Extending binding language

The Aurelia template compiler is powerful and developer-friendly, allowing you extend its binding language with great ease.

The Aurelia binding language provides commands like .bind, .one-way, .trigger, .for, .class etc. These commands are used in the view to express the intent of the binding, or in other words, to build binding instructions.

Although the out-of-box binding language is sufficient for most use cases, Aurelia also provides a way to extend the binding language so that developers can create their own incredible stuff when needed.

In this article, we will build an example to demonstrate how to introduce your own binding commands using the @bindingCommand decorator.

Binding command

Before jumping directly into the example, let's first understand what a binding command is. In a nutshell, a binding command is a piece of code used to register "keywords" in the binding language and provide a way to build binding instructions from that.

To understand it better, we start our discussion with the template compiler. The template compiler is responsible for parsing templates and, among all, creating attribute syntaxes. This is where the attribute patterns come into play. Depending on how you define your attribute patterns, the attribute syntaxes will be created with or without a binding command name, such as bind, one-way, trigger, for, class, etc. The template compiler then instantiates binding commands for the attribute syntaxes with a binding command name. Later, binding instructions are built from these binding commands, which are "rendered" by renderers. Depending on the binding instructions, the " rendering " process can differ. For this article, the rendering process details are unimportant, so we will skip it.

Creating a custom binding command

To create a binding command, we use the @bindingCommand decorator with a command name on a class that implements the following interface:

interface BindingCommandInstance {
  type: CommandType;
  build(info: ICommandBuildInfo, parser: IExpressionParser, mapper: IAttrMapper): IInstruction;

A binding command must return true from the ignoreAttr property. This tells the template compiler that the binding command takes over the processing of the attribute, so the template compiler will not try to check further whether it's a custom attribute, custom element bindable etc...

The more interesting part of the interface is the build method. The template compiler calls this method to build binding instructions. The info parameter contains information about the element, the attribute name, the bindable definition (if present), and the custom element/attribute definition (if present). The parser parameter is used to parse the attribute value into an expression. The mapper parameter of type IAttrMapper is used to determine the binding mode, the target property name, etc. (for more information, refer to the documentation). In short, here comes your logic to convert the attribute information into a binding instruction.

For our example, we want to create a binding command that can trigger a handler when custom events such as bs.foo.bar, bs.fizz.bizz etc. is fired, and we want the following syntax:

<div foo.bar.bs="ev => handleCustomEvent(ev)"></div>

instead of

<div bs.foo.bar.trigger="ev => handleCustomEvent(ev)"></div>

We first create a class that implements the BindingCommandInstance interface to do that.

import { IExpressionParser } from '@aurelia/runtime';
import {
} from '@aurelia/runtime-html';

export class BsBindingCommand implements BindingCommandInstance {
  public ignoreAttr = true;

  public build(
    info: ICommandBuildInfo,
    exprParser: IExpressionParser
  ): IInstruction {
    return new ListenerBindingInstruction(
      /* from           */ exprParser.parse(info.attr.rawValue, 'IsFunction'),
      /* to             */ `bs.${info.attr.target}`,
      /* preventDefault */ true,
      /* capture        */ false

Note that from the build method, we are creating a ListenerBindingInstruction with bs. prefixed to the event name used in the markup. Thus, we are saying that the handler should be invoked when a bs.* event is raised.

To register the custom binding command, it needs to be registered with the dependency injection container.

And that's it! We have created our own binding command. This means that the following syntax will work.

<div foo.bar.bs="ev => handleCustomEvent(ev)"></div>
<!--         ^^
             |_________ custom binding command

Live example

This binding command can be seen in action below.

Note that the example defines a custom attribute pattern to support foo.bar.fizz.bs="ev => handle(ev)" syntax.

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