How to filter select list options

Here’s a jQuery extension method to filter the elements of a select list (option tags). It binds to a textbox, and as you type in the textbox the select list gets filtered to match what you are typing.

jQuery.fn.filterByText = function(textbox, selectSingleMatch) {
  return this.each(function() {
    var select = this;
    var options = [];
    $(select).find('option').each(function() {
      options.push({value: $(this).val(), text: $(this).text()});
    $(select).data('options', options);
    $(textbox).bind('change keyup', function() {
      var options = $(select).empty().scrollTop(0).data('options');
      var search = $.trim($(this).val());
      var regex = new RegExp(search,'gi');

      $.each(options, function(i) {
        var option = options[i];
        if(option.text.match(regex) !== null) {
      if (selectSingleMatch === true && 
          $(select).children().length === 1) {
        $(select).children().get(0).selected = true;


  • textbox
    This could be a jQuery selector, a jQuery object, or a DOM object.
  • selectSingleMatch
    This is optional, if you set it to true, when the filtered list includes only one item, that item will be automatically selected.

For example:

$(function() {
  $('#select').filterByText($('#textbox'), true);

Live example (or in a new window):

You can play around with it on jsbin:

What it does:

When you invoke the function on a select object, it finds all child option tags and saves their text and values into an array. This array is saved to the select object itself as a HTML5 custom data attribute, called data-options. Then, when a change or keyup event fires on the associated textbox, the select list is emptied, and for any entries in the array that match the search text a new option element is created.

Edit 2012-10-15: Added ScrollTop(0) to improve the way it works with long lists, thanks to a comment by xarel below.

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