NinjaScript is a jQuery library designed to allow unobstrusive scripting simply and easily. Essentially, we use jQuery selectors to apply behavior the same way we use CSS stylesheets to apply stylings. Additionally, NinjaScript makes it easy to package up useful behaviors and apply them quickly to disparate elements, or in different projects.
The Unobtrusive Ideal
Nothing helps explain this like some examples.
That behavior block sets up three behaviors:
- It converts a normal form (could be a POST, GET, whatever) into an AJAX submission. By default, we'll put a "busy" overlay over the form until we get a response, and add any error messages to a list of error messages. This behavior is packaged as $.ninja.ajax_submission
- It adds a decay behavior to messages, using jQuery effects.
- It applies a tooltip mouseover effect to elements with a "tooltip" class. We elide the details of what that effect is for the purposes of example.
Notice that behaviors are defined in three different, intermixable styles:
- Prepackaged, in the form of a method on the Ninja object (available everywhere as $.ninja)
- With a "transform, events, helpers" syntax, which breaks out everything a behavior can do, completly explicitly.
- With an abbreviated events form, with the assumption that all we want to do is define a series of event handlers (and possibly a transformer)
Anatomy of a Behavior
NinjaScript applies "behaviors" to elements selected using jQuery's CSS-like selectors. A behavior consists of two things:
- A transformer: a function called "transform" that take the element as its argument, and changes it in ways that are appropriate to the behavior. One prepackaged behavior "make_ajax_link" takes a form consisting of a single submit button and converts it into an anchor tag with appropriate attributes.
- A list of event handlers - functions in two arguments that take action based on the event and thelement. By default, NinjaScript event handlers swallow the event, preventing the default behavior and preventing the event from bubbling back up the DOM. You can use an array of [handler_function, *strings] to have NinjaScript allow "default" behavior, allow the event to "propagate", or allow the "immediate" propagation of the event (to other handlers on the same element).
NinjaScript is designed to be pretty easy to read, but a brief overview of how it works can aid in understanding.
Basically, NinjaScript is built around an event binding engine. As nodes are added to the DOM that match the selectors provided, the transform functions are run and event handlers are attached to the nodes as appropriate.
We use DOM mutation events to do trigger the binding, which covers most of the browsers out there, as well as a homebrewed event that is raised explicitly for certain dopey browsers (the obvious one) by the NinjaScript machinery.
The upshot is that event handling is much more efficient than delegation, plus we get element transformation along with, so it's a win all around.