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How to Sort a List by Proximity of Location in Sencha Touch

2 min read

Originally published June 11, 2014

We can use GPS and other Geolocation methods to create cool location based functionality in our mobile applications. One thing you will probably have seen a lot of are apps that have 'Near You' lists these might be things like shops, people, events and so on that are sorted by how close the user is to the point of interest.

On the surface, this seems like something that would be pretty complex but thanks to mathematicians of the past and other smart people who have already come up with formulas for calculating these things it's not too difficult to implement in a Sencha Touch application.

How do we sort a Sencha Touch list normally?

Let's take a step back first and cover how to sort a list in Sencha Touch by something a lot simpler, let's say alphabetical order.

In Sencha Touch a list pulls in its data from a Store, and we can control where items are displayed in a list by sorting the store. If we have a store called 'Robots' and we wanted to sort the robots alphabetically by their name we would do something like this:

var robotStore = Ext.getStore('Robots');
robotStore.sort('name', 'ASC');

and if we wanted reverse alphabetical order:

robotStore.sort('name', 'DESC');

Let's throw latitude and longitude into the mix

Sorting by distance based on comparing the latitude and longitude of the users current location and that of points around them is a little more difficult. We can't sort by latitude and longitude by themselves, but we can use them to calculate the distance between two points and then sort by that.

We'll start by grabbing the users current location using the following code:

var options = { enableHighAccuracy: true };

You will notice this code contains two callback functions 'onSuccess' and 'onError' which go to a utility file called 'Geolocation'. If you don't already have a util folder, create one at MyApp/app/util and then create a file called 'Geolocation.js' in that folder. We're creating this utility file to help us out with some of the geolocation functions.

Once you've created that file, place the following code inside:

Ext.define('MyApp.util.Geolocation', {
  singleton: true,

  onSuccess: function (position) {
    var store = Ext.getStore('SomeStore');
      callback: function (records, operation, success) {
        store.each(function (location) {
          var lat2 = parseFloat(location.get('lat')) || 0;
          var lon2 = parseFloat(location.get('lng')) || 0;
          if (lat2 && lon2) {
            var distance = playgrounds.util.Geolocation.getDistance(
            location.set('distance', distance);
        }, this);
        store.sort('distance', 'ASC');

  getDistance: function (lat1, lon1, lat2, lon2) {
    var R = 6371;
    var dLat = this.deg2rad(lat2 - lat1);
    var dLon = this.deg2rad(lon2 - lon1);
    var lat1 = this.deg2rad(lat1);
    var lat2 = this.deg2rad(lat2);

    var a =
      Math.sin(dLat / 2) * Math.sin(dLat / 2) +
      Math.sin(dLon / 2) * Math.sin(dLon / 2) * Math.cos(lat1) * Math.cos(lat2);
    var c = 2 * Math.atan2(Math.sqrt(a), Math.sqrt(1 - a));
    var d = R * c;
    return d;

  onError: function (error) {
    Ext.Msg.alert('Failure', 'Problem getting location');

  deg2rad: function (deg) {
    return deg * (Math.PI / 180);

When the 'onSuccess' function is triggered it is passes in the users current location. What we are doing is then going through each of the records in our store and then deriving the distance between that point and the users current location by making some calculations from both points latitude and longitude.

Once we have this distance calculated, we set it as a new field on that record. Now we have a numeric field which is going to be much easier to sort from low to high. We do this by calling sort on the store:

store.sort('distance', 'ASC');

You should now have a list that has items that are geographically closest to the user displayed first. Since we've only use the 'getCurrentPosition' function the list will not continually update if the user moves. Depending on your use case this may or may not be ideal. If necessary you could provide an 'update location' button that would trigger it again, or you could use the 'watchPosition' function which periodically provides location updates.

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