Lessons in JavaScript and AJAX

I’ve recently added AJAX capability to the flightphys site, which was my first foray into the world of AJAX. I also took advantage of the excellent Shadowbox library. I’ve walked away with a few lessons:

  1. Making simple AJAX calls is really simple once you’ve gone through a few tutorials. I initially tried to use a few different libraries and couldn’t quite get things to work the way I wanted to. So I buckled down and learned some raw AJAX. A good tutorial is at w3schools. After letting the material sink in, I was able to process a form by running some server-side PHP and returning HTML through an AJAX call.
  2. Shadowbox does not like to be auto-initialized when using AJAX. Usually, you set up Shadowbox in your page’s <head> section and wait for the page’s elements to make the calls. However, if you’re making AJAX calls, you may not want Shadowbox to run until you’ve loaded the correct elements. To accomplish this, modify the skipSetup property in shadowbox.js from false to true. Then, after your AJAX call, add calls to Shadowbox.setup() and Shadowbox.init().
  3. If you are calling AJAX from a form, chances are you do not want to actually submit the form. So you add an onClick() event to the form’s button (which, by the way, is now just a type=”button” and not a type=”submit”) and everything is fine right? Almost. If the user presses the Enter key, the form will still try and submit. To prevent this behavior, you’ll want to add an onkeydown() handler to your form. In the handler, check if the Enter key was pressed, and handle it there.

These were just quick overviews of the solutions. If you’d like more detail, please let me know.

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