When we present users of our apps with opportunities to input data, there’s often the possibility that they can input data incorrectly. They might leave a required input blank, or make a series of choices that make no sense in combination, or fill the “Email address” field with a value that is clearly not a valid email address.

In these cases, we want to provide feedback to the user that they’ve made a mistake.

Screencast of empty 'Name' and 'Email' fields showing error messages beneath them, and the user providing valid input that clears the errors

Basic usage

To add input validation to your app:

  1. Create an InputValidator object (in this doc, we will usually name the variable iv).

  2. Add one or more validation rules to iv.

  3. Start displaying realtime feedback in the UI by calling iv$enable().

  4. Guard calculations and operations that rely on valid inputs, by checking that iv$is_valid() returns TRUE.

Note that all of these steps must be performed in your Shiny app’s server function.

To see this in action, let’s look at the server function from the 01_simple example app [source, live demo].

server <- function(input, output, session) {

  # 1. Create an InputValidator object
  iv <- InputValidator$new()
  # 2. Add validation rules
  iv$add_rule("name", sv_required())
  iv$add_rule("email", sv_required())
  iv$add_rule("email", ~ if (!is_valid_email(.)) "Not a valid email")
  # 3. Start displaying errors in the UI
  output$greeting <- renderText({
    # 4. Don't proceed if any input is invalid
    paste0("Nice to meet you, ", input$name, " <", input$email, ">!")

This validator has rules that check that a value is provided for input$name and input$email, and that the provided email is valid.

Adding rules

The most important part of the code above is the expression of validation rules via add_rule() calls. The function signature of add_rule() looks like this (minus the session. argument, which can generally be ignored):

InputValidator$add_rule(inputId, rule, ...)

inputId should be a single-element character vector, with the ID of the input to be validated. Note that each call to add_rule must check the validness of one and only one input.

The rule argument can take various forms:

Rules from helper functions

shinyvalidate comes with a few helper functions that implement common validation rules. The first rule you’ll need to add for each input is either sv_required() or sv_optional().


The sv_required helper is likely to be the one you reach for most often:

iv$add_rule("title", sv_required(message = "Title must be provided"))

This rule will cause a validation failure if the user does not provide a value for input$title.

The message argument is optional; if you omit it, the default message is simply “Required”. Keep in mind that validation error messages will be displayed next to the erroneous input, so it’s generally not strictly necessary for the error message to spell out which input it refers to.

You’ll almost always want sv_required() to come before other rules for an input, so that NULL/empty checking can be performed before any other rules.


The sv_optional() helper is used when an input is not required, but when it is present, it needs to be validated by subsequent rules. For example, if an email is not required:

iv$add_rule("email", sv_optional())
iv$add_rule("email", ~ if (!is_valid_email(.)) "Invalid email address")

If sv_optional() detects that the input is empty/missing, it causes remaining tests for that input to be skipped. In the example above, if the user provides a value for input$email, it will be checked against is_valid_email(); if not, then the input will be considered valid (even though it is empty).

Because sv_optional() only causes subsequent rules to be skipped, order matters; be sure to add sv_optional() before any other rules for the same input.

Other helpers

shinyvalidate includes numerous additional helper functions for common validation checks:

Rules as formulas

If your validation logic differs from the helper functions described above, you can use a formula to implement custom rules.

iv$add_rule("email", ~ if (!is_valid_email(.)) "Not a valid email")

Validation formulas should test the . variable, and return either NULL if the value is acceptable, or else a single-element character vector describing why the value is problematic.

(If you’re wondering why the formula in this example doesn’t end with else NULL, note that in R, if expressions automatically return invisible(NULL) when false and no else is present.)

Rules as functions

Finally, you can provide validation logic as a function.

iv$add_rule("count", function(value) {
  if (value < 0) {
    "Negative values are not allowed"

Functions receive the value to test as an argument (named value by convention), and should return NULL if that value is valid, and a single-element character vector with a descriptive message if the value is invalid.

Note that you can use named functions, not just anonymous ones; and that if the function takes additional arguments, these can be provided by passing ... arguments to iv$add_rule(), similar to how lapply works. This example demonstrates both:

not_greater_than <- function(value, limit, message = "Value is too high") {
  if (value > limit) message

iv$add_rule("samples", not_greater_than, limit = nrow(df),
  message = "Sample count cannot exceed number of rows"

(TODO: make examples reproducible)

Displaying real-time feedback

Once you’ve created an InputValidator object and populated it with rules, shinyvalidate has the information it needs to check input values and report any problems it detects.

However, it doesn’t do so by default. Instead, you must call iv$enable() at least once to get validation errors to appear. Once iv$enable() has been called, though, validation messages will appear, update, and disappear reactively; there’s no need to call enable() as input values change.

The reason for this design is because many forms have an explicit “Submit” or “Continue” button, and in those cases, you may want to suppress the display of validation errors until the user actually attempts to submit the form. This is considered a better user experience than overwhelming the user with error messages before they’ve even started filling out the form.

To defer validation until “Submit” or “Continue” time, simply call iv$enable() from within whatever observeEvent or eventReactive is triggered by the submit/continue button. You can see this in the 02_deferred example [source, live demo].

If, on the other hand, your app doesn’t have a notion of “Submit” or “Continue”, then just go ahead and call iv$enable() as soon as your InputValidator object is populated with rules.

Guarding calculations and actions

Besides displaying errors to the user, InputValidator can also help your observers and reactive expressions ensure they are only operating on complete and valid input (as defined by the rules you defined on the InputValidator object).

Currently, InputValidator exposes a single, simple is_valid() method that returns TRUE or FALSE. You can either use it in a simple conditional:

observeEvent(input$continue, {
  if (iv$is_valid()) {
    # use inputs...
  } else {
      "Please fix the errors in the form before continuing",
      type = "warning"

Or, if you don’t want to do anything besides silently abort the calculation/action/output, you can use req(iv$is_valid()):

df <- reactive({
  # use inputs...