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A plugin to make Backbone.js keep track of nested attributes.
JavaScript HTML
Latest commit 9078583 @afeld bump to 2.0.4

Backbone-Nested Build Status

A plugin to make Backbone.js keep track of nested attributes. Download the latest version and see the changelog/history/release notes on the Releases page. Supports Backbone 0.9.x and 1.x.

The Need

Suppose you have a Backbone Model with nested attributes, perhaps to remain consistent with your document-oriented database. Updating the nested attribute won't cause the model's "change" event to fire, which is confusing.

var user = new Backbone.Model({
  name: {
    first: 'Aidan',
    last: 'Feldman'

user.bind('change', function(){
  // this is never reached!

user.get('name').first = 'Bob';;

Wouldn't it be awesome if you could do this?

user.bind('change:name.first', function(){ ... });




  1. Install the latest version:

    bower install backbone backbone-nested-model jquery underscore --save
  2. Add backbone-nested.js to your HTML <head>:

    <!-- must loaded in this order -->
    <script type="text/javascript" src="/bower_components/jquery/jquery.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="/bower_components/underscore/underscore.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="/bower_components/backbone/backbone.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="/bower_components/backbone-nested-model/backbone-nested.js"></script>


Download the latest release and the dependencies listed above, then include with script tags in your HTML.


  1. Change your models to extend from Backbone.NestedModel, e.g.

    var Person = Backbone.Model.extend({ ... });
    // becomes
    var Person = Backbone.NestedModel.extend({ ... });
  2. Change your getters and setters to not access nested attributes directly, e.g.

    user.get('name').first = 'Bob';
    // becomes
    user.set({'name.first': 'Bob'});

Best of all, Backbone.NestedModel is designed to be a backwards-compatible, drop-in replacement of Backbone.Model, so the switch can be made painlessly.

Nested Attributes

get() and set() will work as before, but nested attributes should be accessed using the Backbone-Nested string syntax:


// dot syntax
  'name.first': 'Bob',
  'name.middle.initial': 'H'
user.get('name.first') // returns 'Bob'
user.get('name.middle.initial') // returns 'H'

// object syntax
  'name': {
    first: 'Barack',
    last: 'Obama'


// object syntax
  'addresses': [
    {city: 'Brooklyn', state: 'NY'},
    {city: 'Oak Park', state: 'IL'}
user.get('addresses[0].state') // returns 'NY'

// square bracket syntax
  'addresses[1].state': 'MI'



"change" events can be bound to nested attributes in the same way, and changing nested attributes will fire up the chain:

// all of these will fire when 'name.middle.initial' is set or changed
user.bind('change', function(model, newVal){ ... });
user.bind('change:name', function(model, newName){ ... });
user.bind('change:name.middle', function(model, newMiddleName){ ... });
user.bind('change:name.middle.initial', function(model, newInitial){ ... });

// all of these will fire when the first address is added or changed
user.bind('change', function(model, newVal){ ... });
user.bind('change:addresses', function(model, addrs){ ... });
user.bind('change:addresses[0]', function(model, newAddr){ ... });
user.bind('change:addresses[0].city', function(model, newCity){ ... });

"add" and "remove"

Additionally, nested arrays fire "add" and "remove" events:

user.bind('add:addresses', function(model, newAddr){ ... });
user.bind('remove:addresses', function(model, oldAddr){ ... });

Special Methods


Acts like set(), but appends the item to the nested array. For example:

user.get('addresses').length; //=> 2
user.add('addresses', {
  city: 'Seattle',
  state: 'WA'
user.get('addresses').length; //=> 3


Acts like unset(), but if the unset item is an element in a nested array, the array will be compacted. For example:

user.get('addresses').length; //=> 2
user.get('addresses').length; //=> 1

See also

Note, this plugin does not handle non-embedded relations (a.k.a. relations), which keeps it relatively simple. If you support for more complex relationships between models, see the Backbone plugin wiki page. There is also an open discussion about merging this project with backbone-deep-model.


Pull requests are more than welcome - please add tests, which can be run by opening test/index.html. They can also be run from the command-line (requires PhantomJS):

$ npm install
$ grunt

See also: live tests for latest release.

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