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Event Handling

Jim Tang edited this page May 23, 2013 · 17 revisions

Event Handling

Enyo employs a message-passing strategy for indirect communication between components. We refer to these messages as "events" to dovetail with common DOM usage. In general, events bubble up the component tree from child to parent. When using the dom package (part of the Enyo core), DOM events and custom events are unified.

The use of events is key to enforcing encapsulation in your component design. In most cases, the children of a component should have no knowledge of their parent. So instead of calling functions on (and thus tightly binding itself to) its parent, a child should send events, which the parent may choose to handle or not handle.

While sending events from child to parent is the standard paradigm in Enyo, in some situations the implementation of this model can result in inefficient and unwieldy code. Thus an alternative method of communication exists--this involves the use of enyo.Signals and is discussed at the end of the current document.

Sending Events

A component declares the events that it sends using an events block, e.g.:

events: {

Note that, by convention, event names always start with "on".

For each event registered in a component's events block, a helper function do<EventName>(inEvent) is created on the kind, which the component may call to send the event up the component tree. This function takes an optional inEvent parameter, which can contain event-specific information to be passed to the handler. For example, to send the "onStateChanged" event from the example above, a component would call

this.doStateChanged(newState)  // parameter is specific to the "onStateChanged" event

Under the hood, the do<EventName> function wraps Enyo's generic bubble function for sending events up the component tree:

this.bubble(inEventName <, inEvent, inSender>)
  • inEventName is the event name (including the "on" prefix).

  • inEvent is an optional object containing event-specific information (this is the same object listeners receive as inEvent, although it may be decorated, e.g., with the originator property). Note that this must be a JavaScript object, not a primitive.

  • inSender should almost always be omitted, although you could use it to force a particular sender for the next handler.

Note: Declaring an events block and using the do<EventName> helper function is preferable to calling bubble directly, since the events block is more descriptive and serves to define the interface to your kind.

Creating Handlers

An event handler is a function assigned to "catch" events bubbling up from children. For example:

myEventHandler: function(inSender, inEvent) {
	// Can return true to indicate that this event was handled and
	// propagation should stop
  • inSender is the immediate sender of the event--that is, the last enyo.Component to touch the event before passing it to this.

  • inEvent is an object that contains event data. For DOM events, this is the standard DOM event object. For custom events, it's a custom object.

The handler may return a truthy value to stop propagating the event. Otherwise, it will continue bubbling up the component tree.

Note that the meaning of the return value is different from the classic DOM convention (historically, the return value would determine whether the default action occurs). If you need to control the default action on a DOM event, use the modern equivalent, inEvent.preventDefault().

inEvent.stopPropagation() will not prevent propagation of events in Enyo; return true from the handler instead.

Because events propagate until stopped, an event's sender (inSender) may be different from its originator (i.e., the component that originally fired the event). The originating component is available to the event handler as inEvent.originator.

For example, when clicked, a button originates an onclick event, which bubbles up the control chain. The button's parent may bubble the event up to the button's grandparent. From the grandparent's perspective, the originator is the button and the sender is the button's parent.

Attaching Handlers to Events

There are two common ways of handling events in a component. The first is to set a handler name on an object owned by the component, like so:

components: [
	{name: "thing", ontap: "thingTap"}
thingTap: function(inSender, inEvent) {
	// do stuff

The second is to name a catch-all handler in the handlers block, like so:

handlers: {
	ontap: "anythingTap"
anythingTap: function(inSender, inEvent) {
	// do stuff

Note that if you use both event handling strategies at the same time, you will receive the event in both places by default. You may avoid this behavior by preventing propagation in thingTap. For example:

components: [
	{name: "thing", ontap: "thingTap"}
handlers: {
	ontap: "anythingTap"
thingTap: function(inSender, inEvent) {
	// taps on _thing_ will bubble up to _anythingTap_ also,
	// unless I stop propagation here
	return true; // handled here, don't propagate
anythingTap: function(inSender, inEvent) {
	// do stuff

If you need more sophisticated handling, you can use the inSender and inEvent.originator properties to help you discern the provenance of the event.

DOM (and DOM-like) Events

In Enyo, DOM events are allowed to bubble all the way up to document, where they are handled by enyo.dispatcher. The dispatcher figures out where to send the event and provides hooks for various bits of event processing.

Whenever possible, the dispatcher avoids disturbing original DOM events. To forcibly stop the bubbling of a DOM event, you may return true from the event's handler method.

In addition to the target property, which is set on all event objects, Enyo specifies a dispatchTarget property, which is set to the Enyo control containing the event target.

The following DOM events are handled by Enyo:

  • mousedown
  • mouseup
  • mouseover
  • mouseout
  • mousemove
  • mousewheel
  • click
  • dblclick
  • change
  • keydown
  • keyup
  • keypress
  • input
  • resize
  • load
  • unload
  • message
  • webkitTransitionEnd
  • transitionend

If there are additional DOM events that you want Enyo to handle, use the enyo.dispatcher.listen() method. For example, the following code sets up a handler for an event called myEvent:

enyo.dispatcher.listen(document, "myEvent", handleMyEvent);

Here the first parameter is an event receiver to listen on (typically document or window). The second parameter is the name of the event to listen for, and the third is the handler method.

In addition to DOM events, there are a number of normalized input events that the dispatcher sends as synthesized "DOM-like" events (e.g., ontap, ondown, onup, ondragstart, ondrag, ondragfinish, onenter, and onleave). Most of these events work across platforms, so client code does not have to distinguish between touch and mouse interfaces.

As a matter of convention, DOM events and DOM-like events remain lowercase when dispatched as Enyo events (i.e. ontap), but custom events declared by Enyo kinds use camel case (i.e. onStateChanged).

For more about DOM-like events, see the documentation on User Input.


There may be times when two distantly-related components in your app need to communicate with each other. Using the standard event model, you would pass an event up to a common parent (in the worst case, the top-level app kind) and then pass the event back down to the target component. Because this may require a significant amount of plumbing, Enyo provides an alternative.

enyo.Signals provides a means of broadcasting and subscribing to global messages, bypassing the normal component tree. Within the Enyo framework itself, DOM events that have no node targets are broadcast as signals. These events include window events, like onload and onbeforeunload, and events that occur directly on document, like onkeypress if document has the focus. Signals are also useful for hooking up non-Enyo events (e.g., PhoneGap events) to be handled by Enyo kinds in application code.

To broadcast a message, a sender simply invokes the static send function on enyo.Signals:

enyo.Signals.send(inEventName, inEvent);
  • inEventName is the event name (including the "on" prefix).

  • inEvent is an optional object containing event-specific information.

To listen for a signal, a component should include a Signals instance in its components block. It should also specify a handler for the signal by setting the <messageName> property of the Signals object to the name of a method in the owning kind. This method is then called whenever a <messageName> signal is received.

For example, the following kind...

    name: "Receiver",
    components: [
        // 'onTransmission' is the message name and 'transmission' is the
        // name of a handler method in my owner.
        {kind: "Signals", onTransmission: "transmission"}
	transmission: function(inSender, inEvent) {
        // respond to the signal

...will handle signal events dispatched by a call like this:


Note that, like all Enyo message handlers, the signal handler (transmission) receives two parameters: a reference to the component that sent the message (in this case, our own Signals object, this.$.signals), and any event payload that the transmitter included in the broadcast.

Some important things to note:

  • The signal name passed into send must exactly match the message name in the receiving Signals instance; both must include the "on" prefix.

  • All Signals instances that register a handler for a particular message name will receive the message.

  • The send method is on the enyo.Signals kind itself, not an instance of a Signals component.

  • Do not abuse Signals. Coupling objects with global communication is considered evil.

Additional Reading

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