Drag-n-Drop Sorting of Documents [ROUGH CUT]

Imagine the following situation - say you've got a set of documents which are all children of one container document. From within this parent container document you want to be able to quickly change the order in which the child documents appear. Sound familiar? It's a scenario I've come across a couple of times before and only now have I found a solution I'm happy with enough to share.

A Real-World Scenario

Let's use the example of a newsletter document. In this case the parent form is called something like newsletter and simply contains the title and date of the newsletter. Once saved we can add the child news item document to it. It's these news items that it would be nice to be able to sort as the author pleases.

In most cases news would be sorted by date/time. However with newsletter this is not always the case and so being able to adjust the order is a must in most cases. Whether or not you need to compile newsletters there's bound to be a scenario where the following technique would come in handy.

How to Sort Documents

The idea for the technique came to me both out of a necessity to develop it and from the inspiration I took from a demo of the Yahoo! UI Library, where they have a cross-browser sortable list.


  • Full
    • Win / IE 6+ (IE 5.5 too?)
    • Win & Mac / Mozilla (Firefox 1.5, Camino 1.0 etc)
    • Mac / Safari 2.0 (should work in 1.2+ ?)
  • Partial
    • Win & Mac / Opera 8.5 (No Ajax, but sorting and form submission work)
  • None
    • Win / Opera 9.0 (sorting broken)
    • Mac / IE 5.2 (no Ajax OR sorting. dead browser anyhow)



Flesh-out the following items:

  1. An embedded view is treated as HTML and renders a set of LI elements on the parent document.
  2. When the page loads the script.aculo.us code makes this list sortable.
  3. Whenever a news item is moved (i.e the list items) the list of UNIDs for each child (in the new order) is posted to the server as an Ajax request.
  4. The Ajax request is sent to the UpdateOrder form where the UNIDs are stored in a multivalue field called NewOrder.
  5. The WQS agent for the UpdateOrder form iterates through each UNID and updates the news item's order (but only if it needs to)
  6. The agent returns (content-type:text/plain) a list of what it did.
  7. The browser-side script displays this list of changes to the user and uses the Yellow Fade Technique to highlight the message.


  1. When Ajax isn't supported the "Update" button can be used. Note, however, that Ajax is only likely not to work on older browser or those with no script support. On these browsers it's unlikely that the drag-n-drop sorting will work and, so, there's not much point in the button. I left the button on because there could be a case when sorting does work but Ajax doesn't. Safari 1.0 or some Opera versions for example.
  2. Each LI has a hidden field called NewOrder. This is passed via POST to the server when Ajax is not used and the button is pressed instead.

Turned off conflicts in child form.

Mention inclusion of hidden text field in each LI element for use when no Ajax (although not in Safari, where order of fields is not reflected after re-sort)


Available here


Most up to date database is Version 0.5

Version 0.5 fixes a problem in all previous versions described in this blog entry  and also up grades to Prototype 1.5 and Scriptaculous 1.7.

Version 0.1 uses the Yahoo! UI Library instead of Script.aculo.us and does NO T use Ajax. Horses for courses.

Taking It Further

Rep conflicts are a problem. How about having the Ajax call check the last-mod dates. Or with XML


Put summary here

Is using Ajax a good idea?

Script.acul.us method


  1. Wither SortOrder fields

    I'm working on something EXACTLY like this right now, only my problem is I want to be able to drag/drop table rows.

    I've only seen IE only solutions. No good here, so I was going to write my own. Wonder if it's not just easier to build a list like this... and create a new table/row for each list item and just drag/drop that way. Hmmm...

    I use a bunch of functionality that uses a hidden iframe as a controller to send URL's back to the server when something is done (like clicking on a delete document link). I'd probably just call an agent with a bunch of parameters identifying the changes to the sort order, so no need for ajax.

    1. Re: Wither SortOrder fields

      Hi Bob,

      Just had a quick thought for your problem with the Table row.

      Instead of replacing the row itself, why not just swap the contents of the rows around!



      • avatar
      • Jake
      • Tue 28 Feb 2006

      Re: Wither SortOrder fields

      Bob. Look here http://ajaxscaffold.height1percent.com/ Download the code and look at script.js file. In it the comment states:

      // The following is a cross browser way to move around <tr> elements in a <table> or <tbody>

      Not tested/tried but it sounds promising.


      • avatar
      • Jas
      • Sat 11 Mar 2006

      Re: Wither SortOrder fields


      Any luck with sorting table rows as I m struggling to implement such a scenario as fields are constructed on the fly using AJAX and DHHTML ?


  2. That's the ticket!

    That is some cool stuff!!

    • avatar
    • Jono
    • Tue 28 Feb 2006


    That's cool! :)

  3. Problems in IE

    A couple of notes. I'm going to look deeper, but I figured I'd pass along what I found. Re-ordering in IE leaves the innerHTML tag set to the red message. If you then perform another drang and drop, it appears to trigger the onComplete as the yellow fade happens, though the entire message is not calculated (the documents are not listed after the message). The script also appears to crash Firefox 1.5. works but does not print out the proper message.

    1. Re: Problems in IE

      It turned out to be something screwy here. I downloaded the app again and re-signed the agent and it works fine. Now I can start picking it apart and learning more from the maestro.

  4. lotusnotes

    very nice

  5. Do you have a later version

    I noticed that you upgraded the code at one time. Is this still the method you use for drag and drop sorting of documents?

    Have you or anyone implemented this with a categorized view?

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Thu 24 Apr 2008

      Re: Do you have a later version

      Hi Tanny,

      Yes, this is still what I use and recommend.

      Adding it to a categorised view might not be easy.

      It would depend if you want to drag items from one category to another?


      Show the rest of this thread

  6. Window scrolling when dragging

    Currently the code does not allow the user to drag a news item below the bottom of the browser window if the body is scrolled. To fix that change the code at the bottom of the page from:

    Sortable.create('NewOrder', {onUpdate:updateOrder})


    Sortable.create('NewOrder', {scroll:window,onUpdate:updateOrder})

    This will allow the window to scroll while the user drags a news item to the non-visible area of the page.

    • avatar
    • Al
    • Mon 15 Aug 2011

    Can this sort technique be used for a view that has been imbedded in a subform?

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 16 Aug 2011

      The technique should apply anywhere - no matter whether it's on a subform or not.

      Show the rest of this thread

Your Comments


Navigate other articles in the category "Forms"

« Previous Article Next Article »
Testing for JavaScript Support in WQS Agents   Domino Name Picker Revisited

About This Article

Author: Jake Howlett
Category: Forms
Keywords: drag; drop; Ajax; Web 2.0; sort; list;


dragsort-v0.1.zip (43 Kbytes)
dragsort-v0.2.zip (77 Kbytes)
dragsort-v0.3.zip (86 Kbytes)
dragsort-v0.5.zip (90 Kbytes)


View Online Demo
Print Friendly

Let's Get Social

About This Website

CodeStore is all about web development. Concentrating on Lotus Domino, ASP.NET, Flex, SharePoint and all things internet.

Your host is Jake Howlett who runs his own web development company called Rockall Design and is always on the lookout for new and interesting work to do.

You can find me on Twitter and on Linked In.

Read more about this site »