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7 JavaScript Template Engines

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Rakesh Patel
Marketing Manager at eTatvaSoft - a mobile app development company.
JavaScript comprises of numerous popular libraries such as jQuery, MooTools, prototype and many more. Perhaps this is the reason why the number of web development frameworks and plugins have expanded beyond the comprehension of the average JavaScript developer.

What do you understand by the term "JavaScript template"?

A JavaScript template is a method of separating the HTML structure from the content. Template engines are used to integrate the user interface and the business data (content) to generate a specific document format. This is because, during the development process, the interface and website content (or even an app) needs to be separated to be more efficient, provide a good design and make code reuse easy.


When Should One Use JavaScript Templates?

The moment one finds themselves incorporating HTML inside JavaScript strings; it’s time to think of the benefits of using a template engine. Separation is of the utmost concern when building a code base that is maintainable as well as reliable. In front-end web development, the entire concept is epitomized by separating HTML from JavaScript. Some of the common scenarios that could benefit from making use of JavaScript templates are real-time web apps (a live streaming app for event commentary), internationalization (displaying different content using the same formatting) as well as single page applications.


Let me describe certain globally popular JavaScript templates engines. And more importantly, these innovations have been some truly revolutionary additions to an already established system of JavaScript development.


  • Mustache.js

Mustache is a logic-less template syntax which can be used for HTML, source code – anything. The template works by simply expanding tags in a template using values provided in a hash or object. It is called logic-less because being an JavaScript developer, you will find no if statements, else clauses or for loops. Instead there are tags and only tags available that can be replaced with a value as required. 


  • Handlebars.js

This template engine is actually an extension to Mustache.js. Both template engines are logic-less that keep the view and the code separated like we all know they should be. The only difference is that Handlebars.js is more focused on helping developers to create semantic templates without having to involve all the confusion and time consumption.


  • Dust

Dust.js is a fully asynchronous JavaScript template system/engine for the browser and server, derived from LinkedIn. Well, in actual terms Dust is not completely logic less but does involve a lot less logic than your average template system. With this template a JavaScript developer can easily move all logical parts of the code towards a simple data model where one can execute functions within that model so that it allows you to take full control over how your templates react in different situations.


  • Transparency

Transparency is a powerful client-side template engine which effectively binds data to the Document Object Model (DOM) or the HTML of a web page. It is comprised of certain great features such as validated HTML templates, view logic in JavaScript. In fact, it may quite interest you to know that transparency is compatible with all the major browsers and platforms, e.g. IE9+, Chrome, Firefox, iOS, Android etc.


  • Jade

Jade is primarily designed as a server-side template for Node.js that is also available in different client side environments. Jade is also meant to produce XML like documents (HTML, RSS etc.) so make sure that you don’t use it to create plain text, markdown, CSS or similar non XML documents.


  • Underscore.js

Underscore.js is another reputable template engine for JavaScript. Numerous JavaScript developers take advantage of this template which keeps the code base intact. The template easily solves the problem of having to open your code editor and not knowing where to start. In addition to this, it also provides over 100 functions that support both your workaday and functional helpers: map, filter, invoke — as well as more specialized goodies: function binding, JavaScript template, creating quick indexes, deep equality testing and so much more.


  • EJS (Embedded JS template)

Inspired by ERB (Embedded Ruby) templates that allows one to generate any kind of text in any quantity, EJS acts much the same. It uses the same tags as ERB and comprises many of the same features. Most of the front-end development providers believe that this template is a lightweight solution towards creating HTML markup with simple JavaScript code. Hence, one doesn't need to worry about organizing their stuff in the right manner, this is a straight JavaScript after all. Fast code execution, ease of debugging is possible with EJS.


Summary

Everything in this article represents my personal opinion and chances are there that it may not match yours. The sole purpose of coming up with the post is to show how different template engines that are available across the globe, have their strengths and weaknesses. So it’s time to make a decision according to your needs and requirements. 

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