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Creating Sortable Lists With PHP And Ajax

Introduction

You might have been in a situation before where you had a list of items in your database that needed to be output in a specific order. These items could be anything: perhaps a listing of your favourite movies or your favourite books. For whatever reason, you want them ordered in a custom way that can’t be determined automatically (such as alphabetical).

This article covers the implementation of a system that lets you easily define the order of such a list.

Traditionally, implementations of such functionality involve you clicking a “move up”, “move down”, “move to top”, or “move to bottom” button that switches the order the items (one item at a time). Or perhaps each item has a text box with a number in it, that by changing the numbers you can change the order of the list.

In any case, these methods are much more difficult to use than they should be. In this article, we’ll create a drag drop system using JavaScript that will let you drag an item to its new position, and then save the new order as soon as you drop the item.

To achieve the Ajax effects (that is, the drag/drop effect, and the seamless saving of ordering data), we will be using the Prototype and Scriptaculous libraries.

Firstly, we will create a database table (compatible with MySQL and PostgreSQL) and populate it with data. Then we will output our list and apply the drag and drop effects to it. Finally, we will deal with the saving of the new ordering data.

For our example, we will use a list of “favourite movies”, and implement functionality to change the order of our movies.

In This Article