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an express 3.x templating language based on coffeescript with slicker tokens
JavaScript CoffeeScript
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A templating language based on CoffeeScript with slick nesting, tokens, and automatic indentation. Compatible with Express 2.x, 3.x, and the browser. In Express 3.x, the Toffee engine handles partials/includes and smart view caching.


Beta! And in very usable shape.


Printing variables is easy. Just use CoffeeScript's #{} syntax:

   Hey, #{}. 

Which of course is very powerful, so be responsible.

You have #{(f for f in friends when f.gender is "f").length} female friends.

But real pleasure arises when switching between coffee mode and toffee mode:

<div class="foobar">
 <div class="whatever">
     if projects.length
      for project in projects {:
          #{project.title} |
          <a href="#{project.url}">Read more</a>

To enter coffee mode, use a block of this form: {# ... #}. Inside a region of coffee, you can switch back to toffee with {: ... :}. This syntax is nestable and avoids a lot of large, ugly regions, such as EJS's particularly nasty <% } %>. Compare:

EJS, verbose and weak.

<% for(var i=0; i<supplies.length; i++) {%>
   <li><%= supplies[i] %></li>
<% } %>

TOFFEE, so elegant and proud.

  for supply in supplies {:<li>#{supply}</li>:} 

Or, using the built-in print:

  for supply in supplies 
    print "<li>#{supply}</li>"

Note that print outputs the raw variable, as Coffee would, while #{} neatly escapes for HTML. This is all customizable. More on that below.

Nesting is both natural and advisable. In a {: toffee :} block, simply create another {# coffee #} block, and indentation is inferred.

   for name, info of friends when info.age < 21 {:
      You know, #{name} would make a great designated driver.
      And she only lives #{info.distance} miles away.
      {# (a,b) -> b.speed - a.speed
         if {: And wow, she drives a #{[0].model} :}
         else                {: But, alas, she has no wheels. :}

Switching to pub mode without indenting

By default, when you enter {: ... :}, the Toffee compiler assumes you're entering an indented region, probably because of a loop or conditional. If you ever want to cut into toffee mode without indenting, use -{: ... :}. For example:

   name = "Hans Gruber"
   -{:You're a hell of a thief, #{name}:}

The above is identical to:

   name = "Chris"
   print "You're a hell of a thief, #{name}"

Well, it's not exactly identical. Let's talk about escaping.


By default, in toffee mode, #{some_expression} output is escaped for HTML.

The available filters in toffee mode are accessed by prefixing your expression:

  • #{foo} : foo, escaped for HTML
  • #{json|foo} : foo, turned into a JSON object. Nice in a script tag.
  • #{raw|foo} : foo, printed in raw form. This is identical to 'print foo' in coffee mode.
  • #{html|foo} : foo, escaped for HTML. This is the same as default, only useful if you override the default or turn off escaping.

Overriding the default:

  • If you pass a variable to your template called escape, this will be used as the default escape.

Turning off autoescaping entirely:

  • If you set autoEscape: false when creating the engine, the default will be raw across your project. (See more on that below under Express 3.x settings.)


How does it compare to eco?

Eco is another CoffeeScript templating language and inspiration for Toffee. The syntaxes are pretty different, so pick the one you prefer.


<% if @foo: %>
<% end %>


  if @foo {: Bar :} 

Toffee allows multiple lines of CoffeeScript without tagging them all. Compare:


<% if @projects.length: %>
  <% for project in @projects: %>
    <% if project.is_active: %>
      <p><%= %> | <%= project.description %></p>
    <% end %>
  <% end %>
<% end %>


   if @projects.length
    for project in @projects
      if project.is_active {:
        <p>#{} | #{project.description}</p>

Note that with Toffee's syntax, since brackets enclose regions not directives, your editor will let you collapse and expand sections of code. And if you click on one of the brackets in most editors, it will highlight the matching bracket.

Does it find line numbers in errors?

Yes, it does a very good job of that. There are 3 possible places you can hit an error in Toffee:

  • in the language itself, say a parse error
  • in the CoffeeScript, preventing it from compiling to JS
  • runtime, in the final JS

Stack traces are converted to lines in Toffee and show you where the problem is.

Does it support partials?

Voila, yes. In Express 2.0, Express itself is responsible for partials. In Express 3.0, Toffee defines the partial function, and it works as you'd expect.

<div>#{partial 'foo.toffee', name: "Chris"}</div>

Or inside a region of CoffeeScript, you can print or capture the result of a partial.

   if session
      print partial 'user_menu.toffee', info:
      print partial 'guest_menu.toffee'

Like Express's partial function, Toffee's function passes websrv-published vars to the child template. For example, in the above code, "session" would also be available the user_menu.toffee file. If you don't want this to be available, in Express 3.0 you can use Toffee's snippet function, which sandboxes it:

   if session
      print partial 'user.toffee', info: # session will also be passed
      print snippet 'user.toffee', info: # session will not be passed

Another Express 3.0 improvement: Toffee compiles and caches templatess for bursts that you control. It's high performance without the need to restart your production webserver when you make a content change.

But how does the indentation work?

Toffee realigns all your coffeescript inside a {# region #} by normalizing the indentation of that region. So it doesn't matter how you indent things, as long as it makes local sense inside that region. For example, these are all identical:

<p>{# if x is 0 {:Yay!:} else  {:Burned:} #}</p>
  if x is 0 {:Yay!:} else {:Burned:}
             if x is 0 {:Yay!:}
             else      {:Burned:}

However, this would cause an error:


             if x is 0 {:Yay!:}
               else      {:Burned:}

As would this more subtle case:


{#   if x is 0 {:Yay!:}
     else      {:Burned:}

In the above 2 cases, note that the leading whitespaces before the if and else are different, which is a CoffeeScript error.


Inside a region of coffee, you can use coffee's # or ### syntax to comment. Inside toffee mode, you can comment with {## ... ##}.

{## This isn't output ##}
But this is.

installation & usage

npm install -g toffee

In Express 3.x to make it your default engine:

app.set 'view engine', 'toffee'

In Express 3.x to use it just for .toffee files:

toffee = require 'toffee'
app.engine 'toffee', toffee.__express

Express 2.x:

toffee      = require 'toffee'
app.register '.toffee', toffee

express 3.x options

Pretty-print errors

Express's default error page is great for stack traces but not so great for pretty-printing template errors. So by default, when Toffee hits any kind of error (in your templates, in your CoffeeScript, or even at runtime), it fakes an okay result by returning some pretty HTML showing the error. If you don't like this - say you want to catch render errors - you can turn it off.

toffee = require 'toffee'
toffee.expressEngine.prettyPrintErrors = false


Toffee doesn't read from the disk every time you request a template. It compiles and caches for short periods (2 seconds, by default), to save IO and compile time. You can set this cache, in milliseconds, anywhere from 0 to Infinity.

You might consider different rules for production and development, although a short cache time performs well in both cases.

toffee = require 'toffee'
toffee.expressEngine.maxCacheAge = Infinity # infinity milliseconds, that is.

Turning off auto-escaping for HTML

By default, Toffee escapes #{} output for HTML. You can turn this off in your engine with:

toffee = require 'toffee'
toffee.expressEngine.autoEscape = false

known issues

  1. comments in {## ##} cannot contain other toffee code. Hope to have this fixed soon, as these tokens should be useful for temporarily commenting off a region of a template.

  2. There's a case where line numbers aren't right.


Soon I'll have browser compilation working. I'd like partials and everything to work before I release this. In the meantime, if you're curious to see the CoffeeScript that's compiled from a template:

toffee -c foo.toffee

Or to see it in JS:

toffee foo.toffee


I'm likely to accept good pull requests.

If you'd like to edit code for this project, note that you should always edit the .coffee files, as the .js files as generated automatically by building.

To build

> cake build

To make sure you didn't break something

> coffee tests/

I'm also very interested in someone building a Sublime/Textmate package for Toffee.


  • finish browser-side include and command-line compiler
  • ...then add instructions on how to use it
  • escapeHTML, JS, etc. functions
  • continue to add to unit tests
  • stack trace conversion improvement
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