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Note: This RFC replaces the closely related RFC for Module Normalization. As discussed in the Alternatives section below, many concepts are shared between the two proposals, but there is also a fundamental difference.

Summary

Create a unified pattern for organizing and naming modules in Ember projects that is deterministic, extensible, and ergonomic.

Motivation

Ember CLI's conventions for project layouts and file naming are central to every Ember developer's experience. It's crucial to get both the technical and ergonomic details right.

The existing conventions used by Ember CLI have evolved gradually and organically over the years. Ember CLI and its predecessor Ember App Kit were early adopters of ES modules and have always leveraged strong conventions to deduce an understanding of modules based on their locations. Ember CLI's resolver encodes those conventions to enable run-time module resolutions.

The current system works fairly well, but has some complexities and inconsistencies that both steepen its learning curve and limit its technical potential.

Drawbacks include:

  • Confusion over which of two orthogonal approaches to use for organizing modules:

    • classic - modules are organized at the top-level by "type" (components, templates, etc.) and then by namespace and name.

    • pods - modules are organized by namespace, then name, then type.

  • Addons define modules to be merged into an application through a special app directory. These public modules are typically private modules that are imported and re-exported, which introduces an extra module per export and an extra level of abstraction to learn.

  • Because addons' modules are mixed into an application, there's the possibility of naming collisions between two addons or an addon and its consuming application.

  • Modules don't have a clear sense of "locality", which prevents the ability to declare modules that are available only in a "local" namespace (this as-yet unsupported feature has been called "local lookup").

  • Resolution rules that are declared only in JavaScript are difficult to analyze and optimize.

  • Module resolution is inefficient due to the number of potential places to lookup a particular module by name.

Recognizing these drawbacks, the Core Team compiled a set of design constraints for a rethink of Ember's approach to modules:

  1. Reasonable branching factor. Users should see a reasonable number of items at any given level in their hierarchy. Flattening out too much results in an unreasonably large number of items.
  2. No slashes in component names. The existing system allows this, but we don't want to support invocation of nested components in Glimmer Components.
  3. Addons need to participate in the naming scheme, most likely with namespace prefix and double-colon separator.
  4. Subtrees should be relocatable. If you move a directory to a new place in the tree, its internal structure should all still work.
  5. There should be no cognitive overhead when adding a new thing. The right way should be obvious and not impose unnecessary decisions.
  6. We need clean separation between the namespace of the user's own components, helpers, routes, etc and the framework's own type names ("component", "helper", etc) so that we can disambiguate them and add future ones.
  7. Ideally we will have a place to put tests and styles alongside corresponding components.
  8. Local relative lookup for components and helpers needs to work.
  9. Avoid the "titlebar problem", in which many files are all named "component.js" and you can't tell them apart in your editor.
  10. The resolver should be configured via declarative rules, not imperative JavaScript. In addition to enforcing consistency, this allows addons to augment the system with their own types in a predictable way.
  11. Module structures must be statically analyzable at build time to enable efficiency optimizations.
  12. Module classifications must be extensible and allow for customizations by apps, engines, and addons.

Note: Constraints > 9 were added based on discussions subsequent to the initial meeting.

This proposal attempts to address these constraints with a single consistent approach to modules that will make Ember easier to use and learn and improve the efficiency of Ember's resolver at run-time.

Detailed Design

This proposal introduces a new top-level directory, src, and establishes conventions for organizing modules within it. Also proposed is a refactor of the Ember resolver to enable efficient and flexible resolutions based upon the new module conventions.

The src directory will be used to contain the core ES modules within an Ember CLI project, whether that project contains an application, addon, or engine. To maintain backward compatibility, the src directory will be allowed to co-exist alongside existing app and/or addon directories, although these directories should eventually be deprecated.

Examples

Let's start by taking a look at some examples of Ember projects organized according to the proposed conventions.

Example Application

A simple blogging application could be structured as follows:

src
├── data
│   ├── models
│   │   ├── comment
│   │   │   ├── adapter.js
│   │   │   ├── model.js
│   │   │   └── serializer.js
│   │   ├── post
│   │   │   ├── adapter.js
│   │   │   ├── model.js
│   │   │   └── serializer.js
│   │   └── author.js
│   └── transforms
│       └── date.js
├── init
│   ├── initializers
│   │   └── i18n.js
│   └── instance-initializers
│       └── auth.js
├── services
│   └── auth.js
├── ui
│   ├── components
│   │   ├── date-picker
│   │   │   ├── component.js
│   │   │   └── template.hbs
│   │   └── list-paginator
│   │       ├── paginator-control
│   │       │   ├── component.js
│   │       │   └── template.hbs
│   │       ├── component.js
│   │       └── template.js
│   ├── partials
│   │   └── footer.hbs
│   ├── routes
│   │   ├── application
│   │   │   └── template.hbs
│   │   ├── index
│   │   │   ├── controller.js
│   │   │   ├── route.js
│   │   │   └── template.hbs
│   │   └── posts
│   │       ├── -components
│   │       │   ├── -utils
│   │       │   │   └── strings.js
│   │       │   ├── capitalize.js
│   │       │   └── titleize.js
│   │       ├── post
│   │       │   ├── -components
│   │       │   │   └── post-viewer
│   │       │   │       ├── component.js
│   │       │   │       └── template.hbs
│   │       │   ├── edit
│   │       │   │   ├── -components
│   │       │   │   │   ├── post-editor
│   │       │   │   │   │   ├── post-editor-button
│   │       │   │   │   │   │   ├── component.js
│   │       │   │   │   │   │   └── template.hbs
│   │       │   │   │   │   ├── calculate-post-title.js
│   │       │   │   │   │   ├── component.js
│   │       │   │   │   │   └── template.hbs
│   │       │   │   │   ├── route.js
│   │       │   │   │   └── template.hbs
│   │       │   │   ├── route.js
│   │       │   │   └── template.hbs
│   │       │   ├── route.js
│   │       │   └── template.hbs
│   │       ├── route.js
│   │       └── template.hbs
│   ├── styles
│   │   └── app.scss
│   └── index.html
├── utils
│   └── md5.js
├── main.js
└── router.js

Example Engine

An engine could provide the same blogging functionality with almost entirely the same module structure as the example blog application. Only the following notable changes would be needed:

  • An engine should declare its routes in src/routes.js instead of src/router.js
  • An engine would require a dummy app within tests
  • An engine should export an Engine instead of an Application from src/main.js

Example Addon

Here's how the ember-power-select addon could be restructured:

src
├── styles
│   └── ember-power-select.scss
├── ui
│   └── components
│       ├── main
│       │   ├── before-options
│       │   │   ├── component.js
│       │   │   └── template.hbs
│       │   ├── options
│       │   │   ├── component.js
│       │   │   └── template.hbs
│       │   ├── trigger
│       │   │   ├── component.js
│       │   │   └── template.hbs
│       │   ├── component.js
│       │   └── template.hbs
│       ├── multiple
│       │   ├── trigger
│       │   │   ├── component.js
│       │   │   └── template.hbs
│       │   ├── component.js
│       │   └── template.hbs
│       └── is-selected.js
└── main.js

Migration Tool

As a proof of concept for the module layout described in this RFC, Robert Jackson has created a migration tool and used it to migrate the following repos:

You can also use Robert's migration tool on your own projects to gain a feel for how this RFC will affect your work.

ES Modules

It's important to understand how ES module paths are mapped from the file system so that you can import modules from elsewhere in your project and its associated dependencies.

ES module paths will be formed from a project's package name followed by a direct mapping of file paths from the project root. The file's final extension (e.g. js or hbs) will be excluded because all ES modules will of course be compiled into JavaScript from their original format.

For example, the file src/ui/components/date-picker.js in the my-calendar app will be exported with the module path my-calendar/src/ui/components/date-picker.

An application and its associated addons and engines will all be merged into the same ES module space, as is done today. Any module can import from any other module within this space, although cross-package imports should be done with care.

Module Naming and Organization

This section describes the conventions proposed for naming and organizing a project's modules within src. These conventions will allow Ember CLI's resolver to determine the purpose of each module at run-time. They will also enable static analysis of modules to lint against errors and to prepare a normalized map for efficient resolutions.

Every resolvable module must have both a name and a type. The type typically corresponds to the base class of the module's default export (e.g. route, template, etc.).

Modules can be grouped together with other modules of related types in "collections". Collections are directories with type-aware resolution rules which allow related modules to share a namespace. For example, the models collection contains models, adapters, and serializers.

Collections that are related to each other can be further organized in "group" directories. For example, the ui group contains the components, partials, and routes collections.

Ember CLI will have a build step that normalizes modules to a common form and builds a mapping between that form and the ES module path described above. While building this normalized map, the build must error and provide useful messages if any module naming errors are detected. Unregistered collections and types should not be allowed. Also, the same normalized module path must not be repeated through alternative naming forms.

Module Type

The type of a module can be determined through the following file naming and module export rules:

  1. src/${type} - typed modules named main (explained further below), in which default exports match the type specified by the file name.
  2. src/${collection}/${namespace}/${name}/${type} - expanded collection modules, in which default exports match the type specified by the file name.
  3. src/${collection}/${namespace}/${name} - in which type can be inferred based on the module's exports. Default exports must match the default type for the collection. If there is no default export, named exports will be scanned for a matching type allowed in the collection.

Note that template precompilers will need to use default vs. named exports appropriately in order to satisfy the expectations of Rules 2 and 3.

Here are a few example applications of the module type determination rules:

// Rule 1

src/router (with `export default Ember.Router.extend()`)
=> name: 'main',
   type: 'router'

// Rule 2

src/ui/routes/posts/post/route.js (with `export default Ember.Route.extend()`)
=> collection: 'ui/routes',
   namespace: 'posts',
   name: 'post',
   type: 'route'

src/ui/routes/posts/post/template (with `export default Ember.HTMLBars.template(COMPILED)`)
=> collection: 'ui/routes',
   namespace: 'posts',
   name: 'post',
   type: 'template'

// Rule 3

src/data/models/author (with `export default DS.Model.extend()`)
=> collection: 'data/models',
   name: 'author',
   type: 'model' (the default type for the models collection)

src/ui/components/titleize (with `export let helper = Ember.Helper.helper(function() { })`)
=> collection: 'ui/components',
   name: 'titleize',
   type: 'helper'

src/ui/components/show-title (with `export let template = Ember.HTMLBars.template(COMPILED)`)
=> collection: 'ui/components',
   name: 'show-title',
   type: 'template'

Main Modules

Every project must have a "main" module, named src/main.js, that serves as an entry point into the project.

The main module must export an Application, Engine, or (new) Addon class. This class must define a modulePrefix, which must match the node package name for the project.

The main module also declares other properties that help the Ember resolver understand relationships between projects. For instance, the main module can declare which modules in an addon are available to a consuming app's resolver.

The main module of an addon can also declare a rootName, which is used by the resolver to lookup main modules. Initially, the rootName will be a read-only property that equals the modulePrefix with any ember- and ember-cli- prefixes stripped (e.g. ember-power-select becomes power-select). It's possible that we may allow overrides / aliases in the future.

Modules that appear alongside main.js in src are also considered main modules for their respective type. For instance, src/router.js is registered with a name of main and a type of router.

Module Collections

Top-level namespaces within src serve to group modules into type-aware "collections".

The following rules apply to module collections and types:

  1. Each collection can contain one or more types. The types allowed in a particular collection MUST be explicitly declared.
  2. Each type MAY exist in any number of collections.
  3. Each type MUST have only one "definitive collection", which is the collection the resolver will use for resolutions if a module can't be found in the local (i.e. originating) collection.
  4. Each collection MAY have a single "default type". If a module does not indicate its type through its file name, then its default export should align with the default type for its collection.
  5. Each collection can allow "private collections" to be defined at a namespace. Private collections are localized additions to a top-level collection, available only from the namespace at which they're defined.
  6. Top-level collections may be grouped for organization purposes. No resolvable modules must be placed in a group directory.
  7. A collection can appear only once in a project (i.e. it can not be contained in multiple group directories, or in a group as well as at the top-level).

The following collections and allowed types (rules 1 & 2) are proposed:

  • components - COMPONENT, HELPER, template
  • initializers - INITIALIZER
  • instance-initializers - INSTANCE-INITIALIZER
  • models - MODEL, ADAPTER, SERIALIZER
  • partials - PARTIAL
  • routes - ROUTE, CONTROLLER, template
  • services - SERVICE
  • transforms - TRANSFORM
  • utils - UTIL

Note: ALL CAPS indicates which collections are definitive (rule 3) for a type.

The following default types are proposed for collections (rule 4):

  • components - component
  • initializer - initializer
  • instance-initializers - instance-initializer
  • models - model
  • partials - partial
  • routes - route
  • services - service
  • transforms - transform
  • utils - util

The following private collections are allowed within collections (rule 5):

  • components - utils
  • models - utils
  • initializers - utils
  • instance-initializers - utils
  • routes - components, utils
  • services - utils
  • transforms - utils

The following groups are proposed for collections (rule 6):

  • data - models, transforms
  • init - initializers, instance-initializers
  • ui - components, partials, routes

The collection and type system is designed to be extensible, so that addons can contribute their own collections and types. The data collection and its corresponding types should be defined in ember-data. Liquid-fire might want to define an animations collection and a transition type, and expand routes to allow animations as a private collection.

The specific format of collection and type declarations for addons is TBD.

"Components" Collection

This proposal broadens the scope of the term "component" to include all template-invocable parts of Ember. This includes today's components and helpers, and the future implementation of "glimmer components" (with angle brackets) and element modifiers.

Grouping template-invocable elements together in a single collection recognizes that they already coexist in the same namespace. After all, only one helper OR component can be invoked as {{foo-bar}}. Using a common collection will not only simplify file management and searching, it will also provide implicit linting against creating a helper and class-based component of the same name.

Private Collections

You may wish to make a component available in a particular template without polluting the top-level components collection with a more local concern. Private collections allow you to augment a top-level collection's contents for use at a particular namespace.

Private collections are declared as a directory sharing the name of the top-level collection, prefixed with a -. So the top-level routes collection could be augmented via a private -components collection.

Say that you want to define a post-viewer component to be available only from within src/ui/routes/posts/post/template.hbs. You could achieve this by creating your component module in src/ui/routes/posts/post/-components/post-viewer.js.

Non-resolved Files

The rules above apply to modules that are resolved, namely *.js and *.hbs files. Other files that are used for documenting code, such as *.md and *.html files, can be freely co-located in any directories.

Conventions will still be used for non-resolved files that have significance within an Ember project, including:

  • src/ui/styles - A project's stylesheets.
  • src/ui/index.html - A project's html container.

Packages

In-repo addons (including engines) will be placed in a new top-level packages directory (a sibling of src). We can begin to use the term "packages" instead of the rather clumsy "in-repo addons". This differentiation will emphasize that packages are internal and addons are external to a project. Packages should be seen as a lightweight way to add new namespacing within a project without the overhead of a full addon.

The packages directory will provide a separate space away from other library modules that might be kept in lib, the current directory used for in-repo addons. Introducing a new top-level directory will allow a clear migration path for in-repo addons, in the same way that there's a clear migration path from app to src.

Inside packages, packages should be grouped by name. Each package can have its own index.js, package.json, and src directory.

Ember Resolver Refactor

The Ember resolver must be refactored significantly to be made aware of the new src and packages directories and associated conventions.

Module Normalization

As discussed above, Ember CLI will perform a normalization process for all the modules in a project and its associated projects. The normalization step will involve the construction of a map from each module's normalized form to its corresponding ES module path. If any conflicts are detected, the process should error and notify the developer.

The Ember resolver will only look up modules in their normalized form, utilizing the pre-built normalization map to resolve the actual module path.

Addon modules

A resolver will only implicitly consider an addon's top-level modules named main (e.g. a main component) to be public and available for resolution. More explicit control over an addon's public modules can be declared in the addon's main module (details TBD). An addon's public modules will all be resolvable at the rootName of the addon (see above).

Public components and helpers can be invoked in templates using the rootName as a namespace. For modules named main, the bare root name will suffice.

Let's say that the ember-power-select addon has a rootName of power-select and a top-level main component declared in src/ui/components/main.js. An app could invoke this component in a template as {{power-select::main}} or more simply as {{power-select}}.

Addons should use the same namespacing that will be used by consuming apps when invoking their own components and helpers from templates. For instance, if the ember-power-select addon has a date-picker component that invokes multiple main components, it should also invoke them in a template as {{power-select::main}} or more simply as {{power-select}}.

Module Resolutions

Module resolution rules must account for the following:

  • The requested module's type, name, and (potentially) namespace.
  • (Optional) A "source" rootName, collection, and namespace from which the lookup originates.
  • (Optional) An "associated type" for lookups that should start in a collection that is not definitive for the requested type.

Module resolutions occur in the following order:

  1. Local - If a source module is specified and the requested type is allowed in the source module's collection, look in a namespace based on the source module's namespace + name.
  2. Private - If a source module is specified, look in a private collection at the source module's namespace, if one exists that is definitive for the requested type.
  3. Associated - If an associated type is specified, look in the definitive collection for that associated type. Only resolve if the collection can contain the requested type.
  4. Top-level - In the definitive collection for the requested type, defined at its top-level.

The resolver must maintain mappings of modules at multiple levels to make these resolutions efficient. A lookup tree can be pre-built for production builds.

Example Resolutions

Let's walk through some example resolutions from the above blogging app paired with the ember-power-select addon. We'll assume that the package name for the app is blogmeister, and the package name for the addon is ember-power-select. The addon has a rootName of power-select for cleaner references.


From blogmeister/src/ui/components/list-paginator/template:

{{paginator-control}} resolves to blogmeister/src/ui/components/list-paginator/paginator-control/component

{{date-picker}} resolves to blogmeister/src/ui/components/date-picker/component

{{power-select}} resolves to ember-power-select/src/ui/components/main/component

{{power-select::multiple}} resolves to ember-power-select/src/ui/components/multiple/component


From blogmeister/src/routes/posts/post/template:

{{post-viewer}} resolves to blogmeister/src/ui/routes/posts/post/-components/post-viewer/component

{{date-picker}} resolves to blogmeister/src/ui/components/date-picker/component

{{power-select}} resolves to ember-power-select/src/ui/components/main/component

Other Refactorings

Generators and Blueprints

Generators and blueprints will need to be made aware of the new module conventions.

Let's take a look at the files that some generators will create (note: tests have been left out of these examples for now):

ember g component date-picker:

  • src/ui/components/date-picker/component.js
  • src/ui/components/date-picker/template.hbs

ember g component ui/routes/posts/post-editor:

  • src/ui/routes/posts/-components/post-editor/component.js
  • src/ui/routes/posts/-components/post-editor/template.hbs

ember g helper titleize:

  • src/ui/components/titleize.js

How We Teach This

The Ember guides will need to be updated significantly to reflect the new conventions.

Teaching Conventions through Tooling

As discussed above, generators and blueprints will be made aware of the new module conventions. This will help new projects start on track and stay on track as modules are added.

Developers with existing projects will be able to use Robert Jackson's migration tool to move their projects over to use the new conventions. This tool is a WIP and will continue to be refined to work well with both the classic and pods structures. It's possible these migration capabilities will eventually be rolled into Ember Watson.

Furthermore, the Ember Inspector should be enhanced to understand the new conventions and become more type and collection aware.

New Concepts

It will be important for both new and experienced Ember developers to understand some core concepts that are proposed in this RFC.

Collections and Types

This proposal's concept of collections and types should feel familiar enough to users of both the classic and pods layouts to enable a smooth transition. In many ways, this proposal merges the classic and pods layouts into a single uniform layout.

The core driver to collections is to store "like with like". However, instead of the classic layout's narrow definition of "like" to be of a single type, this proposal takes the pods approach that multiple types can be related. A good test of whether multiple module types should be stored together is whether they should be considered to share a common namespace. Routes, controllers, and templates are a good example, as are models, adapters, and serializers.

A related concept to understand about collections is the notion of a default type. Every top-level module within a collection can be considered to match its default type (unless named exports are used in those modules to represent types other than the default). Within a collection's namespaces, every module must be either that default type or related to it. It's helpful to consider that every namespace within a collection represents a set of named module exports, and that the default type represents the default export for that collection.

Here's an illustration of exports from a collection:

src
  data
    models
      author.js <- exports an Author `model`, the default type in the `models` collection
      comment
        adapter.js     <- exports a Comment `adapter`
        model.js       <- exports a Comment `model`
        serializer.js  <- exports a Comment `serializer`

Components

The term "component" has been widely adopted across most front-end frameworks to describe a broad swath of UI concerns. Using the same term for the collection of template-invocable UI elements will lower the learning curve for developers who are new to Ember, while allowing for a useful set of specialized terms to flourish to describe particular types of components.

We've already started down the road of component specialization by introducing the concept of "routable components". Once we start actually using "routable components" in practice, it will become necessary to refer to plain old components as something more specific, like "template components". And this distinction will probably lead to plain old helpers being referred to as "template helpers". Other concepts, such as "Glimmer components" and "template component modifiers" will soon be mixed in. We will end up with a multi-faceted toolbox available at the template layer which deserves a simple name that matches developer expectations. The general term "components" seems a good fit.

Scope

Developers should understand the available levels of module scope, as well as when each is appropriate to use. Scope should be considered when modules are generated, and developers should feel free to move modules if they expand or contract in scope.

The following levels of scope should be understood:

  • Private - private collections should be used when a component or utility function is needed from a single namespace.

  • Project - top-level, project-wide collections should be used for modules that are needed throughout a project.

  • Local package - namespaced collections can be useful to group a common set of cross-cutting concerns within a project.

  • Local engine - a type of local package that encapsulates a set of functionality that benefits from run-time isolation and strict dependency sharing.

Testing

Unit, integration, and some acceptance tests can now be co-located with their associated modules. Co-location should be encouraged because it makes test modules easier to locate in the file system, and easier to move if a module's scope changes.

Robert Jackson plans to adapt the Grand Testing Unification RFC to illustrate test co-location and to introduce module types for tests.

Drawbacks

Any change to a pattern as fundamental as file naming will incur some mental friction for developers who are accustomed to the current conventions. It is hoped that tooling like Robert's migrator and Ember Watson can lessen this friction by automating transitions, and that updated guides, generators, and blueprints can make these conventions easy to follow.

Of course, we won't prevent usage of the currently used patterns for some time, but they will eventually be deprecated. Some efficiencies, especially in the resolver, may not be fully realized until the new patterns are used throughout a project.

Alternatives

The Module Normalization RFC

Perhaps the most prominent alternative that has been explored is the Module Normalization RFC. Module Unification shares many aspects with Module Normalization, but with one fundamental difference: buckets in Module Normalization are normalized away for the resolver, while collections in Module Unification play an important role in module resolution.

The Ember Core Team decided that the sleight of hand required to allow buckets to be used for organization only, and not for resolution, could create confusion. Essentially, modules could conflict across buckets, because they could have matching namespaces, names, and types. This kind of conflict could not be allowed, so developers would need to understand too much about the resolution strategy to make it ergonomic.

Other Alternatives

A large number of other alternatives have been explored before settling on this recommendation. Feel free to explore the history of any of the linked gists to understand some of the subtle alternatives.

Of course, one alternative is to simply not change anything and accept the drawbacks discussed in the Motivation section above. However, even if we accept inefficiencies in our resolver and confusion over divergent file structuring strategies, we still need to solve the "local lookup" problem, which does not have a clean solution in today's module system.

Unresolved questions

How should tests be co-located in src?

Should tests be allowed within src via *-test types (e.g. component-integration-test, component-unit-test, etc.) within respective collections?

If this RFC is approved, then Robert Jackson plans to adapt the Grand Testing Unification RFC to propose answers to these questions.

What about routable components?

Should routable components have a type that's unique from other components?

Should they exist alongside route and template types in the routes collection?

It seems plausible that routable components could simply use the component type, and that we could lint against allowing template-invocable components alongside routes.

How should configuration declarations be made in the main module?

For example:

  • How should resolvable exports be declared from addons?
  • Can apps override the root names of addons? For example, if ember-power-select has a root name of power-select, could a consuming app override this?
  • How do addons and apps declare their collection and type exports? For example, how could liquid-fire allow for a transition type and an animations collection?

Should we allow collection groups?

Do the organizational benefits of collection groups outweigh the potential confusion over where lines are drawn between a group/collection/namespace when viewing a project structure.