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A wrapper for `paper-dropdown-menu` web-component written in Polymer
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paper-dropdown is a wrapper over paper-dropdown-menu, the official dropdown component of Paper Elements. It provides features like multi-select, search/filter of items, key-value pair, and two-way binding on value.

Why was this required?

I made this more out of necessity. I liked working with Polymer and especially Paper Elements. It is a well-defined set of web-components which I used to build multiple projects without any issues. However, paper-dropdown-menu was the one I didn’t like to use at all (to put it mildly :P).

Where all other components in the Polymer ecosystem supported 2-way binding, paper-dropdown-menu didn’t. Which made it harder to use. Each time I needed to use it, I needed to add some boilerplate code to it. And based on the requirements, the code would vary slightly. A wrapper component was in order. I didn’t get to write paper-dropdown immediately, I fiddled with paper-dropdown-menu for more than a year. Assuming that people smarter than me would do it eventually and I get to use their component. And there are a few components. But they didn’t follow the design language or had too many dependencies for me to add them to my project.

What did I do?

paper-dropdown-menu worked only on value, but often we have a requirement of a key-value pair. Where the value is shown to the user but what is selected is the key. For example, consider a dropdown for gender. The value shown to the user might be ‘Male’ and ‘Female’, but the value stored in form can be M and F respectively. I started with this as it was easiest to implement. Then added a client-side search.

Finally, I decided to add a two-way binding feature. This was the main reason to create the component. All other Paper Elements follow a two-way binding scheme, but paper-dropdown required the developer to handle the value and change event. This was hindering the developer experience (as per me obviously).

When I was done with it, I had to make a tough decision. Adding a multi-select option. Initially, I thought of creating a separate component for this purpose. But later decided to add it in the same component. A decision I don’t know if it was right or wrong even today.

I enhanced the developer experience a lot but at the same time reduced my confidence in the code because of the added complexity. It also introduced a problem of not being able to style the check-box as that was a hack.


Anyway, I think that the component did okay. It captured the interest of a few people. I also received requests to upgrade the component to newer versions of Polymer and one Pull request too.

What do future hold for this component?

With LitElement and mwc-components being developed. I think that this component will soon see its end of life. However, if mwc-select has any of these issues I will definitely create an mwc-dropdown component. So stay tuned!

Pushkar Anand
Written by Pushkar Anand.
developer in India.