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Angular, Bindings and Templates

Last updated on Monday, September 20, 2010

I recently watched a video about a cool new technology called <angular/>. It looks like a great way to create web applications. It caught my attention because I saw in it some parallels with some of my recent writings and what I am currently working on.

The video was very good but in the beginning Misko Hevery struggled a bit to describe it and at the end admitted the biggest problem was explaining to people what <angular/> is. To me it is clearly a language, and an extensible one at that. It is (or at least contains) as he describes an HTML compiler. Doesn’t a compiler imply some language to compile. The source is clearly more than just HTML so it must be more than just an HTML compiler. I wonder if there is some reason he avoids calling it a language. The fact that it can be extended to handle new behaviors, widgets, etc. just makes it a better language. Is there some fear that calling it a language would put people off? It doesn’t bother me since I previously said that higher level languages will provide the biggest productivity gains.

The parallels I was talking about are:

  • Its a declarative language
  • The language is designed to be extended
  • It has two way data binding

Two way data binding is a very important aspect in simplifying the creation of web apps. The first time I ever saw data binding was back in the the late ’80s. I was visiting a friend that was working on a maser, which is cool (literally) in its own right, but what caught my eye, as he showed me around his lab, was some software running on an old Mac. That software was LabView. The fact that a line drawn between a sensor and a gauge meant that any time the senor value changed the gauge was updated really impressed me. More recently I noticed that data binding is built in to the JavaFX language. I haven’t written any programs in LabView or JavaFX so I’m not sure if the bindings can be bidirectional but I’m pretty sure at least in JavaFX that bidirectional changes can be accomplished.

It is the two way data bindings that most notably distinguish <angular/> from template languages. I used to be a big fan of template languages, and StringTemplate was my favorite. Lately I have found them to be less useful. One reason is that in my recent work I have found that procedural logic far outweighs the amount of template text. The bigger reason is that most template languages don’t automatically protect you from script injection (XSS). There are many JavaScript template languages available now and I don’t have a need for any of them. But <angular/> is different — it is not a template language and it looks like it protects against script injection by default.

<angular/> is new but it looks very promising.