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View Abstraction for Backbone.JS
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Inspired by EmberJS building a better view abstraction for BackboneJS, but not as overgrown as Ember.

Why Distal - or the Problem Statement

Backbone is pretty cool. I think it has done a good job of the Model/Collection/Sync approach to data. The challenge is that while the Backbone.View object is a good simple abstraction for a view as soon as you want to do something more involved. Either with a "layout" concept, or having collections just do the right thing on presentation you'll discover that you're writing a lot of boilerplate code.

For instance why is your render function something like - there are many varients out there::

render: function() {
    this.collection.each(function(tweet) {
        var view = new TweetView({ model : tweet });
    }, this);
    return this;

Clearly we could just wrap render in a FizzleView which removes the render, but that's not quite the objective. Real goal is to get the View focused on events and handling of events not on rendering since 99.9% of the time that's really views with composite views.

Maybe I want something more like this:

<div><a class="add btn" href="add/{{ lid }}">Add New Item</a></div>
  -- iterate over all the elements of 
{{#collection id="items"}}
    -- display the item, attaching the App.ItemView object to the contained HTML 
    --  event handlers, or other helper functions
  {{#view App.ItemView model=this class="item-group" }}
    <div><a data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#item-{{cid}}">{{ title }}</a></div>
    <div id="item-{{cid}}" class="collapse">{{ description }}</div>

So, now most of the rendering code and chained rendering code things compositing other View objects can now be left back in the HTML rather than putting everything in your ''render: function....''

Final Note: Why not EmberJS? Simple: This is about Backbone and Backbone style JavaScript, I don't want the whole system fixated on magic through "...Binding" or other things, it's goal is to be explicit and straightfoward to create Views which still look 99% like Backbone Views.


There are three sample apps currently built, which I'm using as a test bed for how to approach things.

  • Todo - Really a basic app, based on the EmberJS ToDo app trying to demonstrate good simple abstractions for how things can plug together

  • GithubViewer - Based on the Layoutmanager, while I'm not focusing on using layouts in my version it does try and give a good example of what an app might look like (uses RequireJS for parts).

  • Jobs - Based on the Backbone.Marioneete Jobs app, this is more an exploration on how to do layouts. As of this writing not 100% happy with what's there, but it's a framework to start from.

Test Server Usage

It's a python/tornado server, so you'll need python and tornado installed. Simple as:

# By default it run on 9000, if you want you can say --port=NNNN for a different port

If you need tornado you should be able to do a pip install tornado or easy_install tornado, but if that fails, look for additonal help.


Image a template that looked like this and some JavaScript that follows. Instead of doing the whole process of defining the template wiring it up doing a bunch of creation we can do something as simple as focus on what we want to accomplish.

From the index.html file

    <script type="text/x-handlebars" id="app_template">
    {{view Todos.CreateTodoView id="new-todo" placeholder="What needs to be done?"}}

    <!-- Insert this after the CreateTodoView and before the collection. -->
    {{#view Todos.StatsView id="stats"}}
      <button class="sc-button">Clear Completed Todos</button>
    {{remaining}} remaining

      {{view Lv.Checkbox class="mark-all-done"}}
      <span class="">Mark All as Done</span>

    {{#collection Todos.todoList tagName="ul"}}
      {{#view Todos.ItemView model=this tagName="li"}}
        <div class="sc-checkbox">
          <label><input {{#if isDone }}checked="checked"{{/if}} type="checkbox">{{get title}}</label>

From the todo.js file

    Todos.CreateTodoView = Backbone.Distal.TextField.extend({
        events: {
            'keydown' : 'create',

        create: function(evt) {
            if (evt.keyCode != 13)

            var value = this.$el.val();

            if (value) {
                Todos.todoList.create({ title: value });

Documentation ToDo's

  • Document the {{#view ...}} and {{#collection ...}} constructor

  • document the base fields extends for Views

    • itemView
    • className
    • template
    • templateName
    • other fields are passed throught
  • initialize

  • post_render

  • document the events

    • pre_render
    • post_render
  • document event based views

    • event-sink= # where the event will be sent - clearly some other object
    • event-data= # what data is in the trigger (default the view)
    • distal-on= # "ACTION EVENT"
  • Layouts

    • show


Some of these were inspiration, some were just learning and getting and idea of how to approach different problems with Backbone.

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