For a long time now, Drupal has been using the idea of the "auto-complete" for such things as taxonomy tags, node references, and user references. While convenient in the fact that it's ajaxified and will display relevant options as you begin to type, it's long been a bit of a problem for users who really have no pre-conceived notion of how typical auto-complete form controls work, or for those with slower connections who end up waiting while they stare at a little spinning icon for their results to be returned to them.

Select boxes are a universally recognized form control, and also a valid alternative to each of the field types I described above which typically utilize the auto-complete widget within Drupal. However, for many use cases, the typical select box widget can have a ton of results and become a very long list of options to scroll down through and chose from.

The auto-complete widget was originally created in an attempt to mitigate this UX problem. But I submit to you an attractive alternative to the typical solution this problem: Chosen.

Chosen is a javascript library built by the incredible people who brought you the time tracking software, Harvest. The library is an open-source project on Github and simply seeks to "... [make] long, unwieldy select boxes more user friendly." It can take your typical select box from this:

        <div>
          <select title="Choose a Country" style="width:350px;" tabindex="1">
            <option value=""></option> 
            <option value="United States">United States</option> 
            <option value="United Kingdom">United Kingdom</option> 
            <option value="Afghanistan">Afghanistan</option> 
            <option value="Albania">Albania</option> 
            <option value="Algeria">Algeria</option> 
            <option value="American Samoa">American Samoa</option> 
            <option value="Andorra">Andorra</option> 
            <option value="Angola">Angola</option> 
            <option value="Anguilla">Anguilla</option> 
            <option value="Antarctica">Antarctica</option> 
            <option value="Antigua and Barbuda">Antigua and Barbuda</option> 
            <option value="Argentina">Argentina</option> 
            <option value="Armenia">Armenia</option> 
            <option value="Aruba">Aruba</option> 
            <option value="Australia">Australia</option> 
            <option value="Austria">Austria</option> 
            <option value="Azerbaijan">Azerbaijan</option> 
            <option value="Bahamas">Bahamas</option> 
            <option value="Bahrain">Bahrain</option> 
            <option value="Bangladesh">Bangladesh</option> 
            <option value="Barbados">Barbados</option> 
            <option value="Belarus">Belarus</option> 
            <option value="Belgium">Belgium</option> 
            <option value="Belize">Belize</option> 
            <option value="Benin">Benin</option> 
            <option value="Bermuda">Bermuda</option> 
            <option value="Bhutan">Bhutan</option> 
            <option value="Bolivia">Bolivia</option> 
            <option value="Bosnia and Herzegovina">Bosnia and Herzegovina</option> 
            <option value="Botswana">Botswana</option> 
            <option value="Bouvet Island">Bouvet Island</option> 
            <option value="Brazil">Brazil</option> 
            <option value="British Indian Ocean Territory">British Indian Ocean Territory</option> 
            <option value="Brunei Darussalam">Brunei Darussalam</option> 
            <option value="Bulgaria">Bulgaria</option> 
            <option value="Burkina Faso">Burkina Faso</option> 
            <option value="Burundi">Burundi</option> 
            <option value="Cambodia">Cambodia</option> 
            <option value="Cameroon">Cameroon</option> 
            <option value="Canada">Canada</option> 
            <option value="Cape Verde">Cape Verde</option> 
            <option value="Cayman Islands">Cayman Islands</option> 
            <option value="Central African Republic">Central African Republic</option> 
            <option value="Chad">Chad</option> 
            <option value="Chile">Chile</option> 
            <option value="China">China</option> 
            <option value="Christmas Island">Christmas Island</option> 
            <option value="Cocos (Keeling) Islands">Cocos (Keeling) Islands</option> 
            <option value="Colombia">Colombia</option> 
            <option value="Comoros">Comoros</option> 
            <option value="Congo">Congo</option> 
            <option value="Congo, The Democratic Republic of The">Congo, The Democratic Republic of The</option> 
            <option value="Cook Islands">Cook Islands</option> 
            <option value="Costa Rica">Costa Rica</option> 
            <option value="Cote D'ivoire">Cote D'ivoire</option> 
            <option value="Croatia">Croatia</option> 
            <option value="Cuba">Cuba</option> 
            <option value="Cyprus">Cyprus</option> 
            <option value="Czech Republic">Czech Republic</option> 
            <option value="Denmark">Denmark</option> 
            <option value="Djibouti">Djibouti</option> 
            <option value="Dominica">Dominica</option> 
            <option value="Dominican Republic">Dominican Republic</option> 
            <option value="Ecuador">Ecuador</option> 
            <option value="Egypt">Egypt</option> 
            <option value="El Salvador">El Salvador</option> 
            <option value="Equatorial Guinea">Equatorial Guinea</option> 
            <option value="Eritrea">Eritrea</option> 
            <option value="Estonia">Estonia</option> 
            <option value="Ethiopia">Ethiopia</option> 
            <option value="Falkland Islands (Malvinas)">Falkland Islands (Malvinas)</option> 
            <option value="Faroe Islands">Faroe Islands</option> 
            <option value="Fiji">Fiji</option> 
            <option value="Finland">Finland</option> 
            <option value="France">France</option> 
            <option value="French Guiana">French Guiana</option> 
            <option value="French Polynesia">French Polynesia</option> 
            <option value="French Southern Territories">French Southern Territories</option> 
            <option value="Gabon">Gabon</option> 
            <option value="Gambia">Gambia</option> 
            <option value="Georgia">Georgia</option> 
            <option value="Germany">Germany</option> 
            <option value="Ghana">Ghana</option> 
            <option value="Gibraltar">Gibraltar</option> 
            <option value="Greece">Greece</option> 
            <option value="Greenland">Greenland</option> 
            <option value="Grenada">Grenada</option> 
            <option value="Guadeloupe">Guadeloupe</option> 
            <option value="Guam">Guam</option> 
            <option value="Guatemala">Guatemala</option> 
            <option value="Guinea">Guinea</option> 
            <option value="Guinea-bissau">Guinea-bissau</option> 
            <option value="Guyana">Guyana</option> 
            <option value="Haiti">Haiti</option> 
            <option value="Heard Island and Mcdonald Islands">Heard Island and Mcdonald Islands</option> 
            <option value="Holy See (Vatican City State)">Holy See (Vatican City State)</option> 
            <option value="Honduras">Honduras</option> 
            <option value="Hong Kong">Hong Kong</option> 
            <option value="Hungary">Hungary</option> 
            <option value="Iceland">Iceland</option> 
            <option value="India">India</option> 
            <option value="Indonesia">Indonesia</option> 
            <option value="Iran, Islamic Republic of">Iran, Islamic Republic of</option> 
            <option value="Iraq">Iraq</option> 
            <option value="Ireland">Ireland</option> 
            <option value="Israel">Israel</option> 
            <option value="Italy">Italy</option> 
            <option value="Jamaica">Jamaica</option> 
            <option value="Japan">Japan</option> 
            <option value="Jordan">Jordan</option> 
            <option value="Kazakhstan">Kazakhstan</option> 
            <option value="Kenya">Kenya</option> 
            <option value="Kiribati">Kiribati</option> 
            <option value="Korea, Democratic People's Republic of">Korea, Democratic People's Republic of</option> 
            <option value="Korea, Republic of">Korea, Republic of</option> 
            <option value="Kuwait">Kuwait</option> 
            <option value="Kyrgyzstan">Kyrgyzstan</option> 
            <option value="Lao People's Democratic Republic">Lao People's Democratic Republic</option> 
            <option value="Latvia">Latvia</option> 
            <option value="Lebanon">Lebanon</option> 
            <option value="Lesotho">Lesotho</option> 
            <option value="Liberia">Liberia</option> 
            <option value="Libyan Arab Jamahiriya">Libyan Arab Jamahiriya</option> 
            <option value="Liechtenstein">Liechtenstein</option> 
            <option value="Lithuania">Lithuania</option> 
            <option value="Luxembourg">Luxembourg</option> 
            <option value="Macao">Macao</option> 
            <option value="Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of">Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of</option> 
            <option value="Madagascar">Madagascar</option> 
            <option value="Malawi">Malawi</option> 
            <option value="Malaysia">Malaysia</option> 
            <option value="Maldives">Maldives</option> 
            <option value="Mali">Mali</option> 
            <option value="Malta">Malta</option> 
            <option value="Marshall Islands">Marshall Islands</option> 
            <option value="Martinique">Martinique</option> 
            <option value="Mauritania">Mauritania</option> 
            <option value="Mauritius">Mauritius</option> 
            <option value="Mayotte">Mayotte</option> 
            <option value="Mexico">Mexico</option> 
            <option value="Micronesia, Federated States of">Micronesia, Federated States of</option> 
            <option value="Moldova, Republic of">Moldova, Republic of</option> 
            <option value="Monaco">Monaco</option> 
            <option value="Mongolia">Mongolia</option> 
            <option value="Montenegro">Montenegro</option>
            <option value="Montserrat">Montserrat</option> 
            <option value="Morocco">Morocco</option> 
            <option value="Mozambique">Mozambique</option> 
            <option value="Myanmar">Myanmar</option> 
            <option value="Namibia">Namibia</option> 
            <option value="Nauru">Nauru</option> 
            <option value="Nepal">Nepal</option> 
            <option value="Netherlands">Netherlands</option> 
            <option value="Netherlands Antilles">Netherlands Antilles</option> 
            <option value="New Caledonia">New Caledonia</option> 
            <option value="New Zealand">New Zealand</option> 
            <option value="Nicaragua">Nicaragua</option> 
            <option value="Niger">Niger</option> 
            <option value="Nigeria">Nigeria</option> 
            <option value="Niue">Niue</option> 
            <option value="Norfolk Island">Norfolk Island</option> 
            <option value="Northern Mariana Islands">Northern Mariana Islands</option> 
            <option value="Norway">Norway</option> 
            <option value="Oman">Oman</option> 
            <option value="Pakistan">Pakistan</option> 
            <option value="Palau">Palau</option> 
            <option value="Palestinian Territory, Occupied">Palestinian Territory, Occupied</option> 
            <option value="Panama">Panama</option> 
            <option value="Papua New Guinea">Papua New Guinea</option> 
            <option value="Paraguay">Paraguay</option> 
            <option value="Peru">Peru</option> 
            <option value="Philippines">Philippines</option> 
            <option value="Pitcairn">Pitcairn</option> 
            <option value="Poland">Poland</option> 
            <option value="Portugal">Portugal</option> 
            <option value="Puerto Rico">Puerto Rico</option> 
            <option value="Qatar">Qatar</option> 
            <option value="Reunion">Reunion</option> 
            <option value="Romania">Romania</option> 
            <option value="Russian Federation">Russian Federation</option> 
            <option value="Rwanda">Rwanda</option> 
            <option value="Saint Helena">Saint Helena</option> 
            <option value="Saint Kitts and Nevis">Saint Kitts and Nevis</option> 
            <option value="Saint Lucia">Saint Lucia</option> 
            <option value="Saint Pierre and Miquelon">Saint Pierre and Miquelon</option> 
            <option value="Saint Vincent and The Grenadines">Saint Vincent and The Grenadines</option> 
            <option value="Samoa">Samoa</option> 
            <option value="San Marino">San Marino</option> 
            <option value="Sao Tome and Principe">Sao Tome and Principe</option> 
            <option value="Saudi Arabia">Saudi Arabia</option> 
            <option value="Senegal">Senegal</option> 
            <option value="Serbia">Serbia</option> 
            <option value="Seychelles">Seychelles</option> 
            <option value="Sierra Leone">Sierra Leone</option> 
            <option value="Singapore">Singapore</option> 
            <option value="Slovakia">Slovakia</option> 
            <option value="Slovenia">Slovenia</option> 
            <option value="Solomon Islands">Solomon Islands</option> 
            <option value="Somalia">Somalia</option> 
            <option value="South Africa">South Africa</option> 
            <option value="South Georgia and The South Sandwich Islands">South Georgia and The South Sandwich Islands</option> 
            <option value="South Sudan">South Sudan</option> 
            <option value="Spain">Spain</option> 
            <option value="Sri Lanka">Sri Lanka</option> 
            <option value="Sudan">Sudan</option> 
            <option value="Suriname">Suriname</option> 
            <option value="Svalbard and Jan Mayen">Svalbard and Jan Mayen</option> 
            <option value="Swaziland">Swaziland</option> 
            <option value="Sweden">Sweden</option> 
            <option value="Switzerland">Switzerland</option> 
            <option value="Syrian Arab Republic">Syrian Arab Republic</option> 
            <option value="Taiwan, Republic of China">Taiwan, Republic of China</option> 
            <option value="Tajikistan">Tajikistan</option> 
            <option value="Tanzania, United Republic of">Tanzania, United Republic of</option> 
            <option value="Thailand">Thailand</option> 
            <option value="Timor-leste">Timor-leste</option> 
            <option value="Togo">Togo</option> 
            <option value="Tokelau">Tokelau</option> 
            <option value="Tonga">Tonga</option> 
            <option value="Trinidad and Tobago">Trinidad and Tobago</option> 
            <option value="Tunisia">Tunisia</option> 
            <option value="Turkey">Turkey</option> 
            <option value="Turkmenistan">Turkmenistan</option> 
            <option value="Turks and Caicos Islands">Turks and Caicos Islands</option> 
            <option value="Tuvalu">Tuvalu</option> 
            <option value="Uganda">Uganda</option> 
            <option value="Ukraine">Ukraine</option> 
            <option value="United Arab Emirates">United Arab Emirates</option> 
            <option value="United Kingdom">United Kingdom</option> 
            <option value="United States">United States</option> 
            <option value="United States Minor Outlying Islands">United States Minor Outlying Islands</option> 
            <option value="Uruguay">Uruguay</option> 
            <option value="Uzbekistan">Uzbekistan</option> 
            <option value="Vanuatu">Vanuatu</option> 
            <option value="Venezuela">Venezuela</option> 
            <option value="Viet Nam">Viet Nam</option> 
            <option value="Virgin Islands, British">Virgin Islands, British</option> 
            <option value="Virgin Islands, U.S.">Virgin Islands, U.S.</option> 
            <option value="Wallis and Futuna">Wallis and Futuna</option> 
            <option value="Western Sahara">Western Sahara</option> 
            <option value="Yemen">Yemen</option> 
            <option value="Zambia">Zambia</option> 
            <option value="Zimbabwe">Zimbabwe</option>
          </select>
        </div>
        <p>
          <em class="break">into this:</em>        
          <drupal-entity data-embed-button="media_entity_embed" data-entity-embed-display="view_mode:media.wide" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="7c618738-584e-4867-bb65-5b0962c65eee" data-caption=""></drupal-entity>
        </p>

We've decided to use this on the new Drupalcon Denver website for choosing the speakers when submitting a session.

The module itself is little more than a configuration screen that allows you to choose the minimum number of options to show when the cursor is first placed within the select box's text field, and what elements to target.

Chosen is currently only available for Drupal 7.x-1.0 (though I'm sure would be a fairly simply backport to 6.x), and it's currently in use on over 50 sites. It has a dependency on the ever-useful Libraries module and is maintained by Arshad Chummun.

If you find this as intriguing a UX change as I do to the typical auto-complete widget, check it out!