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Progressive rendering for Rails 2.3.x.

branch: master
README.markdown

Template Streaming

Progressive rendering for Rails 2.3.x.

Background

A typical Rails client-side profile looks something like this:

Typical Rails Profile

This is highly suboptimal. Many resources, such as external stylesheets, are completely static and could be loaded by the client while it's waiting for the server response.

The trick is to stream the response--flushing the markup for the static resources to the client before it has rendered the rest of the page. In addition to being able to render styles and images earlier, the browser can download javascripts, making the page responsive to input events sooner.

The main barrier to this in Rails is that layouts are rendered before the content of the page. The control flow must thus be altered to render the page in the order the client needs to receive it - layout first.

With streaming, your profiles can look more like this:

Progressive Rendering Profile

How

Just add the template_streaming gem to your application, and add a stream call for the actions you'd like to stream. For example, to stream just the index action of your HomeController, it would look like this:

class HomeController
  stream :only => :index

  def index
    ...
  end
end

To stream everything, just add stream to your ApplicationController.

Now you may pepper flush calls strategically throughout your views to force a flush, such as just after the stylesheet and javascript tags. flush may occur in both templates and their layouts.

API

The API is simple, but it's important to understand the change in control flow when a template is streamed. A controller's render no longer results in rendering templates immediately; instead, response.body is set to a StreamingBody object which will render the template when the server calls #each on the body after the action returns, as per the Rack specification. This has several implications:

  • Anything that needs to inspect or modify the body should be moved to a middleware.
  • Modifications to cookies (this includes the flash and session if using the cookie store) must not be made in the view. In fact, these objects will be frozen when streaming.
  • An exception during rendering cannot result in a 500 response, as the headers will have already been sent. Instead, the innermost partial which contains an error will simply render nothing, and error information is injected into the foot of the page in development mode.

Helpers

  • flush - flush what has been rendered in the current template out to the client immediately.
  • push(data) - send the given data to the client immediately.

Support

Template Streaming supports Rails 2.3.x, from 2.3.11 onward. In rubygems version syntax, that's ~> 2.3.11. Rails 3.1 and upwards ship with native support for streaming.

Streaming also requires a web server that does not buffer Rack responses. It has been tested successfully with Passenger, Unicorn, and Mongrel. Note that Unicorn requires the :tcp_nopush => false configuration option. Thin is only supported if the Event Machine Flush gem is installed. WEBrick does not support streaming. Please send me your experiences with other web servers!

Controller

Class methods:

  • stream - stream responses for these actions. Takes :only or :except options, like before_filter.

  • when_streaming_template - registers a callback to be called during render when rendering progressively. This is before the body is rendered, or any data is sent to the client.

Instance methods:

  • render has been modified to accept a :stream option. If true, the response will be streamed, otherwise it won't. This overrides the setting set by the stream method above.

Error Recovery

As mentioned above, headers are sent to the client before view rendering starts, which means it's not possible to send an error response in the event of an uncaught exception. Instead, the innermost template which raised the error simply renders nothing. This has the added advantage of minimizing the impact on your visitors, as the rest of the page will render fine.

When an error is swallowed like this, it is passed to an error hander callback, which you can set as follows.

TemplateStreaming.on_streaming_error do |controller, exception|
  ...
end

This is where you should hook in your error notification system. Errors are also logged to the application log.

In addition, in development mode, error information is injected into the foot of the page. This is presented over the top of the rendered page, so the result looks much like when not streaming.

Streaming Templates Effectively

Conventional wisdom says to put your external stylesheets in the HEAD of your page, and your external javascripts at the bottom of the BODY (markup in HAML):

app/views/layouts/application.html.haml

!!! 5
%html
  %head
    = stylesheet_link_tag 'one'
    = stylesheet_link_tag 'two'
 - flush
 %body
   = yield
   = javascript_include_tag 'one'
   = javascript_include_tag 'two'

When streaming, however, you can do better: put the javascripts at the top of the page too, and fetch them asynchronously. This can be done by appending a script tag to the HEAD of the page in a small piece of inline javascript:

app/views/layouts/application.html.haml

!!! 5
%html
  %head
    = stylesheet_link_tag 'one'
    = stylesheet_link_tag 'two'
    = javascript_tag do
      = File.read(Rails.public_path + '/javascripts/get_script.js')
      $.getScript('#{javascript_path('jquery')}');
      $.getScript('#{javascript_path('application')}');
%body
    - flush
    = yield

public/javascripts/get_script.js

//
// Credit: Sam Cole [https://gist.github.com/364746]
//
window.$ = {
  getScript: function(script_src, callback) {
    var done = false;
    var head = document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0] || document.documentElement;
    var script = document.createElement("script");
    script.src = script_src;
    script.onload = script.onreadystatechange = function() {
      if ( !done && (!this.readyState ||
          this.readyState === "loaded" || this.readyState === "complete") ) {
        if(callback) callback();

        // Handle memory leak in IE
        script.onload = script.onreadystatechange = null;
        if ( head && script.parentNode ) {
          head.removeChild( script );
        }

        done = true;
      }
    };
    head.insertBefore( script, head.firstChild );
  }
};

If you have inline javascript that depends on the fetched scripts, you'll need to delay its execution until the scripts have been run. You can do this by wrapping the javascript in a function, with a guard which will delay execution until the script is loaded, unless the script has already been loaded. Example:

Layout

!!! 5
%html
  %head
    = stylesheet_link_tag 'one'
    = stylesheet_link_tag 'two'
    = javascript_tag do
      = File.read(Rails.public_path + '/javascripts/get_script.js')
      $.getScript('#{javascript_path('jquery')}', function() {
        window.script_loaded = 1;

        // If the inline code has been loaded (but not yet run), run it
        // now. Otherwise, it will be run immediately when it's available.
        if (window.inline)
          inline();
      });
%body
    - flush
    = yield

View

- javascript_tag do
  window.inline() {
    // ... inline javascript code ...
  }

  // If the script is already loaded, run it now. Otherwise, the callback
  // above will run it after the script is loaded.
  if (window.script_loaded)
    inline();

In public/javascripts/get_script.js

//
// Credit: Sam Cole [https://gist.github.com/364746]
//
window.$ = {
  getScript: function(script_src, callback) {
    var done = false;
    var head = document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0] || document.documentElement;
    var script = document.createElement("script");
    script.src = script_src;
    script.onload = script.onreadystatechange = function() {
      if ( !done && (!this.readyState ||
          this.readyState === "loaded" || this.readyState === "complete") ) {
        if(callback) callback();

        // Handle memory leak in IE
        script.onload = script.onreadystatechange = null;
        if ( head && script.parentNode ) {
          head.removeChild( script );
        }

        done = true;
      }
    };
    head.insertBefore( script, head.firstChild );
  }
};

Contributing

  • Bug reports
  • Source
  • Patches: Fork on Github, send pull request.
    • Include tests where practical.
    • Leave the version alone, or bump it in a separate commit.

Copyright

Copyright (c) George Ogata. See LICENSE for details.

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