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MontageJS Declaration

This document explains the serialization format MontageJS uses to serialize, and later deserialize, a declaration.

A declaration describes the objects, components, properties, component data bindings, and DOM relationships involved in a MontageJS application. MontageJS uses JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) as the serialization format. At runtime, MontageJS parses the JSON structure and deserializes its contents into JavaScript, which is then evaluated and executed in the browser.

JSON Overview

JSON, a text format designed for serializing structured data, can represent six data types:

  • Four primitive types: strings, numbers, Booleans, and null
  • Two structured types: objects and arrays

In JSON, an object is represented as an unordered collection of zero or more name/value pairs. A name is a string, and a value is one of the primitive JSON data types—string, number, Boolean, or null. An array structure is represented as square brackets surrounding zero or more values (or elements). Elements are separated by commas.

For example, the following JSON content defines an object named anObject that contains three properties:

  • A string named id
  • An array named colors
  • A Boolean named readyState
"anObject": {
    "id": "123asd",
    "colors": [ "red", "green", "blue"],
    "readyState": false
}

In addition to these standard data types, MontageJS supports a few special types to enable serialization of more complex objects. These types include references to other objects in the same serialization, DOM references, functions, and regular expressions.

Declaration Example

The following simple (yet complete) MontageJS application is defined in a single HTML document. This example gives you an idea of what serialization in MontageJS is about and why it’s useful.

<html>
   <script src="../../montage.js"></script>
   <script type="text/montage-serialization">
   {
       "firstName": {
           "prototype": "digit/ui/text-field.reel",
           "properties": {
               "element": {"#": "fName"}
           }
        }
   }
   </script>
   <body>
    <input data-montage-id="fName"></input>
   <body>
</html>

Important things to note:

  • The HTML body section contains a single <input> tag, identified with the custom data-attribute data-montage-id of fName.
  • The head section contains a <script> block of type text/montage-serialization. This block contains all serialized MontageJS objects used in the document.
  • The serialization block declares a TextField component with an object label of firstName. The component’s prototype in form of a module id (“digit/ui/text-field.reel”) allows MontageJS to recreate the component from its serialized form at runtime.
  • The properties object assigns initial values to the component’s properties. One of the most important properties of a MontageJS component is its element property, which corresponds to the associated HTML body element on which the component operates. In this case, the TextField component’s element property is set to the <input> tag that has the ID "fName". The MontageJS serialization format provides a special JSON object representation to refer to an element. This special object’s name is a hash mark (“#”) and its value is the ID of the element.
  • MontageJS can load components from a directory that has a .reel extension. The module system redirects require("x.reel") to require("x.reel/x").

Declaration Owner

A MontageJS serialization can declare an optional object named “owner”. The specified owner acts as the controller for the document. For example, the following code creates a new module (main.js) that exports a Main prototype object.

// Module: main.js
// Exported object name: Main
var Component = require("montage/ui/component").Component;
//
exports.Main = Component.specialize({
// Prototype methods and properties
})
<script type="text/montage-serialization">
{
   "owner": {
       "prototype": "main",
       "properties": {
           "element": {"#": "main"}
       }
    }
}
</script>

Declaration Formats

The following sections explain object-dependent declarations.

Serializing a Custom Object

To serialize custom JavaScript objects, including MontageJS components, define a JSON object with a prototype property. This property defines the prototype to use to instantiate the object.

For example, the following declaration fragment declares a Button component:

<script type="text/montage-serialization">
{
    "loginButton": {
        "prototype": "digit/ui/button.reel"
    }
}
</script>

At runtime MontageJS parses this declaration and evaluates it as the following JavaScript:

var Button = require("digit/ui/button.reel").Button;

Note that object labels in a declaration (such as "loginButton" in the above example) can only be accessed, in code, through the templateObjects property of the owner component.

You can assign initial values to an object’s properties in a declaration by adding a properties object to the declaration. For example, the Button component has a value property that contains the string to display as the button’s label. The following assigns the value “Click me” to the Button component’s value property:

"loginButton": {
    "prototype": "digit/ui/button.reel",
    "properties": {
       "value": "Click me"
    }
}

Referencing DOM Elements

You can reference DOM elements from a MontageJS declaration using a special JSON object representation. This is commonly used to assign an HTML element to a component’s element property, or anytime you need a reference to a DOM element.

To reference an element by ID, use the following JSON syntax, where elementID is the ID of an element in the same document:

{"#": "elementID"}

For example, the following template declares a Button component whose element property is assigned the <div> with ID of loginButton:

// index.html
<html>
 <script src="../../montage.js"></script>
 <script type="text/montage-serialization">
 {
      "loginBtn": {
        "prototype": "montage/ui/button.reel",
        "properties": {
            "element": {"#": "loginButton"}
        }
      }
 }
 </script>
 <body>
      <div data-montage-id="loginButton" class="Text">Click to enter</div>
 <body>
</html>

Referencing Other Objects

Often you need to reference one serialized MontageJS object from another object in the same serialization. For instance, the serialization might declare a MontageJS button that you want to reference from the controller (or owner) object in the serialization.

To reference an element by ID, use the following JSON syntax. In this example, objectLabel is the label assigned to the serialized object.

{"@": "objectLabel"}

To demonstrate, first create the owner prototype object that references the button. The owner object—a custom component named Main—is defined in a JavaScript file main.js. The Main component declares a variable loginButton that will hold the reference to the Button object in the main application. We can reference that variable elsewhere in the Main component, such as its enterDocument() function, which is invoked when the component enters the document. In this case, we use this callback opportunity to attach an event listener to the Button object. The event handler displays a message in the JavaScript console.

// Module: main.js
// Name: Main
var Component = require("montage/ui/component").Component;
exports.Main = Component.specialize({
    loginButton: {
        value:null
    },
    handleAction: {
        value: function(event) {
            console.log("Button event handled...");
            // Do login stuff...
        }
    },
    enterDocument: {
        value: function(firstTime) {
            if (firstTime) {
                this.loginButton.addEventListener("action", this)
            }
        }
    }
});

Next, create the main HTML document that declares the Button and Main components. On line 10 a reference to the "loginBtn" serialized Button is assigned to the "loginButton" property of the Main component.

<html>
 <script src="../../montage.js"></script>
 <script type="text/montage-serialization">
 {
    "owner": {
        "prototype": "ui/main.reel"
        "properties": {
            "element": {"#": "main"},
            "loginButton": {"@": "loginBtn"}
        }
    },
    "loginBtn": {
        "prototype": "digit/ui/button.reel",
        "properties": {
            "element": {"#": "buttonDiv"}
        }
    }
 }
 </script>
<body>
    <div id="main">
        <div data-montage-id="buttonDiv" class="Text">Click to enter</div>
    </div>
<body>
</html>

Data Bindings in Declarations

You can define event listener and data bindings between components within a serialization. To better understand the binding serialization syntax, look at the underlying JavaScript method used for creating data bindings, Object.defineBinding(). This method takes three parameters:

  • The target object defining the binding
  • The name of the target object’s property that is being bound
  • A descriptor object that specifies target path the direction and the source path

You specify a component’s bindings in a serialization with a bindings JSON object that, in turn, defines one or more JSON objects.

"bindings": {
   "propertyName": {"<-": "@targetObject.key.path.of.property"}
}

Above can also be defined in JavaScript:

this.defineBinding("propertyName", {
    "<-": "targetObject.key.path.of.property"
});

// or

this.defineBindings({
    "propertyName": {
        "<-": "targetObject.key.path.of.property"
    }
});

The following simple example adds data bindings to a serialization. It consists of two Slider components. The first slider’s value is bound to the second slider’s value. By default, data bindings are bi-directional, so changes to either bound property are pushed to the corresponding property. The arrow property “<-“ or “<->” indicates if the the direction of the binding is one or two way.

<html>
<head>
    <title>Slider binding text</title>
    <script src="../../montage.js"></script>
    <script type="text/montage-serialization">
    {
        "slider1": {
            "prototype": "digit/ui/slider.reel",
            "properties": {
                "element": {"#": "slider1"}
            },
            "bindings": {
                "value": {"<-": "@slider2.value"}
            }
        },
        "slider2": {
            "prototype": "digit/ui/slider.reel",
            "properties": {
                "element": {"#": "slider2"}
            }
        }
    }
    </script>
</head>
<body>
    <div data-montage-id="slider1"></div>
    <div data-montage-id="slider2"></div>
</body>
</html>

Event Listeners in Declarations

You can assign event listeners to serialized components in a serialization using a listeners property.

This can reduce the amount of code required to establish event handling for your components. The serialization in the following example declares two objects: a custom controller object (Controller) and a Button. The controller object acts as the event listener object to respond to “action” events that the Button emits when clicked or touched.

The following code for the Controller component defines a single function named handleAction(), which is invoked when the user clicks the button:

// Module: controller.js
// Name: Controller
var Montage = require("montage/core/core").Montage;
exports.Controller = Montage.specialize({
    handleAction: {
        value: function(event) {
            console.log("Button event handled...");
            // Do login stuff...
        }
    },
});

The following is the HTML document and component serialization. The “loginBtn” object in the serialization contains a "listeners" array property. This array can contain one or more elements.

<html>
 <script src="../../montage.js"></script>
 <script type="text/montage-serialization">
 {
    "controller": {
        "prototype": "controller",
        "properties": {
            "element": {"#": "main"},
            "loginButton": {"@": "loginBtn"}
        }
    },
    "loginBtn": {
        "prototype": "digit/ui/button.reel",
        "properties": {
            "element": {"#": "buttonDiv"}
        },
        "listeners": [
            {
                "type": "action",
                "listener": {"@": "controller"},
                "capture": false
            }
        ]
    }
 }
 </script>
<body>
    <div id="main">
        <div data-montage-id="buttonDiv" class="Text">Click to enter</div>
    </div>
<body>
</html>

Serialization Format

Serialization must be written in valid JSON format, as MontageJS uses the browser’s native JSON parsing APIs to parse the serialization block. If there are formatting errors, MontageJS throws an error and does not attempt to deserialize the JSON object. Two common formatting concerns are:

  • Trailing commas. A trailing comma after the last property in a JSON object or array generates runtime errors. In the following example the comma that trails the readyState property would generate a JSON parsing error:
    "anObject": {
        "id": "123asd",
        "colors": [ "red", "green", "blue"],
        "readystate": false,
    }
  • Matching brackets. Obviously, each open bracket must have a matching close bracket.

MontageJS reports any formatting errors in the console when you run the application. For details on valid JSON formatting, please see http://www.json.org/.