CubicWeb uses quite a bit of javascript in its user interface and ships with jquery (1.3.x) and parts of the jquery UI library, plus a number of homegrown files and also other third party libraries.

All javascript files are stored in cubicweb/web/data/. There are around thirty js files there. In a cube it goes to data/.

Obviously one does not want javascript pieces to be loaded all at once, hence the framework provides a number of mechanisms and conventions to deal with javascript resources.


It is good practice to name cube specific js files after the name of the cube, like this : ‘cube.mycube.js’, so as to avoid name clashes.

Server-side Javascript API

Javascript resources are typically loaded on demand, from views. The request object (available as self._cw from most application objects, for instance views and entities objects) has a few methods to do that:

  • add_js(self, jsfiles, localfile=True) which takes a sequence of javascript files and writes proper entries into the HTML header section. The localfile parameter allows to declare resources which are not from web/data (for instance, residing on a content delivery network).
  • add_onload(self, jscode) which adds one raw javascript code snippet inline in the html headers. This is quite useful for setting up early jQuery(document).ready(...) initialisations.

Javascript events

  • server-response: this event is triggered on HTTP responses (both standard and ajax). The two following extra parameters are passed to callbacks :
    • ajax: a boolean that says if the reponse was issued by an ajax request
    • node: the DOM node returned by the server in case of an ajax request, otherwise the document itself for standard HTTP requests.

Important javascript AJAX APIS

  • asyncRemoteExec and remoteExec are the base building blocks for doing arbitrary async (resp. sync) communications with the server
  • reloadComponent is a convenience function to replace a DOM node with server supplied content coming from a specific registry (this is quite handy to refresh the content of some boxes for instances)
  • jQuery.fn.loadxhtml is an important extension to jQuery which allows proper loading and in-place DOM update of xhtml views. It is suitably augmented to trigger necessary events, and process CubicWeb specific elements such as the facet system, fckeditor, etc.

A simple example with asyncRemoteExec

On the python side, we have to define an cubicweb.web.views.ajaxcontroller.AjaxFunction object. The simplest way to do that is to use the cubicweb.web.views.ajaxcontroller.ajaxfunc() decorator (for more details on this, refer to Ajax).

On the javascript side, we do the asynchronous call. Notice how it creates a deferred object. Proper treatment of the return value or error handling has to be done through the addCallback and addErrback methods.

Anatomy of a reloadComponent call

reloadComponent allows to dynamically replace some DOM node with new elements. It has the following signature:

  • compid (mandatory) is the name of the component to be reloaded
  • rql (optional) will be used to generate a result set given as argument to the selected component
  • registry (optional) defaults to ‘components’ but can be any other valid registry name
  • nodeid (optional) defaults to compid + ‘Component’ but can be any explicitly specified DOM node id
  • extraargs (optional) should be a dictionary of values that will be given to the cell_call method of the component

A simple reloadComponent example

The server side implementation of reloadComponent is the cubicweb.web.views.ajaxcontroller.component() AjaxFunction appobject.

The following function implements a two-steps method to delete a standard bookmark and refresh the UI, while keeping the UI responsive.

function removeBookmark(beid) {
    d = asyncRemoteExec('delete_bookmark', beid);
    d.addCallback(function(boxcontent) {
        reloadComponent('bookmarks_box', '', 'boxes', 'bookmarks_box');
        document.location.hash = '#header';
        updateMessage(_("bookmark has been removed"));

reloadComponent is called with the id of the bookmark box as argument, no rql expression (because the bookmarks display is actually independant of any dataset context), a reference to the ‘boxes’ registry (which hosts all left, right and contextual boxes) and finally an explicit ‘bookmarks_box’ nodeid argument that stipulates the target DOM node.

Anatomy of a loadxhtml call

jQuery.fn.loadxhtml is an important extension to jQuery which allows proper loading and in-place DOM update of xhtml views. The existing jQuery.load function does not handle xhtml, hence the addition. The API of loadxhtml is roughly similar to that of jQuery.load.

  • url (mandatory) should be a complete url (typically referencing the cubicweb.web.views.ajaxcontroller.AjaxController, but this is not strictly mandatory)
  • data (optional) is a dictionary of values given to the controller specified through an url argument; some keys may have a special meaning depending on the choosen controller (such as fname for the JSonController); the callback key, if present, must refer to a function to be called at the end of loadxhtml (more on this below)
  • reqtype (optional) specifies the request method to be used (get or post); if the argument is ‘post’, then the post method is used, otherwise the get method is used
  • mode (optional) is one of replace (the default) which means the loaded node will replace the current node content, swap to replace the current node with the loaded node, and append which will append the loaded node to the current node content

About the callback option:

  • it is called with two parameters: the current node, and a list containing the loaded (and post-processed node)
  • whenever it returns another function, this function is called in turn with the same parameters as above

This mechanism allows callback chaining.

A simple example with loadxhtml

Here we are concerned with the retrieval of a specific view to be injected in the live DOM. The view will be of course selected server-side using an entity eid provided by the client side.

from cubicweb.web.views.ajaxcontroller import ajaxfunc

def frob_status(self, eid, frobname):
    entity = self._cw.entity_from_eid(eid)
    return entity.view('frob', name=frobname)
function updateSomeDiv(divid, eid, frobname) {
    var params = {fname:'frob_status', eid: eid, frobname:frobname};
    jQuery('#'+divid).loadxhtml(JSON_BASE_URL, params, 'post');

In this example, the url argument is the base json url of a cube instance (it should contain something like http://myinstance/ajax?). The actual AjaxController method name is encoded in the params dictionary using the fname key.

A more real-life example

A frequent need of Web 2 applications is the delayed (or demand driven) loading of pieces of the DOM. This is typically achieved using some preparation of the initial DOM nodes, jQuery event handling and proper use of loadxhtml.

We present here a skeletal version of the mecanism used in CubicWeb and available in web/views/, in the LazyViewMixin class.

def lazyview(self, vid, rql=None):
    """ a lazy version of wview """
    w = self.w
    urlparams = {'vid' : vid, 'fname' : 'view'}
    if rql is not None:
        urlparams['rql'] = rql
    w(u'<div id="lazy-%s" cubicweb:loadurl="%s">' % (
        vid, xml_escape(self._cw.build_url('json', **urlparams))))
        jQuery('#lazy-%(vid)s').bind('%(event)s', function() {
        % {'event': 'load_%s' % vid, 'vid': vid})

This creates a div with a specific event associated to it.

The full version deals with:

  • optional parameters such as an entity eid, an rset
  • the ability to further reload the fragment
  • the ability to display a spinning wheel while the fragment is still not loaded
  • handling of browsers that do not support ajax (search engines, text-based browsers such as lynx, etc.)

The javascript side is quite simple, due to loadxhtml awesomeness.

function loadNow(eltsel) {
    var lazydiv = jQuery(eltsel);

This is all significantly different of the previous simple example (albeit this example actually comes from real-life code).

Notice how the cubicweb:loadurl is used to convey the url information. The base of this url is similar to the global javascript JSON_BASE_URL. According to the pattern described earlier, the fname parameter refers to the standard js_view method of the JSonController. This method renders an arbitrary view provided a view id (or vid) is provided, and most likely an rql expression yielding a result set against which a proper view instance will be selected.

The cubicweb:loadurl is one of the 29 attributes extensions to XHTML in a specific cubicweb namespace. It is a means to pass information without breaking HTML nor XHTML compliance and without resorting to ungodly hacks.

Given all this, it is easy to add a small nevertheless useful feature to force the loading of a lazy view (for instance, a very computation-intensive web page could be scinded into one fast-loading part and a delayed part).

On the server side, a simple call to a javascript function is sufficient.

def forceview(self, vid):
    """trigger an event that will force immediate loading of the view
    on dom readyness
    self._cw.add_onload("triggerLoad('%s');" % vid)

The browser-side definition follows.

function triggerLoad(divid) {
    jQuery('#lazy-' + divd).trigger('load_' + divid);

Javascript library: overview

  • jquery.* : jquery and jquery UI library
  • cubicweb.ajax.js : concentrates all ajax related facilities (it extends jQuery with the loahxhtml function, provides a handfull of high-level ajaxy operations like asyncRemoteExec, reloadComponent, replacePageChunk, getDomFromResponse)
  • cubicweb.python.js : adds a number of practical extension to stdanrd javascript objects (on Date, Array, String, some list and dictionary operations), and a pythonesque way to build classes. Defines a CubicWeb namespace.
  • cubicweb.htmlhelpers.js : a small bag of convenience functions used in various other cubicweb javascript resources (baseuri, progress cursor handling, popup login box, html2dom function, etc.)
  • cubicweb.widgets.js : provides a widget namespace and constructors and helpers for various widgets (mainly facets and timeline)
  • cubicweb.edition.js : used by edition forms
  • cubicweb.preferences.js : used by the preference form
  • cubicweb.facets.js : used by the facets mechanism

There is also javascript support for massmailing, gmap (google maps), fckcwconfig (fck editor), timeline, calendar, goa (CubicWeb over AppEngine), flot (charts drawing), tabs and bookmarks.

Testing javascript

You with the cubicweb.qunit.QUnitTestCase can include standard Qunit tests inside the python unittest run . You simply have to define a new class that inherit from QUnitTestCase and register your javascript test file in the all_js_tests lclass attribut. This all_js_tests is a sequence a 3-tuple (<test_file, [<dependencies> ,] [<data_files>]):

The <test_file> should contains the qunit test. <dependencies> defines the list of javascript file that must be imported before the test script. Dependencies are included their definition order. <data_files> are additional files copied in the test directory. both <dependencies> and <data_files> are optionnal. jquery.js is preincluded in for all test.

from cubicweb.qunit import QUnitTestCase

class MyQUnitTest(QUnitTestCase):

    all_js_tests = (