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JavaScript templating engines are so 2012. sugar_dom comes from the future!

The inspiration for sugar_dom is a post by Neil Jenkins, on Fastmail's blog.


The philosophy behind sugar_dom is to have the browser do as little work as possible. When using a typical templating engine, the overall process looks like this:

  1. Load the template from a script tag or somewhere else;
  2. Insert your data into it, creating one huge string;
  3. Insert the result into the DOM;
  4. The browser parses that new string, creating DOM nodes;
  5. Optionally, you traverse the DOM again to attach your event handlers.

With sugar_dom, the process is the following:

  1. Create DOM nodes in your JavaScript code;
  2. Optionally attach event handlers to your DOM nodes;
  3. Insert your parent DOM node into the DOM.

This philosophy leads to a very simple library, which in turns has the following advantages:

  • Microscopic file size, around 1k minified;
  • It's fast;
  • It has less moving parts than a full-fledged templating engine;
  • Lets you attach event handlers right when you build your DOM nodes.


sugar_dom is simply syntactic sugar around creating DOM nodes. So not only is it incredibly small, but it's simply JavaScript. Although the syntactic sugar aims at being cross-browser, so you don't need to know the tricks.

Since it's simply JavaScript, sugar_dom doesn't require any special trick to pass templates around (script tags with a special type, dynamically loaded files or hidden nodes).

Getting Started

Download the production version or the development version.

In your web page:

<script src="dist/sugar_dom.min.js"></script>
  var link = el('a.awesome-class', {'href': '/account'}, ['My Awesome Account']);
  document.querySelectAll('body').appendChild( link );


At it's simplest form, create an empty 'p' node and insert it into the DOM:

The basics

var p = el('p');

Pure DOM elements can of course be inserted with tools like jQuery:

$('section.main').append( el('p') );

el() arguments

el takes up to 3 arguments, the last two being optional.

el(tag, attributes, children)

tag is a string with the name of the tag to create, and optionally an id and class names, written in a CSS selector syntax.

attributes is an optional object of attributes for the tag. The attribute names use the HTML syntax, not the DOM syntax. In other words, {'class': 'my-class'} rather than {className: 'my-class'}.

children is an array of DOM nodes (created with el() or not) or plain strings. Plain strings will of course create a text node. As a convenience, if children is a string rather than an array, one child text node will be created. The children are appended in the order they are specified.

The parent node (the first call to el()) is not inserted in the DOM. It's up to you to do that. However any specified child is automatically appended to its parent node, so you only have to insert the parent node into the DOM.

A Few Examples

el('p').outerHTML // => <p></p>
el('').outerHTML // => <p id="id" class="my-class"></p>
el('div.section', {'data-role': 'page'}).outerHTML // => <p data-role="page"></p>
el('a', {href: '/account'}, 'My Account').outerHTML // => <a href="/account">My Account</a>

el('form', {action: '/posts', _method: 'POST'}, [
  el('input#post_title.wide', {name: 'post_title', placeholder: "Your awesome post"}),
  el('text_area#post_body', {name: 'post_body'})
/* =>
<form action="/posts" _method="POST">
  <input id="post_title" name="post_title" placeholder="Your awesome post" class="wide"></input>
  <textarea name="post_body" class="wide"></textarea>


sugar_dom is tested on Chrome, Firefox, Safari (desktop and mobile), Opera desktop, PhantomJS, Android's webkit (Android 2.3), and on the scourge or the Internet: IE 7+ (via IE 9's developer tools).


This software is probably not ready for you to user blindly, as the version number suggests. I'm presently using it for very simple templating on the future version of SocialGrapes, which is not out yet. FastMail may or may not be using a similar approach, but it's based on a different code base.

So use at your own risk, feedback is very welcome.


Feel free to submit issues and pull requests.

In lieu of a formal styleguide, take care to maintain the existing coding style. Add unit tests for any new or changed functionality. Lint and test your code using grunt.

Also, please don't edit files in the "dist" subdirectory as they are generated via grunt. You'll find source code in the "src" subdirectory.

Release History

  • 2012-04-25 - v0.0.2 - Empty children elements are skipped. Told you it wasn't ready for prime time :-)
  • 2012-04-25 - v0.0.1 - Initial release.


Copyright (c) 2012 Mathieu Martin Licensed under the MIT license.


JavaScript templating engines are so 2012. SugarDOM is from the future!




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