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% -*- Mode: noweb; noweb-code-mode: javascript-mode ; noweb-doc-mode: latex-mode -*-
% Generate code and documentation with:
% noweave -filter l2h -delay -x -html backbonestore.nw | htmltoc > backbonestore.html
% notangle -Rstore.js backbonestore.nw > store.js
% notangle -Rindex.html backbonestore.nw > index.html
This is version 2.0 of \textbf{The Backbone Store}, a brief tutorial
on using [[backbone.js]].
\nwanchorto{}{Backbone.js} is
a popular Model-View-Controller (MVC) library that provides a
framework for creating data-rich, single-page web applications. It
provides (1) a two-layer scheme for separating data from presentation,
(2) a means of automatically synchronizing data with a server in a
RESTful manner, and (3) a mechanism for making some views bookmarkable
and navigable.
There are a number of other good tutorials for Backbone (See:
Mobile} (which is written in
\nwanchorto{}{Coffee}), and
and Django}. However, a couple of months ago I was attempting to
learn Sammy.js, a library very similar to Backbone, and they had a
nifty tutorial called
In the spirit of The JSON Store, I present The Backbone Store.
\subsection{Literate Program}
A note: this article was written with the
Programming} toolkit
\nwanchorto{}{Noweb}. Where you see
something that looks like \\<\\<this\\>\\>, it's a placeholder for code
described elsewhere in the document. Placeholders with an equal sign
at the end of them indicate the place where that code is defined. The
link (U->) indicates that the code you're seeing is used later in the
document, and (<-U) indicates it was used earlier but is being defined
This is version 2.0 of \textit{The Backbone Store}. It includes
changes to the store based upon a better understanding of what
Backbone.js can do. This version uses jQuery 1.6.2 and Backbone
\subsection{The Store}
To demonstrate the basics of Backbone, I'm going to create a simple
one-page application, a store for record albums, with two unique
views: a list of all products and a product detail view. I will also
put a shopping cart widget on the page that shows the user how many
products he or she has dropped into the cart. I'll use jQuery's
[[fadeIn()]] and [[fadeOut()]] features to transition between the
catalog and the product detail pages.
\subsection{Models, Collections, and Controllers}
Backbone's data layer provides two classes, [[Model]] and
[[Collection]]. To use the Model, you inherit from it, modify the
subclasss as needed, and then create new objects from the subclass by
constructing the model with a JSON object. You modify the object by
calling [[get()]] or [[set()]] on named attributes, rather than on the
Model object directly; this allows Model to notify other interested
objects that the object has been changed. And Model comes with
[[fetch()]] and [[save()]] methods that will automatically pull or
push a JSON representatino of the model to a server, if the Model has
[[url]] as one of its attributes.
Collections are just that: lists of objects of a specific model. You
extend the Collection class in a child class, and as you do you inform
the Collection of what Model it represents, what URL you use to
push/pull the full list of objects, and on what field the list should
be sorted by default. If you attempt to add a raw JSON object to a
collection, it constructs a corresponding Model object out of the JSON
and manipulates that.
I will be getting the data from a simplified JSON file that comes in
the download; it contains six record albums that the store sells.
(Unlike the JSON store, these albums do not exist; the covers were
generated during a round of
\nwanchorto{}{The Album Cover
Game}, a meme one popular with graphic designers.)
For our purposes, then, we have a [[Product]] and a
[[ProductCollection]]. A popular convention in Backbone is to use
concrete names for models, and Name\textbf{Collection} for the
Models are duck-typed by default; they do not care what you put into
them. So all I need to say is that a [[Product]] is-a [[Model]]. The
Collection is straightforward as well; I tell it what model it
represents, override the [[initialize()]] method (which is empty in
the Backbone default) to inform this Collection that it has a url, and
create the comparator function for default sorting.
<<product models>>=
var Product = Backbone.Model.extend({})
var ProductCollection = Backbone.Collection.extend({
model: Product,
initialize: function(models, options) {
this.url = options.url;
comparator: function(item) {
return item.get('title');
For the shopping cart, our cart will hold [[Item]]s, and the cart
itself will be an [[ItemCollection]]. Shoppings carts are a little
odd; the convention is that an [[Item]] is not a single instance of a
product, but a reference to the products and a quantity.
One thing we will be doing is changing the quantity, so I have
provided a convenience function for the Item that allows you to do
that. Now, no client classes such as Views need to know how the
quantity is updated.
Also, it would be nice to know the total price of the Item.
<<cart models>>=
var Item = Backbone.Model.extend({
update: function(amount) {
this.set({'quantity': amount}, {silent: true});
this.collection.trigger('change', this);
price: function() {
console.log(this.get('product').get('title'), this.get('quantity'));
return this.get('product').get('price') * this.get('quantity');
The [[ItemCollection]] is a little trickier. It is entirely
client-side; it has no synchronization with the backend at all. But
it does have a model.
The [[ItemCollection]] must be able to find an Item in the cart to
update when a view needs it. If the Item is not in the Collection, it
must create one. The method [[getOrCreateItemForProduct]] does this.
It uses the [[detect()]] method, a method [[Collection]] inherits from
Backbone's one dependency, Underscore.js; [[detect()]] returns the
first [[Item]] in the [[ItemCollection]] for which the function
returns [[true]]. Also, when I have to create a new Item, I want to
add it to the collection, and I pass the parameter [[silent]], which
prevents the Collection from notifying event subscribers that the
collection has changed. Since this is an Item with zero objects in
it, this is not a change to what the collection represents, and I
don't want Views to react without having to.
Finally, I add two methods that return the total count of objects in
the collection (not [[Items]], but actual [[Products]]), and the total
cost of those items in the cart. The Underscore method [[reduce()]]
does this by taking a function for adding progressive items, and a
starting value.
<<cart models>>=
var ItemCollection = Backbone.Collection.extend({
model: Item,
getOrCreateItemForProduct: function(product) {
var i,
pid = product.get('id'),
o = this.detect(function(obj) {
return (obj.get('product').get('id') == pid);
if (o) {
return o;
i = new Item({'product': product, 'quantity': 0})
this.add(i, {silent: true})
return i;
getTotalCount: function() {
return this.reduce(function(memo, obj) {
return obj.get('quantity') + memo; }, 0);
getTotalCost: function() {
return this.reduce(function(memo, obj) {
return obj.price() + memo; }, 0);
\subsection {Views}
Backbone Views are simple policy objects. They have a root DOM
element, the contents of which they manipulate and to which they
listen for events, and a model or collection they represent within
that element. Views are not rigid; it's just Javascript and the DOM,
and you can hook external events as needed.
More importantly, a View is sensitive to events \textit{within its
model or collection}, and can respond to changes automatically.
This way, if you have a rich data ecosystem, when changes to one data
item results in a cascade of changes throughout your datasets, the
views will receive ``change'' events and can update themselves
I will show how this works with the shopping cart widget.
To achieve the [[fadeIn/fadeOut]] animations and enforce consistency,
I'm going to do some basic object-oriented programming. I'm going to
create a base class that contains knowledge about the main area into
which all views are rendered, and that manages these transitions.
With this technique, you can do lots of navigation-related tricks: you
can highlight where the user is in breadcrumb-style navigation; you
can change the class and highlight an entry on a nav bar; you can add
and remove tabs from the top of the viewport as needed.
<<base view>>=
var _BaseView = Backbone.View.extend({
parent: $('#main'),
className: 'viewport',
The above says that I am creating a class called \texttt{BaseView} and
defining two fields. The first, 'parent', will be used by all child
views to identify into which DOM object the View's root element will
be rendered. The second defines a common class we will use for the
purpose of identifying these views to jQuery. Backbone automatically
creates a new [[DIV]] object with the class 'viewport' when a view
constructor is called. It will be our job to attach that [[DIV]] to
the DOM. In the HTML, you will see the [[DIV\#main]] object where most
of the work will be rendered.
<<base view>>=
initialize: function() {
this.el = $(this.el);
return this;
The method above ensures that the element is rendered, but not
visible, and contained within the [[DIV\#main]]. Note also that
the element is not a sacrosanct object; the Backbone.View is more a
collection of standards than a mechanism of enforcement, and so
defining it from a raw DOM object to a jQuery object will not break
Next, we will define the hide and show functions:
<<base view>>=
hide: function() {
if (":visible") === false) {
return null;
promise = $.Deferred(_.bind(function(dfd) {
this.el.fadeOut('fast', dfd.resolve)}, this));
return promise.promise();
show: function() {
if (':visible')) {
promise = $.Deferred(_.bind(function(dfd) {
this.el.fadeIn('fast', dfd.resolve) }, this))
return promise.promise();
\textbf{Deferred} is a new feature of jQuery. It is a different
mechanism for invoking callbacks by attaching attributes and behavior
to the callback function. By using this, we can say thing like
``\textit{When} everything is hidden (when every deferred returned
from \textbf{hide} has been resolved), \textit{then} show the
appropriate viewport.'' Deferreds are incredibly powerful, and this
is a small taste of what can be done with them.
Before we move on, let's take a look at the HTML we're going to use
for our one-page application:
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html xmlns="">
The Backbone Store
<link rel="stylesheet" href="jsonstore.css" type="text/css">
<<product list template>>
<<product detail template>>
<<cart template>>
<div id="container">
<div id="header">
The Backbone Store
<div class="cart-info">
<div id="main"> </div>
<script src="jquery-1.6.2.min.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="underscore.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="backbone.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="store.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
It's not much to look at, but already you can see where that
[[DIV\#main]] goes, as well as where we are putting our templates.
The [[DIV\#main]] will host a number of viewports, only one of
which will be visible at any given time.
Our first view is going to be the product list view, named, well,
guess. Or just look down a few lines.
This gives us a chance to discuss one of the big confusions new
Backbone users frequently have: \textit{What is \texttt{render()}
for?}. Render is not there to show or hide the view.
\texttt{Render()} is there to \textit{change the view when the
underlying data changes}. It renders the data into a view. In our
functionality, we use the parent class's \texttt{show()} and
\texttt{hide()} methods to actually show the view.
That call to [[\_super\_]] is a Backbone idiom for calling a method on
the parent object. It is, as far as anyone knows, the only way to
invoke a superclass method if it has been redefined in a subclass.
It is rather ugly, but useful.
<<product list view>>=
var ProductListView = _BaseView.extend({
id: 'productlistview',
template: $("#store_index_template").html(),
initialize: function(options) {
this.constructor.__super__.initialize.apply(this, [options])
this.collection.bind('reset', _.bind(this.render, this));
render: function() {
{'products': this.collection.toJSON()}))
return this;
That \texttt{\_.template()} method is provided by undescore.js, and is
a full-featured, javascript-based templating method. It's not the
fastest or the most feature-complete, but it is more than adequate for
our purposes and it means we don't have to import another library. It
vaguely resembles ERB from Rails, so if you are familiar with that,
you should understand this fairly easily.
And here is the HTML:
<<product list template>>=
<script id="store_index_template" type="text/x-underscore-tmplate">
<h1>Product Catalog</h1>
<% for(i=0,l=products.length;i<l;++i) { p = products[i]; %>
<li class="item">
<div class="item-image">
<a href="#item/<%= %>">
<img alt="<%= p.title %>" src="<%= p.image %>" />
<div class="item-artist"><%= p.artist %></div>
<div class="item-title"><%= p.title %></div>
<div class="item-price">$<%= p.price %></div>
<% } %>
One of the most complicated objects in our ecosystem is the product
view. It actually does something! The prefix ought to be familiar,
but note that we are again using [[\#main]] as our target; we will be
showing and hiding the various [[DIV]] objects in [[\#main]] again and
The only trickiness here is twofold: the (rather hideous) means by
which one calls the method of a parnt class from a child class via
Backbone's class heirarchy (this is most definitely \textbf{not}
Javascript standard), and keeping track of the itemcollection object,
so we can add and change items as needed.
<<product detail view>>=
var ProductView = _BaseView.extend({
id: 'productitemview',
template: $("#store_item_template").html(),
initialize: function(options) {
this.constructor.__super__.initialize.apply(this, [options])
this.itemcollection = options.itemcollection;
this.item = this.itemcollection.getOrCreateItemForProduct(this.model);
return this;
There are certain events in which we're interested: keypresses and
clicks on the update button and the quantity form. (Okay, ``UQ''
isn't the best for ``update quantity''. I admit that.) Note the
peculiar syntax of ``EVENT SELECTOR'': ``methodByName'' for each
Backbone tells us that the only events it can track by itself are
those that jQuery's ``delegate'' understands. As of 1.5, that seems
to be just about all of them.
<<product detail view>>=
events: {
"keypress .uqf" : "updateOnEnter",
"click .uq" : "update",
And now we will deal with the update. This code ought to be fairly
readable: the only specialness is that it's receiving an event, and
we're ``silencing'' the call to [[cart.add()]], which means that the
cart collection will not publish any events. There are only events
when the item has more than zero, and that gets called on
In the original tutorial, this code had a lot of responsibility for
managing the shopping cart, looking into it and seeing if it had an
item for this product, and there was lots of accessing the model to
get its id and so forth. All of that has been put into the shopping
cart model, which is where it belongs: \textit{knowledge about items
and each item's relationship to its collection belongs in the
Look closely at the [[update()]] method. The reference [[this.\$]] is
a special Backbone object that limits selectors to objects inside the
element of the view. Without it, jQuery would have found the first
input field of class 'uqf' in the DOM, not the one for this specific
view. [[this.\$('.uqf')]] is shorthand for [[$('uqf', this.el)]], and
helps clarify what it is you're looking for.
<<product detail view>>=
update: function(e) {
updateOnEnter: function(e) {
if (e.keyCode == 13) {
return this.update(e);
The render is straightforward:
<<product detail view>>=
render: function() {
this.el.html(_.template(this.template, this.model.toJSON()));
return this;
The product detail template is fairly straightforward. There is no
[[underscore]] magic because there are no loops.
<<product detail template>>=
<script id="store_item_template" type="text/x-underscore-template">
<div class="item-detail">
<div class="item-image">
<img alt="<%= title %>" src="<%= large_image %>" />
<div class="item-info">
<div class="item-artist"><%= artist %></div>
<div class="item-title"><%= title %></div>
<div class="item-price">$<%= price %></div>
<form action="#/cart" method="post">
<input class="uqf" name="quantity" size="2" type="text" value="1" />
<input class="uq" type="submit" value="Add to Cart" />
<div class="item-link">
<a href="<%= url %>">Buy this item on Amazon</a>
<div class="back-link">
<a href="#">&laquo; Back to Items</a>
So, let's talk about that shopping cart thing. We've been making the
point that when it changes, when you call [[item.update]] within the
product detail view, any corresponding subscribing views sholud
automatically update.
<<cart widget>>=
var CartWidget = Backbone.View.extend({
el: $('.cart-info'),
template: $('#store_cart_template').html(),
initialize: function() {
this.collection.bind('change', _.bind(this.render, this));
And there is the major magic. CartWidget will be initialized with the
ItemCollection; when there is any change in the collection, the widget
will receive the 'change' event, which will automatically trigger the
call to the widget's [[render()]] method.
The render method will refill that widget's HTML with a re-rendered
template with the new count and cost, and then wiggle it a little to
show that it did changed:
<<cart widget>>=
render: function() {
_.template(this.template, {
'count': this.collection.getTotalCount(),
'cost': this.collection.getTotalCost()
})).animate({paddingTop: '30px'})
.animate({paddingTop: '10px'});
And the HTML for the template is dead simple:
<<cart template>>=
<script id="store_cart_template" type="text/x-underscore-template">
<p>Items: <%= count %> ($<%= cost %>)</p>
Lastly, there is the [[Router]]. In Backbone, the Router is a
specialized View for invoking other views. It listens for one
specific event: when the [[window.location.hash]] object, the part of
the URL after the hash symbol, changes. When the hash changes, the
Router invokes an event handler. The Router, since its purpose is to
control the major components of the one-page display, is also a good
place to keep all the major components of the sytem. We'll keep track
of the [[Views]], the [[ProductCollection]], and the
var BackboneStore = Backbone.Router.extend({
views: {},
products: null,
cart: null,
There are two events we care about: view the list, and view a detail.
They are routed like this:
routes: {
"": "index",
"item/:id": "product",
Like most Backbone objects, the Router has an initialization feature.
I create a new, empty shopping cart and corresponding cart widget,
which doesn't render because it's empty. I then create a new
[[ProductCollection]] and and corresponding [[ProductListView]].
These are all processes that happen immediately.
What does not happen immediately is the [[fetch()]] of data from the
back-end server. For that, I use the jQuery deferred again, because
[[fetch()]] ultimately returns the results of [[sync()]], which
returns the result of an [[ajax()]] call, which is a deferred.
initialize: function(data) {
this.cart = new ItemCollection();
new CartWidget({collection: this.cart});
this.products = new ProductCollection([], {
url: 'data/items.json'});
this.views = {
'_index': new ProductListView({
collection: this.products
$.when(this.products.fetch({reset: true}))
.then(function() { window.location.hash = ''; });
return this;
There are two things to route \textit{to}, but we must also route
\textit{from}. Remember that our two major views, the product list
and the product detail, inherited from [[\_BaseView]], which has the
[[hide()]] and [[show()]] methods. We want to hide all the views,
then show the one invoked. First, let's hide every view we know
about. [[hide()]] returns either a deferred (if the object is being
hidden) or null. The [[]] call at the end means that this
method returns only an array of deferreds.
hideAllViews: function () {
return, function(v) { return v.hide(); }),
function (t) { return t != null });
Showing the product list view is basically hiding everything, then
showing the index:
index: function() {
var view = this.views['_index'];
function() { return; });
On the other hand, showing the product detail page is a bit trickier.
In order to avoid re-rendering all the time, I am going to create a
view for every product in which the user shows interest, and keep it
around, showing it a second time if the user wants to see it a second
Not that we pass it the [[ItemCollection]] instance. It uses this to
create a new item, which (if you recall from our discussion of
[[getOrCreateItemForProduct()]]) is automagically put into the
collection as needed. Which means all we need to do is update this
item and the item collection \textit{changes}, which in turn causes
the [[CartWidget]] to update automagically as well.
product: function(id) {
var product, v, view;
product = this.products.detect(function(p) { return p.get('id') == (id); })
view = ((v = this.views)['item.' + id]) || (v['item.' + id] = (
new ProductView({model: product,
itemcollection: this.cart}).render()));
function() {; });
Finally, we need to start the program
$(document).ready(function() {
new BackboneStore();
\section{The Program}
Here's the entirety of the program:
(function() {
<<product models>>
<<cart models>>
<<base view>>
<<product list view>>
<<product detail view>>
<<cart widget>>
And that's it. Put it all together, and you've got yourself a working
Backbone Store.
This code is available at my github at
Backbone Store}.
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