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Learning JavaScript Design Patterns

Cover of Learning JavaScript Design Patterns by Addy Osmani Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. Learning JavaScript Design Patterns
  2. SPECIAL OFFER: Upgrade this ebook with O’Reilly
  3. Preface
    1. Target Audience
    2. Credits
    3. Reading
    4. Conventions Used in This Book
    5. Using Code Examples
    6. Safari® Books Online
    7. How to Contact Us
    8. Acknowledgments
  4. 1. Introduction
  5. 2. What Is a Pattern?
    1. We Already Use Patterns Every Day
  6. 3. “Pattern”-ity Testing, Proto-Patterns, and the Rule of Three
  7. 4. The Structure of a Design Pattern
  8. 5. Writing Design Patterns
  9. 6. Anti-Patterns
  10. 7. Categories of Design Patterns
    1. Creational Design Patterns
    2. Structural Design Patterns
    3. Behavioral Design Patterns
  11. 8. Design Pattern Categorization
    1. A Brief Note on Classes
  12. 9. JavaScript Design Patterns
    1. The Constructor Pattern
      1. Object Creation
      2. Basic Constructors
      3. Constructors with Prototypes
    2. The Module Pattern
      1. Object Literals
      2. The Module Pattern
      3. Module Pattern Variations
    3. The Revealing Module Pattern
      1. Advantages
      2. Disadvantages
    4. The Singleton Pattern
    5. The Observer Pattern
      1. Differences Between the Observer and Publish/Subscribe Pattern
      2. Advantages
      3. Disadvantages
      4. Publish/Subscribe Implementations
    6. The Mediator Pattern
      1. Basic Implementation
      2. Advanced Implementation
      3. Example
      4. Advantages and Disadvantages
      5. Mediator Versus Observer
      6. Mediator Versus Facade
    7. The Prototype Pattern
    8. The Command Pattern
    9. The Facade Pattern
      1. Notes on Abstraction
    10. The Factory Pattern
      1. When to Use the Factory Pattern
      2. When Not to Use the Factory Pattern
      3. Abstract Factories
    11. The Mixin Pattern
    12. Subclassing
    13. Mixins
      1. Advantages and Disadvantages
    14. The Decorator Pattern
    15. Pseudoclassical Decorators
      1. Interfaces
      2. Abstract Decorators
    16. Decorators with jQuery
    17. Advantages and Disadvantages
    18. Flyweight
      1. Using Flyweights
      2. Flyweights and Sharing Data
      3. Implementing Classical Flyweights
      4. Converting Code to Use the Flyweight Pattern
      5. A Basic Factory
      6. Managing the Extrinsic States
      7. The Flyweight Pattern and the DOM
  13. 10. JavaScript MV* Patterns
    1. MVC
      1. Smalltalk-80 MVC
    2. MVC for JavaScript Developers
      1. Models
      3. Controllers
      4. Controllers in Another Library (Spine.js) Versus Backbone.js
    3. What Does MVC Give Us?
    4. Smalltalk-80 MVC in JavaScript
      1. Delving Deeper
      2. Summary
    5. MVP
      1. Models, Views, and Presenters
      2. MVP or MVC?
      3. MVC, MVP, and Backbone.js
    6. MVVM
      1. History
      2. Model
      3. View
      4. ViewModel
      5. Recap: The View and the ViewModel
      6. Recap: The ViewModel and the Model
    7. Pros and Cons
      1. Advantages
      2. Disadvantages
    8. MVVM with Looser Data Bindings
    9. MVC Versus MVP Versus MVVM
    10. Backbone.js Versus KnockoutJS
  14. 11. Modern Modular JavaScript Design Patterns
    1. A Note on Script Loaders
    2. AMD
      1. Getting Started with Modules
      2. AMD Modules with Dojo
      3. AMD Module Design Patterns (Dojo)
      4. AMD Modules with jQuery
      5. AMD Conclusions
    3. CommonJS
      1. Getting Started
      2. Consuming Multiple Dependencies
      3. Loaders and Frameworks that Support CommonJS
      4. Is CommonJS Suitable for the Browser?
      5. Related Reading
    4. AMD and CommonJS: Competing, but Equally Valid Standards
      1. UMD: AMD and CommonJS-Compatible Modules for Plug-ins
    5. ES Harmony
      1. Modules with Imports and Exports
      2. Modules Loaded from Remote Sources
      3. Module Loader API
      4. CommonJS-like Modules for the Server
      5. Classes with Constructors, Getters, and Setters
      6. ES Harmony Conclusions
      7. Related Reading
    6. Conclusions
  15. 12. Design Patterns in jQuery
    1. The Composite Pattern
    2. The Adapter Pattern
    3. The Facade Pattern
    4. The Observer Pattern
    5. The Iterator Pattern
    6. Lazy Initialization
    7. The Proxy Pattern
    8. The Builder Pattern
  16. 13. jQuery Plug-in Design Patterns
    1. Patterns
    2. A Lightweight Start Pattern
      1. Further Reading
    3. Complete Widget Factory Pattern
      1. Further Reading
    4. Nested Namespacing Plug-in Pattern
      1. Further Reading
    5. Custom Events Plug-in Pattern (with the Widget Factory)
      1. Further Reading
    6. Prototypal Inheritance with the DOM-to-Object Bridge Pattern
      1. Further Reading
    7. jQuery UI Widget Factory Bridge Pattern
      1. Further Reading
    8. jQuery Mobile Widgets with the Widget Factory
    9. RequireJS and the jQuery UI Widget Factory
      1. Usage
      2. Further Reading
    10. Globally and Per-Call Overridable Options (Best Options Pattern)
      1. Further Reading
    11. A Highly Configurable and Mutable Plug-in Pattern
      1. Further Reading
    12. What Makes a Good Plug-in Beyond Patterns?
      1. Quality
      2. Code Style
      3. Compatibility
      4. Reliability
      5. Performance
      6. Documentation
      7. Likelihood of maintenance
    13. Conclusions
    14. Namespacing Patterns
    15. Namespacing Fundamentals
      1. Single Global Variables
      2. Prefix Namespacing
      3. Object Literal Notation
      4. Nested Namespacing
      5. Immediately Invoked Function Expressions (IIFE)s
      6. Namespace Injection
    16. Advanced Namespacing Patterns
      1. Automating Nested Namespacing
      2. Dependency Declaration Pattern
      3. Deep Object Extension
      4. Recommendation
  17. 14. Conclusions
  18. A. References
  19. Index
  20. About the Author
  21. Colophon
  22. SPECIAL OFFER: Upgrade this ebook with O’Reilly
  23. Copyright
O'Reilly logo

Namespacing Fundamentals

Namespaces can be found in almost any serious JavaScript application. Unless we’re working with a simple code snippet, it’s imperative that we do our best to ensure that we’re implementing namespacing correctly, as it’s not just simple to pick up, it’ll also avoid third-party code clobbering our own. The patterns we’ll be examining in this section are:

  1. Single global variables

  2. Prefix namespacing

  3. Object literal notation

  4. Nested namespacing

  5. Immediately-invoked Function

  6. Expressions

  7. Namespace injection

Single Global Variables

One popular pattern for namespacing in JavaScript is opting for a single global variable as our primary object of reference. A skeleton implementation of this where we return an object with functions and properties can be found below:

var myApplication =  (function () { 

Although this works for certain situations, the biggest challenge with the single global variable pattern is ensuring that no one else has used the same global variable name as we have in the page.

Prefix Namespacing

One solution to the above problem, as mentioned by Peter Michaux, is to use prefix namespacing. It’s a simple concept at heart, but the idea is we select a unique prefix namespace we wish to use (in this example, myApplication_) and then define any methods, variables, or other objects after the prefix as follows:

var myApplication_propertyA = {};
var myApplication_propertyB = {};
function myApplication_myMethod(){ 

This is effective from the perspective of decreasing the chances of a particular variable existing in the global scope, but remember that a uniquely named object can have the same effect.

This aside, the biggest issue with the pattern is that it can result in a large number of global objects once our application starts to grow. There is also quite a heavy reliance on our prefix not being used by any other developers in the global namespace, so be careful if opting to use this.

For more on Peter’s views about the single global variable pattern, read his excellent post on them:

Object Literal Notation

Object literal notation, which we also cover in the Module pattern section, can be thought of as an object containing a collection of key-value pairs with a colon separating each pair of keys and values, where keys can also represent new namespaces.

var myApplication = {

    // As we've seen, we can easily define functionality for
    // this object literal..

    // but we can also populate it to support 
    // further object namespaces containing anything
    // anything we wish:
    models : {},
    views : {
        pages : {}
    collections : {}

One can also opt for adding properties directly to the namespace: = function(){
    return "bar";

myApplication.utils = {
    export: function(){

Object literals have the advantage of not polluting the global namespace but assist in organizing code and parameters logically. They are truly beneficial if you wish to create easily readable structures that can be expanded to support deep nesting. Unlike simple global variables, object literals often also take into account tests for the existence of a variable by the same name, so the chances of collision occurring are significantly reduced.

The next sample demonstrates a number of different ways in which you can check to see if an object namespace already exists, defining it if it doesn’t.

// This doesn't check for existence of "myApplication" in
// the global namespace. Bad practice as we can easily
// clobber an existing variable/namespace with the same name
var myApplication = {};

// The following options *do* check for variable/namespace existence. 
// If already defined, we use that instance, otherwise we assign a new 
// object literal to myApplication.
// Option 1: var myApplication = myApplication || {};
// Option 2  if( !MyApplication ){ MyApplication = {} };
// Option 3: window.myApplication || ( window.myApplication = {} );
// Option 4: var myApplication = $.fn.myApplication = function() {};
// Option 5: var myApplication = myApplication === undefined ? {} : myApplication;

You’ll often see developers opting for Option 1 or Option 2—they are both straightforward and are equivalent in terms of their end result.

Option 3 assumes that you’re working in the global namespace, but it can also be written as:

myApplication || (myApplication = {});

This variation assumes that myApplication has already been initialized, so it’s only really useful for a parameter/argument scenario, as in the following example:

function foo() {
  myApplication || ( myApplication = {} );

// myApplication hasn't been initialized, 
// so foo() throws a ReferenceError


// However accepting myApplication as an
// argument

function foo( myApplication ) {
  myApplication || ( myApplication = {} );


// Even if myApplication === undefined, there is no error
// and myApplication gets set to {} correctly 

Options 4 can be useful for writing jQuery plug-ins where:

// If we were to define a new plug-in..
var myPlugin = $.fn.myPlugin = function() { ... };

// Then later rather than having to type:
$.fn.myPlugin.defaults = {};

// We can do:
myPlugin.defaults = {};

This results in better compression (minification) and can save on scope lookups.

Option 5 is a little similar to Option 4, but is a long form that evaluates whether myApplication is undefined inline—such that it’s defined as an object if not—and set to an existing value for myApplication if so.

It is shown just for the sake of being thorough, but in most situations, Options 1–4 will more than suffice for most needs.

There is, of course, a great deal of variance in how and where object literals are used for organizing and structuring code. For smaller applications wishing to expose a nested API for a particular self-enclosed module, you may just find yourself using the Revealing Module pattern, which we covered earlier in the book:

var namespace = (function () {

    // defined within the local scope
    var privateMethod1 = function () { /* ... */ },
        privateMethod2 = function () { /* ... */ }
        privateProperty1 = "foobar";

    return {

        // the object literal returned here can have as many 
        // nested depths as we wish, however as mentioned, 
        // this way of doing things works best for smaller, 
        // limited-scope applications in my personal opinion
        publicMethod1: privateMethod1,

        // nested namespace with public properties
            publicProperty1: privateProperty1

        // another tested namespace
            publicMethod2: privateMethod2

The benefit of using object literals here is that they offer us a very elegant key/value syntax to work with; one where we’re able to easily encapsulate any distinct logic or functionality for our application in a way that clearly separates it from others and provides a solid foundation for extending our code.

var myConfig = {

    language: "english",

    defaults: {
        enableGeolocation: true,
        enableSharing: false,
        maxPhotos: 20

    theme: {
        skin: "a",
        toolbars: {
            index: "ui-navigation-toolbar",
            pages: "ui-custom-toolbar"    


Note that JSON is a subset of object literal notation, and there are really only minor syntactical differences between it and the above (e.g., JSON keys must be strings). If, for any reason, one wishes to use JSON for storing configuration data instead (e.g., for simpler storage when sending to the backend), feel free to. For more on the object literal pattern, I recommend reading Rebecca Murphey’s excellent article on the topic, as she covers a few areas we didn’t touch upon.

Nested Namespacing

An extension of the object literal pattern is nested namespacing. It’s another common pattern used that offers a lower risk of collision due to the fact that even if a namespace already exists, it’s unlikely the same nested children do.

Does this look familiar?


Older versions of Yahoo!’s YUI library use the nested object namespacing pattern regularly. During my time as an engineer at AOL, we also used this pattern in many of our larger applications. A sample implementation of nested namespacing may look like this:

var myApp =  myApp || {};
// perform a similar existence check when defining nested 
// children
myApp.routers = myApp.routers || {};
myApp.model = myApp.model || {};
myApp.model.special = myApp.model.special || {};

// nested namespaces can be as complex as required:
// myApp.utilities.charting.html5.plotGraph(/*..*/);
// myApp.modules.financePlanner.getSummary();


The above differs from how YUI3 approaches namespacing as modules there use a sandboxed API host object with far less and far shallower namespacing.

We can also opt to declare new nested namespaces/properties as indexed properties as follows:

myApp["routers"] = myApp["routers"] || {}; 
myApp["models"] = myApp["models"] || {}; 
myApp["controllers"] = myApp["controllers"] || {};

Both options are readable, organized, and offer a relatively safe way of namespacing our application in a similar fashion to what we may be used to in other languages. The only real caveat, however, is that it requires our browser’s JavaScript engine first locating the myApp object and then digging down until it gets to the function we actually wish to use.

This can mean an increased amount of work to perform lookups; however, developers such as Juriy Zaytsev have previously tested and found the performance differences between single object namespacing versus the “nested” approach to be quite negligible.

Immediately Invoked Function Expressions (IIFE)s

Earlier in the book, we briefly covered the concept of an immediately invoked function expression; IIFE, which is effectively an unnamed function, immediately invoked after it’s been defined. If it sounds familiar it’s because you may have previous come across it referred to as a self-executing (or self-invoked) anonymous function, however I personally feel Ben Alman’s IIFE naming is more accurate. In JavaScript, because both variables and functions explicitly defined within such a context may only be accessed inside of it, function invocation provides an easy means to achieving privacy.

IIFEs are a popular approach to encapsulating application logic to protect it from the global namespace but also have their use in the world of namespacing.

Examples of IIFEs can be found below:

// an (anonymous) immediately-invoked function expression
(function () { /*...*/})();

// a named immediately-invoked function expression
(function foobar () { /*..*/}());

// this is technically a self-executing function which is quite different
function foobar () { foobar(); }

while a slightly more expanded version of the first example might look like:

var namespace = namespace || {};

// here a namespace object is passed as a function 
// parameter, where we assign public methods and 
// properties to it
(function( o ){ = "foo"; = function(){
        return "bar";    
})( namespace );

console.log( namespace );

Whilst readable, this example could be significantly expanded on to address common development concerns such as defined levels of privacy (public/private functions and variables) as well as convenient namespace extension. Let’s go through some more code:

// namespace (our namespace name) and undefined are passed here 
// to ensure 1. namespace can be modified locally and isn't 
// overwritten outside of our function context
// 2. the value of undefined is guaranteed as being truly 
// undefined. This is to avoid issues with undefined being 
// mutable pre-ES5.

;(function ( namespace, undefined ) {

    // private properties
    var foo = "foo", 
        bar = "bar";

    // public methods and properties
    namespace.foobar = "foobar";
    namespace.sayHello = function () {
        speak( "hello world" );

    // private method
    function speak(msg) {
        console.log( "You said: " + msg );

    // check to evaluate whether "namespace" exists in the 
    // global namespace - if not, assign window.namespace an 
    // object literal

}( window.namespace = window.namespace || {} ));

// we can then test our properties and methods as follows

// public

// Outputs: foobar
console.log( namespace.foobar );

// Outputs: hello world

// assigning new properties
namespace.foobar2 = "foobar";

// Outputs: foobar
console.log( namespace.foobar2 );

Extensibility is of course key to any scalable namespacing pattern and IIFEs can be used to achieve this quite easily. In the below example, our “namespace” is once again passed as an argument to our anonymous function and is then extended (or decorated) with further functionality:

// let's extend the namespace with new functionality
(function( namespace, undefined ){

    // public method
    namespace.sayGoodbye = function () {
        console.log( );
        console.log( );
        speak( "goodbye" );
}( window.namespace = window.namespace || {});

namespace.sayGoodbye(); // goodbye

If you would like to find out more about this pattern, I recommend reading Ben’s IIFE post for more information.

Namespace Injection

Namespace injection is another variation on the IIFE in which we “inject” the methods and properties for a specific namespace from within a function wrapper using this as a namespace proxy. The benefit this pattern offers is easy application of functional behavior to multiple objects or namespaces and can come in useful when applying a set of base methods to be built on later (e.g., getters and setters).

The disadvantages of this pattern are that there may be easier or more optimal approaches to achieving this goal (e.g., deep object extension or merging), which I cover earlier in the section.

Below we can see an example of this pattern in action, where we use it to populate the behavior for two namespaces: one initially defined (utils) and another which we dynamically create as a part of the functionality assignment for utils (a new namespace called tools).

var myApp = myApp || {};
myApp.utils =  {};

(function () {
  var val = 5;

  this.getValue = function () {
      return val;
  this.setValue = function( newVal ) {
      val = newVal;
  // also introduce a new sub-namespace = {};
}).apply( myApp.utils );  

// inject new behaviour into the tools namespace
// which we defined via the utilities module

(function () {
    this.diagnose = function(){
        return "diagnosis";   
}).apply( );

// note, this same approach to extension could be applied
// to a regular IIFE, by just passing in the context as 
// an argument and modifying the context rather than just
// "this"

// Usage:

// Outputs our populated namespace
console.log( myApp );

// Outputs: 5
console.log( myApp.utils.getValue() );

// Sets the value of `val` and returns it
myApp.utils.setValue( 25 ); 
console.log( myApp.utils.getValue() );

// Testing another level down
console.log( );

Angus Croll has also suggested the idea of using the call API to provide a natural separation between contexts and arguments previously. This pattern can feel a lot more like a module creator, but as modules still offer an encapsulation solution, we’ll briefly cover it for the sake of thoroughness:

// define a namespace we can use later
var ns = ns || {}, 
    ns2 = ns2 || {};

// the module/namespace creator
var creator = function( val ){

    var val = val || 0; = function () {
        return val++

    this.reset = function () {
        val = 0;
} ns );

//, ns.reset now exist ns2 , 5000 );

// ns2 contains the same methods
// but has an overridden value for val
// of 5000

As mentioned, this type of pattern is useful for assigning a similar base set of functionality to multiple modules or namespaces. I would however only really suggest using it where explicitly declaring functionality within an object/closure for direct access doesn’t make sense.

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