jQuery Templates, Data Link

Query Templates, Data Link, and Globalization

I am sure you must have read Scott Guthrie’s blog post about jQuery support and officially supporting jQuery's templating, data linking and globalization, if not here it is: jQuery Templating

Since we are an open source shop and use jQuery and jQuery plugins extensively to say the least, decided to look into the templating a bit and see what data linking is all about.

For those not familiar with those terms here is the summary, plenty of material out there on what it is, but here is what in my experience it means:

jQuery Templating:

A templating engine that allows you to specify a client-side template where you indicate which properties/tags you want dynamically updated. You in a sense specify which parts of the html is dynamic and since it is pluggable you are able to use tools data jQuery data linking and others to let it sync up your template with data. What makes it more powerful is that you can easily work with rows of data, adding and removing rows. Once the template has been generated, which you do dynamically on a client-side event, you then append/inject the resulting template somewhere in your DOM, like for example you would get a JSON object from the database, map it to your template, it populates the template with your data in the indicated places, and then let’s say for example append it to a row in a table. I have not found it that useful for lets say a single record of data since you could easily just get a partial view from the server via an html type ajax call. It really shines when you dynamically add/remove rows from a list in the DOM.

I have not found an alternative that meets the functionality of the jQuery template and helps of course that Microsoft officially supports it. In future versions of the jQuery plug-in it may even ship as part of the standard jQuery library and with future versions of Visual Studio.

jQuery Data Linking:

In short I was fascinated by it initially by how with one line of code I can sync up my JSON object with my form elements. That's where my enthusiasm stopped. It was one-line to let is deal with syncing up your form with your JSON object, but it is not bidirectional as they state and I tried all the work arounds they suggested and none of them work. The problem is that when you update your JSON object it DOES NOT sync it up with your form. In an example, accounts are being edited client side by selecting the account from a list by clicking on the row, it then fetches the entire account JSON object via ajax json-type call and then refreshes the form with the account’s details from the new JSON object. What is the use of syncing up my JSON with the form if I still have to programmatically sync up my new JSON object with each DOM property?!

So you may ask: “what is the alternative”? Good question and the same one I was pondering, maybe I can just use it for keeping my from n sync with my JSON object so I can post that JSON object back to the server and update my database. That’s when I discovered Knockout: Knockout

It addresses the issues mentioned above and also supports event handling through the observer pattern. Not wanting to go into detail here, Steve Sanderson, the creator of Knockout, has already done a terrific job of that, thanks Steve for a great plug-in! Best of all it integrates perfectly with the jQuery Templating engine as well. I have not found an alternative to this plugin that supports the depth and width of functionality and would recommend it to anyone.

The only drawback is the embedded html attributes (data-bind=””) tags that you have to add to the HTML, in my opinion tying your behavior to your HTML, where I like to separate behavior from HTML as well as CSS, so the HTML is purely to define content, not styling or behavior. But there are plusses to this as well and also a nifty work around to this that I will just shortly mention here with an example.

Instead of data binding an html tag with knockout event handling like so:

 <%=Html.TextBox("PrepayDiscount", String.Empty, new { @class = "number" })%>

 

Do:

<%=Html.DataBoundTextBox("PrepayDiscount", String.Empty, new { @class = "number" })%>

 

The html extension above then takes care of the internals and you could then swap Knockout for something else if you want to inside the extension and keep the HTML plugin agnostic. Here is what the extension looks like, you can easily build a whole library to support all kinds of data binding options from this: 

    public static class HtmlExtensions

 

    {

        public static MvcHtmlString DataBoundTextBox(this HtmlHelper helper, string name, object value, object htmlAttributes)

        {

            var dic = new RouteValueDictionary(htmlAttributes);

            dic.Add("data-bind", String.Format("value: {0}", name));

            return helper.TextBox(name, value, dic);

        }

 

    }

 

Hope this helps in making a decision when and where to consider jQuery templating, data linking and Knockout.

 

 

 

 

 

Print | posted @ Friday, June 24, 2011 9:00 AM

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