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Searchable drop-down lists

We are excited to announce that we have improved the entity drop-down lists in PPO to make them fully searchable and better able to handle very large lists. This will make it easier to find the project or employee that you are looking for and will also reduce page load times for those clients that have very large lists.

Why were they changed

Standard drop-down lists have been with us since the first web browsers.  They however have some limitations

Firstly, the search functionality is limited in that you can type the first letter of the item you are looking for and it will go to the first item in the list that starts with that letter. If you can type very fast, you may even be able to type in the first 2 letters. You can however not search for a phrase or letters within the list item text. For example, if you were looking for 'Flora Clinic Extension 3A' you could probably find it by typing 'F' or 'Fl' and then scrolling down until you found the item.  You could however not search for 'Flora' or 'Clinic' or '3A'. On keyboard-less devices, e.g. tablets, there is no search functionality at all!

The standard drop-down lists are also not good at handling very large numbers of items i.e. thousands of items. All that data has to be transmitted to the browser and then the browser has to "render" it. When you type in the first letter of an item, or scroll down the list, your browser also has to render all of this and it makes your CPU work very hard!

We knew there had to be a better solution and the result is our new and improved drop-down lists.

Fully searchable

The new lists are fully searchable in that you can type in any part of the list item text and it will find all the items that contain that text, whether the phrase is at the start in the middle or at the end of the list item text.  In the example used above, you can now search for 'Flora', 'Clinic' or '3A' and all of them will result in the 'Flora Clinic Extension 3A' item being selected.

Dynamically loaded

The new drop-down lists are dynamically populated in the background.  What this means is that when the page is originally 'rendered', the list does not contain any items (which improves page load time).  As soon as you drop down the list by clicking on the down arrow, the first 100 items are retrieved in real-time from our servers. If you scroll down to the bottom of the list, you will see that it loads the next 100 items.  If you type in a search string, it retrieves all matching items from our servers and populates the list with the results. Pretty cool!

Additional considerations

Some entity drop-down lists allow you to select a specific item or all items.  Previously there was a specific item in the list called "All" which you could select.  With the new drop-down lists, there is no longer an "All" option.  You can however still select the "All" option by clicking on the little cross/clear icon to the left of the drop-down arrow.

Similarly, on non-required entity list fields, there was previously a "blank" option which is now no longer available. You can however also clear the current selection by clicking on the clear icon.

For more information on this functionality watch the following video.

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