Drupal 6: Using AHAH to dynamically generate form elements (and integration with multi-tiered taxonomy)

For some time now I've wanted to write a blog entry about using AHAH to create dynamically generated form elements. After a recent conversation at work regarding usability, I now had a real world example to create: how to use tiered taxonomy to dynamically generate a form. This code snippet will show you how to create a form that creates child select dropdowns based on the parent taxonomy term the user selects.

First I established a multi-tier taxonomy called "AHAH":

taxonomy list

For this example I created a menu callback to display my initial form:

<?php
function helper_menu() {

  $items = array();

  $items['ahah-form'] = array(
    'title' => 'AHAH Form',
    'page callback' => 'drupal_get_form',
    'page arguments' => array('_helper_callback_ahah_form'),
    'type' => MENU_CALLBACK,
    'access callback' => 'user_access',
    'access arguments' => array('access content'),
  );

  return $items;

}
?>

I then defined the page callback to show the initial form:

<?php
function _helper_callback_ahah_form() {

  // define an array to contain form elements
  $form = array();

  // define the top level vid
  $vid = 2;

  // fetch a tree of taxonomy elements
  $tree = taxonomy_get_tree($vid, 0, -1, 1);

  // loop though taxonomy and collect elements
  $options = array();
  foreach ($tree as $key => $value) {
    $options[$value->tid] = $value->name;
  }

  // create the first select dropdown input
  $form['select_1'] = array(
    '#type' => 'select',
    '#options' => $options,
    '#title' => t('Select 1'),
    '#size' => 5,
    '#multiple' => false,
    '#ahah' => array(
      'event' => 'change',
      'path' => 'ahah-form-callback',
      'wrapper' => 'wrapper-1',
      'method' => 'replace',
    ),
  );

  // pass the top level vid in the form
  $form['ahah_vid'] = array(
    '#type' => 'hidden',
    '#value' => $vid,
  );

  // create an empty form element to contain the second taxonomy dropdown
  $form['wrapper_1'] = array(
    '#prefix' => '<div id="wrapper-1">',
    '#suffix' => '</div>',
    '#value' => '&nbsp;',
  );

  // add a form submit button
  $form['submit'] = array(
    '#value' => 'Submit',
    '#type' => 'submit'
  );

  return $form;

}
?>

The above form callback produces the following:

ahah form 1

Next I defined a callback to handle the AHAH page request:

<?php
// new menu item:
function helper_menu() {

  // ...

  $items['ahah-form-callback'] = array(
    'title' => 'AHAH Form Callback',
    'page callback' => '_helper_callback_ahah_form_callback',
    'type' => MENU_CALLBACK,
    'access callback' => 'user_access',
    'access arguments' => array('access content'),
  );

  // ...

  return $items;

}

// and, here's the AHAH callback used to create the new form elements:
function _helper_callback_ahah_form_callback() {

  // define a string variable to contain callback output
  $output = "";

  // pull the top level vid from the $_POST data
  $vid = $_POST['ahah_vid'];

  // pull the selected dropdown from the $_PODT data
  $parentVid = $_POST['select_1'];

  // loop through the taxonomy tree and fetch child taxonomies
  $options = array();
  $tree = taxonomy_get_tree($vid, $parentVid, -1, 1);
  foreach ($tree as $key => $value) {
    $options[$value->tid] = $value->name;
  }

  // define the second tier select dropdown element
  $form['select_2'] = array(
    '#type' => 'select',
    '#options' => $options,
    '#title' => t('Select 2'),
    '#size' => 5,
    '#multiple' => false,
  );

  // rebuild form object and output new form elements
  $output .= ahah_render($form, 'select_2');

  // render form output as JSON
  print drupal_to_js(array('data' => $output, 'status' => true));

  // exit to avoid rendering the theme layer
  exit();

}

// Lastly, here's a help function pulled from Nick Lewis's blog to alter the form
// see: http://www.nicklewis.org/node/967
// NOTE: based on poll module, see: poll_choice_js() function in poll.module
function ahah_render($fields, $name) {
  $form_state = array('submitted' => FALSE);
  $form_build_id = $_POST['form_build_id'];
  // Add the new element to the stored form. Without adding the element to the
  // form, Drupal is not aware of this new elements existence and will not
  // process it. We retreive the cached form, add the element, and resave.
  $form = form_get_cache($form_build_id, $form_state);
  $form[$name] = $fields;
  form_set_cache($form_build_id, $form, $form_state);
  $form += array(
    '#post' => $_POST,
    '#programmed' => FALSE,
  );
  // Rebuild the form.
  $form = form_builder($_POST['form_id'], $form, $form_state);

  // Render the new output.
  $new_form = $form[$name];
  return drupal_render($new_form);
}
?>

The above code allows the user to select an option from the top level tier of taxonomy and the AHAH callback will generate the a select dropdown of the child taxonomies as shown below:

ahah form 2

On form submission, you'll see that the options the user selected as stored in $form_state['values']['select_1'] and $form_state['values']['select_2']