AJAX and widgets in Tripal 3


Link: original GitHub issue

I found myself in a predicament: I wanted to include a dynamic element in my Tripal field's formatter.

However, I couldnt for the life of me get the AJAX callback to run in the formatter.

The problem: renderable arrays

Drupal has its special way of doing AJAX! You should read the documentation carefully!. To Drupal, AJAX only makes sense as on forms.

Here's the problem: formatters are not forms. Instead, they are renderable arrays! This is obvious in hindsight: rather than accepting $form and &$form_state, they accept &$element, $entity_type, $entity, $langcode, $items, $display, where $element is the renderable array.

This means if we want to add an AJAX callback, we actually need a seperate form file tahts get added in using drupal_get_form(). If we do this, we can build the AJAX as Drupal expects it.

the solution: drupal_get_form

Here's my form file: as you can see its a standard form following Drupal AJAX conventions. We provide a rendered_maps fieldset with the prefix defining the wrapper. The selector has specifies that wrapper, and the AJAX callback function tripalmap_organism_featuremap_callback. We then define that function to simply return the piece of the form that should be rebuilt: the rendered_maps fieldset!

function tripal_map_organism_featuremap_selector($form, &$form_state, $select) {

  $selected = 0;

  if (isset($form_state['values']['featuremap_select'])) {
    $selected = isset($form_state['values']['featuremap_select']);

  $form['rendered_maps'] = [
    '#type' => 'fieldset',
    '#collapsible' => FALSE,
    '#prefix' => '<div id="tripalmap-featuremap-organism-selector-wrapper">',
    '#suffix' => '</div>',

  $form['rendered_maps']['featuremap_select'] = [
    '#type' => 'select',
    '#options' => $select,
    '#title' => 'Please select a map to view',
    '#default_value' => $selected,
    '#ajax' => [
      'callback' => 'tripalmap_organism_featuremap_callback',
      'wrapper' => 'tripalmap-featuremap-organism-selector-wrapper',
      'effect' => 'fade',

  $chosen = 0;

  if (isset($form_state['values']['featuremap_select'])) {
    $chosen = $form_state['input']['featuremap_select'];

  if ($chosen != 0) {

    $mini_form = tripal_map_genetic_map_overview_form([], $form_state, $chosen);

    $form['rendered_maps']['map'] = $mini_form;

    return $form;

  return $form;

 * @param $form
 * @param $form_state
 * @return mixed
function tripalmap_organism_featuremap_callback($form, &$form_state) {

  return $form['rendered_maps'];

In the field formatter, we simply add this form and put the markup in the element:

      //multiple maps for this organism, let user select.  Create a special form for that so we can have an AJAX select box
      $select= $select + $select_add;

      $form = drupal_get_form('tripal_map_organism_featuremap_selector', $select);
      $content = drupal_render($form);
        $element[] = [
          '#type' => 'markup',
          '#markup' => $content,
        return $element;