A Vue 3 Inspired Custom Elements Toolless Alternative

A Vue 3 Inspired Custom Elements Toolless Alternative

uce-template A Vue 3 inspired Custom Elements toolless alternative.

µce-template

winter sky

Social Media Photo by Federico Bottos on Unsplash

A tiny toolless library with tools included. Live demo

📣 Community Announcement

Please ask questions in the dedicated discussions repository, to help the community around this project grow ♥

Inspired by Vue 3 "One Piece", uce-template provides a custom builtin <template> element to define components in a Vue fashion.

<template is="uce-template">

  <style scoped>
  span { color: green }
  </style>

  <the-green>
    The <span>{{thing}}</span> is green
  </the-green>

  <script type="module">
  export default {
    setup() {
      return {thing: 'world'}
    }
  }
  </script>

</template>

Add this library to the equation, and see it bootstrapping all defined components.

Getting Started

Features

  • SSR compatibility out of the box: components definitions land once so no duplicated templates are needed in both layout and JS
  • a simple CLI that converts any html page or component into its minified version and, optionally, Babel transpilation
  • Custom Elements based, including builtin extends, so that IE11, Safari, or any other browser, will work right away
  • optionally lazy <template lazy> component, to resolve their definition only when live
  • optionally shadowed <custom-element shadow> components, and optionally shadowed <style shadow> styles
  • a variety of pre-defined modules to import, including a virtual @uce module, to create reactive UIs and more
  • a runtime ESM -> CommonJS module system, where relative dependencies are resolved (once) lazily, but any imported module can be pre-defined through the resolve(name, module) exported utility
  • everything pre-bundled fits into 10K gzipped budget, or 9K via brotli, but it's only 7K gzip, and 6.5K brotli in its no-polyfills version 🦄
Goals
  • demonstrate that tools and tooling can be optional, thanks to the current state of the Web
  • avoid any debate regarding duplicated code and re-hydration cost: each component can be served through static pages or dynamic SSR, without needing duplicated code around
  • being ahead of time providing the long discussed partial templates already, improving the previous HTML Imports idea, which has been dropped anyway, and simplifying scoped styles via auto prefixes or shadow dom
  • being extremely developer friendly with a script anyone can add on any page to start with, with the optional tooling offered by the module itself to optimize stand alone components, or even whole HTML pages

CLI

While it's suggested to install the CLI globally, due some not-super-light dependency, it's still an npx command away:

# check all options and usage
npx uce-template --help

# works with files
npx uce-template my-component.html

# works with stdin
cat my-component.html | uce-template

That's it, but of course we should be sure that produced layout still works as expected 👍

Any template that extends uce-template must contain at least a custom element in it, either regular, or built-in extend:

<!-- register regular-element -->
<template is="uce-template">
  <regular-element>
    regular
  </regular-element>
</template>

<!-- register builtin-element as div -->
<template is="uce-template">
  <div is="builtin-element">
    builtin
  </div>
</template>

Any template might contain a single <script> tag, and/or one or more <style> definitions.

If a component contains {{slot.name}} definitions, nodes from the living HTML, before the component gets upgraded, will be placed in there once live.

See this live example to understand more.

Each "component" might define itself with, or without, its own static, or dynamic, content.

Such content will be used to render each custom element once "mounted" (live) and per each reactive state change, but only if the template is not an empty one.

All dynamic parts must be wrapped within {{dynamic}} curly brackets as shown here:

<my-counter>
  <button onclick={{dec}}> - </button>
  <span>{{state.count}}</span>
  <button onclick={{inc}}> + </button>
</my-counter>

The state, dec, and inc references will be passed along through the script node, if any.

Whenever the component is rendered, its update callback is invoked providing the element itself as a context.

<button is="my-button">
  I am a {{this.tagName}}
</button>

Regarding ShadowDOM, its polyfill is not included in this project but it's possible to define a component through its shadow root by adding a shadow attribute:

<my-counter shadow>
  <!-- this content will be in the shadowRoot -->
  <button onclick={{dec}}> - </button>
  <span>{{state.count}}</span>
  <button onclick={{inc}}> + </button>
</my-counter>

The shadow attribute is open by default, but it can also be specified as shadow=closed.

Regarding {{JS}}, if attribute, and you'd like to use {{ JS }} spaces around, the attribute must be in quotes, otherwise the HTML template breaks the layout in unexpected ways.

<!-- OK -->
<my-counter>
  <button onClick={{dec}}> - </button>
</my-counter>

<!-- OK -->
<my-counter>
  <button onClick="{{ dec }}"> - </button>
</my-counter>

<!-- IT BREAKS!!! -->
<my-counter>
  <button onClick={{ dec }}> - </button>
</my-counter>

The curious <!--{{interpolation}}--> case

As everything in here is mostly based on standard HTML behavior, there are cases where an interpolation should be wrapped as comment.

The rule of thumb is that if you don't see the layout, or you read some Bad template error, it is possible that your interpolation could've been swallowed by the template element.

This happens mostly with elements such as table, select, and other elements that accept only a specific type of child node, but not text.

<!-- 👎 this won't work as expected -->
<table is="my-table">
  <tbody>{{rows}}</tbody>
</table>

<!-- 👍 this works 🎉 -->
<table is="my-table">
  <tbody><!--{{rows}}--></tbody>
</table>

In the first case, the <tbody> would ignore any node that is not a <tr> except for comments, because comments don't get swallowed, or lost, in the process.

You can see the dbmonster.html file definition for both the custom <table> and the custom <tr> component.

A component can have one or more styles in it, within a specific scope:

  • a generic <style> will apply its content globally, useful to address my-counter + my-counter {...} cases, as example
  • a <style scoped> will apply its content prefixed with the Custom Element name (i.e. my-counter span, my-counter button {...})
  • a <style shadow> will apply its content on top of the shadowRoot, assuming the component is defined with a shadow attribute

There is nothing special to consider here, except that global styles might interfere with IE11 if too obtrusive, as once again IE11 doesn't understand the <template> element purpose and behavior.

A definition can contain only one script tag in it, and such script will be virtually handled like a module.

Since IE11 is not compatible with <template> elements, if the type is not specified, IE11 will try to evaluate all scripts on the page right-away.

Accordingly, the type attribute can really have any value, as it's completely irrelevant for this library, but such value must not be IE11 compatible, and module is just one value that IE11 would ignore.

The script might contain a default export, or even a module.exports = ..., where such export might have a setup(element) { ... } method that returns what the dynamic parts of the component expect:

<script type="module">
import {reactive} from '@uce';
export default {
  setup(element) {
    const state = reactive({ count: 0 });
    const inc = () => { state.count++ };
    const dec = () => { state.count-- };
    return {state, inc, dec};
  }
};
</script>

The @uce reactive helper makes it possible to automatically update the view whenever one of its properties changes.

To know more about reactive changes, please read this Medium post.

The setup attribute

If a <script type="module" setup> is found, the content of the script is invoked with the element itself as context.

Live demo

<x-clock></x-clock>
<template is="uce-template">
  <x-clock>{{time}}</x-clock>
  <script type="module" setup>
    let id = 0;
    export default {
      get time() {
        return (new Date).toISOString();
      }
    };
    this.connected = e => id = setInterval(this.render, 1000 / 30);
    this.disconnected = e => clearInterval(id);
  </script>
</template>

This shortcut is specially handy for components that don't need to setup observedAttributes but might need to setup props, and for the latter case, the setup attribute should contain props.

<script type="module" setup="props">
  // props are defined as key => defaultValue pairs
  export const props = {
    name: this.name || 'anonymous',
    age: +this.age || 0
  };
</script>

How to / Examples

This section goal is to showcase basic to complex examples via uce-template, where some example might use the .uce extension to confine components within their own files.

View .uce files as HTML

If you are using VS Code, you can Ctrl+Shift+p, type settings JSON, choose Open Settings (JSON), and add the following to such file in order to highlight .uce files as HTML:

{
  "other-settings": "...",

  "files.associations": {
    "*.uce": "html"
  }
}

Lazy Loaded Components

If we define components as view/my-component.uce we might as well decide to include these lazily, or better, only when these are found in the current page.

This approach simplifies a lot bundles, dependencies, unnecessary bloat, and it can be done by including just uce-template and the tiny (364 bytes) uce-loader as bootstrap, eventually defining extra dependencies used across components.

import {parse, resolve} from 'uce-template';
import loader from 'uce-loader';

// optional components dependencies
import something from 'cool';
resolve('cool', something);

// bootstrap the loader
loader({
  on(component) {
    // ignore uce-template itself
    if (component !== 'uce-template')
      fetch(`view/${component}.uce`)
        .then(body => body.text())
        .then(definition => {
          document.body.appendChild(
            parse(definition)
          );
        });
  }
});

The same technique could be used directly on any HTML page, writing some code that might be compatible with IE11 too.

<!doctype html>
<html>
  <head>
    <script defer src="//unpkg.com/uce-template"></script>
    <script defer src="//unpkg.com/uce-loader"></script>
    <script defer>
    addEventListener(
      'DOMContentLoaded',
      function () {
        uceLoader({
          Template: customElements.get('uce-template'),
          on: function (name) {
            if (name !== 'uce-template') {
              var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest;
              var Template = this.Template;
              xhr.open('get', name + '.uce', true);
              xhr.send(null);
              xhr.onload = function () {
                document.body.appendChild(
                  Template.from(xhr.responseText)
                );
              };
            }
          }
        });
      },
      {once: true}
    );
    </script>
  </head>
  <body>
    <my-component>
      <p slot="content">
        Some content to show in <code>my-component</code>
      </p>
    </my-component>
  </body>
</html>

Lazy Loaded uce-template

If the majority of our pages don't use components at all, adding 7K+ of JS on top of each page might be undesired.

However, we can follow the very same Lazy Loaded Components approach, except our loader will be in charge of bringing in also the uce-template library, either when an uce-template itself is found, or any other component.

import loader from 'uce-loader';
loader({
  on(component) {
    // first component found, load uce-template
    if (!this.q) {
      this.q = [component];
      const script = document.createElement('script');
      script.src = '//unpkg.com/uce-template';
      document.body.appendChild(script).onload = () => {
        // get the uce-template class to use its .from(...)
        this.Template = customElements.get('uce-template');
        // load all queued components
        for (var q = this.q.splice(0), i = 0; i < q.length; i++)
          this.on(q[i]);
      };
    }
    // when uce-template is loaded
    else if (this.Template) {
      // ignore loading uce-template itself
      if (component !== 'uce-template') {
        // load the component on demand
        fetch(`view/${component}.uce`)
          .then(body => body.text())
          .then(definition => {
            document.body.appendChild(
              this.Template.from(definition)
            );
          });
      }
    }
    // if uce-template is not loaded yet
    // add the component to the queue
    else
      this.q.push(component);
  }
});

Using this technique, our JS payload per page would be now reduced to less than 0.5K once above code gets bundled and minified, while everything else will happen automatically only if there are components somewhere in the page.

Lazy loaded expected components

As the page could contain other custom elements from third party and libraries, it might be a good idea to predefine a well known Set of expected components, as opposite of trying to load any possible custom elements via the view/${...}.uce request.

Previous lazy loading techniques would work just fine already, but instead of checking that the component name is not uce-template, we could use a Set:

loader({
  known: new Set(['some-comp', 'some-other']),
  on(component) {
    if (this.known.has(component))
      fetch(`view/${component}.uce`)
        .then(body => body.text())
        .then(definition => {
          document.body.appendChild(
            parse(definition)
          );
        });
  }
});

The advantage of this technique is that the known Set could be dynamically generated through the list of view/*.uce files so that nothing would break if the found component is not part of the uce-template family.

CSP & integrity/nonce

uce-template inevitably needs to use Function to evaluate either template partials or in-script require(...).

It is recommended to increase security using either the nonce A6ypBL85lXi6JJ6t4NvC5q9HuaVbKmLkRN7NCpUvHSg= or the integrity attribute, trusting via CSP only scripts that comes from our own domain.

<meta http-equiv="Content-Security-Policy" content="script-src 'self' 'unsafe-eval'">
<script defer src="/js/uce-template.js"
        integrity="sha256-A6ypBL85lXi6JJ6t4NvC5q9HuaVbKmLkRN7NCpUvHSg="
        crossorigin="anonymous">
</script>

Please note that these values change on every release so please be sure you have the latest version (this README reflects the latest).

Component own events ( without props )

As it is for uce, if the definition contains onEvent(){...} methods, these will be used to define the component.

However, since states are usually decoupled from the component itself, it's a good idea to use a WeakMap to relate any component with its state and ... don't worry, WeakMap is natively supported in IE11 too!

Live demo

<button is="my-btn">
  Clicked {{times}} times!
</button>
<script type="module">
  const states = new WeakMap;
  export default {
    setup(element) {
      const state = {times: 0};
      states.set(element, state);
      return state;
    },
    onClick() {
      states.get(this).times++;
      // update the current view if the
      // state is not reactive
      this.render();
    }
  };
</script>

Please note this example covers any state VS component use case, as using the WeakMap is a recommendation.

Component own events ( with props )

If props object is defined, and since props* update the view automatically once changed, we might not need a WeakMap to relate the component's state.

Live demo

<button is="my-btn"></button>
<template is="uce-template">
  <button is="my-btn">
    Clicked {{this.times}} times!
  </button>
  <script type="module">
    export default {
      props: {times: 0},
      onClick() {
        this.times++;
      }
    };
  </script>
</template>

The advantage of using props is that it's possible to define an initial state through attributes, or via direct setting it when rendered through the html utility, so that having a button with times="3", as example, would be rendered showing Clicked 3 times! right away.

<button is="my-btn" times="3"></button>

Multiple refs

The import {ref} from '@uce' helper simplifies retrieval of node by ref="name" attribute.

<element-details>
  <
  <
</element-details>

<template is="uce-template">
  <element-details></element-details>
  <script type="module" setup>
    import {ref} from '@uce';
    const {name, description} = ref(this);
    name.textContent = 'element name';
    description.textContent = 'element description';
  </script>
</template>

Multiple, dynamic, slots

The import {slot} from '@uce' helper simplifies retrieval of slots by name, returning an array of elements grouped through the same name.

This can be used either to place single slots in interpolations, as shown in this example, or to place multiple slots within the same node.

Live demo

<filter-list>
  Loading filter ...
  <ul>
    <li slot="list">some</li>
    <li slot="list">searchable</li>
    <li slot="list">text</li>
  </ul>
</filter-list>

<template is="uce-template">
  <filter-list>
    <div>
      <input placeholder=filter oninput={{filter}}>
    </div>
    <ul>
      {{list}}
    </ul>
  </filter-list>
  <script type="module">
    import {slot} from '@uce';
    export default {
      setup(element) {
        const list = slot(element).list || [];
        return {
          list,
          filter({currentTarget: {value}}) {
            for (const li of list)
              li.style.display =
                li.textContent.includes(value) ? null : 'none';
          }
        };
      }
    };
  </script>
</template>

However, in cases where the same-name slots order is not necessarily visualized sequentially, it is always possible to pass an array of nodes instead.

That is, any interpolation value can be a DOM node, some value, or an Array of nodes, same way µhtml works.

Live demo

<howto-tabs>
  <p>Loading tabs ...</p>
  <howto-tab role="heading" slot="tab">Tab 1</howto-tab>
  <howto-panel role="region" slot="panel">Content 1</howto-panel>
  <howto-tab role="heading" slot="tab">Tab 2</howto-tab>
  <howto-panel role="region" slot="panel">Content 2</howto-panel>
</howto-tabs>

<template is="uce-template">
  <howto-tabs>
    {{tabs}}
  </howto-tabs>
  <script type="module">
    import {slot} from '@uce';
    export default {
      setup(element) {
        const {tab, panel} = slot(element);
        const tabs = tab.reduce(
          (tabs, tab, i) => tabs.concat(tab, panel[i]),
          []
        );
        return {tabs};
      }
    };
  </script>
</template>

Provide yor own modules / dependencies

The module system provided by uce-template is extremely simple and fully extendible, so that each component can import any from 'thing'; as long as thing has been provided/resolved via the library.

Resolve at build time

If we are going to define a single bundle entry point, and we know that each component would need one or more dependency, we can do the following:

import {resolve} from 'uce-template';

import moduleA from '3rd-party';
const moduleB = {any: 'value'};

resolve('module-a', moduleA);
resolve('module-b', moduleB);

Once this build lands as single Web page entry point, all components would be able to import right away all base/default modules, plus all those pre-resolved.

Live demo (see both HTML and JS panel + console)

<my-comp></my-comp>
<script type="module">
  import moduleA from 'module-a';
  import moduleB from 'module-a';
  export default {
    setup() {
      console.log(moduleA, moduleB);
    }
  }
</script>
Resolve lazily / on demand

In case the defined component imports something from an external file, like import module from './js/module.js' would do, such import would be lazily resolved, together with any other module that is not known yet, meaning that ./js/module.js file could contain something like this:

// a file used to bootstrap uce-template component
// dependencies can always use the uce-template class
const {resolve} = customElements.get('uce-template');

// resolve one to many modules
resolve('quite-big-module', {...});

A component script can then import this file and access its exported modules right after.

Live demo

<script type="module">
  import './js/module.js';
  import quiteBigModule from 'quite-big-module';
  export default {
    setup() {
      console.log(quiteBigModule);
    }
  }
</script>

Together with lazy loaded component, this approach makes it possible to ship components that are fully based on an external vue/comp.uce file definition, where any of these components can also share one or more .js files able to resolve any module needed here or there (shared dependencies in one file, as opposite of dependencies per each shipped components).

F.A.Q.

Why is the polyfill included?

As standalone file, my Custom Elements size is around 2.1K, but since it's share almost every library uce uses too, bundling it together looked like the best way to go, resulting in just 1K extra for a module that fits in roughly 7K to 10K budget.

On the other hand, because the polyfill is not obtrusive and based on runtime features detections, this means that nobody should care about bringing any other polyfill ever, but also Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, will be untouched, so that every custom element will run natively, either builtin extend or regular.

In the Safari case, or WebKit based, only custom elements builtin are provided, while in IE11 and the old MS Edge, both builtin extends and regular elements are patched.

That's it: don't worry about any polyfill, because everything is already included in here!

What if I target modern browsers only?

If you are targeting browsers you know already provide native Custom Elements V1, you can use this ESM version that excludes all polyfills and include only the logic.

The current es.js bundle is indeed ~7K gzipped and ~6.5K brotli, so that it's possible to save even extra bandwidth in your project.

But my browser is Safari/WebKit ...

Well, in such case if that's the only target browser, the @webreflection/custom-elements-builtin module must be included before the uce-template module lands on the page.

<script defer src="//unpkg.com/@webreflection/custom-elements-builtin"></script>
<script defer src="//unpkg.com/uce-template"></script>

This will ensure both regular and builtin extends will work as expected.

Why there's no ShadowDOM polyfill?

Unfortunately ShadowDOM is one of those specifications impossible to polyfill, but the good news is that you'll rarely need ShadowDOM in uce-template, but if your browser is compatible, you can use ShadowDOM as much as you like.

However, there are at least two possible partial polyfills to consider: attachshadow, which is minimalistic and lightweight, and ShadyDOM, which is closer to standards, but definitively heavier, although both polyfills can, and should, be injected only if the current browser needs it, so sticking this code on top of your HTML page would bring ShadowDOM to IE11 too, or others.

<!-- this must be done before uce-template -->
<script>
if(!document.documentElement.attachShadow)
  document.write('<script src="//unpkg.com/attachshadow"><\x2fscript>');
</script>
<script defer src="//unpkg.com/uce-template"></script>

As every modern browser will have document.documentElement.attachShadow, the document.write will happen only in IE11 without ever compromise, or penalize, Mobile and modern Desktop browsers.

P.S. the <\x2fscript> is not a typo, it's needed to not have a broken layout due closing script tag

Why using {{...}} instead of ${...}?

As much as I would've loved to have ${...} interpolation boundaries, IE11 would break if an element in the DOM contains ${...} as attribute.

Because {{...}} is a well established alternative, I've decided to avoid monkey-patching possible IE11 issues and simply stick with a de-facto standard alternative.

It is also worth considering that Vue uses {{...}} too, and so do many other template based engines.

Why is Function necessary?

As explained in the "CSP & integrity/nonce" part of the how to/examples, it is necessary to use Function for at least two reasons:

  • it's the only way to opt out from "use strict"; directive and pass through a with(object) statement, needed to understand interpolations without creating a whole JS engine from the scratch
  • it's the only way to provide at runtime a CJS like require functionality within <script type="module"> content

But even if there was no Function in the equation, parsing and executing a <script> tag to define custom elements would've been the exact same equivalent of using Function, because CSP would've needed special rules anyway, since the operation is basically an eval call in the global context.

As summary, instead of tricking the browser with practices that are as safe, or as unsafe, as a Function call, I've simply used Function instead, keeping the code size reasonable.

What about performance?

This project is as-performant-as native Custom Elements could be, except for the definition cost, which is a one-off operation per each unique custom element Class, hence irrelevant in the long run, and there's an insignificant overhead within the initial template parsing logic, but its repeated execution is as fast as uhtml can be, and if you check the latest status you'll find it's one of the fastest of its kind.

You can check the classic DBMonster demo here, and see that it performs just well.

Are there blocking requests with modules?

Nothing in this library is blocking, and modules are resolved once only, even relative path imports.

The logic is pretty simple: if the module name has not been resolved and it's a relative import, an asynchronous request will be made and evaluated later, while if the module is not resolved, and it's a qualified name, it will be resolved only once some code provides it.

All this, plus the import to require resolution, is handled by the uce-require helper, purposely not coupled with this module itself, as it could hopefully inspire, and be used by, other projects too.

Live Demos

... and more!

If you'd like to understand more about uce-template and how does it work, please check this page out.

Download Details:

Author: WebReflection

Source Code: https://github.com/WebReflection/uce-template

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