The AUTOCOMPLETE control adds additional functionality to a FIELD control. It supports the selection of a value from a pre-populated list of values while typing. The list of values can be populated from different data sources. On selection, additional values can be displayed in other controls.

The following topics are covered below:

General Information

To add autocomplete functionality to a FIELD control, you drag an AUTOCOMPLETE control to your layout page. This AUTOCOMPLETE control can be referenced as data source from within multiple FIELD controls. Adding a reference to an AUTOCOMPLETE data source for a FIELD control is done via the id property of the AUTOCOMPLETE control and the autocompleteref property of the FIELD control.

<autocomplete id="myautocompleteid" ...></autocomplete>
<field valueprop="myinputcontrol" autocompleteref=" myautocompleteid">

In the AUTOCOMPLETE control, you define from which data source the value list will be populated. The source property specifies the kind of data source and the sourcelocation property a concrete source depending on the kind of data source. You can specify values for the source and source location either at design time or dynamically at runtime. For the latter, the properties sourceprop and sourcelocationprop are supported.

Populating the value list is done while typing into the FIELD control. With the property minlength, you can specify the number of characters after which the value list is to be populated. With the property delay, you can specify a delay between a keystroke and the population of the list.

In the example below, the value list is not populated unless at least three characters have been inserted. The population of the list with the values from the data source starts 20 milliseconds after the third character has been inserted.

<autocomplete id="myautocompleteid" minlength="3" delay="20" ...></autocomplete>

The size of the drop-down box which renders the value list can be customized with the property rows. For example, if rows=”5” is specified, the corresponding drop-down box will have a height of 5 rows. If the value list contains more values, a scrollbar is shown.


Examples which show the usage of the AUTOCOMPLETE control are provided in the Natural for Ajax demos: program FDAUTO-P.

Data Sources for Populating the Values

The kind of data source you are using highly depends on the number of total values, whether the values are static or change dynamically on your application context and whether the application is showing internal application data or data from an external service. Also in some applications it is sufficient to populate a simple value list, other applications need to show additional data for each value. The range of supported data sources is from simple static string values to services which deal with thousands of values.

The following kinds of data sources are available:


Choose this data source if you simply want to show a small list of simple values. The values can either be defined at design time or at runtime via the sourcelocation property or the sourcelocationprop property. In the example below, the total number of values is four. The possible values are defined at design time.

<autocomplete id="mycitiesid" source="string" 

When the user types the character "D", all values for which the first character matches "D" are offered by default. In the above example, the value list will contain the item "Darmstadt". We are calling this "match mode". In addition to this default match mode called "start", another match mode called "all" is supported. When the match mode is "all" and the user types the character "D", the value list will be populated with all items containing a "D". In the above example, these are "Darmstadt" and "Bielefeld". The match mode can be specified via the property matchmode. For example:

<autocomplete id="mycitiesid" source="string" 
sourcelocation="Bielefeld;Darmstadt;Frankfurt;Karlsruhe" matchmode="all"></autocomplete>


Choose this data source if you have a medium number of total values and either the offered values are fixed or you have a small number of variations of the total list. The "file" data source is more powerful than the "string" data source because you can show additional data for the offered values.

The data must be stored in a file with simple JSON format (see also and must be accessible from within the web application. The following formats are supported:




The offered functionality is the same as for String (see above). The advantage is that the values are neither in the page layout nor in the Natural code. This allows for simple replacement of the files when the offered values change without touching any application code.



{ "code": "33729", "value": "Bielefeld" },
{ "code": "64397", "value": "Darmstadt" },
{ "code": "60329", "value": "Frankfurt" },
{ "code": "76135", "value": "Karlsruhe" }

Each offered item has a "value" for populating the value list and can have additional data like "code" as in the above example. The same match modes are supported as for String (see above). Choose this format if you want to show additional data for the offered values.

Showing additional data is done by using the properties autocompletedisplayname and autocompletedisplayref in the FIELD control. The following example shows how to use "code" as an additional value in a second FIELD control:

<autocomplete id="mycity" source="file" 
     <label name="Select a city"></label>
     <field valueprop="fldcity" autocompleteref="mycity" 
      autocompletedisplayname="code" autocompletedisplayref="fldcode"></field>
    <field valueprop="fldcode" displayonly="true"></field>

The additional data will automatically be shown in the drop-down box.

Additional data

The check for matching items is done on both "value" and "code". This means, when the user types "6", the list will be populated in the following way:

Additional data

If you do not like this special handling for the additional data, choose the "Value and Label" format described below.

Value and Label


{ "label":"33729 Bielefeld", "value":"Bielefeld", "code":"33729" },
{ "label":"64397 Darmstadt", "value":"Darmstadt", "code":"64397" },
{ "label":"60329 Frankfurt", "value":"Frankfurt", "code":"60329" },
{ "label":"76135 Karlsruhe", "value":"Karlsruhe", "code":"76135" }

The "label" is shown in the drop-down box and the "value" is taken over to the FIELD control. The check for matching items is done on the "label" as a whole. Typing "D" with matchmode="start" will result in no items.

Additional data can be specified in the FIELD control using the properties autocompleteref and autocompletedisplayname as described above for the "Value" format.


Choose this data source if the data is provided by a service. This is usually the case when the number of total values is very high and/or the values are read from databases like Adabas. This is the most flexible data source. Other than with the data sources String and File, the service is in charge of finding the matching values. The service will only return the values which match the characters typed in by the end-user. The service is free to implement any match mode it likes; therefore, the matchmode property is not supported.

The service must return the data in a simple JSON format. The same formats as described for the data source File are supported. The characters that the user types in are passed as request parameter "q" to the service.

Example: When the user types the characters "Da", the service http://myhost/MyService will be called as follows: http://myhost/MyService?q=Da.

A service can be implemented as a simple Java Servlet. With Natural RPC and EntireX, a service can also be written in Natural. The NJXDEMOS contain an example Natural subprogram, corresponding EntireX wrapper classes and configuration settings. See the document NaturalAutocompleteRPCService.pdf in the subfolder njxdemos\autocomplete of the NaturalAjaxDemos example project.



The id of the autocomplete data source. This id can be referenced from FIELD controls.


The kind of data source like string, file, url.






The source location. Depends on the kind of source. Examples: ./autocomplete/myfile, http://myremotedatasource...


The drop down selection box is not opened before a minlength number of characters is inserted into the FIELD control.







The delay in milliseconds between when a keystroke occurs and when a search is performed







Specify "start" to find all items which start with the typed in characters. Specify "all" to find all items which contain the typed in charachters. Default is "start". For source="url", the matchmode is ignored.





Height of the drop down box in rows. If more items are found, a scrollbar is shown.







Name of the adapter parameter that specifies the sourcelocation dynamically at runtime.


Name of the adapter parameter that specifies the kind of source dynamically at runtime.


If a Natural variable with a name not valid for Application Designer (for instance #FIELD1) shall be bound to the control, a different name (for instance HFIELD1) can be bound instead. If the original name (in this case #FIELD1) is then specified in this attribute, the original name is generated into the parameter data area of the Natural adapter and a mapping between the two names is generated into the PROCESS PAGE statement of the Natural adapter. This mapping must not break a once defined group structure. If for instance a grid control that is bound to a name of GRID1 contains fields that are bound to FIELD1 and FIELD2 respectively, the corresponding njx:natname values may be #GRID1.#FIELD1 and #GRID1.#FIELD2, but not #GRID1.#FIELD1 and #MYGRID1.#FIELD2.


The value of this attribute is generated as comment line into the parameter data area of the Natural adapter, before the field name. The Map Converter, for instance, uses this attributes to indicate for a generated statusprop variable to which field the statusprop belongs.