first element that matches the "span" selector, beginning at the current element and progressing up through the DOM tree
        ComboBox_InitListData($container, ""); //init ComboBox with empty filter
        $container.find("div").css({ "zIndex": "1", "visibility": "visible" }); //set css of div on zIndex and visibility
        e.stopPropagation(); //prevents the event from bubbling up the DOM tree, preventing any parent handlers from being notified of the event

    //Set TextBox attribute and add keydown and keyup event handler for ComboBox textbox
              .data("currentitem", -1) //current selected item is -1
              .attr("autocomplete", "off") //turn off auto complete
              .on("keydown", function (e) { //set keydown event handler
              .on("keyup", function (e) { //set keyup event handler

    //add click event handler for document
    $(document).click(function (e) {
        var element = e.srcElement ||;
        if (element != undefined && element.tagName == "INPUT" && element.value == "V") {
            //when click on the ComboBox "V" button, then do nothing (note: event handler on "V" button will handle this event)
        else {
            //when click on somewhere else, then hide all ComboBoxes' dropdown list

Initialize List Data

Initialize list data method creates a table inside DIV to show as a dropdown list, this is done by first find DIV in ComboBox, and then create an in memory table to hold all item from Select element. At the end, put table into ComboBox DIV and hide it up.

//init combobox items
function ComboBox_InitListData($container, filterValue) {
    var $div = $container.find("div");
    var newList = new Array();
    var oSelect = $container.find("select")[0];
    var len = oSelect.options.length;

    for (var i = 0; i < len; i++) {
        if (filterValue == undefined || filterValue == "") {
            newList[newList.length] = oSelect.options[i].text;
        else {
            if (newList.length >= 9) {
            var currVal = oSelect.options[i].text;
            if (currVal.length >= filterValue.length) {
                if (currVal.toLowerCase().substring(0, filterValue.length) == filterValue.toLowerCase()) {
                    newList[newList.length] = currVal;

    var sHtml = [];
    sHtml.push("<table border=\"0\" cellpadding=\"0\" cellspace=\"0\" width=\"100%\" border=\"1\" style=\"z-index:10; background-color:white;\">");
    for (var i = 0; i < newList.length; i++) {
        sHtml.push("<tr onMouseOver=\"this.bgColor='#191970';'#ffffff';'default'; \" onMouseOut=\"this.bgColor='#ffffff';'#000000';\">");
        sHtml.push("<td nowrap onClick=\"ComboBox_SelectItemWithMouse(this);\">");
        sHtml.push((newList[i] == "" ? " " : newList[i]));

    $div.html(sHtml.join('')); //set the HTML contents of div to concatenated string from sHtml arrary

    $div.css("overflowY", "auto"); // = "auto";
    $div.css("border", "1px solid midnightblue"); // = "1px solid midnightblue";
    $div.css("position", "absolute"); // = "absolute";
    $div.css("visibility", "hidden"); // = "hidden";

    var count = $container.find("table td").size(); //get total ComboBox items
    var $text = $container.find(":text"); //get textbox element
    var $button = $container.find(":button") //get button element
    $div.css("width", $button.outerWidth() + $button.offset().left - $text.offset().left); //make the dropdown list same width as textbox + "V" button
    if (count > 7 || count == 0) {
        $div.css({ "height": "150" }); //limit the height of dropdown list when there is more than 7 items or default the height of dropdown list when there is no item
    else { 
        $div.css({ "height": count * 21 }); //set the height of dropdown box same as total of items' height. Each item's height is 21

Hide List

ComboBox dropdown list should not visible when user is working on other part of the page. This is the common behavior of a Select element in HTML. By find all ComboBoxes’ dropdown list container, DIV element, and set it as hidden with CSS will make all ComboBoxes’ dropdown list invisible.

//hide ComboBox dropdown list
function ComboBox_HideList() {
    $("span[ComboBox]").find("div").css("visibility", "hidden");

Is List Hidden

In most cases, ComboBox behave differently based on whether dropdown list is visible, so this method is used to provide visibility status of the dropdown list.

//is ComboBox dropdown list hidden
function ComboBox_IsListHidden($container) {
    return $container.find("div").css("visibility") == "hidden";

Set Item in Dropdown List

Every time, a key is pressed, ComboBox will try to handle Up, Down, Enter, and Escape key to select an item in Dropdown List. This makes dropdown list of ComboBox behave same with dropdown list of Select.

function ComboBox_KeySelectItem(e) {
    var txt = e.srcElement ||;
    var currentitem = $(txt).data("currentitem");
    var val = $.trim($(txt).val()); //get value in textbox
    var $container = $(txt).closest("span[ComboBox]"); //get ComboBox container that is defined with span element and ComboBox attribute

    var key = e.keyCode || e.which; //get key code
    switch (key) {
        case 38: //up
            if (val == "" || ComboBox_IsListHidden($container)) {
            $(txt).data("currentitem", currentitem);
        case 40: //down
            if (val == "" || ComboBox_IsListHidden($container)) {
            $(txt).data("currentitem", currentitem)
        case 13: //enter			
            if (!ComboBox_IsListHidden($container)) {
                return false;
        case 27: //esc
            return false;

Reset Dropdown List

After a key gets released, the dropdown list should be reset to match with the entered text in textbox.

function ComboBox_KeyFilterItem(e) {
    var txt = e.srcElement ||;

    //do nothing if up, down, enter, esc key pressed
    if (e.keyCode == 38 || e.keyCode == 40 || e.keyCode == 13 || e.keyCode == 27) {

    $(txt).data("currentitem", -1);
    var val = $(txt).val();
    if (val == "") {

    var $container = $(txt).closest("span[ComboBox]");
    ComboBox_InitListData($container, val);

    var $div = $container.find("div");
    $div.css({ "zIndex": "1", "visibility": "visible" });

    //hide dropdown list if there is no item
    if ($div.find("td").size() == 0) {

Change Item

When current item is changed, ComboBox will toggle color of text and background to make the current item appear as highlighted.

//change item
function ComboBox_ChangeItemWithKey(txt) {
    var $txt = $(txt);
    var currentitem = $"currentitem");
    var table = $txt.closest("span[ComboBox]").find("table")[0];

    for (i = 0; i < table.rows.length; i++) {
        table.rows[i].bgColor = "#ffffff";
        table.rows[i].style.color = "#000000";
    if (currentitem < 0) {
        currentitem = table.rows.length - 1;
    if (currentitem == table.rows.length) {
        currentitem = 0;
    $"currentitem", currentitem);

    if (table.rows[currentitem] == null) {
    table.rows[currentitem].bgColor = "#191970"; //darkblue color
    table.rows[currentitem].style.color = "#ffffff"; //whit color

Select Item

The dropdown list item can be either selected with mouse or keyboard, after an item is selected, the value of selected item will be assigned to textbox and dropdown list will be closed.

//select item
function ComboBox_SelectItemWithMouse(td) {
    var $div = $(td).closest("div");
    var $txt = $div.parent().find(":text");
    var selectedValue = $(td).text();
    if ($.trim(selectedValue) == "") {
        selectedValue = "";
    $div.css("visibility", "hidden");

jQuery 1.7 attaching event handler API

The ComboBox uses new attaching event handler API, .on() method, of jQuery 1.7 to define event handler. The .on() method is the preferred method for attaching event handlers to an element. Users of older versions of jQuery should use .delegate() in preference to .live().

$(selector).live(events, data, handler); // jQuery 1.3+
$(document).delegate(selector, events, data, handler); // jQuery 1.4.3+
$(document).on(events, selector, data, handler); // jQuery 1.7+

How to use ComboBox

After referenced custom web control assembly in Visual Studio project, the simplest way to use ComboBox is just drag it from toolbox into ASP.NET web page.
Image 1

By drop it into ASPX page, Visual Studio will automatically generate markup for ComboBox

<%@ Page Language="C#" AutoEventWireup="true" CodeBehind="Default.aspx.cs" Inherits="Demo.Web.Default" %>

<%@ Register assembly="Demo.WebControls" namespace="Demo.WebControls" tagprefix="cc1" %>

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "">

<html xmlns="">
<head runat="server">
    <script type="text/javascript" src="Scripts/jquery-1.7.2.js"></script>
    <form id="form1" runat="server">
        <cc1:ComboBox ID="ComboBox1" runat="server"></cc1:ComboBox>

Add some code-behind code to bind ComboBox with a List collection.
protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    if (!IsPostBack)
        List<string> data = new List<string>();
        data.Add("Item 1");
        data.Add("Item 2");
        data.Add("Item 3");
        ComboBox1.DataSource = data;
This is what ComboBox looks like on screen
Image 2


With the help of jQuery, we can combine those basic HTML elements into a more complicate client side component – ComboBox.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Henry He
Software Developer (Senior)
United States United States
Senior Software Developer from New Jersey, USA

Have 15+ years experience on enterprise application development with various technologies.

Comments and Discussions

Questionhow to fill combo box text and value Pin
Member 102176782-Sep-17 4:27
MemberMember 102176782-Sep-17 4:27 
GeneralThank You! Pin
vthg2themax5-Mar-15 11:04
Membervthg2themax5-Mar-15 11:04 
QuestionExcellent Solution Pin
Brian Lindvall4-Feb-14 7:24
MemberBrian Lindvall4-Feb-14 7:24 
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pin
Sami Ciit3-Dec-12 20:33
MemberSami Ciit3-Dec-12 20:33 
GeneralMy vote of 2 Pin
Thirumavalavan Chinnamani22-Jun-12 1:35
MemberThirumavalavan Chinnamani22-Jun-12 1:35 
QuestionSelectedValue Pin
JuitiPolster10-Jun-12 8:35
MemberJuitiPolster10-Jun-12 8:35 
AnswerRe: SelectedValue Pin
Henry He10-Jun-12 12:49
MemberHenry He10-Jun-12 12:49 
Glad you solved it and thank you for sharing.
QuestionSelectedValue Pin
JuitiPolster10-Jun-12 1:58
MemberJuitiPolster10-Jun-12 1:58 
QuestionCombobox. Pin
JuitiPolster10-Jun-12 1:52
MemberJuitiPolster10-Jun-12 1:52 

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