AngularJs vs EmberJs

Templates in EmberJs

Views in EmberJs


{{input type='text'}}
<button {{action 'changeText'}}>{{model.buttonText}}</button>

EmberJs uses a templating language, Handlebars. Its approach is fundamentally different to that of AngularJs', as it uses a string-based templating mechanism, as opposed to a DOM-based templating mechanism. This means that it parses the entire template beforehand, and generates a series of functions that contain the static inputs to the templates in-line, and accept parameters for the dynamic inputs to the templates.

That explanation would be awfully hard to follow without context - so here is the compiled function that EmberJs + Handlebars would generate for the template specified above.

function anonymous(Handlebars,depth0,helpers,partials,data) {
  this.compilerInfo = [4,'>= 1.0.0'];
  helpers = this.merge(helpers, Ember.Handlebars.helpers); data = data || {};
  var buffer = '', stack1, hashContexts, hashTypes, options, helperMissing=helpers.helperMissing, escapeExpression=this.escapeExpression;
  hashContexts = {'type': depth0};
  hashTypes = {'type': "STRING"};
  options = {hash:{
    'type': ("text")
  data.buffer.push(escapeExpression(((stack1 = helpers.input || depth0.input),stack1 ?, options) :, "input", options))));
  data.buffer.push("\n<button ");
  hashTypes = {};
  hashContexts = {};
  data.buffer.push(escapeExpression(, "changeText", {hash:{},contexts:[depth0],types:["STRING"],hashContexts:hashContexts,hashTypes:hashTypes,data:data})));
  hashTypes = {};
  hashContexts = {};
  data.buffer.push(escapeExpression(, "model.buttonText", {hash:{},contexts:[depth0],types:["ID"],hashContexts:hashContexts,hashTypes:hashTypes,data:data})));
  return buffer;

Do not worry if that looks like gibberish to you - simply look at how it alternately does data.buffer.push("some string"); and data.buffer.push(/* some expression */);. Those are the static and dynamic inputs respectively. Ultimately, this function builds a string, and that string is added to the rendered DOM.

The difference between DOM-based templating mechanisms and string-based templating mechanisms may be thought of as an outside-in approach versus an inside-out approach.

Pros and Cons

The string-based templating mechanism has some pros and cons:

  • Pros:
    • Since templates are pre-compiled they render quickly
    • No flickering on screen as first render is already populated with the dynamic values
  • Cons:

All of these are pretty minor considerations, except for additional DOM nodes being inserted. Littering the DOM with numerous <script> tags makes it quite cluttered and ugly, and makes inspecting it a lot less "fun". It makes one wonder, surely, there must be a better way to do this!

The other implication of this is that two-way binding to element attributes is simply not possible, using this syntax. EmberJs gets around this by defining a special alternative syntax, {{bind-attr}}.

All this put together makes it feel more like something tacked together, rather than a well engineered, elegant, solution.

Separately, the syntax allowed for expression within Handlebars templates is quite restrictive. Properties may only be looked up and output as-is. If any processing or formatting is required, the only way to do this is by defining properties on a controller, or by registering Handlebars helper functions.