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The default styling for select elements isn’t for everyone. Sometimes you might want to control how it looks (to keep it consistent across browsers and devices) or you might want additional functionality that just isn’t supported natively.
Thankfully there’s a heap of great jQuery powered plugins out there to simplify the process.
We’re going to run through a selection of plugins you can incorporate into your next project. Some of these plugins are highly configurable with options, methods, and events, while others are simple replacements for select elements for styling and ease of use.
Chosen is an extensive plugin that not only restyles your select elements but provides additional functionality such as in-select searching, multiple element selection, and highlighting.
The options documentation outlines all the settings, methods, and events that you can interact with to customize your elements. The plugin itself is maintained by the developers who worked on the Harvest project management tool. Their GitHub repository is continually being updated, with additional features, bug fixes, and optimizations being rolled into the plugin.
Select2 is a fully-featured, rich select replacement / enhancement plugin. It not only restyles your select elements but also extends them with additional functionality.
The plugin is significantly more developer focused, with their options page showing comprehensive examples of how you’d use each of the different features.
This plugin provides a high level of customization and is a great go-to solution if you’re looking for a plugin that can be customized to match your project.
This plugin is a lightweight select replacement library. jQuery Nice Select replaces the default native select elements with restyled dropdown menus.
There isn’t much to this plugin as it’s meant to be used as a quick way to restyle select elements, providing something visually appealing without much effort. The plugin is actively being developed and improved on their GitHub repo and works really well across both mobile and desktop browsers.
If you’re looking for something quick and easy that only restyles your select elements and doesn’t require a lot of effort, then this is the plugin for you.
Selectize is an extremely developer focused, all inclusive plugin that not only provides you with a better looking select list, but also adds new useful features such as tagging, remote data binding and dynamic dropdowns.
This plugin is a great overall choice and should be one of your “go-to” options if you’re looking at re-styling and extending the functionality of your select elements.
Image Combo Box is a simple plugin that lets you define an image and description for each option inside your select controls. It’s primarily used to showcase a related image for each option so it’s useful when you want to display a visual representation for each choice.
If your main goal is to make it so you can display images and/or descriptions with your dropdown elements then this plugin is worth a look.
The Searchable DropDown plugin is one of the older plugins you might find online. Created back in 2012 (and not recently updated). Its purpose is to transform your basic select elements into a searchable single listing.
If you’re looking for a bare minimum replacement that enables sorting this might be the one for you
This plugin is a little different than others we’ve covered. It works on two or more select elements at a time, creating a UI where you can move elements back and forth between the lists. It’s similar to other drag and drop solutions, but made entirely with just standard select elements. To get this up and running you’ll probably need to style it a bit to match modern design standards (as it’s a bit ugly)
This type of control is pretty useful if you want to sort a listing of items between two or more containers, for example sorting tasks or organizing content.
The Demo and GitHub pages outline how you can set this up and since there are few options to control their learning curve is fairly shallow.
jQuery Selectbox is one of the older select replacement plugins. However, unlike other plugins that add heaps of functionality, this plugin aims mainly to restyle your controls and leave the functionality fairly untouched.
This plugin’s strength lies in its simplistic styling, making it easy for you to override with your own styling to match your design. If you’re looking to do something basic such as styling your dropdowns and potentially customizing a few settings then this plugin might be just what you’re after.
Another jQuery powered library that lets you create multi-select based lists quickly and easily. It’s easy to see how useful they are when showcased in their demos. You can create a single select element and then easily move items back and forth between your lists.
The plugin appears to be updated fairly frequently by its developer and the GitHub page has heaps of closed / resolved tickets.
This is a good starting point if you’re after a simple multi-select plugin.
SumoSelect has all the functionality you need in a select list replacement. This plugin handles both single and multi-select elements, along with searching and filtering, backed by a solid set of options and events.
Another noteworthy element is that this plugin provides comprehensive browser support. SumoSelect will work as far back as IE8 on a desktop and provide support for mobiles, either working normally or falling back to native controls (depending on the options you supply when setting it up).
Here’s something a little different. Unlike other independent plugins, such as Chosen or Select2 (which, while popular, aren’t exactly widespread), this plugin is a part of the jQuery UI framework as an extensible widget called select menu
This library would be useful in situations where you want to quickly style your select elements to match jQuery UI’s theming or you want a comprehensive library you can customize and adapt yourself.
Filterable Bootstrap Select is a plugin that extends the default select styling provided in Bootstrap 3.
The main plugin itself lives on GitHub and it’s been updated occasionally over the space of a year. However with most projects maintained by a single person you never know when or if you will be able to get support. If you’re happy with how the demos work and want to use it “as-is” then it’s a great resource if you’re already working on Bootstrap powered site.
DDSlick transforms your select elements into lightly styled dropdown menus. Each option contains its normal title and value, but also an optional image and description.
If you want to see how this works you can literally copy and paste the websites HTML and corresponding JS samples into a JS playground website like Codepen.io and it will all work (assuming you link to both jQuery and the plugin’s main JS file).