Shinydashboard supports all the normal interactive functionality that Shiny does. If you need a refresher on all the interactive capabilities of Shiny (through inputs, outputs, reactives, etc), take a look at our website’s articles.

shinydashboard-specific components

In addition to all the normal Shiny inputs and outputs that can be present in a shinydashboard app, there are a few things that are specific to the structure of such apps. In particular, most shinydashboard apps have a sidebar. As of the 0.6 shinydashboard release, app authors can access the entire state of the sidebar as Shiny inputs. There are up to three inputs that can be generated if you have a sidebar in your app. (However, it should be noted that two these are not “normal” inputs, since they are generated automatically and have a fixed name – rather than you, as the app author, deciding that name.)

Let’s get into the details. The three sidebar-related inputs allow you to:

Know which tab is currently visible

If you want to know which tab is currently visible, you need to know which menu item is active. To do this, the sidebarMenu() must have an id, and the menuItem()/menuSubItem() must have a tabName. In particular, if you pass in id = "tabs" to your sidebarMenu(), then you can know which sidebar item is selected by accessing the variable input$tabs. The value associated with input$tabs is given by the tabName argument of the currently selected menuItem() (or menuSubItem()).

The screenshot below shows an app that indicates which menuItem() is selected:

Here’s the code for the app pictured above. Notice that all childless menuItem()s and menuSubItem()s have a tabName argument:


The small print

Know which menuItem(), if any, is currently expanded

As of shinydashboard 0.6, there’s an automatic way to access which “childfull” menuItem() (if any) is currently expanded. Anywhere on your server function, use input$sidebarItemExpanded to get the expandedName of the currently expanded menuItem() (or NULL if none is currently expanded). If you don’t pass in an expandedName, Shiny has a sensible default – it will use the mandatory text argument that was passed in, without any white space. You can use input$sidebarItemExpanded as any other input, including making other UI elements conditional on it.

The screenshot below shows an app that starts with the “Charts” menuItem() expanded:

Here’s the code for the app pictured above:


The small print

  • As you might have noticed by now, childless menuItem()s (and menuSubItem()s) and “childfull”" menuItem()s behave differently and there’s different arguments that apply to either:

    • Childless menuItem()s/menuSubItem()s must be given a tabName argument; in addition, one of these can have selected = TRUE, which lets Shiny know that you want input$tabs (if you passed in id = "tabs" to sidebarMenu()) to start out with that item’s tabName (if you specified a tabItem() for that tabName, that will what you first see in the dashboard body when you launch your app).

    • “Childfull” menuItem()s cannot have a tabName or a selected argument (or rather, they can, but this will be completely ignored by Shiny). Instead, at most, one of them can take a startExpanded = TRUE, which tells Shiny to start out with that menuItem() expanded, i.e. revealing all its children. (The reason that, at most, only one childfull menuItem() can start expanded is because in AdminLTE, only one thing can be expanded in the sidebar at any one time.) You can also pass in an expandedName, which is how Shiny lets you know which (if any) menuItem() is currently expanded (if expandedName is not provided, Shiny defaults to the vaue of the text argument, without any white space).

  • This is probably your first encounter with a Shiny input that has a fixed name. This is unusual, but it works just as well in this case (since there’s always only one sidebar, at most). It also has an advantage: since you get this input “for free” (i.e. you don’t have to pass an id or configure your app in any special way, other than making sure that your version of shinydashboard is equal or greater to 0.6), you also get bookmarking of this input “for free” (i.e. the bookmarked URL will capture which, if any, menuItem() was expanded and, on restore, it will expand the same one).

Know whether the whole sidebar is expanded or collapsed

Similarly, as of shinydashboard 0.6, there is also an automatic way to access whether the whole sidebar is expanded or collapsed at the moment. Use input$sidebarCollapsed to know if the sidebar is collapsed (TRUE) or expanded (FALSE). While this may seem less interesting than the former two inputs, it is mostly useful for bookmarking (i.e. the bookmarked URL will capture whether the sidebar is collapsed or expanded and, on restore, it will have the same value and look).

Here’s an example app:



To bookmark which sidebar item is selected, the sidebarMenu() needs to have an id. For example, the app below does not specify any explicit inputs (like textInput or sliderInput), but the state of the sidebar is automatically bookmarked (you can see this in the URL once you click “Bookmark…”). The app below combines all three inputs described before. You can use it to experiment with:

  • changing the selected menuItem() / menuSubItem() (and see the value of input$tabs also change);
  • expanding and collapsing the “Charts” menuItem() (and see the value of input$sidebarItemExpanded also change);
  • collapsing and expanding the whole sidebar, using the toggle button in the app header (and see the value of input$sidebarCollapsed also change).


Testing with shinytest

For shinytest to be able to record and replay which menu item is selected, the sidebarMenu() must have an id, and the menuItems and menuSubItems must have have tabNames.

A note about dropdownMenus

Another shinydashboard-specific component that is not seen in vanilla Shiny apps is the dropdownMenu(), one or more of which can be placed in the dashboard header. Like a sidebarMenu(), a dropdownMenu() can be either rendered statically in the UI, or dynamically in ther server function. However, while it’s possible to update dynamic dropdown menus (by re-rendering them if, for example, the data changes), it’s not possible to treat them as inputs. For example, in this app, we can dynamically add items to a dropdownMenu via a modal window:



ui <- dashboardPage(
    helpText("Add another item to the dropdown menu by clicking ",
             "on the button below"),
    actionButton("addItem", "Add another item")

server <- function(input, output, session) {
  tasks <-  reactiveValues(
      code = list(id = "code", value = 15, color = "aqua",
                  text = "Refactor code"),
      layout = list(id = "layout", value = 40, color = "green",
                    text = "Design new layout"),
      docs = list(id = "docs", value = 25, color = "red",
                  text = "Write documentation")

  # actually render the dropdownMenu
  output$menu <- renderMenu({
    items <- lapply(tasks, function(el) {
      taskItem(value = el$value, color = el$color, text = el$text)
      type = "tasks", badgeStatus = "danger",
      .list = items

  observeEvent(input$addItem, {
    showModal(modalDialog(title = "Add new task",
      textInput(paste0("id", input$addItem), "Task ID"),
      numericInput(paste0("val", input$addItem), "Task value", 0),
      selectInput(paste0("col", input$addItem), "Task color",
        choices = c("red", "yellow", "aqua", "blue",
          "light-blue", "green", "navy", "teal",
          "olive", "lime", "orange", "fuchsia",
          "purple", "maroon", "black")
      textInput(paste0("text", input$addItem), "Task text"),
      actionButton(paste0("go", input$addItem), "Add item"),
      easyClose = TRUE, footer = NULL

    observeEvent(input[[paste0("go", input$addItem)]], {
      tasks[[paste0("id", input$addItem)]] <- list(
        id = input[[paste0("id", input$addItem)]],
        value = input[[paste0("val", input$addItem)]],
        color = input[[paste0("col", input$addItem)]],
        text = input[[paste0("text", input$addItem)]]

shinyApp(ui, server)

However, there is no current way to see if the user clicked on one of the items in a dropdown menu. This is something that is not originally supported in AdminLTE. While we may add this functionality in the future, for now, we can only keep track of things that have a Shiny input binding. (To be more specific, if you write your own custom Javascript, you can get around this limitation, but it’s not always trivial and it’s not natively supported by shinydashboard.)