• function
can.route inherits: can.Map

Manage browser history and client state by synchronizing the window.location.hash with a can.Map.

can.route( template [, defaults] )

Create a route matching rule.


  1. template {String}

    the fragment identifier to match. The fragment identifier should start with either a character (a-Z) or colon (:). Examples:

  2. defaults {Object}Optional

    an object of default values


{can.route(template, defaults)}


Watch this video for an overview of can.route's functionality and an example showing how to connect two tab widgets to the browser's history:

In the following CanJS community we also talk about web application routing:

Background Information

To support the browser's back button and bookmarking in an Ajax application, most applications use the window.location.hash. By changing the hash (via a link or JavaScript), one is able to add to the browser's history without changing the page.

This provides the basics needed to create history enabled Ajax websites. However, can.route addresses several other needs such as:

  • Pretty urls (actually hashes)
  • Keeping routes independent of application code
  • Listening to specific parts of the history changing
  • Setup / Teardown of widgets.

How it works

can.route is a can.Map that represents the window.location.hash as an object. For example, if the hash looks like:


the data in can.route looks like:

{ type: 'videos', id: 5 }

can.route keeps the state of the hash in-sync with the data contained within can.route.


can.route is a can.Map. Understanding can.Map is essential for using can.route correctly.

You can listen to changes in an Observe with bind(eventName, handler(ev, args...)) and change can.route's properties with attr.

Listening to changes in can.route

Listen to changes in history by binding to changes in can.route like:

can.route.bind('change', function(ev, attr, how, newVal, oldVal) {

  • attr - the name of the changed attribute
  • how - the type of Observe change event (add, set or remove)
  • newVal/oldVal - the new and old values of the attribute

Updating can.route

Create changes in the route data with attr like:


Or change multiple properties at once like:

can.route.attr({type: 'pages', id: 5}, true)

When you make changes to can.route, they will automatically change the hash.

Creating a Route

Use can.route(url, defaults) to create a route. A route is a mapping from a url to an object (that is the can.route's state). In order to map to a specific properties in the url, prepend a colon to the name of the property like:

can.route( "#!content/:type" )

If no routes are added, or no route is matched, can.route's data is updated with the deparamed hash.

location.hash = "#!type=videos";
// can.route -> {type : "videos"}

Once routes are added and the hash changes, can.route looks for matching routes and uses them to update can.route's data.

can.route( "#!content/:type" );
location.hash = "#!content/images";
// can.route -> {type : "images"}
can.route.attr( "type", "songs" )
// location.hash -> "#!content/songs"

Default values can be added to a route:

can.route("content/:type",{type: "videos" });
location.hash = "#!content/"
// can.route -> {type : "videos"}
// location.hash -> "#!content/"

Defaults can also be set on the root page of your app:

can.route( "", { page: "index" } );
location.hash = "#!";
// can.route.attr() -> { page: "index" }
// location.hash -> "#!"

Initializing can.route

After your application has created all of its routes, call ready to set can.route's data to match the current hash:


Changing the route.

Typically, you don't set location.hash directly. Instead, you can change properties on can.route like:

can.route.attr('type', 'videos')

This will automatically look up the appropriate route and update the hash.

Often, you want to create links. can.route provides the link and url helpers to make this easy:"Videos", {type: 'videos'})


The following demo shows the relationship between window.location.hash, routes given to, can.route's data, and events on Most properties are editable so experiment!

## IE Compatibility

Internet Explorer 6 and 7 does not support window.onhashchange. Even Internet Explorer 8 running in IE7 compatibility mode reports true for onhashchange in window, even though the event isn't supported.

If you are using jQuery, you can include Ben Alman's HashChange Plugin to support the event in the unsupported browser(s).

Using routes with can.Control

Using templated event handlers, it is possible to listen to changes to can.route within can.Control. This is convenient as it allows the control to listen to and make changes whenever the route is modified, even outside of the control itself.

// create the route

    // the route has changed
    "{can.route} change": function(ev, attr, how, newVal, oldVal) {
        if (attr === "type") {
            // the route has a type

Creating and binding routes with can.Control.route

Using can.Control.route, a builtin plugin to CanJS, cuts down on the amount of code needed to work with can.route in can.Control. With this plugin, it is possible to both create routes and bind to can.route at the same time. Instead of creating several routes to handle changes to type and id, write something like this in a control:

    // the route is empty
    "route": function(data) {

    // the route has a type
    ":type route": function(data) {

    // the route has a type and id
    ":type/:id route": function(data) {


Getting more specific with the can.Map.delegate plugin

Sometimes, you might only want to trigger a function when the route changes only once, even if the route change gets called multiple times. By using the delegate plugin, this is extremely easy. This plugin allows you to listen to change, set, add, and remove on can.route.

If you wanted to, say, show a list of recipes when type was set to recipe and show a specific recipe when id was set, you could do something like:

    "{can.route} type=recipe set": 
            function( ev, prop, how, newVal, oldVal ) {
        // show list of recipes
    "recipe/:id": function(data) {
        // show a single recipe

If we didn't only listen to when recipe is set, then every time we chose to show a single recipe, we would create and show the list of recipes again which would not be very efficient.