Shiny Hack: Vertical Scrollbar

Written by: Paul Rubin

Primary Source: OR in an OB World

I bumped into a scrolling issue while writing a web-based application in Shiny, using the shinydashboard package. Actually, there were two separate problems.

  1. The browser apparently cannot discern page height. In Firefox and Chrome, this resulted in vertical scrollbars that could scroll well beyond the bottom of a page. That’s mildly odd, but not a problem as far as I’m concerned. In Internet Exploder, however, the page height was underestimated, and as a result in some cases it was not possible to reach the bottom of the page (at least not with the vertical scrollbar).
  2. In Internet Exploder only, the viewport scrollbar, on the right side of the window, behaves intermittently. If I click on the “elevator car” (handle) while it is at the top of the bar, it jumps to the bottom of the track, and the spot where I clicked gains a duplicate copy of the up arrow icon that appears just above the handle. If the handle is at the bottom of the bar, it behaves symmetrically. The down arrow icon on the vertical scrollbar lets you scroll downward, but not fully to the bottom of the page.

I have only seen the second problem on one machine, so I don’t know if it is specific to a particular version of IE, but the first problem was reported by two different users (and I saw it myself).

As a kludge to get around the first problem, which in my app is triggered by extensive help text (and some input controls) in the sidebar that makes the sidebar taller than the main body, I decided to introduce a separate vertical scrollbar in the sidebar. That turned out to be tricky, or at least I could not find an easy, documented method. I thought I would share the code that ultimately did the job for me. I goes in the ui.R file.

  dashboardSidebar(
    tags$head(
      tags$style(HTML("
                      .sidebar { height: 90vh; overflow-y: auto; }
                      " )
      )
    ),
    ...

Created by Pretty R at inside-R.org 

The height: 90vh style attribute sets the height of the sidebar at 90% of the viewport height, so that it adjusts automatically if the user maximizes or resizes the window, opens or closes a tool bar, etc. You need to pick a percentage that works for your particular application. Make it too large and the inability to scroll to the bottom of the sidebar will persist. Make it too small and the sidebar will be noticeably shorter than the main body, leaving a gap at the bottom of the sidebar (and introducing a vertical scrollbar when the entire sidebar is already visible).

Three last notes on the scrolling issue:

  • In my application, the scrolling problem only appeared on pages where the sidebar was taller than the main body (as far as I know).
  • Although the vertical scrollbar in IE is balky, scrolling via the mouse wheel (if you have one) or the arrow keys seems to work fine.
  • This is as yet untested on Safari.
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I'm an apostate mathematician, retired from a business school after 33 years of teaching mostly (but not exclusively) quantitative methods courses. My academic interests lie in operations research. I also study Tae Kwon Do a bit on the side.

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