CoffeeScript with jQuery sprinkles

Posted by on March 23, 2012

This is part two of a two part intro to CoffeeScript.

So my last article on CoffeeScript certainly seemed to provoke some thought. Some of you even found it useful, which is all sorts of awesome. If you haven’t had a look at that article, I’d advise doing that first, as this one builds on it.

There is one more thing I’d like to touch on with our CoffeeScript example.
We’re using an inline event handler to validate the form, which is ugly and obtrusive. With something like jQuery, fixing this would be a cinch, but CoffeScript doesn’t give us any nice, cross-browser tools to achieve this.

So let’s just use jQuery in our CoffeeScript!

I’m going to use the current version from jQuery’s content delivery network:

<script src=""></script>
<script src="/script/form.js"></script>

but you can download the latest one itself if you wish.

Let’s also remove the inline submit handler from the form tag:

<form id="contact_form">

Now, to wire it all up. If this was simply jQuery, we’d do something like:

  return validate(this);

Look at all those brackets and braces! In CoffeeScript, this becomes simply:

$('#contact_form').submit ->
  validate this

Let’s step through this:

  1. strip out brackets and semi-colons:

    $('#contact_form').submit function()
      return validate this
  2. remove explicit returns:

    $('#contact_form').submit function()
      validate this
  3. replace function() with ->:

    $('#contact_form').submit ->
      validate this

And as a final simplification, we can drop this to one line:

$('#contact_form').submit -> validate this

Which reads well, and conveys its intent perfectly: “When submitted, validate this”. One thing that may be annoying you is the brackets
around '#contact_form'. Why can’t we lose those? Consider:

$ '#contact_form'.submit -> validate this

This will compile out to:

$( '#contact_form'.submit(function(){ return validate(this); }) );

In other words, the whole line will be taken as the argument to the $ function call. This is actually a precedence issue, and the idiomatic CoffeeScript way to resolve this is to lose the brackets around the argument, but add them in around the operation you want to take precendence. In other words:

($ '#contact_form').submit -> validate this

What we’re saying here is “call submit on the result of $ '#contact_form'”. This looks odd if you’re used to JavaScript, but is more in-keeping with the use of brackets in CoffeeScript to denote precedence, not to pass arguments.

We’re nearly there. Lobbing this into our file right now won’t quite work, as we need to wait until the document is ready before
applying it. jQuery gives us that mechanism idiomatically:

  // do things on page load

or, after applying our CoffeeScript transliteration:

$ -> // do things on page load

which gives us, in this case:

$ -> ($ '#contact_form').submit -> validate this

Add this as the first line of and we’re in business.

Finally, since we’re no longer calling the validate function from outside the file, we can switch from attaching the function to the window object, keeping everything nice and encapsulated:

$ -> ($ '#contact_form').submit -> validate this

validate = (form) ->
  errors = get_errors form, ['name','email']
  report errors
  errors.length == 0

get_errors = (form,field_names) ->
  errors = []
  fields = (form.elements[name] for name in field_names) for field in fields if field.value == ''

report = (errors) ->
  alert "The form has errors:nn- " + errors.join("n- ") if errors.length > 0

Fifteen lines of fresh, readable Coffee or forty lines of JavaScript? Now that is a wakeup call.