A widget system for Ruby on Rails and Middleman.
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README.md

ActionWidget

ActionWidget is a light-weight widget system for Ruby on Rails and Middleman. It is essentially a minimal tool set for building desktop-like UI components. The main idea behind ActionWidget is the separation of the concept of an UI component and its representation. While the representation of component might easily change over time, the concept of a component is unlikely to change significantly. Think of a button for instance: Most developers will agree that a button is conceptually something that has a caption and when clicked triggers an action. When we think about the visual representation of a button, however, things get more complicated. While most people will agree to a certain degree on what can visually be considered a button and what is something else, people tend to have different ideas about a button's exact representation. There are buttons with icons, without icons, round ones, rectangular ones, and so on. Despite their different appearances, the functionality and in this sense the component's concept stays the same: when clicked an action is triggered. ActionWidget provides developers with a tool set that helps them to strictly decouple a component's concept from its representation to support future change.

Installation

Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'action_widget'

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install action_widget

Usage

ActionWidget can be used to build arbitrarily complex view components. To illustrate the basic usage of ActionWidget, however, we start with a simple example, a widget for representing a button. We then continue with widgets that except blocks. We will use a widget representing panels as an example. Finally, we see discuss how to build widgets that utilize widgets themselves for constructing navigation components.

Simple Widgets

The goal of this section is to build a widget that represents a button. The button we are designing must have a caption and a type. The type can either be regular, accept, or cancel. The button further must have a specified size, which can be small, medium, or large. Finally, the button requires a target that defines the resource it links to. ActionWidget compentens utilize SmartProperties to define attributes that can be configured to automatically enforce these constraints and provide sensible defaults.

In the example below, we simple use an <a> tag to represent a button. The attributes size and type are simply translated into CSS classes. The caption will be used as the text encolsed by the <a> tag and the target will be used as the value the the <a> tag's href attribute.

class ButtonWidget < ActionWidget::Base
  property :caption,
    converts: :to_s,
    required: true

  property :target,
    converts: :to_s,
    accepts: lambda { |uri| URI.parse(uri) rescue false },
    required: true

  property :type,
    converts: :to_sym,
    accepts: [:regular, :accept, :cancel],
    default: :regular

  property :size,
    converts: :to_sym,
    accepts: [:small, :medium, :large],
    default: :medium

  def render
    content_tag(:a, caption, href: target, class: css_classes)
  end

protected

  def css_classes
    css_classes = ['btn']
    css_classes << "btn-#{size}" unless size == :regular
    css_classes << "btn-#{type}" unless type == :medium
    css_classes
  end
end

By convention, a widget's class name should end in "Widget". This way, ActionWidget automatically generates ActionView helper methods for more convenient instantiation and rendering of a widget.

In our example, the widget can be instantiated by simply calling the helper method button_widget and providing it with all necessary attributes:

<%= button_widget caption: 'Go to Admin Area', size: :small, target: '/admin' %>

Instead of using the provided helper method, a widget can always be instantiated manually:

<%= ButtonWidget.new(self, caption: 'Go to Admin Area', size: :small, target: '/admin').render %>

In both cases, the resulting HTML looks as follows:

<a class="btn btn-small" href="/admin">Go to Admin Area</a>

Widgets that Accept Blocks

The panel widget we are building requires a title and a block that defines the widgets content.

require 'action_widget'

class PanelWidget < ActionWidget::Base
  property :title, required: true, converts: :to_s

  def render(&block)
    content_tag(:div, class: 'panel') do
      content_tag(:h2, title, class: 'title') +
        content_tag(:div, class: 'content', &block)
    end
  end
end

Again, the automatically generated helper method, #panel_widget in this case, can be used to instantiate and render the widget:

<%= panel_widget title: "Important Notice" do %>
  The system will be down for maintanence today.
<% end %>

Executing the code above results in the follwing HTML:

<div class="panel">
  <h2 class="title">Important Notice</h2>
  <div class="content">
    The system will be down for maintanence today.
  </div>
</div>

Since widgets are simple Ruby classes, they naturally support inheritance. Let's assume we require a special panel widget for sidebars that renders a different header. There are two options:

  1. we can provide the tag that is chosen for the header as a property, or
  2. we restructure the PanelWidget class and then subclass it.

Let's take the second approach and extract the header rendering and the content rendering into their own methods so we can overwrite either one of them in a potential subclass.

class PanelWidget < ActionWidget::Base
  property :title, required: true, converts: :to_s

  def render(&block)
    header + content(&block)
  end

  protected

  def header
    content_tag(:h2, title)
  end

  def content(&block)
    content_tag(:div, &block)
  end
end

After this refactoring, we are able to subclass PanelWidget and customize the header method:

class SidebarPanelWidget < PanelWidget
  protected

  def header
    content_tag(:h3, title)
  end
end

Nested Widgets

Let's assume we want to implement a widget that simplifies the rendering of navigational menus. The widget only exposes one property, orientation, which can either be horizontal or vertical.

class MenuWidget < ActionWidget::Base
  property :orientation,
    accepts: [:horizontal, :vertical],
    converts: :to_sym,
    default: :horizontal,
    required: true

  def render(&block)
    content_tag(:nav, class: orientation) do
      content_tag(:ul) do
        capture(self, &block)
      end
    end
  end

  def item(caption, target)
    content_tag(:li) do
      content_tag(:a, caption, href: target)
    end
  end

  def submenu(caption, &block)
    content_tag(:li) do
      content_tag(:span, caption) +
        self.class.new(view, orientation: orientation).render(&block)
    end
  end
end

The following example demonstrates how to use this widget:

<%= menu_widget do |m| %>
  <%= m.item "Dashboard", "/" %>
  <%= m.submenu "Admin" do |m| %>
    <%= m.item "Manage Users", "/admin/users" %>
    <%= m.item "Manage Groups", "/admin/groups" %>
  <% end %>
<% end %>

Executing the code above, will result in the following HTML being generated:

<nav class="horizontal">
  <ul>
    <li> <a href="/">Dashboard</a> </li>
    <li>
      <span>Admin</span>
      <nav class="horizontal">
        <ul>
          <li><a href="/admin/users">Manage Users</a></li>
          <li><a href="/admin/groups">Manage Groups</a></li>
        </ul>
      </nav>
    </li>
  </ul>
</nav>

Option Capturing and Positional Argument Forwarding

ActionWidget instances capture all initializer keyword arguments that do not correspond to a property in a general options hash. All positional arguments supplied to an autogenerated helper are forwarded to the render method.

class ParagraphWidget < ActionWidget::Base
  def render(content, &block)
    content = capture(&block) if block
    content_tag(:p, content, class: options[:class])
  end
end

This widget can be used in the following two ways:

<%= paragraph_widget("Some content", class: 'important') %>

<%= paragraph_widget(class: 'important') do %>
  Some content
<% end %>

In both cases, the resulting HTML reads as follows:

<p class="important">
  Some content
</p>

Contributing

  1. Fork it
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Added some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create new Pull Request