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Howto: javascript popup form returning value for select like Django admin for foreign keys

| by jpic | php django javascript

This article presents a technique to get the return value of a form opened in a javascript popup, like Django admin for foreign keys. It can be used to improve the ergonomy relation select inputs.


When a form allows to create or edit data, many to one (n:1) relations choices are often presented in a select input. For example, Django admin uses a select field by default for foreign keys.

Next to the select field, it is ergonomic to display a like with title “Add another”, that opens the creation form for a new related object. The creation form can be opened as a popup that, once submited, closes and adds a selected option to the select field.


This kind of link needs a class, for example “add-another”.

5 technically interesting javascript functions are required:

  • showAddAnotherPopup() which is bound to the click event of a.add-another
  • dismissAddAnotherPopup() which is actually called by the popup when the form is submitted
  • id_to_windowname() which converts the select field id to a window name compatible with IE
  • windowname_to_id() which converts a window name to the corresponding select field id
  • html_unescape() which converts some html entities to their corresponding characters


First, the “add-another” button is clicked, which triggers showAddAnotherPopup():

  • showAddAnotherPopup() uses the “add-another” id attribute to get the name attribute of the corresponding select field
  • it appends a popup=1 GET variable to the href attribute of the link
  • it also appends a winName GET variable to the “add-another” link, which value is the select field name converted to a cross browser window name
  • it opens the window in a popup and focuses on it

When the user input in the popup is valid, then the form of the popup is saved and the action should return a call to opener.dismissAddAnotherPopup() with arguments: window (the popup), the future option’s value (ie. id) and string representation (ie. name):

  • the option value and representation are unescaped
  • the popup window name is converted to the corresponding select input html id
  • the option is created with the appropriate value and inner html
  • the option is selected
  • the popup window is closed

The best way to understand the concept is still to practice, an existing implementation can be understood with Firebug’s javascript debugger.


In our example, “valueAttribute” is the name of the related object’s key that should be the “value” of the select option (ie. “id”), and “displayAttribute” is the name of the attribute which should be used as inner HTML of the option (ie. “name” contains a good string representation of the related object).

Example HTML using Uni-form:

<div class="ctrlHolder">;
    <label for="profile"><em>*</em> Profile</label>

        <select class="required " name="recipe.recipe[profile]" id="id_recipe__dot__recipe__braceleft__profile__braceright__">
            <option value="29362F95-A80E-102D-9263-003048D8A48A">Marc Veyrat</option>
            <option value="AF98753D-A80E-102D-9263-003048D8A48A">Paul Bocuse</option>
   <p class="formHint">
       <a class="add-another" id="add_id_recipe__dot__recipe__braceleft__profile__braceright__" href="/profile/create?displayAttribute=name&amp;valueAttribute=id">Click here to create a new profile</a>, if your choice isn't in the list.

Example Javascript code with jQuery for the event binding:

$(document).ready(function() {
    $( '.add-another' ).click(function(e) {
        e.preventDefault(  );
        showAddAnotherPopup( $( this ) );

/* Credit: django.contrib.admin (BSD) */

function showAddAnotherPopup(triggeringLink) {

    Pause here with Firebug's script debugger.

    var name = triggeringLink.attr( 'id' ).replace(/^add_/, '');
    name = id_to_windowname(name);
    href = triggeringLink.attr( 'href' );

    if (href.indexOf('?') == -1) {
        href += '?popup=1';
    } else {
        href += '&popup=1';

    href += '&winName=' + name;

    var win =, name, 'height=500,width=800,resizable=yes,scrollbars=yes');

    return false;

function dismissAddAnotherPopup(win, newId, newRepr) {
    // newId and newRepr are expected to have previously been escaped by
    newId = html_unescape(newId);
    newRepr = html_unescape(newRepr);
    var name = windowname_to_id(;
    var elem = document.getElementById(name);

    if (elem) {
        if (elem.nodeName == 'SELECT') {
            var o = new Option(newRepr, newId);
            elem.options[elem.options.length] = o;
            o.selected = true;
    } else {
        console.log("Could not get input id for win " + name);


function html_unescape(text) {
 // Unescape a string that was escaped using django.utils.html.escape.
    text = text.replace(/&lt;/g, '<');
    text = text.replace(/&gt;/g, '>');
    text = text.replace(/&quot;/g, '"');
    text = text.replace(/&#39;/g, "'");
    text = text.replace(/&amp;/g, '&');
    return text;

// IE doesn't accept periods or dashes in the window name, but the element IDs
// we use to generate popup window names may contain them, therefore we map them
// to allowed characters in a reversible way so that we can locate the correct
// element when the popup window is dismissed.
function id_to_windowname(text) {
    text = text.replace(/\./g, '__dot__');
    text = text.replace(/\-/g, '__dash__');
    text = text.replace(/\[/g, '__braceleft__');
    text = text.replace(/\]/g, '__braceright__');
    return text;

function windowname_to_id(text) {
    return text;

Finally, the html which should be returned by the popup when the object is saved:

<script type="text/javascript">opener.dismissAddAnotherPopup( window, "name", "id" );</script>

Example generic PHP usage:

if ( isset( $this->request->variables['popup'] ) ) { 
    $result->variables['responseBody'] = sprintf( 
        '<script type="text/javascript">opener.dismissAddAnotherPopup( window, "%s", "%s" );</script>',
        $form[$this->request->variables['valueAttribute']], // "id" is the value attribute
        $form[$this->request->variables['displayAttribute']] // "name" is the display attribute

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