Handlebars Templating

Handlebars is almost similar to Mustache with some additional benefits. There are some things that you can’t do in Mustache (e.g if-else statement) that Handlebars allows us to do easily using helpers.

Handlebars supports most of the Mustache syntax. However, there are a few features that are not supported by Handlebars. The primary ones are the block syntax (e.g. {{#name}}...{{/name}}) which is often used in Deriva annoations to perform boolean (or null) check, and the encode/decode methods (e.g. {{#encode}}, {{#decode}}). For example:

// Mustache

{{#name}}Hello {{name}}{{/name}}{{^name}}No name available{{/name}}

// name="John" (or any object that evaluates to true in javascript)                 => Hello John
// name=null (or any object that evaluate to false such as '', 0, false, [], etc)   => No name available

With handlebars you need to pass the variables to an if helper to do the check.

{{#if name}}Hello {{name}}{{else}}No name available{{/if}}

Handlebars supports more complicated expression syntax and allow the comparison to be done at the finer level e.g. null v.s. false comparsion. This document summarizes the key concepts of Handlebars that are relevant to Deriva.

Handlebars Paths

Handlebars supports simple paths, just like Mustache.


Handlebars also supports nested paths, making it possible to look up properties nested below the current context.

The body for book with {{title}} authored by {{author.name}} is {{body}}

That template works with this context

var context = {
    title: "My First Blog Post!",
    author: {
        id: 47,
        name: "Yehuda Katz"
    body: "My first post. Wheeeee!"

This makes it possible to use Handlebars templates with more raw JSON objects.

Nested handlebars paths can also include ../ segments, which evaluate their paths against a parent context.

{{#each comments}}

Even though the link is printed while in the context of a comment, it can still go back to the main context (the post) to retrieve its permalink. The exact value that ../ will resolve to varies based on the helper that is calling the block. Using ../ is only necessary when context changes, so children of helpers such as each would require the use of ../ while children of helpers such as if do not.

{{#each comments}}

    {{#if title}}

In this example all of the above reference the same permalink value even though they are located within different blocks.

NOTE: Handlebars also allows for name conflict resolution between helpers and data fields via a this reference:

<p>{{./name}} or {{this/name}} or {{this.name}}</p> or {{this.[name with a space]}}

Any of the above would cause the name field on the current context to be used rather than a helper of the same name.


A Handlebars helper call is a simple identifier, followed by zero or more parameters (separated by space). Each parameter is a Handlebars expression.


FormatDate helper

You can use the formatDate helper to take any date or timestamp[tz] value and format it according to the Pre Format Guide.


{{formatDate value format}}


{{formatDate '30-08-2018' 'YYYY'}} ==> '2018'

Block Helpers

Block helpers make it possible to define custom iterators and other functionality that can invoke the passed block with a new context. These helpers are very similar to functions that we have in mustache.


If helper

You can use the if helper to conditionally render a block. If its argument returns false, undefined, null, "", 0, or [], Handlebars will not render the block.

{{#if author}} {{firstName}} {{lastName}}</h1>{{/if}}

when used with an empty ({}) context, author will be undefined, resulting in empty string:

When using a block expression, you can specify a template section to run if the expression returns a falsy value. The section, marked by {{else}} is called an “else section”.

{{#if author}} {{firstName}} {{lastName}}{{else}} Unknown Author {{/if}}

Above method will return Unknown Author.

Unless helper

You can use the unless helper as the inverse of the if helper. Its block will be rendered if the expression returns a falsy value.

{{#unless license}}WARNING: This entry does not have a license!{{/unless}}

If looking up license under the current context returns a falsy value, Handlebars will render the warning. Otherwise, it will render nothing.

NOTE: You can use inverted if (^if) to get the same effect of unless

Each helper

You can iterate over a list using the built-in each helper. Inside the block, you can use this to reference the element being iterated over.

{{#each people}}{{this}}{{/each}}

when used with context

  people: [
    "Yehuda Katz",
    "Alan Johnson",
    "Charles Jolley"

Yields the following output

Yehuda Katz Alan Johnson Charles Jolley

You can use the this expression in any context to reference the current context.

You can optionally provide an {{else}} section which will display only when the list is empty.

{{#each paragraphs}}
    No content

When looping through items in each, you can optionally reference the current loop index via {{@index}}.

{{#each array}}
  {{@index}}: {{this}}

Additionally for object iteration, {{@key}} references the current key name:

{{#each object}}
  {{@key}}: {{this}}

The first and last steps of iteration are noted via the @first and @last variables when iterating over an array. When iterating over an object only the @first is available.

Nested each blocks may access the iteration variables via depth based paths. To access the parent index, for example, {{@../index}} can be used.

The each helper also supports block parameters, allowing for named references anywhere in the block.

{{#each array as |value key|}}
  {{#each child as |childValue childKey|}}
    {{key}} - {{childKey}}. {{childValue}}

Will create a key and value variable that children may access without the need for depthed variable references. In the example above, {{key}} is identical to {{@../key}} but in many cases is more readable.

With helper

Normally, Handlebars templates are evaluated against the context to the template.

template => {{lastName}}, {{firstName}}
contenxt => {firstName: "Alan", lastName: "Johnson"}

results in

Johnson, Alan

You can shift the context for a section of a template by using the built-in with block helper.

{{#with author}}
    By {{firstName}} {{lastName}}

when used with this context:

  title: "My first post!",
  author: {
    firstName: "Charles",
    lastName: "Jolley"

results in

My first post! By Charles Jolley

with can also be used with block parameters to define known references in the current block. The example above can be converted to

{{#with author as |myAuthor|}}
    By {{myAuthor.firstName}} {{myAuthor.lastName}}</h2>

Which allows for complex templates to potentially provide clearer code than ../ depthed references allow for.

You can optionally provide an {{else}} section which will display only when the passed value is empty.

{{#with author}}
    No content

Encode helper

You can use the encode helper to get strings in URL encoded format. It accepts more than 1 strings which need to be encoded

age={{#encode age}}{{/encode}}

for context age=10 will result in age%3D10

In addition you can provide multiple inputs too which’re concatenated and then encoded. For example,

{{#encode key '=' value}}

for context key="name" and value="John" will result in name%3DJohn

Escape helper

You can use the escape helper to specifically escape values; for example hyphens “-” etc., you can use the escape block in this way. It accepts more than 1 strings which that needs to be escaped

name={{#escape key}}{{/escape}}

for context key="**somevalue ] which is ! special" will result in name=\*\*somevalue \] which is \! special

In addition you can provide multiple inputs too which’re concatenated and then encoded. For example,

{{#escape key '-' value}}{{/escape}}

for context key="**somevalue ] which is ! special" and value="John" will result in \*\*somevalue \] which is \! special\-John

Encodefacet helper

You can use the encodeFacet helper to compress a JSON object. The compressed string can be used for creating a url path with facets. The string that you are passing as content MUST be JSON parsable. It will be ignored otherwise.


  \"and\": [
      \"source\": [{\"inbound\": [\"schema\", \"fk_1\"]}]}, \"RID\"],
      \"choices\": [\"{{{RID}}}\"]


<a href="example.com/chaise/recordset/#1/S:T/*::facets::FSADAUczxcafd">caption</a>

As you can see in this example I am escaping all the "s. This is because you are usually passing this value in a string in a JSON document. So all the "s must be escaped.

Using Arrays

You can use the Each Helper to iterate over its data. You can also use the {{array.INDEX}} pattern if you want to access array data by index; where index starts from zero and it is the position of element that you want to access.



When used with this context:

  arr: [
      {value: "first element"},
      {value: "second element"},
      {value: "third element"}


first element

Accessing keys with spaces and special characters

Handlebars allows you to access keys/variables which have spaces or special characters like {} in their names. You needs to enclose those variables in square brackets.

{{[str with a space]}}

To access these variables in another block helper

{{#encode [str with a space]}}{{/ecnode}}
{{#escape [str with a space]}}{{/escape}}


Handlebars offers support for subexpressions, which allows you to invoke multiple helpers within a single mustache {{}}, and pass in the results of inner helper invocations as arguments to outer helpers. Subexpressions are delimited by parentheses.

{{#escape (encode arg1) arg2}}{{/escape}}

In this case, encode will get invoked with the string argument arg1, and whatever the encode function returns will get passed in as the first argument to escape (and arg2 will get passed in as the second argument to escape).

Additional Helpers

Comparison helper

You can use following helper to check for specific equality checks using the default if helper

{{#if (eq var1 var2)}}
    .. content
{{#if (ne var1 var2)}}
    .. content
{{#if (lt var1 var2)}}
    .. content
{{#if (gt var1 var2)}}
    .. content
{{#if (lte var1 var2)}}
    .. content
{{#if (gte var1 var2)}}
  .. content
{{#if (and var1 var2)}}
  .. content
{{#if (and var1 var2)}}
  .. content

IfCond Helper

It accepts 2 arguments. First one and last one are the values and second one is the comparison operator..

{{#ifCond value "===" value2}}
    Values are equal!
    Values are different!