Build an App with Remote Data

  • page

In CanJS, can.Model adds functionality to can.Map to work with data on a server. It enables you to:

  • Get and modify data from a server
  • Listen to changes made to the data on the server
  • Unify service data with other objects in your application

can.Model allows you to access data from a server easily:

var Todo = can.Model.extend({
  findAll: 'GET /todos',
  findOne: 'GET /todos/{id}',
  create:  'POST /todos',
  update:  'PUT /todos/{id}',
  destroy: 'DELETE /todos/{id}'

Using any server with a REST interface, can.Model enables create, read, update, and destroy functionality.

Create a Chat Application

To put together a chat application, we’ll use two methods from can.Model to fetch the messages and create new ones:

var Message = can.Model({
    findAll : 'GET ' + myServerUrl + '/messages',
    create : 'POST ' + myServerUrl + '/messages'

In a chat component's scope, we will use the Message model to save new messages and observe changes to the Model. new Message.List({}) is a shortcut to perform the findAll operation on a can.Model and return a can.List.

    scope: {
            messages: new Message.List({}),
            newMessage: ""

The tabs Component used can-click to listen for click events. Since this chat application uses a <form> for sending messages, we’ll use can-submit to specify an event handler.

There’s one more helper used in the template: can-value. This automatically two-way binds the value of an input field to an observable property on the scope of the component (in this case, newMessage).

  tag: 'chat',
  template: '<ul id="messages">' +
              '{{#each messages}}' +
              '<li>{{body}}</li>' +
              '{{/each}}' +
            '</ul>' +
            '<form id="create-message" action="" can-submit="submitMessage">' +
                '<input type="text" id="body" placeholder="type message here..."' +
                'can-value="newMessage" />' +

When submitMessage is called, a new Message is created with new Message(). Since can-value was declared on the input element, newMessage will always be the current text in the input field. The body of the message is fetched from the Component's newMessage attribute when a user submits the form.

To save the new message to the server, call save().

submitMessage: function(scope, el, ev){
    new Message({body: this.attr("newMessage")}).save();
    this.attr("newMessage", "");

Finally, when a new Message is created, the messages list must be updated.

events: {
    '{Message} created': function(construct, ev, message){

There are two ways that messages are added: from the current user, or from another user. In the next section, we demonstrate how to use to update the Message model with messages from other users in real time. Binding to the created event for all messages allows us to create a single entry point that pushes new messages to the scope, regardless of where those messages are from.

When the chat Component is loaded, messages are loaded from the server using can.Model and new Message.List({}). When a new message is submitted:

  1. submitMessage is called via the event handler bound by the can-submit attribute
  2. a new Message is created and saved to the server
  3. '{Message} created' detects this change and adds the new message to messages
  4. The template is automatically updated since messages is an observable can.List

Add real-time functionality

This example uses to enable real-time functionality. This guide won't go into detail on how to use, but for real-time chat the application needs two more things.

When a message is created on another chat client, will notify this client by triggering the message-created event, wich will render the new message in the page by adding it to the Message model.

var socket = io.connect(myServerUrl);
socket.on('message-created', function(message){
    new Message(message).created();

To keep the created event from firing twice, we modify the create function in the model. If there was simply a return statement, Model would create and fire a create event, which socket is already doing. By returning a Deferred, we prevent firing of one of these events.

var Message = can.Model({
    findAll : 'GET ' + myServerUrl + '/messages',
    create : function(attrs) {
        $.post(myServerUrl + '/messages', attrs);
        //keep '{Message} created' from firing twice
        return $.Deferred();