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Tiny templating language written in Scala.

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README.md

Tipi: Tiny Templating Engine

Copyright 2012 Dave Gurnell of Untyped and Chris Ross of hiddenMemory.

Tipi is a tiny templating engine written in Scala. It lets you define templates to avoid needless repetition and redundancy in any type of text file. Its primary intended use is the static generation of HTML pages.

Tipi is currently in early alpha. Everything may be subject to change.

Overview

Tipi's syntax is based on Mustache. However, its engine is a little more powerful.

Mustache requires you to invoke your templates from a programming language such as Javascript. All your template data has to be defined in code - you can't blend data and templates.

Tipi allows you to do everything you can do with Mustache, but it can also be used independently of the host programming language. You can define templates, define data, and invoke the templates with the data, all from within a single Tipi file.

Here's an example:

{{# def cat name knownFor }}
  <li>{{ name }}, best known for {{ knownFor }}</li>
{{/ def }]

<p>Notable Internet felines:</p>

<ul>
{{ cat name="Long Cat"     knownFor="being long" }}
{{ cat name="Keyboard Cat" knownFor="playing a fine tune" }}
{{ cat name="Nyan Cat"     knownFor="singing, being half Pop Tart" }}
{{ cat name="Nonono Cat"   knownFor="negativity" }}
</ul>

This file uses a special tag, def, to define a template called cat. it then invokes cat four times to produce the bullet points in the list. The output is as follows:

<p>Notable Internet felines:</p>

<ul>
  <li>Long Cat, best known for being long</li>
  <li>Keyboard Cat, best known for playing a fine tune</li>
  <li>Nyan Cat, best known for singing, being half Pop Tart</li>
  <li>Nonono Cat, best known for negativity</li>
</ul>

The def tag itself doesn't produce any output. However, when Tipi processes it, it stores the cat away for later use. This causes the cat tags later on to produce the correct templated output.

Programmers will recognise these semantics straight away. Tipi is actually a very simple programming language, supporting function definition and invocation (with static binding and lexical scoping semantics). The def tag is simply a predefined function that has a side-effect of registering a template for later use.

As a way of illustrating this, here is a Javascript fragment that is semantically equivalent to the above document:

function cat(name, knownFor) {
  return "<li>" + name + ", best known for " + knownFor + "</li>";
}

function main() {
  return
    "<ul>" +
    cat("Long Cat",     "being long") +
    cat("Keyboard Cat", "playing a fine tune") +
    cat("Nyan Cat",     "singing, being half Pop Tart") +
    cat("Nonono Cat",   "negativity") +
    "</ul>";
}

document.write(main());

Writing template files

Tags and arguments

Tipi syntax involves three types of tag:

  • {{# openingTags }} denote the beginning of a block of content - they must be paired with a closing tag
  • {{/ closingTags }} denote the end of a block - they must be paired with an opening tag
  • {{ singletonTags }} appear on their own - they are equivalent to an opening tag immediately followed by a corresponding closing tag

Opening and singleton tags optionally take a list of arguments. Closing tags may not take arguments. Here is an example:

{{# person "Dave" "http://untyped.com" }}
  {{# occupation }}Software Developer{{/ occupation }]
  {{# hobbies }}Music, running{{/ hobbies }}
{{/ person }}

Note that Tipi is case-insensitive - all of the following tags are identical:

{{ foo }}
{{ Foo }}
{{ FOO }}

Defining templates

By default, Tipi recognises only three built-in templates: def, bind, and this.

def is used to define other templates. You can define simple templates in argument style:

{{ def food="Lasagne" drink="Beer" }}

or more complex templates in block style:

{{# def person name="Dave" url="http://boxandarrow.com" }}
  {{ name }} has a web site at {{ url }}
{{/ def }}

The two forms are semantically similar. Think of them as function definitions in a regular programming language:

var food = function() {
  return "Lasagne"
}

var drink = function() {
  return "Water"
}

var person = function(name, url) {
  return name + " has a web site at " + url;
}

If you don't wish to provide a default value for the argument you can leave the value out. If the argument is not provided when the template is invoked, it will evaluate to an empty string.

{{# def oneLiner spoon }}
  There is no {{ spoon }}.
{{/ def }}

Invoking templates

Once you have defined a template using def, you can invoke it by writing its name as a tag:

{{ food }} // ==> "Lasagne"

{{ person name="Dave" url="boxandarrow.com" }} // ==> "Dave has a web site at boxandarrow.com"

Passing blocks using this

For more verbose invocations, you can pass a block of text as an argument using the this built-in:

{{# def center}}
  <p style="text-align: center">
    {{ this }}
  </p>
{{/ def }}

{{# center }}
  Lots of text...
{{/ center }}

Tags in the argument are expanded before it is passed to the template. This makes the semantics similar to regular programming languages. For example, the following templates and function calls are semantically similar:

{{#x}}{{y}}{{/x}}

x(y())

Passing named blocks using bind

You can pass multiple named blocks as argument using the bind built-in:

{{# def page sidebar article }}
  <p class="sidebar">{{ sidebar }}</p>
  <p class="article">{{ article }}</p>
{{/ def }}

{{# page }}
  {{# bind sidebar }}
    Long sidebar definition goes here ...
  {{/ bind }}
  {{# bind article }}
    Long article definition goes here ...
  {{/ bind }}
{{/ center }}

This is similar to named arguments in Scala function calls. Note that, unlike this, the arguments must be declared in the opening tag of the template.

As with this-style arguments, bind blocks are expanded before they are passed to the template. For example, the following templates and function call pseudo-code are semantically similar:

{{#x}}
  {{#bind a}}{{y}}{{/bind}}
  {{#bind b}}{{z}}{{/bind}}
{{/x}}

x(
  a = y(),
  z = b()
)

While it is possible to mix normal, this and bind arguments, we recommend you stick to one kind of argument for each template you write. Otherwise things can become confusing.

Static binding

Tipi is a statically bound, lexically scoped language. This means that when you use a variable name like foo, you are always referring to the most recently defined version of foo. For example, the following code (line numbers provided for clarity):

1 | {{ def x="x" }}
2 |
3 | {{# def foo y }}
4 |   x is '{{ x }}', y is '{{ y }}', z is '{{ z }}'
5 | {{/ def }}
6 |
7 | {{ def x="foo" y="bar" z="baz" }}
8 |
9 | {{ foo y="argument" }}

would evaluate to:

x is 'x', y is 'argument', z is ''

The definitions on line 7 do not affect the x, y and z on line 4 because they appear below the template in the file. x on line 4 takes the value defined on line 1, y is bound to the template argument, and z is bound to the empty string because it is undefined.

The net effect of this is that you can invoke a template from anywhere in your code, and you will only ever affect the values of the template arguments. Simple and easy to maintain.

Templates as template parameters

Tipi allows you to pass one template as an argument to another. For example, given the following definitions:

{{# def simpleListItem value }}
  <li>{{ value }}</li>
{{/ def }}

{{# def awesomeListItem value }}
  <li>{{ value }} is awesome!</li>
{{/ def }}

{{# def list item }}
  <ul>
    {{ item value="Chris" }}
    {{ item value="Dave" }}
    {{ item value="Tipi" }}
  </ul>
{{/ def }}

The following code:

{{ list item=simpleListItem }}

would evaluate to the rather bland:

<ul>
  <li>Chris</li>
  <li>Dave</li>
  <li>Tipi</li>
</ul>

while the following code:

{{ list item=simpleListItem }}

would evaluate to the infinitely more satisfying:

<ul>
  <li>Chris is awesome!</li>
  <li>Dave is awesome!</li>
  <li>Tipi is awesome!</li>
</ul>

Running Tipi from Scala

First, create a Tipi object:

import tipi.core.Tipi

val tipi = new Tipi()

There are optional arguments to specify alternatives to the regular syntax:

val tipi = new Tipi(
  simpleTagStart = "[:", // normally "{{"
  simpleTagEnd   = ":]", // normally "}}"
  blockStart     = "^",  // normally "#"
  blockEnd       = "v"   // normally "/"
)

You can also specify the global environment used in the expand phase of compilation (see below), allowing you to pre-load templates written in Scala:

val customEnv = // ...define your environment here...

val tipi = new Tipi(
  globalEnv = customEnv
)

Take a look at Env.scala and Transform.scala to see how to do this.

How it works

Parsing

Tipi parses these tags into a DOM tree, where each branch is a block and each leaf is a text node. For example, the document:

{{# person "Dave" "http://untyped.com" }}
  {{# occupation }}Software Developer{{/ occupation }]
  {{# hobbies }}Music, running{{/ hobbies }}
{{/ person }}

would be parsed as follows:

  • block "person" "Dave" "http://untyped.com"
    • block "occupation"
      • text "Software Developer"
    • block "hobbies"
      • text "Music, running"

Expansion

Once Tipi has parsed the document, it expands the DOM tree, invoking all the templates it can to produce the final document.

Expansion involves a pre-order walk of the tree within the context of an environment object. The environment stores any templates and template data that Tipi might need to process tags in the document:

  • Whenever Tipi encounters a text node, it echoes it straight to the output.

  • Whenever Tipi encounters a block node, it tries to find a template of the same name.

    If Tipi finds a matching template, it invokes it to expand the node, and then starts walking the resulting tree. If there isn't a matching template, Tipi leaves the block as-is and starts walking its children.

    In addition to expanding part of the tree, templates are also able to add new items to the environment. These new items are then available for Tipi to use when it is expanding later blocks in the tree.

Rendering

After expansion, Tipi renders the final DOM tree by removing any remaining tags and returning the remaining text content.

To do

Tipi is a work in progress:

  • Import Scala environments from Tipi code (idea for sbt-tipi). For example:

    {{ import class="com.untyped.HandyUtilities" }}
    
  • Prefix imported environments to allow basic namespacing (idea for sbt-tipi). For example:

    {{ import class="com.untyped.HandyUtilities" prefix="util:" }}
    

Licence

Copyright 2011-12 Dave Gurnell and hiddenMemory

All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  • Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this  list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
  • Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice,  this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation  and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
  • Neither the name of the Tipi software nor the names of its contributors may  be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without  specific prior written permission.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT OWNER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

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