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Extending Schema Form

Schema Form is designed to be easily extended. You can add your own custom fields or completely change the how the entire form is rendered.

A custom field is called an add-on and you can find community add-ons listed over at

To completely change how the entire field is rendered you need to create what we call a decorator. A decorator is actually a collection of add-ons that at least cover the basic field types that a schema can default to, but usually a lot more.

But before we get into the details of how you define a decorator or an add-on, let's take a look at how schema form builds forms.

How the form is built

Schema Form uses the sfBuilder service to recursively build the DOM elements of the form from a canonical form definition, that is our fancy word for an internal representation of a merge between the schema and the form.

It's always an array of object and each object at least have the property type. If a type was not set in the form definition given to sf-form the schema is used to get a default.

Example canonical form def.

    type: 'text'
    key: 'name'
    type: 'fieldset',
    item: [
        type: 'textarea',
        key: 'comment'

The actual building

So to build a form from a canonical form definition as in the example above the builder service loops over and for each type asks the decorator for a template, it adds it to a document fragment.

After adding the template it also asks the decorator if that type has a builder function (actually it's usually a list of functions). If so it calls it with the DOM of its template, the form definition for that field and other useful stuff. This way the builder can modify and prepare the template depending on options in that fields form object.

Nested fields, as with the fieldset above in the example above, builds it's children with such a builder function.

This all happens in one large swoop and the finished document fragment is popped inside the form and then $compile is used to kick start it's directives.

Creating an add-on

So to create an add-on you need two things, a template and some builder functions. Fortunately schema form got you covered with a couple of standard builders so most of the time you will only need a template.

To register your template to be used when the form definition has a specific type you use the schemaFormDecoratorsProvider.defineAddOn.


angular.module('myAddOnModule', ['schemaForm']).config(function(schemaFormDecoratorsProvider, sfBuilderProvider) {

    'bootstrapDecorator',         // Name of the decorator you want to add to.
    'awesome',                    // Form type that should render this add-on
    'templates/my/addon.html',    // Template name in $templateCache
    sfBuilderProvider.stdBuilders // List of builder functions to apply.


The standards builders are [sfField, ngModel, ngModelOptions, condition], see usage details below.

The Template

So whats in a template? You usually need a couple of things:

  1. Usually a top level element that surrounds your template is a good idea. The sfField builder slaps on a sfField directive that exposes the current form object on scope as form.
  2. A sf-field-model somewhere so that the ngModel builder can add a proper ngModel to bind your model value to.
  3. A schema-validate="form" directive on the same element to enable schema validation.
  4. A <div sf-message="form.description"></div> to display description or error messages.

Basic template example:

<div> <!-- Surrounding DIV for sfField builder to add a sfField directive to. -->
  <input sf-field-model schema-validate="form" type="text">
  <div sf-message="form.description"></div>

BIG FAT CAVEAT Ok, so currently there is something really ugly here. The bootstrap (and material) decorator uses a build step (gulp-angular-templatecache) to "compile" the template into a javascript file that basically chucks the template into $templateCache. Currently schema form does not support loading the templates any other way. They need to be in $templateCache when rendering.

This is really ugly and will be fixed. But you have been warned!

Defining a decorator

Defining a decorator is basically the same as defining a lot of add-ons. As with add-ons you use the schemaFormDecoratorsProvider again. This time its schemaFormDecoratorsProvider.defineDecorator.


angular.module('myDecoratorModule', ['schemaForm']).config(function(schemaFormDecoratorsProvider, sfBuilderProvider) {

  schemaFormDecoratorsProvider.defineDecorator('awesomeDecorator', {
    textarea: {template: base + 'textarea.html', builder: sfBuilderProvider.stdBuilders},
    button: {template: base + 'submit.html', builder: sfBuilderProvider.stdBuilders},
    text: {template: base + 'text.html', builder: sfBuilderProvider.stdBuilders},

    // The default is special, if the builder can't find a match it uses the default template.
    'default': {template: base + 'default.html', builder: sfBuilderProvider.stdBuilders}
  }, []);

Setting up schema defaults

So you got this shiny new add-on or decorator that adds a fancy field type, but feel a bit bummed out that you need to specify it in the form definition all the time? Fear not because you can also add a "rule" to map certain types and conditions in the schema to default to your type.

You do this by adding to the schemaFormProvider.defaults object. The schemaFormProvider.defaults is an object with a key for each type in JSON Schema with a array of functions as its value.

var defaults = {
  string: [],
  object: [],
  number: [],
  integer: [],
  boolean: [],
  array: []

When schema form traverses the JSON Schema to create default form definitions it first checks the JSON Schema type and then calls on each function in the corresponding list in order until a function actually returns something. That is then used as a defualt.

This is the function that makes it a datepicker if its a string and has format "date" or "date-time":

var datepicker = function(name, schema, options) {
  if (schema.type === 'string' && (schema.format === 'date' || schema.format === 'date-time')) {
    var f = schemaFormProvider.stdFormObj(name, schema, options);
    f.key = options.path;
    f.type = 'datepicker';
    options.lookup[sfPathProvider.stringify(options.path)] = f;
    return f;

// Put it first in the list of functions

Sharing your add-on with the world

So you made an add-on, why not share it with us? On the front page,, we maintain a list of add ons based on a query of the bower register, and we love to see your add-on there.

Any bower package with a name starting with angular-schema-form- or that has the keyword angular-schema-form-add-on in its bower.json will be picked up. It's cached so there can be a delay of a day or so.

So make a bower package, add the keyword angular-schema-form-add-on and register it!

The builders

A collection of useful builders that cover most cases are in the sfBuilder service and is accessable both from the provider and the service on the property builders. There is also a list of "standard" builders, when in doubt use those.

angular.module('myMod').config(function(sfBuildersProvider) {

  // Standard builders
  // All builders;;;;;;;

Currently the standard builders are:

var stdBuilders = [


The sfField builder adds the sf-field="..." directive to the first child element in the template, giving it a correct value. The value is an id number that identifies that specific form object.

The sf-field directive exports the form definition object as form on scope and as a lot of useful functions.

As a rule of thumb you always want this builder.


The condition builder checks the form definition for the option condition. If it's present it adds a ng-if to all top level elements in the template.

You usually want this as well.


The ngModel builder is maybe the most important builder. It makes sure you get a proper binding to your model value.

The ngModel builder queries the DOM of the template for all elements that have the attribute sf-field-model. Your template may have several of them. sf-field-model is not a directive, but depending on it's value the ngModel builder will take three different actions.


Just sf-field-model or sf-field-model="" tells the builder to add a ng-model directive to this element. This is a common use case.

Ex: DOM before ngModel builder:

  <input sf-field-model type="text">

DOM after ngModel builder:

  <input sf-field-model ng-model="model['name']" type="text">


Given a value the ngModel builder will treat that value as a attribute name and instead of slapping on a ng-model set the specified attributes value. It sets it to the same value as the ng-model would have gotten.

Ex: DOM before ngModel builder:

<div sf-field-model="my-directive">
  <input sf-field-model type="text">

DOM after ngModel builder:

<div my-directive="model['name']">
  <input sf-field-model ng-model="model['name']" type="text">


With the special value replaceAll the ngModel builder will instead loop over every attribute on the element and do a string replacement of "$$value$$" with the proper model value.

Ex: DOM before ngModel builder:

  <input sf-field-model="replaceAll" 
         ng-class="{'large': $$value$$.length > 10}"

DOM after ngModel builder:

  <input sf-field-model="replaceAll" 
         ng-class="{'large': model[name].length > 10}"


If the form definition has a ngModelOptions option specified this builder will slap on a ng-model-options attribute to the first child element in the template.


The simpleTransclusion builder will recurse and build form items, useful for fieldsets etc. This builder is simple because it only appends children to the first child element and only checks form.items.

Useful directives

TODO: more in depth about schema-validate, sf-messages and sf-field