Posts tagged 'emberjs'

Usergrid and Ember.js - part 1

The next one of my 2014 Side projects that I’d like to share is Usergrid-Ember, an experiment and attempt to learn more about Ember.js and Apache Usergrid by implementing the Checkin example from my Usergrid mobile development talk. If you're interested in either Usergrid or JavaScript web development then I hope you'll read on...

Why Ember.js?

Ember logo

Ember.js is one of the leading frameworks for building browser-based apps. It's one of many JavaScript Model View Controller (MVC) frameworks. Generally speaking, these frameworks let you define a set of routes or paths in your app, for example /index, /orders, /about, etc. and map each to some JavaScript code and HTML templates. Handling a route usually means using Ajax to grab some “model” data from a server and using a template to create an HTML “view” of the data that calls functions provided in a "controller" object.

JavaScript MVC frameworks are not simple and each has its own learning curve. Is it really worth the learning time when you can do so much with a little library like jQuery? For most projects I think the answer is yes. These frameworks force you to organize your code in a logical and consistent way, which is really important as projects grow larger, and they provide features that may save you a lot of development time.

Based on what I've seen on the net and local meet-ups, the leading frameworks these days are Ember.js and AngularJS. After I saw Yehudi Katz’s talk at All Things Open, I decided to spend some time learning Ember.js.

Getting started with Ember.js

The first thing you see when you visit the Ember.js site is a big button that says "DOWNLOAD THE STARTER KIT" and so that is where I started. The Starter Kit is a, a minimal Ember.js project with about twenty JavaScript, HTML and CSS files. It's a good way to start: small and simple.

Ember.js Starter Kit files:

screenshot of Starter Kit directory layout

Sidebar: I do hope they keep the Starter Kit around when the new Ember-CLI tool matures. Ember-CLI generates too many magic boiler-plate files and sub-directories for somebody who is trying to understand the basics of the framework. And this is an interesting point of view: Ember-CLI is Making You Stupid by Yoni Yechezkel.

Other stuff: Bower, Grunt and Bootstrap

I like to bite off more than I can chew, so I decided to use a couple of other tools. I used Bower to manage dependencies and Grunt to concatenate and minify those dependencies, and other things like launching a simple web server for development purposes. I also decided to use Bootstrap to provide various UI components needed, like a navbar and nicely styled list views.

I won't cover the details, but it was relatively easy to get Bower and Grunt working. Here are the config files in case you are interested: bower.json and Gruntfile.js. I did hit one problem: when I included Bootstrap as one of my dependencies the Glyphicons would all appear as tiny boxes, so I decided to pull Bootstrap from a CDN instead (looks like there is a fix for that now).

Defining Index Route, Model and Template

Every Ember.js app needs to define some routes. There is a default route for the "/" path which is called the index route, and you can add your own routes using the Router object. The snippet below shows what I needed to get started:

Part of app.js (link)
// create the ember app object
App = Ember.Application.create();

// define routes {
    this.route("login", { path: "/login" });  
    this.route("logout", { path: "/logout" });
    this.route("register", { path: "/register" });

Ember.js will look for the JavaScript Route and Controller objects as well as the HTML template using the names above. For example: Ember.js will expect the login route to be named App.LoginRoute, the controller to be named App.LoginController and the template to be named "login."

Let's talk about the index route. When a user arrives at your app they’ll be directed to the index route. Ember.js will then look for a JavaScript object called App.IndexRoute to provide the model data and JavaScript functions needed for the index page. Here’s a partial view of the index route:

Part of app.js (link)
App.IndexRoute = Ember.Route.extend( {

    // provide model data needed for index template
    model: function() {
        if ( this.loggedIn() ) {
        return [];


The index page of the Checkin app shows the Checkin activities of the people that you follow. Above you can see how to route's model() function makes that data available to the template for display. If the user is logged in we call the store.find(“activity”) function to call the Usergrid REST API to get an array of the latest Activity objects. There is some serious Ember-Data magic going on there and I'll cover that in part two of this article.

To display the index route, Ember looks for an HTML template called “index” and will use that template to display the index page. Below is the index template. The template is a Handlebars template and the things that appear in double curly-braces are Handlebars expressions.

Part of index.html (link)

In the above template you can see a couple of {{action}} expressions that call out to JavaScript methods defined in the Checkin app. The part of the code that uses the model is in the {{#each}} loop which loops through each Activity in the model and dispays an HTML list with the the item.content and item.location of each Activity.

Here's what the above template looks like when displayed in a browser:

screenshot of checkin app index page

Implementing Login

In Checkin, login is implemented using HTML Local Storage. Once a user has successfully logged in, the app stores the username and the user's access_token in Local Storage. When user arrives at the index page, we check Local Storage to see if that user is logged in and if not, we direct them to the login route, which in turn displays the login page using the template below.

Part of index.html (link)

The LoginController provides the functions needed by the Login page itself and there are two. There is a login() function (called on line 27 above) that performs the login, and there is a register() function (called on line 31 above) that directs the user to the New User Registration page. Here's a snippet of code from the App.LoginController that provides these two functions:

Part of app.js (link)
App.LoginController = Ember.Controller.extend({

  actions: {

    login: function() { 

      // login by POST to Usergrid app's /token end-point

      var loginData = {
        grant_type: "password",
        username: this.get("username"),
        password: this.get("password")

        type: "POST",
        url: Usergrid.getAppUrl() + "/token",
        data: loginData,
        context: this,
        error: function( data ) {

          // login failed, show error message
          alert( data.responseJSON.error_description );
        success: function( data ) { 

          // store access_token in local storage
          Usergrid.user = data.user;
          localStorage.setItem("username", loginData.username );
          localStorage.setItem("access_token", data.access_token );

          // clear the form
          this.set("username", ""); 
          this.set("password", "");

         // call route to handle post-login transition

    register: function() {


The above code shows how to login to a Usergrid app using jQuery's Ajax feature. The login() function takes the username and password values from the login form, puts those in a JSON object with grant_type "password" and posts that object to the /token end-point of the Usergrid app. If that post succeeds, the response will include an access_token. We store that in Local Storage; we'll need to use it in all subsequent calls to Usergrid.

Usergrid fans will notice that I'm not using the Usergrid JavaScript SDK. That's because Ember.js provides Ember-Data, which acts as a very nice REST client and can be adapted to work with the URL structure and JSON formats of just about any REST API. I'll write about that in part two of this article.