JavaScript client side MVC framework


Serenade.js is yet another MVC client side JavaScript framework. Why do we indulge in recreating the wheel? We believe that Serenade.js more closely follows the ideas of classical MVC than competing frameworks and has a number of other advantages as well:

  • Super pretty, powerful yet logic-less template language
  • Data bindings keep your views up-to-date without any extra work
  • Powerful caching features
  • Absolutely no dependencies, everything works without jQuery
  • No need to inherit from base classes anywhere (though you can if you want)

This is an ongoing, alpha level project. Be prepared that the API might change and bugs might occur. Currently, versions of Internet Explorer below IE8 are not supported. In the future, IE7 will be supported. Support for IE6 is not planned.

Download here:

In Serenade.js you define templates and render them, handing in a controller and a model to the template. Serenade.js then handles getting values from the model and updating them dynamically as the model changes, as well as dispatching events to the controller when they occur. Templates are "logic-less" in that they do not allow the execution of any code, instead they declaratively define what data to bind to and which events to react to and how.

The hello world example:

var element = Serenade.view('h1 "Hello World"').render();

As you can see we are rendering a view, which returns a DOM element. We then insert this element into the body. Let's throw in some data:

var model = { name: "Jonas" };
var element = Serenade.view('h1 "Hello " @name').render(model);

The data from the model object is interpolated into the template. The model is always the first argument to render. We'll add a controller to receive events:

var controller = { sayfunction() { alert("Hello " + } };
var model = { name: "Jonas" };
var element = Serenade.view('button[event:click=say] "Say hello"').render(model, controller)

The controller is the second argument to render. You can bind events in the view, which will call the function on the controller as needed.

As you can see, model and controller are just regular JavaScript objects, with no special logic.

We will probably want to save the view so that we can render it multiple times, just give it a name:

Serenade.view('hello_world', 'h1 "Hello World"');

And you can render it later, through the global Serenade.render function:

var element = Serenade.render('hello_world', model, controller);

There are more advanced examples in the examples folder, check out a live demo of those examples running here. There is also an implementation of the todomvc app using Serenade.js.

Unfortunately JavaScript does not make it possible to track changes to arbitrary objects, so in order to update the view automatically as the model changes, we will have to add some functionality to it. Thankfully this is quite simple:

var model = {};
Serenade.extend(model, Serenade.Properties);'name');

Now we can set and get the name property using the set and get functions:

model.set('name', 'Peter');

In browsers which support Object.defineProperty, we can even set and get this property directly, like so: = 'Peter';

Note that Opera and IE8 and below do not support this, so you might want to refrain from using this syntax. Further note that it is not strictly necessary to call 'name' unless you plan on using this feature, get and set work fine without the property being declared.

If your model is a constructor, you might want to add the properties to its prototype instead:

var MyModel = function(name) {
  this.set('name', name);
Serenade.extend(MyModel.prototype, Serenade.Properties)

Or in CoffeeScript:

class MyModel

Sometimes it can be convenient to define a property with a custom getter and/or setter function. Serenade.js mimics the Object.defineProperty API in ECMAScript 5 in this regard. Most often you will want to override the get function, for example you could have a fullName property which combines first and last names like so:'fullName', {
  getfunction() { return this.get('firstName') + " " + this.get('lastName') }

You can use the collection shortcut to create a property which is automatically initialized to a Serenade.Collection. This is convenient for binding collections to views (see below).


Internally this just calls property with a specialized getter and setter.

Sometimes you want the value of the property to appear differently in a view than when handling the property internally. Consider a property representing a monetary value. You would want to handle this as an integer in the model, but the view should show it properly formatted, with currency information and so on. You can use the format option for this.'price', { formatfunction(value) { return "€ " + value } });

To retrieve a formatted value, call format('price').

When a property is changed, Serenade.js automatically triggers an event called change:propertyName, as well as a generic change event. These events are what keeps the view up to date as the model changes. In the fullName property above, changes to either firstName or lastName could require the view to be changed, but this is not inferred automatically. You will need to explicitly state the dependencies of the fullName property. This will cause it to update it if any of the dependent properties change, just like it should. You can do this easily like this:'fullName', {
  getfunction() { return this.get('firstName') + " " + this.get('lastName') },
  dependsOn: ['firstName', 'lastName']

The Serenade.js template language is inspired by Slim, Jade and HAML, but not identical to any of these.

Any view in Serenade.js must have an element as its root node. Elements may have any number of children. Elements can have attributes within square brackets.

This is a single element with no children and an id attribute:


You can use a short form similar to a CSS selector:


You can omit the element name, which will create div elements:


Indentation is significant and is used to nest elements:


Attributes may be bound to a model value by prefix the name with @:


Similarly text can be added to any element, this may be either bound or unbound text or any mix thereof:

div "Name: " @name

Events are dispatched to the controller. The controller may choose to act on these events in any way it chooses. The controller has a reference to both the model, through this.model, and the view, through this.view. These properties will be set automatically by Serenade.js as the view is rendered. If the view is a subview, the controller can also access its parent controller through this.parent.

While you can access the view and thus dynamically change it from the controller through standard DOM manipulation, you should generally avoid doing this as much as possible. Ideally your controller should only change properties on models, and those changes should then be dynamically reflected in the view. This is the essence of the classical MVC pattern.

Events are bound by using the event:name=binding syntax for an element's attributes like so:

  h3 "Post"
  a[href="#" event:click=like] "Like this post"

You can use any DOM event, such as submit, mouseover, blur, keydown, etc. This will now look up the property like on your controller and call it as a function. You could implement this as follows:

var controller = {
  likefunction() { this.model.set('liked', true) }

Note that we do not have to set this.model ourselves, Serenade.js does this for you.

In this example, if we have scrolled down a bit, we would jump to the start of the page, since the link points to the # anchor. In many JavaScript frameworks such as jQuery, we could fix this by returning false from the event handler. In Serenade.js, returning false does nothing. Thankfully the event object is passed into the function call on the controller, so we can use the preventDefault function to stop the link being followed:

var controller = {
  likefunction(event) {
    this.model.set('liked', true)

You can use event for any number of things here, such as attaching the same event to multiple targets and then figuring out which triggered the event through

Preventing the default action of an event is really, really common, so having to call preventDefault everywhere gets old very fast. For this reason, Serenade.js has a special syntax in its templates to prevent the default action without having to do any additional work in the controller. Just append an exclamation mark after the event binding:

  h3 "Post"
  a[href="#" event:click=like!] "Like this post"

We can change the style of an element by binding its class attribute to a model property. If possible, this is what you should do, since it separates styling from behaviour. Sometimes however, its necessary to bind a style attribute directly. Consider for example if you have a progress bar, whose width should be changed based on the progress property of a model object.

You can use the special style:name=value syntax to dynamically bind styles to elements like so:

div[class="progress" style:width=@progress]

Style names should be camelCased, like in JavaScript, not dash-cased, like in CSS. That means you should write style:backgroundColor=color, not style:background-color=color.

Oftentimes you will want to render a collection of objects in your views. Serenade has special syntax for collections built into its template language. Assuming you have a model like this:

var post = {
  comments: [{ body: 'Hello'}, {body: 'Awesome!'}]

You could output the list of comments like this:

  - collection @comments
    li @body

This should output one li element for each comment.

If comments is an instance of Serenade.Collection, Serenade.js will dynamically update this collection as comments are added, removed or changed:

var post = {
  comments: new Serenade.Collection([{ body: 'Hello'}, {body: 'Awesome!'}])

It can be convenient to split parts of views into subviews. The view instruction does just that:

  h3 "Most recent comment"
  - view "post"

Assuming that there is a post view registered with Serenade.view('post', '...') that view will now be rendered.

It will often be useful to use the view and collection instructions together:

  h3 "Comments"
    - collection @comments
      - view "comment"

By default, the subviews will use the same controller as their parent view. This can be quite inconvenient in a lot of cases, and we would really like to use a specific controller for this new view.

If your controller can be instantiated with JavaScript's new operator, you can use controller to tell Serenade.js which controller to use for your view. Any constructor function in JavaScript and any CoffeeScript class can be used here. For example:

var CommentController = function() {};
Serenade.controller('comment', CommentController);

Or in CoffeeScript:

class CommentController
Serenade.controller 'comment'CommentController

Serenade.js will now infer that you want to use a CommentController with the comment view.

Sometimes you need to break out of the mould that Serenade has provided for you. In order to expose arbitrary functionality in views, Serenade has custom helpers. Using them is quite simple, just add a function which returns a DOM element to Serenade.Helpers: = function(nameurl) {
  var a = document.createElement('a');
  a.setAttribute('href', url);
  return a;

You can now use this in your views like this:

  - link "Google" ""

There is no comma separating the arguments.

You can use any library you want to generate the DOM element, but it must be an actual element, returning a string is not possible, neither is returning multiple elements or undefined.

Beware if you're using jQuery that you need to use the get function to extract the actual DOM element, for example: = function(nameurl) {
  var a = $('<a></a>').attr('href', url).text(name);
  return a.get(0);

Inside the helper, you have access to a couple of things through this. You can use this.model or this.controller to access the current model and controller.

For example if you had a model like this:

var model = {
  web: '',
  images: ''

You might want to create a function to link to these easily like so: = function(link) {
  var a = document.createElement('a');
  a.setAttribute('href', this.model[link]);
  return a;

And then use it in your view:

  - link @web
  - link @images

Both the @web and "Google" syntaxes produce strings as argument. It is convention to use the syntax with an @ when the argument is meant to reference a model attribute.

Finally you have access to this.render() which is a function that renders any children of this instruction into the given element. For example if we wanted to create a block helper for links like this:

  - link ""
    span "Link: " @name

You could implement the helper like this: = function(url) {
  var a = document.createElement('a');
  a.setAttribute('href', url);
  return a;

The render function must always receive the element as its first argument but it may optionally also take a model as its second and a controller as its third argument. You can call render multiple times, possibly sending in different models and/or controllers for each invocation. If you call it multiple times, it's no problem to send in the same element each time.


Serenade.Model provides a more fully featured starting point for creating feature rich model objects. You can of course bind to instances of Serenade.Model in views and changes are reflected there dynamically.

In CoffeeScript, you can use it, simply by extending the base class Serenade.Model

class MyModel extends Serenade.Model

In JavaScript you can use the extend function on Serenade.Model, you need to pass the name of the class as the first parameter:

var MyModel = Serenade.Service.extend('MyModel');

Note that in following with JavaScript conventions, you need to define instance methods on the prototype of the new model:

var MyModel = Serenade.Service.extend('MyModel');
MyModel.prototype.someInstanceMethod = function() { … };

You can use the same property declarations in these models:'name');

For simplicity's sake we will refer to instances of constructors derived from Serenade.Model as documents.

NOTE: Due to a bug in CoffeeScript, this is currently broken. The bug is fixed on CoffeeScript master and the next release should work as expected.

Serenade.Model assumes you have a property named id and that this uniquely identifies each document. Provided that such a property exists, documents are fetched from an in-memory cache, so that multiple queries for the same document id return the same object. This is key to working effectively with objects bound to views.

var Person = Serenade.Service.extend('Person');
person1 = new Person(id: 1, name: 'John');
person2 = new Person(id: 1, age: 23);
person2.get('name'); # => 'John'
person2.get('age'); # => 23

Here person2 and person1 are both variables which point to the same object, and that object's properties are a combination of the properties assigned to both calls of the constructor function.

It is often useful to be able to serialize objects to a simple key/value representation, suitable for transfer in JSON format, and to unserialize it from such a format.

Serenade.Model includes some facilities to make this process easier. You will have to tell the model what parameters to serialize, and how. You can do this easily by setting the serialize option on your properties, like so:'name', { serialize: true });

Often, you will want to specify a specific name to serialize a property as, some server-side languages have different naming conventions than JavaScript does for example, so you might want to translate these properties:'firstName', { serialize: 'first_name' });

If you declare a property serializable like so, not only will the serialize function use the underscored form, an alias for the setter function will also be added, so that you can do set('first_name', 'Jonas'). This is especially useful when providing JSON data from the server, as it will allow you to use the correct naming conventions both on the server and client.

You can declare that a model has an associated model. For example, each comment might belong to a post, you can declare this like this:

Comment.belongsTo('post', { asfunction() { return window.Post } });

Adding a belongsTo association will automatically create an id column, which will be kept in sync with the associated object. In this example, assigning an id to postId will find that post and assign it to the post property, vice versa if you assign a document to the post property, its id will be exctracted and assigned to postId.

The optional property as defines a constructor to be used for this property. When specified, you can assign any JavaScript object to the property and it will automatically be run through the constructor function. Note that the constructor is wrapped in a function call, so that we can defer resolution until later. This is so circular dependencies can work as expected.

(I don't particularly like this syntax, if you have a better idea, please tell me!)

In the inverse situation, where a post has many comments, you can use the hasMany declaration. This will add a collection of comments, which you can manipulate however you choose. Changes to this comments collection will be reflected in the commentsIds property.

Post.hasMany('comments', { asfunction() { return window.Comment } });

If the constructor property is omitted from either declaration, then the associated documents will be plain objects instead.

Both types of associations can be serialized by declaring serialize: true on them, just like normal properties. In that case, the entire associated documents will be serialized. This may not be the desired behaviour, you may want to only serialize the id or ids of the associated document(s). In that case, you can declare the associations like this:

Post.hasMany('comments', { constructor: 'Comment', serializeIds: true });
Comment.belongsTo('post', { constructor: 'Post', serializeId: true });

All of these declarations can of course also take a string so that the association is serialized under another name:

Comment.belongsTo('post', { constructor: 'Post', serializeId: 'post_id' });

Serenade.Model can transparently cache objects in HTML5 local storage. Working with local storage is identical to working with the in-memory identity map. The only difference is that you can control when an individual document is cached in local storage. You can do this by setting localStorage on the model:

Post.localStorage = true;

The possible values for localStorage are false (the default), true and its alias set, which will cache the document to local storage as it is updated through setter functions, and finally save which will only cache the document if save is called explicitely.

Serenade.js provides the expected api which allows it to be used from inside express.js, you could use this API for other JavaScript server side frameworks as well. Obviously, since the views are being rendered server side, event and style bindings will simply be ignored.

Install it via npm:

npm install serenade

You should now be able to create views with the .serenade extension, you can render them from within express.js like this:

app.get('/:name', function(reqres) {
  res.render('show.serenade', { model: { title: 'Hello' }, layout: false });

Since Serenade.js has no special syntax for doctypes, an HTML5 doctype is automatically added. If you do not want this, pass doctype: false as an option to render.


In order to run Serenade.js locally and work on the code base, you will first need to grab the codebase via git:

git clone git://
cd serenade.js

Install dependencies via npm:

npm install

Run tests with jasmine:

jasmine-node spec --coffee

Build Serenade.js into a single file:

cake build

You should now have the built project in ./extras.


Serenade.js is licensed under the MIT license, see the LICENSE file.

Substantial parts of this codebase where taken from CoffeeScript, licensed under the MIT license, by Jeremy Ashkenas, see the LICENSE file.

A small part of this codebase was taken from Spine.js, licensed under the MIT license, by Alex MacCaw, see the LICENSE file.