unscriptable edited this page Sep 24, 2012 · 5 revisions

The js! plugin

The js! plugin may be used to load non-AMD javascript. Since non-modular scripts rely on predefined global variables to be available before they execute, this plugin assists in loading these scripts in order while still loading them as fast as possible in parallel and non-blocking.

(AMD modules do not need to be explicitly loaded in order. AMD module loaders, such as curl.js, do automatic dependency management, ensuring that modules are loaded in order.)


I wanted to name this plugin legacy! in stead of js!, but in respect of the several 2005-era javascript libraries out there, I refrained. If you're serious about AMD and/or javascript modules, then you should be using all modules, all of the time.

Actually, there is a very simple way to trick curl.js into thinking almost any javascript file is an AMD module. Simply place a call to define(); at the end of non-AMD file. That's it. It's typical, however, that a module return something to the requester. Consider placing the following code in your javascript file:

// ...
// up here be code to construct mylib.arrayGoodies
// ...

// at the bottom of the file, we test for AMD and if it's active,
// we define define mylib.arrayGoodies:
if (typeof define == 'function' && define.amd) {

You should seriously consider using this "trick" before using the js! plugin. If you are not in control of the non-AMD javascript files or have reasons to leave them unmodified, then keep reading. :)

js! plugin options

The js! plugin has two per-resource options:

  • !order - forces evaluation of several scripts in the order listed
  • !exports - ensures the js file loaded by testing for a globally available thing. This thing is returned to requesting modules.

!order option

Not all browsers have the facilities to order scripts. Therefore, the js! plugin has to use some of it's own tricks. The standard way to order scripts is via the async="false" attribute on the script element. The js! plugin will test for this feature and use it if it is supported.

If async="false" is not supported, the js! plugin inserts type="text/cache" instead. Almost all legacy browsers will still load this dummy script despite not knowing what a "text/cache" script is (dumb, but true, only Firefox 3.6 afaik won't load it).

As soon as the dummy script is loaded (but not executed since the browser doesn't know how to execute "text/cache" scripts!), the script element is deleted. Meanwhile, a queue manager watches for all of the dummy scripts and replaces them in order with a normal type="text/javascript" script element. At this point, the script file is in the browser's cache (it was loaded by the dummy script element) so the normal script element loads the script nearly instantaneously.

This is called "prefetching". Yes. It's trickery. But it's fast and it works.

Turning off prefetching

Unless it doesn't work. If you're astute (and I know you are since you're using and/or investigating AMD!), you no doubt noticed that this trick relies on something that is inherently unreliable: the browser's cache.

For most applications, the cache trickery will work great. However, some devs may not be in control of the server's http headers so they cannot assure they are configured correctly. Other devs could be concerned that the files may be too large to be cached in mobile browsers.

Luckily, there's an option for those devs. The js! plugin will look for a prefetch: false config option. If found, it will not use these tricks when encountering the !order option. Of course, this also means that the ordered scripts will no longer load in parallel in legacy browsers, so they will essentially behave the same as if they were static script elements in the HTML (slow!). You can't have your cake and eat it too (unless all your users are on modern browsers).

Exmaple usage of prefetch: false:

	plugins: {
		js: {
			prefetch: false

!exports option

The !exports option is used to make a plain old javascript file look more like a javascript module. If the plain old javascript file declares a global variable, you can name that global in the !exports option and it will be returned to any requesting modules.

The !exports option has a second useful feature. It can be used to ensure a js file loaded. Normally, IE6-8 and Opera (up to 12.1) don't execute an onerror handler when a script file fails to load. The !exports option helps ensure the loader can catch the error condition, anyways. If the !exports global doesn't exist, the loader throws an exception.



With the above option, the js! plugin will test that myapp.someObject.someProperty exists at the global scope. If it doesn't, it will assume the script did not load and proceed to call any error callbacks specified in any calls to curl().then().

Note: the !exports option must be the last option in the resource-id!


curl(['js!one.js!order!exports=$.one', 'js!two.js!order!exports=$.two'],
	function (one, two) {
		// one == $.one and two = $,two!


// !order is after !exports
curl(['js!one.js!exports=$.one!order', 'js!two.js!exports=$.two!order'],
	function (fail1, fail2) {
		// moar fail