Today, while improving the Rails GUI for the Sicirec database, I was struck once again by how annoyingly small <textarea>s can be when having the user type lots of text.

I had already seen the ideal solution when commenting on Laurelin’s weblog. Although their response box is much too narrow, the height of the box auto-adjusts to the amount of text typed. I decided to borrow their code and amend it slightly for our own use. Differences are:

  • My code works with Opera, but is untested in IE because we don’t feel the need to support IE for an internal application.
  • In our DB, notes will often be shortened, so my code also shrinks the textarea when the text shrinks. The function remembers the original number of rows set in the source and will never shrink past that number.
userAgentLowerCase = navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase();
function resizeTextarea(t) {
  if ( !t.initialRows ) t.initialRows = t.rows;
  a = t.value.split('\n');
  for (x=0; x < a.length; x++) {
    if (a[x].length >= t.cols) b+= Math.floor(a[x].length / t.cols);
  b += a.length;
  if (userAgentLowerCase.indexOf('opera') != -1) b += 2;
  if (b > t.rows || b < t.rows)
    t.rows = (b < t.initialRows ? t.initialRows : b);

The function can easily be added to the onkeyup and onmouseup event handlers of a <textarea> element as in:

<textarea cols="60" rows="4"

I didn’t add it inline as in the example, though. I used Ben Nolan’s Behaviour Javascript library to tie things together a little more cleanly.