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Create a Paragraph Preview with Prototype.js

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Create a Paragraph Preview with Prototype.js

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Creating a paragraph with expandable text can be quite useful if you have a lot of text on your page but do not want all of it to show in the same time. Something to the effect of:

This is a short preview of the paragraph (More)

so when the user clicks on "More" the full paragraph will be displayed like so:

This is a short preview of the paragraph and here is the more text you wanted to see.(Less)

You can see the simple example in action at http://tech-cats.net/blog/examples/createParagraphPreview.html

Here is how to create this with some simple HTML and JavaScript. The JavaScript relies on Prototype.js but it can be easily re-implemented with a different JavaScript framework.

This is a short preview of the paragraph
<div id="moreText" style="display: none">
and here is the more text you wanted to see.

<a class="showMore" href="#" rel="moreText">
<span id="do_more_less">More</span>

And the JavaScript to do the magic:
<script type="text/javascript">
// For each link element that has the class name "showMore",
// tie the 'click' event to the 'showHide' function
Event.observe(window, 'load',
function() {
$$('a.showMore').invoke('observe', 'click', showHide);

function showHide(event)
// Use the event to get the id of the element that invoked the function
var currentElement = Event.element(event);

// Get the parent node of that element and the value of it's "rel" attribute
var toggleContainer = $(currentElement).parentNode.getAttribute('rel');

// Get the toggle caption based on the html of the clicked element
var toggleCaption = ($(currentElement).innerHTML.toLowerCase() == "more") ? "Less" : "More";

// Update the current element with the new caption value

// If the container to be toggled exists, toggle it's visibility
if ($(toggleContainer)) {

// Return false so the link does not go anywhere
return false;

Something to keep in mind is that you cannot simply copy the JavaScript in the head of the HTML page. That is because the line "$$('a.showMore').invoke('observe', 'click', showHide);", needs to fire after the HTML has been rendered. To resolve this, we can one of two things:

  1. Put the script in the head tag but wrap it inside a window load observer or dom:loaded event (if you are using Prototype v1.6) like so:
    Event.observe(window, 'load',
    function() {
    $$('a.showMore').invoke('observe', 'click', showHide);
    function() {
    $$('a.showMore').invoke('observe', 'click', showHide);
  2. Put the script as the last thing on the page, after the html.

The code can also be downloaded at http://tech-cats.net/blog/examples/createParagraphPreview.txt

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