Easily bubble events up your view hierarchy in your Backbone.js applications.
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README.md

Backbone.Courier

A tiny library that bubble events ("messages") up your backbone.js view hierarchy.

How it works

Instead of using view.trigger(), use view.spawn( messageName, [data] ) to spawn a message.

this.spawn( "selected", this.model );

The message is triggered, just like a normal backbone event, and in addition, it will automatically bubble up you view hierarchy. The view's parent can then "handle" the message and / or pass it to the parent's own parent, and so on. The DOM tree is used to determine the view hierarchy.

Here is an example of a view that both spawns a message to its ancestors, and handles a message from its children.

MyViewClass = Backbone.View.extend( {
    initialize : function() {
        Backbone.Courier.add( this );  // add courier functionality to this view
    }

    events : {
        "click div.close-box" : "_closeBoxClicked"
    },

    // "handle" the "selected" message from a child view.
    onMessages : {
        "selected" : "_onChildSelected"
    }

    _onChildSelected : function( data, source, messageName ) {
        alert( "My child view just spawned the 'selected' message." );

        // the three arguments to a message handler are:
        // 1) any application defined data that has been supplied:
        console.log( data ); // outputs the second argument to `spawn`

        // 2) the child view object that spawned or passed this message
        assert( source instanceof Backbone.View );

        // 3) the name of the message (i.e. first argument to `spawn`)
        assert( messageName === "selected" );
    }

    // spawn a message that can be handled by our own parent
    _closeBoxClicked : function() {
        this.spawn( 'closeBoxClicked' );
    }
}

Methods and Property reference

Public API index


Backbone.Courier.add( view )

Adds courier methods and behavior to view. To add courier functionality to all of your views, just wrap Backbone.View.initialize:

var oldInitialize = Backbone.View.prototype.initialize;
Backbone.View.prototype.initialize = function() {
    Backbone.Courier.add( this );
    return oldInitialize.apply( this, arguments );
};

view.spawn( messageName, [data] )

The spawn method generates a new message and passes it to the view's "parent", i.e. the closest ancestor view in the DOM tree. (It also calls view.trigger( messageName, data ) so that you can listen to the message as you would a normal Backbone event.) The parent view can "handle" this message, taking some action upon its receipt, by including an entry for this message in its onMessages hash, and / or it can pass this message to its own parent, using its passMessages hash. In this manner the message may bubble up the view hierarchy, as determined (by default) by the DOM tree.

messageName is the name of the message being spawned. The name is used in the onMessages and passMessages hashes of ancestor views to handle or pass the message further up the view hierarchy, respectively.

data is application defined data that will be available to this view's ancestors when handling or passing this message.

Round trip messages

If messageName ends in !, the message is considered a "round trip message". Round trip messages are special in that they return values. That is, the spawn() method will return the value returned by the first (and only) method that handles the message. Using round trip messages, views can obtain dynamic information about their environment that, because it is dynamic, can not be passed in through configuration options. Round trip messages are special in that they will continue to be passed up the hierarchy until they are handled - no entry in the passMessages hash is required. If they are not handled, spawn() returns undefined.

view.onMessages

The onMessages hash is the means by which a parent view can take action on, or "handle", messages received from its children. Entries in the onMessages hash have the format:

"messageName source" : callback
  • The messageName portion is matched against the name of the messages that are received.
  • The source portion can be used to match only messages that come from a particular child view. In order to map the source name to a particular child view, by default Backbone.Courier expects a hash of child views to be stored in view.subviews, the keys of the hash being the names of the child views, and the values references to the child view objects. You can create this hash yourself, but an easier approach is to use the Backbone.Subviews mixin, which will automatically create it for you. (You may also override view._getChildViewNamed() to customize how source mapped to child view objects.)
  • The "callback" portion determines what is done when a matching message is received. Just like Backbone's events hash, you can either provide the callback as the name of a method on the view, or a direct function body. In either case, the callback is invoked with three arguments:
    1. data is an application defined data object, as provided the in second argument to view.spawn()
    2. source is the child view object that spawned or passed this message to this view.
    3. messageName is the name of the message

Example entries in the onMessages hash:

onMessages : {
    "focused" : function( data, source ) {
        // handle the "focused" message
        alert( "child view focused" );
        console.log( source ); // the child view that spawned or passed this message
    },

    // when the "selected" message from the resourcesCollectionView child view
    // is received, call the _onResourceSelected method on this view
    "selected resourcesCollectionView" : "_onResourceSelected",

    "giveMeInfo!" : function() {
        // handle the "giveMeInfo!" round trip message. return contents
        // of `value` to the view that spawned the message,
        // as the return value of the view.spawn() method
        var value = this._calculateDynamicValue();
        return value;
    }
},

_onResourceSelected : function( data ) {
    // handle the selected message from the resourcesCollectionView child view
}

...

view.passMessages

The passMessages hash is used to pass messages received from a child view further up the view hierarchy, to potentially be handled by a more distant ancestor. Each entry in the hash has the format:

"messageName source" : "newMessageName"

The messageName and source parts of the hash key interpreted in exactly the same way as in the onMessages hash.

Note: An asterix character * can be used in both the passMessages and onMessages hashes as a wildcard in the messageName to match zero or more letters, numbers, or underscores. If multiple entries match the message name, the most specific entry will "win", that is, the entry with the greatest number of non-wildcard characters will be used.

The value of newMessageName determines the message that is passed to the view's parent. It is often desirable to change a message's name as it bubbles up to a new, larger context. For example, "selected" might become "resourceSelected" as it moves from a resource view to a larger parent view that contains resources as well as other items. If you do not want to change the message at all before passing it up the hierarchy, specify the string "." (a single period).

Note: If you would like to change the application defined data in the message, you need to handle the message in the onMessages hash and then re-spawn the message with new data.

Example entries in the passMessages hash:

passMessages : {
     // pass the "keyup" message on to parent, without any changes
    "keyup" : ".",

    // change the "selected" message from the resourcesCollectionView
    // child view to "resourceSelected", and pass to parent
    "selected resourcesCollectionView" : "resourceSelected", 

     // pass all other messages on to parent, without any changes
    "*" : "."
},

...

Internal view methods that may be overridden

The following methods may be overridden to customize Backbone.Courier for your environment. To override one of the methods, attach your own version of the method to your view objects either before or after calling Backbone.Courier.add().

view._getParentView()

view._getParentView() is an internal method that returns a view's "parent view". You may supply your own version of this method on your view objects (which will override the default implementation) if you want to provide a custom means to determine a view's parent. The default implementation determines a view's parent by its position in the DOM tree, scanning the tree for the closest parent that has a Backbone view in $( el ).data( "view" ). This data value is set on each view's DOM element automatically by Backbone.Courier.

Note: The default implementation of '_getParentView' depends on jQuery's or Zepto's $.parent() and $.data() methods, which is the only dependency on a DOM library or tree in Backbone.Courier.

view._getChildViewNamed( childViewName )

view._getChildViewNamed( childViewName ) is an internal method that is used to resolve the child view names optionally supplied in the source part of the onMessages and passMessages hash. You may supply your own version of this method on your view objects in order to store child views in a location other than the default view.subviews[ childViewName ].

Encapsulated Views

Although Backbone.Courier is a simple library with a very small footprint, its use significantly improves encapsulation in the view layer. Encapsulation makes modules easy to conceptualize, maintain and test. Backbone views that are encapsulated, and Backbone applications built from encapsulated views, have these same characteristics. But what do encapsulated views look like and how does courier help? Here's our vision:

  • Views never have any explicit dependencies on their surroundings or their environment. That is, they do not have any explicit dependencies on or references to their ancestors or their siblings.
  • When a view needs to interact with its parent or an ancestor, it does so (without explicit dependencies) by spawning a message that bubbles up the view hierarchy.
  • When views pass messages from their children to their ancestors, they modify those messages in order to make them appropriate for the new, larger context and hide private concerns.
  • Views only call methods on their immediate children. Their grandchildren can be interacted with only by calling methods on their children, which in turn call methods on their grandchildren, etc.
  • Global variables and / or event aggregators are not used.

NOTE: You can use Backbone.Courier with Backbone.Subviews and Cartero / Parcelify for a completely modularized backbone.js experience.

Dependencies

  • Backbone.js (tested with v0.9.9 and later, untested with earlier versions)
  • jQuery or Zepto. You can eliminate this dependency by overriding view._getParentView() and providing an alternate means to determine view hierarchy that does not rely on the $.parent() and $.data() functions.

Change log

v3.0.0

  • BREAKING: Round trip messages will no longer thrown an exception if they are not handled. Instead, the spawn() method will simply return undefined.

v1.0.0

  • BREAKING: Changed signature of callback portion of onMessages hash from function( message ) to function( data, source, messageName ). Sorry, this is a big breaking change existing projects will need to be changed to work with this new signature. However, it is the right thing to do. If you don't want to change your existing projects, just keep using v0.6.1.
  • Removed the ability to supply a function as the value of an entry in the passMessages hash.

v0.6.1

  • Small bug fix that could cause errors of the form Cannot read property 'data' of undefined.

v0.6.0

  • BREAKING: Removed spawnMessages hash. Use version v0.5.x if you want this functionality back.
  • Now view.spawn( data ) will call backbone's native view.trigger( data ) automatically.
  • Added UMD wrapper.