Peterbe.com

A blog and website by Peter Bengtsson

Filtered home page! Currently only showing blog entries under the category: AngularJS. Clear filter

You might have heard that AngularJS 1.3 has "one-time bindings" which is that you can print the value of a scope variable with {{ ::somevar }} and that this is really good for performance because it means that once rendered it doesn't add to the list of things that the angular app needs to keep worrying about. I.e. it's one less thing to watch.

But what's a good use case of this? This is a good example.

Because ng-if="true" will cause the DOM element to be re-created it will go back to the scope variable and re-evaluate it.

By writing this I'm taking a risk of looking like an idiot who has failed to read the docs. So please be gentle.

AngularJS uses a promise module called $q. It originates from this beast of a project.

You use it like this for example:

angular.module('myapp')
.controller('MainCtrl', function($scope, $q) {
  $scope.name = 'Hello ';
  var wait = function() {
    var deferred = $q.defer();
    setTimeout(function() {
      // Reject 3 out of 10 times to simulate 
      // some business logic.
      if (Math.random() > 0.7) deferred.reject('hell');
      else deferred.resolve('world');
    }, 1000);
    return deferred.promise;
  };

  wait()
  .then(function(rest) {
    $scope.name += rest;
  })
  .catch(function(fallback) {
    $scope.name += fallback.toUpperCase() + '!!';
  });
});

Basically you construct a deferred object and return its promise. Then you can expect the .then and .catch to be called back if all goes well (or not).

There are other ways you can use it too but let's stick to the basics to drive home this point to come.

Then there's the $http module. It's where you do all your AJAX stuff and it's really powerful. However, it uses an abstraction of $q and because it is an abstraction it renames what it calls back. Instead of .then and .catch it's .success and .error and the arguments you get are different. Both expose a catch-all function called .finally. You can, if you want to, bypass this abstraction and do what the abstraction does yourself. So instead of:

$http.get('https://api.github.com/users/peterbe/gists')
.success(function(data) {
  $scope.gists = data;
})
.error(function(data, status) {
  console.error('Repos error', status, data);
})
.finally(function() {
  console.log("finally finished repos");
});

...you can do this yourself...:

$http.get('https://api.github.com/users/peterbe/gists')
.then(function(response) {
  $scope.gists = response.data;
})
.catch(function(response) {
  console.error('Gists error', response.status, response.data);
})
.finally(function() {
  console.log("finally finished gists");
});

It's like it's built specifically for doing HTTP stuff. The $q modules doesn't know that the response body, the HTTP status code and the HTTP headers are important.

However, there's a big caveat. You might not always know you're doing AJAX stuff. You might be using a service from somewhere and you don't care how it gets its data. You just want it to deliver some data. For example, suppose you have an AJAX request cached so that only the first time it needs to do an HTTP GET but all consecutive times you can use the stuff already in memory. E.g. Something like this:

angular.module('myapp')
.controller('MainCtrl', function($scope, $q, $http, $timeout) {

  $scope.name = 'Hello ';
  var getName = function() {
    var name = null;
    var deferred = $q.defer();
    if (name !== null) deferred.resolve(name);
    $http.get('https://api.github.com/users/peterbe')
    .success(function(data) {
      deferred.resolve(data.name);
    }).error(deferred.reject);
    return deferred.promise;
  };

  // Even though we're calling this 3 different times
  // you'll notice it only starts one AJAX request.
  $timeout(function() {
    getName().then(function(name) {
      $scope.name = "Hello " + name;
    });    
  }, 1000);

  $timeout(function() {
    getName().then(function(name) {
      $scope.name = "Hello " + name;
    });    
  }, 2000);

  $timeout(function() {
    getName().then(function(name) {
      $scope.name = "Hello " + name;
    });    
  }, 3000);
});

And with all the other promise frameworks laying around like jQuery's you will sooner or later forget if it's success() or then() or done() and your goldfish memory (like mine) will cause confusion and bugs.

So is there a way to make $http.<somemethod> return a $q like promise but with the benefit of the abstractions that the $http layer adds?

Here's one such possible solution maybe:

var app = angular.module('myapp');

app.factory('httpq', function($http, $q) {
  return {
    get: function() {
      var deferred = $q.defer();
      $http.get.apply(null, arguments)
      .success(deferred.resolve)
      .error(deferred.resolve);
      return deferred.promise;
    }
  }
});

app.controller('MainCtrl', function($scope, httpq) {

  httpq.get('https://api.github.com/users/peterbe/gists')
  .then(function(data) {
    $scope.gists = data;
  })
  .catch(function(data, status) {
    console.error('Gists error', response.status, response.data);
  })
  .finally(function() {
    console.log("finally finished gists");
  });
});

That way you get the benefit of a one same way for all things that get you data some way or another and you get the nice AJAXy signatures you like.

This is just a prototype and clearly it's not generic to work with any of the shortcut functions in $http like .post(), .put() etc. That can maybe be solved with a Proxy object or some other hack I haven't had time to think of yet.

So, what do you think? Am I splitting hairs or is this something attractive?

A common thing in many (AngularJS) apps is to have an ng-model input whose content is used to as a filter on an ng-repeat somewhere within the page. Something like this:

<input ng-model="search">
<div ng-repeat="item in items | filter:search">...

Well, what if you want the search you make to automatically become part of the URL so that if you bookmark the search or copy the URL to someone else, the search is still there? It would be really practical. Granted, it's not always that you want this but that's something you can decide.

AngularJS 1.2 (I think) introduced the ability to set reloadOnSearch: false on a route provider and that means that you can do things like $location.hash('something') without it triggering the route provider to re-map the URL and re-start the revelant controller.

So here's a good example of (ab)using that to do a search filter which automatically updates the URL.

Check out the demo: http://www.peterbe.com/permasearch/index.html

This works in HTML5 mode too if you're wondering.

Suppose you use many more things in your filter function other than just a free text ng-modal. Like this:

<input type="text" ng-model="filters.search">
<select ng-model="filters.year">
<option value="">All</option>
<option value="2014">2014</option>
<option value="2013">2013</option>
</select>

You might have some checkboxes and stuff too. All you need to do then is to encode that information in the hash. Something like this might be a good start:

$scope.filters = {};
$scope.$watchCollection('filters', function(value) {
    $location.hash($.param(value)); // a jQuery function
});

And something like this to "unparse" the params.

Because this took me quite a while to figure out, I thought I'd share in case somebody else is falling into the same pit of confusion.

When you write an attribute directive in angularjs you might want to have it fed by an attribute value.
For example, something like this:

<div my-attribute="somevalue"></div>

How then do you create a new scope that takes that in? It's not obvious. Any here's how you do it:

app.directive('myAttribute', function() {
    return {
        restrict: 'A',
        scope: {
            myAttribute: '='
        },
        template: '<div style="font-weight:bold">{{ myAttribute | number:2 }}</div>'
    };
});

The trick to notice is that the "self attribute" because the name of the attribute in camel case.

Thanks @mythmon for helping me figure this out.

angular-classy, by @DaveJ, is an interesting AngularJS module that you use to get some class structure into your controller. You can check out his page and the documentation there for some basic examples of that it does.

This appeals to me as a Python developer because now my angular code looks more like a Python class. I also like that there's an init function now (similar to python's __init__ I guess) and I also like that you can distinguish between "scope functions" and "local functions". To explain that, consider this:

  // somewhere in a controller 
  ...


  $scope.addSomething = function() {  // used in your template
    if ($scope.some_precondition) {
      reallyAddSomething($scope.firt_name, $scope.last_name);
    }
  };

  function reallyAddSomething(first_name, last_name) {
    // can still use $scope in here
  }

And compare this with angular-classy:

  // somewhere in a controller 
  ...


  addSomething: function() {  // used in your template
    if (this.$scope.some_precondition) {
      this._reallyAddSomething(this.$scope.first_name, this.$scope.last_name);
    }
  },

  _reallyAddSomething = function(first_name, last_name) {
    // can still use this.$scope in here
  },

Basically, the _ prefix makes the function available on this but not attached to the scope. And I think that just makes sense!

So my guttural feeling is all positive about angular-classy. But there is still one big caveat. The mythical "this" in Javascript. It's great but it's kinda clunky too because it rebinds in every sub-scope. The solution to that is to bind things. For example, for a success promise it now has to look like this:

this.$http.get('/some/url')
.success(function(response) {
  this.somethingElseInTheModule(response.something);
}.bind(this));

Anyway, let's compare the before and after of a real project.

Before

controllers.js

After

controllers.js

What do you think? Does it look better? Full diff here

I think I like it. But I need to let it "sink in" a bit first. I think the code looks neater with angular-classy but it's now a new dependency and it means that people who know angular but not familiar with angular-classy would get confused when they are confronted with this code.

UPDATE

I merged the branch. So now this project is classy.

Screenshot
Last week I built a little tools called github-pr-triage. It's a single page app that sits on top of the wonderful GitHub API v3.

Its goal is to try to get an overview of what needs to happen next to open pull requests. Or rather, what needs to happen next to get it closed. Or rather, who needs to act next to get it closed.

It's very common, at least in my team, that someone puts up a pull request, asks someone to review it and then walks away from it. She then doesn't notice that perhaps the integrated test runner fails on it and the reviewer is thinking to herself "I'll review the code once the tests don't fail" and all of a sudden the ball is not in anybody's court. Or someone makes a comment on a pull request that the author of the pull requests misses in her firehose of email notifictions. Now she doesn't know that the comment means that the ball is back in her court.

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the author of the pull request to pester and nag till it gets landed or closed but oftentimes the ball is in someone elses court and hopefully this tool makes that clearer.

Here's an example instance: https://prs.paas.allizom.org/mozilla/socorro

Currently you can use prs.paas.allizom.org for any public Github repo but if too many projects eat up all the API rate limits we have I might need to narrow it down to use mozilla repos. Or, you can simply host your own. It's just a simple Flask server

About the technology

I'm getting more and more productive with Angular but I still consider myself a beginner. Saying that also buys me insurance when you laugh at my code.

So it's a single page app that uses HTML5 pushState and an angular $routeProvider to make different URLs.

The server simply acts as a proxy for making queries to api.github.com and bugzilla.mozilla.org/rest and the reason for that is for caching.

Every API request you make through this proxy gets cached for 10 minutes. But here's the clever part. Every time it fetches actual remote data it stores it in two caches. One for 10 minutes and one for 24 hours. And when it stores it for 24 hours it also stores its last ETag so that I can make conditional requests. The advantage of that is you quickly know if the data hasn't changed and more importantly it doesn't count against you in the rate limiter.

So I've now built my first real application using AngularJS. It's a fun side-project which my wife and I use to track what we spend money on. It's not a work project but it's also not another Todo list application. In fact, the application existed before as a typical jQuery app. So, I knew exactly what I needed to build but this time trying to avoid jQuery as much as I possibly could.

The first jQuery based version is here and although I'm hesitant to share this beginner-creation here's the AngularJS version

The following lists were some stumbling block and other things that stumped me. Hopefully by making this list it might help others who are also new to AngularJS and perhaps the Gods of AngularJS can see what confuses beginners like me.

1. AJAX doesn't work like jQuery

Similar to Backbone, I think, the default thing is to send the GET, POST request with the data the body blob. jQuery, by default, sends it as application/x-www-form-urlencoded. I like that because that's how most of my back ends work (e.g. request.GET.get('variable') in Django). I ended up pasting in this (code below) to get back what I'm familiar with:

module.config(function ($httpProvider) {
  $httpProvider.defaults.transformRequest = function(data){
    if (data === undefined) {
      return data;
    }
    return $.param(data);
  };
  $httpProvider.defaults.headers.post['Content-Type'] = ''
    + 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded; charset=UTF-8';
});

2. App/Module configuration confuses me

The whole concept of needing to define the code as an app or a module confused me. I think it all starts to make sense now. Basically, you don't need to think about "modules" until you start to split distinct things into separate files. To get started, you don't need it. At least not for simple applications that just have one chunk of business logic code.

Also, it's confusing why the the name of the app is important and why I even need a name.

3. How to do basic .show() and .hide() is handled by the data

In jQuery, you control the visibility of elements by working with the element based on data. In AngularJS you control the visibility by tying it to the data and then manipulate the data. It's hard to put your finger on it but I'm so used to looking at the data and then decide on elements' visibility. This is not an uncommon pattern in a jQuery app:

<p class="bench-press-question">
  <label>How much can you bench press?</label>
  <input name="bench_press_max">
</p>
if (data.user_info.gender == 'male') {
  $('.bench-press-question input').val(response.user_info.bench_press_max);
  $('.bench-press-question').show();
}

In AngularJS that would instead look something like this:

<p ng-show="male">
  <label>How much can you bench press?</label>
  <input name="bench_press_max" ng-model="bench_press_max">
</p>

if (data.user_info.gender == 'male') {
  $scope.male = true;
  $scope.bench_press_max = data.user_info.bench_press_max;
}

I know this can probably be expressed in some smarter way but what made me uneasy is that I mix stuff into the data to do visual things.

4. How do I use controllers that "manage" the whole page?

I like the ng-controller="MyController" thing because it makes it obvious where your "working environment" is as opposed to working with the whole document but what do I do if I need to tie data to lots of several places of the document?

To remedy this for myself I created a controller that manages, basically, the whole body. If I don't, I can't manage scope data that is scattered across totally different sections of the page.

I know it's a weak excuse but the code I ended up with has one massive controller for everything on the page. That can't be right.

5. setTimeout() doesn't quite work as you'd expect

If you do this in AngularJS it won't update as you'd expect.

<p class="status-message" ng-show="message">{{ message }}</p>

$scope.message = 'Changes saved!';
setTimout(function() {
  $scope.message = null;
}, 5 * 1000);

What you have to do, once you know it, is this:

function MyController($scope, $timeout) {
  ...
  $scope.message = 'Changes saved!'; 
  $timeout(function() {
    $scope.message = null;
  }, 5 * 1000);
}

It's not too bad but I couldn't see this until I had Googled some Stackoverflow questions.

6. Autocompleted password fields don't update the scope

Due to this bug when someone fills in a username and password form using autocomplete the password field isn't updating its data.

Let me explain; you have a username and password form. The user types in her username and her browser automatically now also fills in the password field and she's ready to submit. This simply does not work in AngularJS yet. So, if you have this code...:

<form>
<input name="username" ng-model="username" placeholder="Username">
<input type="password" name="password" ng-model="password" placeholder="Password">
<a class="button button-block" ng-click="submit()">Submit</a>
</form>

$scope.signin_submit = function() {
  $http.post('/signin', {username: $scope.username, password: $scope.password})
    .success(function(data) {
      console.log('Signed in!');
    };
  return false;
};

It simply doesn't work! I'll leave it to the reader to explore what available jQuery-helped hacks you can use.

7. Events for selection in a <select> tag is weird

This is one of those cases where readers might laugh at me but I just couldn't see how else to do it.
First, let me show you how I'd do it in jQuery:

$('select[name="choice"]').change(function() {
  if ($(this).val() == 'other') {
    // the <option value="other">Other...</option> option was chosen 
  }
});

Here's how I solved it in AngularJS:

$scope.$watch('choice', function(value) {
  if (value == 'other') {
    // the <option value="other">Other...</option> option was chosen 
  }
});

What's also strange is that there's nothing in the API documentation about $watch.

8. Controllers "dependency" injection is, by default, dependent on the controller's arguments

To have access to modules like $http and $timeout for example, in a controller, you put them in as arguments like this:

function MyController($scope, $http, $timeout) { 
  ...

It means that it's going to work equally if you do:

function MyController($scope, $timeout, $http) {  // order swapped
  ...

That's fine. Sort of. Except that this breaks minification so you have to do it this way:

var MyController = ['$scope', '$http', '$timeout', function($scope, $http, $timeout) {
  ...

Ugly! The first form depends on the interpreter inspecting the names of the arguments. The second form depends on the modules as strings.

The more correct way to do it is using the $inject. Like this:

MyController.$inject = ['$scope', '$http', '$timeout'];
function MyController($scope, $http, $timeout) {
  ...

Still ugly because it depends on them being strings. But why isn't this the one and only way to do it in the documentation? These days, no application is worth its salt if it isn't minify'able.

9. Is it "angular" or "angularjs"?

Googling and referring to it "angularjs" seems to yield better results.

This isn't a technical thing but rather something that's still in my head as I'm learning my way around.

In conclusion

I'm eager to write another blog post about how fun it has been to play with AngularJS. It's a fresh new way of doing things.

AngularJS code reminds me of the olden days when the HTML no longer looks like HTML but instead some document that contains half of the business logic spread all over the place. I think I haven't fully grasped this new way of doing things.

From hopping around example code and documentation I've seen some outrageously complicated HTML which I'm used to doing in Javascript instead. I appreciate that the HTML is after all part of the visual presentation and not the data handling but it still stumps me every time I see that what used to be one piece of functionality is now spread across two places (in the javascript controller and in the HTML directive).

I'm not givin up on AngularJS but I'll need to get a lot more comfortable with it before I use it in more serious applications.