A small library for constructing app UIs with backbone.js.
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Mortar Layouts

This is a UI library that is used in many of the mortar templates. Mortar is a collection of templates that help developers get started writing web apps quickly, whether it's for Firefox OS or other platforms.

It is powered by backbone.js so that you can quickly use "models" to work with your app's data. Any changes to this data are propagated across the app automatically.

For now, this library is only usable with require.js. In the future we will most likely make this optional.

This library requires backbone.js, zepto, underscore, and x-tags. If you use the mortar templates, all of this is already hooked up for you.


Download this library and put it somewhere that require.js can find it. Somewhere in your app, simply add this javascript:


This assumes that the library was downloaded to a layouts library the requirejs finds. Your actual path may be different. The important thing is to include the layouts.js file from this project.

This installs the x-view and x-listview tags.



This library introduces two tags using the x-tags library, a polyfill for the Web Components specification.


The x-view tag is a basic building block like div. The difference is that it has a few special features specific for building apps.

  • Every x-view tag has a backbone.js view instance. This means that it's easy to display your data, and updates are automatically propagated across your app.

  • A div tag is meant to group content into different places on the page. An x-view tag is different; it is primarily meant to separate "pages" in your app. For example, when several x-view tags are siblings, only one is displayed at a time. The app is meant to "open" and "close" the other views.

  • Each x-view tag has a navigation stack. If you open a view by pushing it onto another one, it is added to the stack. When the opened view is closed, the user will see the original view that was displayed.

  • If a data-first attribute on an x-view tag is set to "true", it will appear first instead of any of its sibling x-view tags. By default, the first x-view in a set of x-view siblings is shown.

  • You can compose and nest x-view tags. One example of why you'd want to do this is if you wanted a global header or footer. If you have a global x-view and several x-view tags inside of it, the global x-view header and/or footer will still appear while its children are being displayed individually.

  • A header child element of x-view is special. It is pinned at the top of the view and comes with a few default styles, which you can override in CSS.

    • An h1 inside of a header is required. It is centered and set as the title for the view.
    • When a view with a header is added to the navigation stack, a "back" button is automatically added to the header.
  • A footer child element of x-view is special also. It is pinned at the bottom of the view and comes with default styles.

  • A button element inside of a header or footer is special; it receives some default styles and is meant to to used to open other views. Because of this, it has two data attributes that customize its behavior:

    • data-view: Specifies the view to open when pressed. The value is a CSS selector which selects the x-view tag. Example: <button data-view=".myview">MyView</button>
    • data-push: If set to "true", always push the view onto the view stack. Usually if the view being opened does not cover up this button, it instead simply makes it appear and does not push it onto the navigation stack. Use this to force the "push" behavior. Example: <button data-view=".myview" data-push="true">MyView</button>


The x-listview tag is exactly like the x-view tag, except it manages a list of items and displays it for you. The backbone view attached to the list view tag manages a collection of items, and it is automatically displayed as a list.


Here's how a simple list-detail app would look:

    <title>My Awesome App</title>
    <x-listview class="list">
        <h1>My Items</h1>
        <button data-view=".new">Add New</a>

    <x-view class="detail">

      <h1 class="title"></h1>
      <p class="desc"></p>
      <p class="date"></p>

    <x-view class="new">

      Title: <input type="text" name="title" />
      Description: <input type="text" name="desc" />
      <button type="submit" class="add">Add</button>

In this example, you would only see the first x-listview tag because when x-view tags have siblings, only one is shown at a time. When the "Add New" button is clicked, the .new tag slides in and a back button is added to the header. Lastly, when an item is clicked in the list, the .detail tag is shown. How that happens is described below.

View some more example HTML from the mortar-list-detail template.


You can style an x-view, x-listview, or any of the headers and footers any way you like.

The only thing to note is that all of the contents in the view tags live inside a div with a contents class. This is done so that you can easily give padding to your content without breaking the width or height of the element. This wrapper div flows with your content so it's height equals the height of your content.

Here's how you give padding to content inside your x-view tags. If you want to change something like the background color, you should apply it directly to the x-view tag instead of .contents so that it fills the whole tag.

x-view .contents {
    padding: 1em;


Obviously x-view and x-listview are not purely about presentation, they have special behaviors too. You can customize and extend these behaviors with the javascript API.

For example, in the above HTML, there's nothing that opens up the .detail view. You have to tell the x-listview what to open when a list item is clicked, so for above you would give it the CSS selector .detail.

x-tags allows us to define properties on native DOM elements. The API for this library is simply a set of properties on each x-view and x-listview tag.

You should also be familiar with backbone.js models. Basically a model is an object with fields and values.


Assuming tag is an instance of an x-view tag:

  • tag.titleField = 'title'

Set the item field for the title. This defaults to "title". You can use this when your view has a backbone.js model attached to it. When opened, it will automatically change the title in the header tag to the value of the specified field in the model.

  • tag.render = function(model) { ... }

Set the function for rendering the tag. This is only helpful if a model is attached to the view, and it is called every time it is opened. The model will be passed as the first argument. The this object is bound to the x-view or x-listview DOM element. Use this to dynamically render the model.

  • tag.getTitle = function(model) { ... }

Set the function for dynamically generating a title. Called whenever the view opens. Use this to generate a title based off a model, which is passed as the first argument.

  • tag.model

Get or set the model from the backbone view.

  • tag.onOpen = function() { ... }

Set a callback for when the view is opened.

  • tag.open(model, anim)

Open the view with the model and animation (both are optional). See below for currently available animations. If you want to specify just the animation, pass null, for the model. By default, there is no animation.

  • tag.close(anim)

Close the view with the animation (optional). By default, there is no animation.

The currently available animations are instant, instantOut, slideLeft, and slideRightOut.


All of the properties/methods from x-view are available except render and model. The following are additional properties/methods:

  • tag.renderRow = function(model) { ... }

Set the function for rendering a row. By default, it simply shows the field from the model specified by the titleField option (see the x-view API), which defaults to "title".

  • tag.nextView = '<CSS selector>'

Set the view to open when a row is selected (as a CSS selector).

  • tag.collection

Get or set the view's collection.

  • tag.add(item)

Add an item to the list. You can pass a raw javascript has like { name: 'James', age: 28 } or an actual backbone model instance. The item will be immediately rendered in the list.

View some example code in the mortar-list-detail project.

For example, to add items to the list, just grab the list tag and add them.

var list = $('.list').get(0);
list.add({ title: "Foo", desc: "Foo is a thing" });
list.add({ title: "Bar", desc: "Bar is something else" });

Those items will automatically appear in the list according to your renderRow function.

Advanced Layouts

So far, you've learned how to make a single-page app with some headers and footers. What if you want to show several views at once, like a vertically split pane?

It's really easy to do that, actually.

By default, an x-view fills up it's parent container. The parent chooses one x-view tag to show out of its children (usually the first one, but you can change it with data-first). However, if you don't want this behavior, you turn on a "manual layout".

A "manual layout" tells an x-view that you're going to manually rearrange it's children. This is needed because it will allow you to show multiple child views at once, and also disable some extra markup that makes it easier to give padding to content.

You enable it with the data-layout attribute:

<style type="text/css">
  .left {
      width: 50%;

  .right {
      width: 50%;
      left: 50%;

<x-view data-layout="manual">
    <h1>My App</h1>
  <x-view class="left">
    This content will be on the left.

  <x-view class="right">
    This content will be on the right.

Note the data-layout attribute on the top-level x-view, and the CSS to set the widths of the child x-view tags to 50% and move the second one over by 50%. However, the header still spans the width of the top-level x-view as you would expect.

In fact, x-view tags that aren't a child of another x-view tag acts exactly as they would in manual layout mode. That is, you can pretty much do whatever you want with them with standard HTML tags and CSS.

<style type="text/css">
  .left {
      position: relative;
      width: 50%;

  .right {
      position: relative;
      width: 50%;
      left: 50%;

<div class="left">
    This will be on the left.

<div class="right">
    This will be on the right.

An x-view tag simply fills up it's parent container and obeys it. The only caveat is that you must set position: relative on the parent tag so that the view is anchored to it.

At this point you may be thinking, why even use the view tags at all? Well, if you want a navigation stack, header, or footer, you will want to use it. The point is is that it obeys the web and you can use it anywhere you want, whether it's a fullscreen x-view, just part of an app, or many x-view tags stacked together.

In the above example, you don't actually even need the extra divs. You could simply apply the width and left CSS straight on the tags. I added them in the example to demonstrate how x-view tags work within other tags.