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A manager for templates & layouts in Backbone.js

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readme.md

backbone.layoutmanager v0.5.1

Created by Tim Branyen @tbranyen with contributions

Provides a logical structure for assembling layouts with Backbone Views. Designed to be adaptive and configurable for painless integration.

Depends on Underscore, Backbone and jQuery. You can swap out the jQuery dependency completely with a custom configuration.

Tutorials, Screencasts, & Examples

Download & Include

Development is fully commented source, Production is minified and stripped of all comments except for license/credits.

Include in your application after jQuery, Underscore, and Backbone have been included.

<script src="/js/jquery.js"></script>
<script src="/js/underscore.js"></script>
<script src="/js/backbone.js"></script>

<script src="/js/backbone.layoutmanager.js"></script>

Usage

This example renders a View into a template which is injected into a layout.

Defining the layout and template

These example templates are defined using a common pattern which leverages how browsers ignore <script></script> contents when using a custom type attribute.

Note: This is how LayoutManager expects templates to be defined by default (using script tags).

Main Layout

<script id="main-layout" type="layout">
  <section class="content"></section>

  <!-- Login template below will be injected here -->
  <aside class="secondary"></aside>
</script>

Login Template

<script id="login-template" type="template">
  <form class="login">
    <p><label for="user">Username</label><input type="text" name="user"></p>
    <p><label for="pass">Password</label><input type="text" name="pass"></p>
    <p><input class="loginBtn" type="submit" value="Login"></p>
  </form>
</script>

Structuring a View

Each View can associate a template via the template property. This name by default is a jQuery selector, but if you have a custom configuration this could potentially be a filename or JST function name.

Note: If you do not specify a template LayoutManager will assume the View's render method knows what it's doing and won't attempt to fetch/render anything for you.

var LoginView = Backbone.View.extend({
  template: "#login-template",

  // The render function will be called internally by LayoutManager.
  render: function(manage) {
    // Have LayoutManager manage this View and call render.
    return manage(this).render();
  }
});

If you are using the default render method above, you can simply omit it and LayoutManager will add it for you.

var LoginView = Backbone.View.extend({
  template: "#login-template"
});

Create and render a layout

Each LayoutManager can associate a template via the template property. This name by default is a jQuery selector, but if you have a custom configuration this could potentially be a filename or JST function name.

Note: Nesting LayoutManagers is not supported. If you want sub layouts, simply read on about nesting Views.

This code typically resides in a route callback.

var main = new Backbone.LayoutManager({
  template: "#main-layout",

  // In the secondary column, put a new Login View.
  views: {
    ".secondary": new LoginView()
  }
});

// Attach the Layout to the <body></body>.
$("body").html(main.el);

// Render the Layout.
main.render();

Adding a layout to the DOM

To add a layout into the page, simply inject it into a container at the time of creation. Do not call html more than once for a layout element, unless you detach it first. This is not recommended as it may cause a flicker during re-rendering. It's cleaner and more efficient to only create a layout when you need it and insert into the DOM at that time.

// Create the Layout.
var main = new Backbone.LayoutManager(...);

// Attach Layout to the DOM.
$(".some-selector").html(main.el);

// Optional: (Not recommeded) Detach first if you cache the layout
// main.$el.detach();

// Render the Layout.
main.render();

Views may also be alternatively defined outside the LayoutManager:

Using the setView function

Use the following function to change out views at a later time. Remember to call the View's render method after swapping out to have it displayed. The setView return value is the view, so chaining a render is super simple.

main.setView(".header", new HeaderView());
main.setView(".footer", new FooterView());

// Chain a render method
main.setView(".header", new HeaderView2()).render();

Note: setView and setViews methods are available on all views. This allows for nested Views, explained below.

Note: The first argument *selector can be omitted completely if you would like the nested View to exist directly on the element. This works well when your parent View is something like a UL and your nested View is an LI.*

Note: The third argument is optional, but when set to true it will automatically append the View into the container instead of replacing the content.

Using the setViews function

This is identical to how views are being assigned in the Layout example. It can be used in the following way:

var main = new Backbone.LayoutManager({
  template: "#some-layout"
});

// Set the views outside of the layout
main.setViews({
  ".partial": new PartialView()
});

Nested Views

You may have a situation where a View is defined that encapsulates other nested Views. In these cases you should use nested views inside your LayoutManager View assignments.

Check out this example to see how easy this is:

var main = new Backbone.LayoutManager({
  template: "#some-layout",

  views: {
    ".partial": new PartialView({
      views: {
        ".inner": new InnerView()
      }
    })
  }
});

Note: You can nest Views infinitely.

Re-rendering Views

Instead of re-rendering the entire layout after data in a single View changes, you can simply call render() on the View and it will automatically update the DOM. You cannot bind to the initial render reference, like so:

Assume that you have a model that when changed, causes a redraw.

var MyView = Backbone.View.extend({
  initialize: function() {
    this.model.on("change", this.render, this);
  }
});

You must use this syntax instead:

var MyView = Backbone.View.extend({
  initialize: function() {
    this.model.on("change", function() {
      this.render();
    }, this);
  }
});

Note: The reason for this, is that LayoutManager will automatically wrap your render function internally and provide you with a much more convenient function to re-render.

Rendering repeating views

There are many times in which you will end up with a list of nested views that result from either iterating a Backbone.Collection or Array and will need to dynamically add these nested views into a main view.

LayoutManager solves this by exposing a method to change the insert mode from replacing the innerHTML to appendChild instead. Whenever you use the insertView method you will put the nested view into this special mode.

Sub views are always inserted in order, regardless if the fetch method has been overwritten to be asynchronous.

An example will illustrate the pattern easier:

Item Template

This item template doesn't need to do much since it will be automatically wrapped in an <li></li> by the View.

<script id="#item" type="template">
  <%= name %>
</script>

Item View

// You may find it easier to have Backbone render the LI/TD/etc element
// instead of including this in your template.  This is purely convention
// use what works for you.
var ItemView = Backbone.View.extend({
  template: "#item",

  // In this case we'll say the item is an <LI>
  tagName: "li"
});

List View

The list View simply needs to provide an outlet for the above <li> to be appended into.

// You will need to override the `render` function with custom functionality.  
var ListView = Backbone.View.extend({
  tagName: "ul"

  render: function(manage) {
    // Iterate over the passed collection and create a view for each item.
    this.collection.each(function(model) {
      // Pass the sample data to the new SomeItem View.
      this.insertView(new ItemView({
        serialize: { name: "Just testing!" }
      }));
    }, this);

    // You still must return this view to render, works identical to
    // existing functionality.
    return manage(this).render();
  }
});

How does this not duplicate Views?

Internally LayoutManager will remove all View's marked as in append mode. This is any View contained in an array via setView or insertView. This allows View's like ListView above to work without duplicating list items.

If you wanted to keep a View from being removed pre-render, for instance, keeping a history of items in the DOM or you're just adding new stuff every render you will need to flag the View to be retained.

var ItemView = Backbone.View.extend({
  template: "#item",

  // In this case we'll say the item is an <LI>
  tagName: "li",

  // This will keep the View from being automatically removed by LayoutManager.
  keep: true
});

insertView function

The insertView function as seen above is simply a shortcut to the setView function, but automatically adds true to the append argument.

If you decide to add the selector partial to insertView, LayoutManager will insert into the specified element.

For instance if you had a <UL> in your View and you wanted to insert into that:

var ListView = Backbone.View.extend({
  render: function(manage) {
    // Append a new ItemView into the nested <UL>
    this.insertView("ul", new ItemView());

    return manage(this).render();
  }
});

If your View is a <UL> then you can simply do the following:

var ListView = Backbone.View.extend({
  // Ensure this View is a UL and not a DIV
  tagName: "ul",

  render: function(manage) {
    // Append a new ItemView to the View.el
    this.insertView(new ItemView());

    return manage(this).render();
  }
});

If you wish to change append to prepend you can easily change how the View is inserted by setting a new append function.

var ListView = Backbone.View.extend({
  render: function(manage) {
    // Append a new ItemView into the nested <UL>.
    this.insertView("ul", new ItemView({
      // Prepend the element instead of append.
      append: function(root, child) {
        $(root).prepend(child);
      }
    }));

    return manage(this).render();
  }
});

Note insertView can be used outside of render and is especially useful for when you have an add event off a Collection.

insertViews function

The insertViews function is identical to insertView except that you can bulk append like with setViews. You can one or more items by using an array.

var ListView = Backbone.View.extend({
  render: function(manage) {
    // Append a new ItemView into the nested <UL>.
    this.insertViews({
      // Append a single item.
      "div": new ItemView(),

      // Append multiple items.
      "ul": [new ItemView(), new ItemView()]
    });

    return manage(this).render();
  }
});

getView function

The getView function allows you to find a specific View by some filter function.

// Find an remove a View if it has the exact Model.
main.getView(function(view) {
  return view.model === someModel;
}).remove();

getViews function

This function works very similar to the getView function, except that it will always return an Array of matching View's. If you omit the filter function, it will return all subViews flattened.

// Find all sub views flattened in an Array.
main.getViews()

// Find all sub views that have a model.
main.getViews(function(view) {
  return view.model;
});

removeView function

The removeView function is available on all View's and should be called in place of remove when applicable. It's mainly used internally, but if you find that you need to scrub and remove a View and all its subView's you can use this.

// Will remove the View and all subViews.
main.removeView();

// Will remove only append-mode (lists) items.
main.removeView(true);

Working with template data

Template engines bind data to a template. The term context refers to the data object passed.

LayoutManager will look for a serialize method or object automatically:

var LoginView = Backbone.View.extend({
  template: "#login-template",

  // Provide data to the template
  serialize: function() {
    return this.model.toJSON();
  }
});

You can also pass the context object inside the render method:

var LoginView = Backbone.View.extend({
  template: "#login-template",

  render: function(manage) {
    // Have LayoutManager manage this View and call render with data you
    // provide.
    return manage(this).render(this.model.toJSON());
  }
});

Advanced View Concepts

Once you've mastered the above features, you will want to learn more about how these methods actually work and how to integrate 3rd party plugins like jQuery into your Views.

Render function

The render function is overwritten on every LayoutManager and Backbone.View instance. The overwritten render saves a reference to the custom function you provide and will call this internally whenever you invoke view.render().

var MyView = Backbone.View.extend({
  // This function gets wrapped by LayoutManager internally so you don't have
  // to pass any arguments to re-render.
  render: function(manage) {
    return manage(this).render();
  }
});

Every render function accepts an optional callback function that will return the View element once it has rendered itself and all of its children. The render function returns a promise object that can be chained off of as well.

// Using the callback method
new MyView().render(function(el) {
  // Use the DOMNode el here
});

// Using the promise resolve method
new MyView().render().then(function(el) {
  // Use the DOMNode el here
});

Cleanup function

Every Backbone.View managed by LayoutManager can provide a custom cleanup function that will run whenever the View is overwritten or removed.

var MyView = Backbone.View.extend({
  // This is a custom cleanup method that will remove the model reset event
  cleanup: function() {
    this.model.unbind("change");
  },

  initialize: function() {
    this.model.on("change", function() {
      this.render();
    }, this);
  }
});

Note: Be careful with unbinding, you don't want to inadvertently remove events from this model in other parts of your code. These are shared objects.

Using jQuery Plugins

Attaching jQuery plugins should happen inside the render methods. You can attach at either the Layout render or the View render. To attach in the layout render:

$(".container").html(main.el);

main.render(function() {
  // Elements are guarenteed to be in the DOM
  this.$(".some-element").somePlugin();
});

To attach in the View render, you will need to override the render method like so:

render: function(manage) {
  return manage(this).render().then(function() {
    this.$(".some-element").somePlugin();
  });
}

This is a very cool example of the power in using deferreds. =)

Configuration

Overriding LayoutManager options has been designed to work just like Backbone.sync. You can override at a global level using LayoutManager.configure or you can specify when instantiating a LayoutManager instance.

Global level

Lets say you wanted to use Handlebars for templating in all your Views.

Backbone.LayoutManager.configure({
  // Override render to use Handlebars
  render: function(template, context) {
    return Handlebars.compile(template)(context);
  }
});

Instance level

In this specific layout, define custom prefixed paths for template paths.

var main = new Backbone.LayoutManager({
  template: "#main",

  // Custom paths for this layout
  paths: {
    template: "/assets/templates/"
  }
});

Defaults

  • Paths: An empty object. Two valid property names: template and layout.
paths: {}
  • Deferred: Uses jQuery deferreds for internal operation, this may be overridden to use a different Promises/A compliant deferred.
deferred: function() {
  return $.Deferred();
}
  • Fetch: Uses jQuery to find a selector and returns its innerHTML content as a string or template function (either works).
fetch: function(path) {
  return _.template($(path).html());
}
  • Partial: Uses jQuery to find the View's location and inserts the rendered element there. The append property determines if the View should append, defaults to replace via innerHTML.
partial: function(root, name, el, append) {
  // If no selector is specified, assume the parent should be added to.
  var $root = name ? $(root).find(name) : $(root);

  // If no root found, return false
  if (!$root.length) {
    return false;
  }

  // Use the append method if append argument is true.
  this[append ? "append" : "html"]($root, el);

  // If successfully added, return true
  return true;
}
  • HTML: Override this with a custom HTML method, passed a root element and an element to replace the innerHTML with.
html: function(root, el) {
  $(root).html(el);
}
  • Append: Very similar to HTML except this one will appendChild.
append: function(root, el) {
  $(root).append(el);
}
  • Detach: Remove an element from the DOM, but maintain events.
detach: function(el) {
  $(el).detach();
}
  • When: This function will trigger callbacks based on the success/failure of one or more deferred objects.
when: function(promises) {
  return $.when.apply(null, promises);
}
  • Render: Renders a template with the Function or String provided as the template variable.
render: function(template, context) {
  return template(context);
}

Asynchronous & Synchronous fetching

The fetch method is overridden to get the contents of layouts and templates. If you can instantly get the contents (DOM/JST) you can return the contents inside the function.

Backbone.LayoutManager.configure({
  fetch: function(name) {
    return $("script#" + name).html();
  }
});

If you need to fetch the contents asynchronously, you will need to put the method into "asynchronous mode". To do this, assign this.async() to a variable and call that variable with the contents when you are done.

Backbone.LayoutManager.configure({
  fetch: function(name) {
    var done = this.async();

    $.get(name, function(contents) {
      done(contents);
    });
  }
});

Sample Configurations

You may need to combine a mix of Engines and Transports to integrate.

Engines (Mustache, Handlebars, etc.)

Custom templating engines can be used by overriding render.

Underscore

No configuration necessary for this engine.

Mustache

Backbone.LayoutManager.configure({
  render: function(template, context) {
    return Mustache.to_html(template, context);
  }
});

Handlebars

Backbone.LayoutManager.configure({
  fetch: function (path){
    return Handlebars.compile($(path).html());
  },
  render: function(template, context) {
    return template(context);
  }
});

Transports (DOM, AJAX, etc.)

You can swap out how templates are loaded by overriding fetch.

DOM

No configuration necessary for this transport.

AJAX

Backbone.LayoutManager.configure({
  fetch: function(path) {
    var done = this.async();

    $.get(path, function(contents) {
      done(contents);
    });
  }
});

Using an Engine and Transport Override for JST

Whatever you decide to return as a template in fetch, can be used in the render method.

Backbone.LayoutManager.configure({
  fetch: function(name) {
    return window.JST[name];
  },

  render: function(template, context) {
    return template(context);
  }
});

Release notes

0.5.1

  • Patched massive memory leak and missing remove on setView
  • Fixed bug with Named Function Expression breaking IE compatibility when minified
  • Added keep: true to View's to stop them from being removed pre-render

Full Release Log

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