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Sproutcore framework for writing fully-featured views that render as vector graphics via RaphaëlJS

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Project: RaphaelViews

Copyright: ©2010 Richard Klancer and Concord Consortium

Licensed under the MIT license. See file 'license.js'

SproutCore RaphaelViews

This project aims to provide a set of Sproutcore classes which you can use to create views that render their content as vector graphics while retaining the following:

  • the advantages of RaphaëlJS:

    • cross-browser compatibility for vector graphics
    • a simple and proven drawing API for use by your render() methods
  • the standard semantics of Sproutcore views:

    • your view is represented by an SVG or VML 'layer' node which may contain children
    • your view's render() method can be simple and doesn't need to know about the DOM context it's rendering into
    • events are handled by the standard Sproutcore event delegation mechanism
    • your view can have child views (which must themselves be RaphaelViews) which can be specified by the standard 'childViews' parameter and rendered via the standard renderChildViews() method

I have also extended the Sproutcore CollectionView class with a mixin that allows RaphaelViews-based exampleViews. This allows an interactive scatter plot to be implemented as a CollectionView, thereby retaining many of the advantages of the Sproutcore collection view pattern.

Using the new CollectionViewFastPath mixin provided by Sproutcore, this enables a scatter plot to continuously update with new streamed data, without re-rendering itself every time a point is added.

Sproutcore and Raphaël, sitting in a tree...

The fundamental difficulty that this library aims to overcome is the incompatibility between the operation of the Sproutcore view system and of Raphaël. The Sproutcore view system expects that all views render themselves by calling methods on a 'RenderContext' object which, underneath, builds up an HTML string. Only at a later time, after your application requests to append a view's containing pane to the main window, is the HTML string instantiated as DOM nodes (via an innerHTML mechanism).

This is nice and fast but hard-codes the assumption that all views render HTML. Raphaël is a well-thought out shim layer above the VML and SVG DOM APIs, but requires a DOM to manipulate. It also provides no mechanism for grouping nodes together as children of other nodes. (The set() method it provides allows co-manipulation of sets of objects, but does not group them in the DOM.) Grouping is required if your view is to have child views and still do event delegation as per the standard Sproutcore mechanism. (For example, a RaphaelView can, like a standard Sproutcore view, simply define a mouseDown() method in order to handle mouse down events on itself or its children.)

What I have attempted to do here is provide an alternative type of RenderContext specifically for RaphaelViews. It queues up DOM manipulations specified by your view's render() method for later execution when your view's surrounding layer (DOM node) has been created.

When the (regular) view containing your RaphaelCanvas view is instantiated, the RaphaelContext springs to work, performing the delayed DOM node creation and manipulation, re-grouping DOM nodes into the appropriate parent-child inheritance patterns, and associating your view with the DOM nodes created for it so that event handling works as expected.

Future Plans

NOTE that hacking the DOM produced by Raphaël almost surely means that I have broken some of the more advanced features of Raphaël. I haven't worked with this library long enough to know which these are, but don't expect all Raphaël features to be supported.

This project is in a very early stage at this point. I have not yet implemented any tests. I also use the now-deprecated render path dating from Sproutcore 1.0 and 1.4; I haven't yet digested the Renderer mechanism that is part of Sproutcore 1.5, a.k.a quilmes.

Currently the RaphaelContext simply provides a mechanism by which view's render() methods provide a callback to be executed when the DOM is ready. (RaphaelContext calls the callbacks in depth-first order and does some housekeeping after each callback.)

This is simple, but I expect to provide RaphaelContext methods named similarly to Raphael's methods, which automatically queue up calls to the appropriate Raphael methods.

When views are being re-rendered, i.e., called with firstTime = NO, they need to find their relevant DOM node(s) and then find the Raphael representation of the nodes (which is cached in the DOM) in order to modify them. This can be somewhat tricky, especially when a view renders multiple nodes as part of its own, rather than its child views', content. I expect to also provide convenience methods for finding and manipulating child nodes during a re-render.



NOTE: Requires the 1.5 (quilmes) branch of Sproutcore

You need to copy or clone this project into the frameworks directory of your project. Assuming your project is a git repository, a best practice is to set up the framework a git submodule, as follows:

  1. Make the frameworks directory in the root of your project, if it doesn't already exist: mkdir my_project/frameworks
  2. Add RaphaelViews as a git submodule: cd my_project; git submodule add git:// frameworks/raphael_views
  3. When you init the submodules, be sure to use --recursive, because RaphaelViews itself includes RaphaelJS as a submodule: git submodule --init --recursive

Alternately, you can just checkout RaphaelViews into your frameworks directory, and update its submodules:

  1. `cd my_project/frameworks'
  2. git checkout git:// raphael_views
  3. cd raphael_views
  4. git submodule update --init
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