ThreeDots: The jQuery Ellipsis Plugin

jquery-logo-256Sometimes the text …

… is too long …
… won’t fit within the number of rows you have available.

Sometimes all you need is … ThreeDots! (a jQuery plugin)

For example —

This: When restricted to 2 lines by ThreeDots, can become:
There was once a brown fox
that liked to eat chocolate
pudding.
There was once a brown fox
that liked to eat …
There was once a brown fox
that liked to eat chocolate
pudding.
There was once a brown fox
that liked to (click for more)

… and most any other permutation you desire.

To Ellipsize

There are many scenarios in the display of online text where shortened, truncated representations are best used. For these scenarios, many products opt for the implementation of ellipses.

el·lip·sis (ĭ-lĭpsĭs)

n., pl., -ses (-sēz).

  1. The omission of a word or phrase necessary for a complete syntactical construction but not necessary for understanding.
  2. An example of such omission.
    • A mark or series of marks ( . . . or * * * , for example) used in writing or printing to indicate an omission, especially of letters or words.

[Latin ellīpsis, from Greek elleipsis, from elleipein, to fall short. See ellipse.]
from <http://www.answers.com/topic/ellipsis>

Many online products employ ellipses within their products to improve various aspects of the User Experience, such as:

allowing for easy summary scanning of page content, and
fitting more diversity of content into a smaller space.

Most often people truncate the text by character count, on both the client- and server-sides, which does not take into account the variable dimensions of the text being truncated. There are also a few CSS hacks out there, albeit with future standardized support currently being called into question, and custom, per-browser efforts required for successful implementation.

I too, on so many projects, have encountered the challenge of wanting to limit text to only a few lines or make sure that, no matter what, the text always fits within the space provided. People, myself included, on similar product feature missions have been forced to make compromises of design and experience, without the existence of a simple script/tool to carry out the task, to accommodate the time constraints and complexity of coding the ideal solution.

So, finally, I sat down, put the time in, and created the ThreeDots jQuery plugin for…

… when text is too long…
… when text doesn’t fit within the available space …
… when you want to employ highly configurable and flexible ellipses within your web product…

… so that never again, would I, or anyone else have to compromise their vision where that vision bumps up against the need for the smart implementation of ellipses in your web product.

Usage

ThreeDots is a customizable jQuery plugin for the smart truncation of text. It shortens identified text to fit specified dimensions and appends the desired ellipsis style if/when truncation occurs.

Sample 1:

<div class='text_here'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text'>
		TEXT
	</span>
</div>
$('.text_here').ThreeDots();  // USE DEFAULTS
$('.text_here2').ThreeDots({ max_rows:3 });

Sample 2:

<div class='text_here'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text'>
		TEXT
	</span>
</div>
threedots_object = $('.text_here').ThreeDots();
threedots_object.update();

Sample 3:

<div class='text here'>
	<span class='something'>
		TEXT
	</span>
</div>
threedots_object2 = $('.text_here').ThreeDots( {text_span_class: 'something'} );
threedots_object2.update( {text_span_class: 'something'} );

As a Method

When initialized, the ThreeDots plugin creates and assigns the full set of identified text to each container element, class=’text_here’, as a publicly accessible attribute, ‘threedots’. The method implementation supports chaining and returns the jQuery object.

<div class='text_here' threedots='original text'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text>
		original text
	</span>
</div>

Note, to implement the text that you wish to ellipsize, it must be wrapped in a span assigned either the default class ‘ellipsis_text’ or other custom class of your preference — customizable via the options/settings.

If the text becomes truncated to fit within the constrained space as defined by the container element that holds the ‘ellipsis_text’ span, then an additional span is appended within the container object, and after the ‘ellipsis_text’ span.

<div class='text_here' threedots='original text'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text>
		original text
	</span>
	<span class'threedots_ellipsis'>
		...
	</span>
</div>

The span class of ‘threedots_ellipsis’ can also be customized via the options/settings and have it’s own CSS/jQuery styles/actions/etc. applied to it as desired. Put another way, the ellipsis is NOT constrained to ‘…’, but can be any text or HTML you desire.

If any of the specified settings are invalid or the ‘ellipsis_text’ span is missing, ThreeDots will abort its processing and the initial text will be left untouched.

IMPORTANT: The horizontal constraints placed upon each row are controlled by the container object. The container object is the object specified in the primary selector.

$('container_object').ThreeDots();

When using ThreeDots, the following additional methods can be used…

ThreeDots.update()

Refreshes the text within the target object inline with the options provided. Note that the current implementation of options/settings are destructive. This means that whenever settings are specified, they are merged with the DEFAULT settings and applied to the current object(s), and destroy/override any previously specified options/settings.

var obj = $('.text_here').ThreeDots();	// uses DEFAULT: max_rows = 2
obj.update({max_rows:3});				// update the text with max_rows = 3

Settings

By default, the three dots ellipsis (““) is used, as shown in the prior examples, and limits text to a maximum of 2 lines. These and many other characteristics are fully customizable, and fully itemized and explained below.

To change these settings, they can either be accessed directly…

$.fn.ThreeDots.settings.max_rows = 4;

… or at the time of initialization or update …

// configuring the initial settings to use
var obj3 = $('.text_here').ThreeDots({ max_rows: 4 });

// changing the applied settings via an update call to the same text region(s)
obj3.ThreeDots.update({ max_rows: 2 });

The default settings data structure is…

$.fn.ThreeDots.settings = {
	valid_delimiters:         [' ', ',', '.'],			// what defines the bounds of a word to you?
	ellipsis_string:         '...',
	max_rows:                        2,
	text_span_class:        'ellipsis_text',
	e_span_class:                'threedots_ellipsis',
	whole_word:                        true,
	allow_dangle:                false,
	alt_text_e:                 false,					// if true, mouse over of ellipsis displays the full text
	alt_text_t:                 false					// if true & if ellipsis displayed, mouse over of text displays the full text
};

The parameters are defined (and all can be overridden) thus…

valid_delimiters

  • a character array of special characters upon which the text string may be broken up
  • defines what characters can be used to express the bounds of a word
  • all elements in this array must be 1 character in length
  • any delimiter less than or greater than 1 character will be ignored
  • if valid_delimiters contains no valid content, then nothing will be processed

ellipsis_string

  • defines what to display at the tail end of the text provided if the text becomes truncated to fit within the space defined by the container object
  • ellipsis_string can be text or HTML (e.g. ‘<a href=’url’>click for more</a>’)

max_rows

  • specifies the upper limit for the number of rows that the object’s text can use
  • if the displayed text is determined to use less than max_rows, then no operations will be performed upon the provided text and no ellipsis displayed
  • max_rows must be greater than 0 (ZERO)

text_span_class

  • by default ThreeDots will look within the specified object(s) for a span of the class ‘ellipsis_text’
  • if the class specified by text_span_class is not found within the selected objects, then no actions will be taken against the incompletely defined objects
  • if a different class name is desired for stylistic or programmatic reasons, a new, valid string can be specified

e_span_class

  • if an ellipsis_string is displayed at the tail end of the selected object’s text due to truncation of that text, then it will be displayed wrapped within a span associated with the class defined by e_span_class and immediately following the text_span_class‘ span
  • just like text_span_class, a different, valid class name can be specified

whole_word

  • when ThreeDots is fitting the provided text to the max_rows within the container object, this boolean setting defines whether or not the last word can be truncated to maximize the fit of the text within max_rows
  • if true, then don’t truncate any words and the ellipsis can ONLY be placed after the last whole word that fits within the provided space

e.g.

one time a duck flew
a frog shaped kite

…could become…

one time a duck flew
a (click for more)

  • if false, then maximize the text within the provided space, allowing the PARTIAL display of words before the ellipsis

e.g.

(continuing from the prior example)

one time a duck flew
a fr (click for more)

allow_dangle

  • a dangling ellipsis is an ellipsis that typically occurs due to words that are longer than a single row of text, resulting, upon text truncation, in the ellipsis being displayed on a row all by itself

e.g.

one time a duck flew floopydoopydoppydoodoodoodoo

… could become with allow_dangle:true …

one time a duck flew

  • if allow_dangle is set to false, whole_words is overridden ONLY in the circumstances where a dangling ellipsis occurs and the displayed text is adjusted to minimize the occurrence of such dangling of the ellipsis

e.g.

(continuing from the prior example)

one time a duck flew
floopydoopydoppyd…

alt_text_e

  • alt_text_e is a shortcut to enabling the user of the product that made use of ThreeDots to see the full text, prior to truncation, on mouse-over of the ellipsis
  • if the value is set to true, then the ellipsis span’s title property is set to the full, original text (pre-truncation) allowing the text to be seen by mousing over the ellipsis, if present
  • if the value is set to false, then the title value is left unaffected
  • this feature can be used in place of, or in conjunction with, additional styles or desired behaviors associated with mouse interactions of the selected object(s)
  • alt_text_e usage is not required to define your own custom interactions

alt_text_t

  • alt_text_t is a shortcut to enabling the user of the product that made use of ThreeDots to see the full text, prior to truncation, on mouse-over of the ellipsized text
  • if the value is set to true AND the ellipsis is displayed, then the text span’s title property is set to the full, original text (pre-truncation) and the text can be seen by mousing over the truncated text, if the ellipsis is present
  • if the value is set to false, then the title value is left unaffected
  • this feature can be used in place of, or in conjunction with, additional styles or desired behaviors associated with mouse interactions of the selected object(s)
  • alt_text_t usage is not required to define your own custom interactions

Get It

You can download ThreeDots, dual licensed under GPL and MIT, from…

jQuery Repository
http://plugins.jquery.com/project/ThreeDots

Git
Public Clone URL: git://github.com/theproductguy/ThreeDots.git
GitHub: http://github.com/theproductguy/ThreeDots

Zip
http://plugins.jquery.com/files/jQuery.ThreeDots_source-bundle_1.0.3_20091030.zip

Demo

http://theproductguy.com/threedots/threedots.demo.html

Status updates can be found here, jQuery ThreeDots.
If you find this useful, or have any questions, ideas, or issues, leave a comment.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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