Perfect Select All Checkbox in 3 Lines of Aurelia Code
Matthew James Davis on

Standard HTML checkboxes have some superpowers in Aurelia, but I’m always astonished to find out when one of my customers isn’t taking full advantage of them. In addition to the standard checked and indeterminate attributes, checkboxes and radio buttons have a model bindable attribute that handles some pretty powerful use cases. By combining all these features, we can create a table with selectable rows and a select all checkbox at the top.

First, we’ll start by creating a basic checkbox and some radio buttons. Then, we’ll use the model binding to make the rows of a table selectable. Finally, we’ll use the bindings to add a select all checkbox to the top of our table.

A Standard Checkbox

The standard HTML checked property is a boolean attribute. When you bind it to a variable, the result is a boolean value. Let’s bind to a variable canSort which toggles the ability to sort.

table.html

<label>
  <input type="checkbox" checked.bind="canSort" />
  Enable Sorting
</label>

This syncs the canSort variable to the checked attribute and state of the checkbox. When the checkbox is checked, canSort === true. When it is unchecked, canSort === false.

A Standard Radio Button

Radio buttons also have a checked property, but the default value is on or off. If we changed the example above to type="radio", we would have canSort === 'on' or canSort === 'off'. Radio buttons are more useful in conjuction with a value binding. When value is bound, the bound checked variable will receive the bound value when it is checked.

table.html

<label>
  <input type="radio" value="none" checked.bind="sorting" /> none
</label>
<label>
  <input type="radio" value="ascending" checked.bind="sorting" /> ascending
</label>
<label>
  <input type="radio" value="descending" checked.bind="sorting" /> descending
</label>

This syncs sorting to the value of the value binding. When the “ascending” radio button is toggled, sorting === 'ascending'.

In this case, it would be more useful to bind the sorting variable to integers 0, 1, and -1 so that we could use them in an Array.sort method call; however, the value binding is limited to strings! Aurelia includes a model binding on checkboxes and radio buttons that works identically to the value binding but supports all JavaScript values. Let’s use that instead:

table.js

sortings = [
  { label: 'none', value: 0 },
  { label: 'ascending', value: 1 },
  { label: 'descending', value: -1 }
];

table.html

Sorting:
<label repeat.for="sort of sortings" if.bind="canSort">
  <input type="radio" model.bind="sort.value" checked.bind="sorting" /> ${sort.label}
</label>

Now, when we toggle ‘ascending’, sorting === 1, and likewise for the other radio buttons.

Selecting Items in an Array

If you include the model binding on a checkbox, then you can bind checked to an array and it will add values to the array when checked and remove them when unchecked. This makes it easy to track a list of selected items.

table.js

// We define an array that will be bound to the `checked` binding of our selection checkboxes.
selected = [];

// And we have an array of objects that will get added to and from the selection.
items = [
  { value: 2 },
  { value: 1 },
  { value: 3 }
];

table.html

<table>
  <tbody>
    <tr repeat.for="item of items">
      <td>
        <!-- When the checkbox is checked, the `selected` array will contain `item`. When unchecked, `item` will be removed from `selected`. -->
        <input type="checkbox" checked.bind="selected" model.bind="item" />
      </td>
      <td>${item.value}</td>
    </tr>
  </tbody>
</table>

The Select All Checkbox

Here’s the trick that most people don’t know about. Let’s add a checkbox to the top of the table that will be (1) checked when all items are selected, (2) unchecked when no items are selected, and (3) indeterminate when some items are selected. indeterminate is a boolean attribute, just like checked, and therefore it can be bound just like any other attribute.

table.html

<table>
  <thead>
    <tr>
      <th>
        <input type="checkbox" <!-- -->

          <!-- We want the checkbox to be checked when the selected array contains all the items in the items array.
            We can take a shortcut and just compare lengths. You can bind anything here so long as it is true when the
            two arrays are equal. Since this is an expression and not a value, the default two-way binding will not
            work since you cannot assign to an expression. So, we ask Aurelia for a one-way binding only. -->
          checked.one-way="selected.length === items.length"

          <!-- We want the checkbox to be indeterminate when the selected array contains some but not all items in the
            items in array. Just like with the `checked` binding, we take the shortcut of comparing array lengths. Again
            you can bind anything here so long as its true when selected includes some but not all of the elements in
            items. Indeterminate is a one-way binding, so we can just use the standard bind syntax. -->
          indeterminate.bind="selected.length > 0 && selected.length < items.length" />
      </th>
      <th>value</th>
    </tr>
  </thead>
</table>

Now when we check checkboxes in our table the select all checkbox will update based on our selection. The select all checkbox does not yet add or remove items from the selected array, though, so let’s add that next. Since we are binding to expressions for both checked and indeterminate, it would be difficult to handle this behavior with a binding. Instead, let’s handle it by listening for the change event on our select all checkbox.

table.html

<table>
  <thead>
    <tr>
      <th>
        <input type="checkbox"
          checked.one-way="selected.length === items.length"
          indeterminate.bind="selected.length > 0" <!-- -->

          <!-- `$event.target`, the target of the event, is the checkbox. When checked, we want `selected` to contain
            all the items in `items`, or `items.slice()`. When unchecked, we want `selected` to be an empty array. -->
          change.delegate="selected = $event.target.checked ? items.slice() : []" />
      </th>
      <th>value</th>
    </tr>
  </thead>
</table>

Now, clicking the checkbox will select or deselect all the items in the table.

Demo

Notes

As a Custom Element

I don’t love the syntax for the select all checkbox. Since I’m never using an array value for the model binding in practice, I like to create a checkbox custom element that interprets an array-valued model binding with the select all behavior.

table.js

items = [
  { value: 'a' },
  { value: 'b' },
  { value: 'c' }
];
selected = [];

table.html

<!-- Checking this checkbox will add all the items from `items` to the `selected` array. Unchecking it will remove
  everything from `items`. Adding one but not all items from `items` to `selected` will set the checkbox state to
  indeterminate. -->
<my-checkbox checked.bind="selected" model.bind="items" />

I have enough of these in a typical application that the time it takes writing a rock-solid component is justified.

Links

Full Working Demo
Aurelia 2 Checkbox / Radio Button RFC
StackOverflow question which inspired this post
Aurelia Checkbox Binding Docs