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Handlebar templates

This repository contains utilities around a templating system that I called “Handlebar”. They're a logic-less templating language based on mustache (obviously) which is itself based on ctemplate apparently.

The original and reference implementation is written in Java, with a JavaScript (via CoffeeScript) port and a Python port. The tests are cross-platform but controlled from Java with junit; this means that all implementations are hopefully up to date (or else some tests are failing).

The goal of handlebar is to provide the most complete and convenient way to write logic-less templates across the whole stack of a web application. Write templates once, statically render content on the Java/Python server, then as content is dynamically added render it using the same templates on the JavaScript client.


A template is text plus “mustache” control characters (thank you mustache for the cool terminology I have adopted).

A template is rendered by passing it JSON data. I say “JSON” but what I really mean is JSON-like data; the actual input will vary depending on the language bindings (Java uses reflection over properties and maps, JavaScript uses objects, Python uses dictionaries).

Generally speaking there are two classes of mustaches: “self closing” ones like {{foo}} {{{foo}}} {{*foo}}, and “has children” ones like {{#foo}}...{{/foo}} {{?foo}}...{{/foo}} {{^foo}}...{{/foo}} where the ... is arbitrary other template data.

In both cases the foo represents a path into the JSON structure, so


is valid for JSON like

{"foo": {"bar": {"baz": 42 }}}

(here it would resolve to 42).

All libraries also have the behaviour where descending into a section of the JSON will “push” the sub-JSON onto the top of the “context stack”, so given JSON like

{"foo": {"bar": {"foo": 42 }}}

the template

{{}} {{?foo}}{{}} {{?bar}{{foo}}{{/bar}} {{/foo}}

will correctly resolve all references to be 42.

There is an additional identifier @ representing the “tip” of that context stack, useful when iterating using the {{#foo}}...{{/foo}} structure; { "list": [1,2,3] } with {{#list}} {{@}} {{/list}} will print 1 2 3.

Finally, note that the {{/foo}} in {{#foo}}...{{/foo}} is actually redundant, and that {{#foo}}...{{/}} would be sufficient. Depdencing on the situation one or the other will tend to be more readable (explicitly using {{/foo}} will perform more validation).

Structures (“mustaches”)


Prints out the HTML-escaped value at path


Prints out value at path (no escaping).


Prints out the JSON serialization of the object at path (no escaping; this is designed for JavaScript client bootstrapping).


Inserts the sub-template (aka “partial template”) found at path Currently, all libraries actually enforce that this is a pre-compiled template (rather than a plain string for example) for efficiency. This lets you do something like:

template = Handlebar('{{#list}} {{+partial}} {{/}}')
partial = Handlebar('{{foo}}...')
json = {
  'list': [
    { 'foo': 42 },
    { 'foo': 56 },
    { 'foo': 10 }
print(template.render(json, {'partial': partial}).text)
>  42...  56...  10...

Very useful for dynamic web apps, and also just very useful.


Runs ... for each item in an array found at path, or each key/value pair in an object.


Runs ... if resolves to a “value”, which is defined based on types.

  • null is never considered a value.
  • true is a valid, false isn't.
  • Any number other than 0 is a value.
  • Any non-empty string is a value.
  • Any non-empty array is a value.
  • Any non-empty object is a value.


Runs ... if doesn't resolve to a “value”. The exact opposite of {{?}}...{{/}}.


Ooh a switch statement! Prints ... if the string found at is the string "case1", ___ if it's "case2", etc.

That's all

But at the moment this is currently under heavy weekend development. Which is to say a constant trickle of code as I need it.

Soon: better fault tolerance all round, comments, tidier syntax, less whitespacey output, and moving the Java and JavaScript/CoffeeScript implementations and tests into this repository! And maybe some kind of online playground at some point.