jQuery UI AJAX Tabs – few hiccups & resolutions

Developers who have tried jQuery UI Tabs plugin might have tried AJAX mode, which is really useful in meeting several requirements. The documentation clearly explains how to start using AJAX tabs.  However, there would be few hiccups if the plugin is not clearly understood. Below are some of them which I have faced recently:

Problem 1: In AJAX mode, sometimes, tabs do not load on a single click. You need to select a tab twice (double click) to open a tab.

Reason: Unfortunately, this is due to a bug in the plugin and happens when your AJAX calls fail.  Error handling is not done properly in jQuery tabs plugin as of the current version(1.7.2). More about this bug here. It can be resolved by applying the patch as described in the ticket. Hopefully, it would be fixed in the next release.

Problem 2: The “spinner“ option does not work by default (Spinner lets you provide a default “loading…” message in the tab, during tab load).

Resolution: To show spinner, the content of anchor tags inside “<li>” must be enclosed in “<span>” tags. More info here…

Problem 3: Displaying custom “loading” message in the tab body (and NOT in the tab).

Resolution: Overwrite the default spinner and make use of “select”, “show” functions. More Info here…
(Note: When tabs are cached, “load” will not get triggered for the second time. So use “show” instead of “load” while caching).

Problem 4: Remove “flickering” of tabs on page load.

Resolution: As you might have expected, simply hide the tabs container using CSS (display:none) and show it using jQuery after tabs are built as below:


Problem 5: Tab panel/body is not removed from the DOM when a tab is closed.

Resolution: This is indeed a tricky problem. This happens when tabs are disabled! Wondering what is the relation? It’s simple. When a tab is disabled, the “<li>” element, which makes the tab header, will be displayed in a dull style. But the corresponding “div”, which makes the tab panel/body is not rendered.

So, there would be a difference in indexing between tab header & body and thus the tab body is not deleted. Hence, do not disable tabs when you want to remove them based on index! (You may debug the first two lines of “remove:” function in the plugin to test this).

Problem 6: Prevent “auto selection” of adjacent tab, when a tab is closed.

Resolution: The Tabs plugin mimics “Firefox” tabs with respect to auto selection of a tab, when another tab is closed. However, sometimes, you might need to select a farther tab on closing of a particular tab. This cannot be achieved by overriding the “remove” callback. So simply comment the below lines in “remove” function and write your code to select the desired tab in your close button click event.

// If selected tab was removed focus tab to the right or 
        // in case the last tab was removed the tab to the left. 
        if ($li.hasClass('ui-tabs-selected') && this.anchors.length > 1) { 
            this.select(index + (index + 1 < this.anchors.length ? 1 : -1)); 

Note: I’m using jQuery tabs inside UI.Layout plugin in my project. At first, I thought that the layout plugin is messing up my code and causing these issues. After straining for 3 days, I could figure out the above solutions. So folks using the UI.Layout plugin need not worry about Tabs plugin integration. Their combination works perfectly.

Hope this article saves the time of many enthusiasts who might face similar problems. Happy coding :)