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I'm looking for a flexibly way to allow a user to input a a field, but also to have that field be a node node reference if the the node reference already exists. In other words, lets say I have a content type called dog, each dog has a node reference for favorite toy, if the toy exists, this field should be a node reference, otherwise the user should be allowed to fill it in. Conceptually I can think of two way to do this. One way, is just to make it a field, and then somehow link to another node if it exists. The other is to make it a node reference, and perhaps somehow auto - create the node when the user fills it in.

Recommendations? (using drupal 7)

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instead of node references you could use term references and then use the Autocomplete Deluxe module to have the user select existing terms or add new terms.

Actually, they there is support for references with Autocomplete Deluxe for References.

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    1: Term references wouldn't autocomplete from a list of users, and 2: Autocomplete Deluxe for References still doesn't allow you to enter text if the user doesn't exist, like the question requested. – BenjaminRH Jan 13 '12 at 18:08

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