Sortable Table (with Vanilla JS)

Back when Moses was a lad we used to use jquery plugins to make our html tables "sortable". And by sortable I mean, you click on the column heading to sort by a column.

I wanted a new "vanilla JS" solution, so I scraped together a few things from Stack Overflow and other places and here is what I've got.

First: -- we need a way to compare two cells (i.e. two td table cells, though they can also be th cells, if you've got those in your table...) and it decides which goes before which.

For this I've got a pretty simply bunch of rules.

If the td has an attribute "data-sortable-value" -- then it will use that value for the comparison.

If there is no such attribute, then it uses the text value of the cell, i.e. the innerText property.

Here's that:

const getSortableCellValue = (tr, idx) => tr.children[idx].getAttribute("data-sortable-value") || tr.children[idx].innerText || tr.children[idx].textContent;

And to employ this, it uses a thing called a comparer which is lambda'y lambda lambdafier, like this:

const comparer = (idx, asc) => (a, b) => ((v1, v2) =>
	v1 !== '' && v2 !== '' && !isNaN(v1) && !isNaN(v2) ? v1 - v2 : v1.toString().localeCompare(v2)
)(getSortableCellValue(asc ? a : b, idx), getSortableCellValue(asc ? b : a, idx));

In summary:

And the function that sets it all up:

function makeTableSortable(table) {
	// add a 'click' handler to all `th`s in the table header (unless they have `no-sort` class)
	table.querySelectorAll('thead tr th:not(.no-sort)').forEach(th =>
		th.addEventListener('click', (() => {
			// remove existing up down arrows from all header cells
			for (let otherTh of th.parentElement.querySelectorAll("th:not(.no-sort)")) {
				otherTh.setAttribute("data-asc", "");
			// Find the tbody - in which we will sort the rows
			const currentTableBody = th.closest('table.sortable').querySelector('tbody');
			// Sort using the comparer, which compares the relevant cells'
			//   "data-sortable-value" attribute, if present, or inner text otherwise
				.sort(comparer(Array.from(th.parentNode.children).indexOf(th), this.asc = !this.asc))
				.forEach(tr => currentTableBody.appendChild(tr));
			th.setAttribute("data-asc", this.asc);

When the page first loads, call makeTableSortable, passing it any table you wish was sortable.

For example, you might do this when the page first loads:

for (let table of document.querySelectorAll('table.sortable'))

Styling the column header with up/down arrows

Here's the accompanying CSS, with explanatory comments.

Note we're using "up arrow" \2191 (↑) and "down arrow" \2193 (↓) for the direction indicators.

/* To be able to position our up/down arrows absolutely,
   we must give the column header a position relative. */
table.sortable thead tr th:not(.no-sort) {
	cursor: pointer;
	position: relative;

/* the up/down arrows are in the 'after' pseudo element,
   and located in the top right of the cell. */
table.sortable thead tr th:not(.no-sort)::after {
    float: right;
    position: absolute;
    right: 0.5em;
    top: 0.5em;
    font-weight: 100;
    opacity: 0.8;

th[data-asc=true]::after {
	content: " \2193 ";

th[data-asc=false]::after {
	content: " \2191 ";

/* when hovering over a sortable, but not currently sorted column,
	show an up-down arrow, to aid discoverability. */
table.sortable thead tr th:not([data-asc]):not(.no-sort):hover::after,
th[data-asc=""]:hover::after {
	content: " \2195 "; /* up-down arrow */

And there we have it.


See also