Cross-breeding Template::Declare with Moose

December 3rd, 2011

Cross-breeding Template::Declare with Moose

I’m rather fond of Template::Declare. Its killer feature, for me, is how all tags are expressed via Perl-space syntax, which allows me to leverage perltidy to turn any great unreadable glob of HTML into nicely indented code (in comparison, my Mason templates always begin with the best of intention, and end up looking like the indentation fairy went berserk). But it also… irk me. In minimal ways. In ridiculous ways. In ways that I should overlook. But…

I would so love to ditch the global template inheritance that is defined via

Template::Declare->init( dispatch_to => ['MyApp::Templates'] );

and go for a per-object mechanism.

And talking of objects, those OO-like features like mixins and delegation are very cool, but they end up implementing a new OO system. These days, Moose is my hammer, and… wouldn’t be nifty if the templating system was built using all that antlered magic?

Logic says that I should just learn to live with those small warts and resist the urge to write yet another template system. After all, armies of better hackers went that route, and between Template::Declare, Template, Mason and the many other systems out there, the chances that I’ll come with something better are infinitesimal leaning on the delusional.

But logic ain’t no fun. So… say hello to Template::Caribou. The goal of that new template system? Steal or be inspired by a maximal amount of Template::Declare features, while using Moose as the core engine.

Although the project currently has absolutely no documentation whatsoever and is quite minimal, I was able to get a basic template running. For the rest of this blog entry, I’ll take you on a tour of that basic sample use, peeling the system from the outside in, hoping that the glitter of the outer layers will soften the shocks of the abominations of the inner mechanisms.

Using an already-defined template

That’s the easy-peasy part.

We create an instance of the template class HelloWorld, passing along some useful value, and render the thing. The resulting output is:


So far, it looks like any other templating system. Things, however, get interesting when we are…

Creating the HelloWorld template

This is where the Moose groove sets in.

At the base, it is a simple Moose class. It’s the assignation of the Caribou::Template role, as well of the importation of the functions in Template::Caribou::Utils that bring in the templating magic.

The templates’s definition, via the template keyword, is very similar of the way it’s being done with Template::Declare. The biggest difference is how non-tags are emited. Template::Declare has outs and outs_raw, Caribou considers captures everything printed to the file handles STDOUT and ::RAW.

The tag helping functions are imported from Template::Caribou::Tags::HTML and MyTags, the latter being used for the custom tag my_img.

Finally, the template that we originally called (page) is defined in the role MyWebPage, which we may expect is going to be re-used by several templates:

Creating Tags

Custom tags are a big bonus to have. And, oh joy, they prove to be quite easy (if a little messy) to craft via the use of Template::Caribou::Utils’s render_tag().

render_tag() takes three arguments: the name of the tag to generate, an optional manipulation function, and the coderef of the tag’s inner block.

Typically, tags will be defined like foo is in the example, but the manipulation function is there for cases where some sanity checks or content/attribute massaging are desired. That function gets two arguments: a hashref to the attributes of the tag, and a ref to the inner content. For example, if we want a custom my_h1 that upper case its text and inject some special style, it can be done with:

sub my_h1(&) { render_tag( 'img', sub {
    my ( $attrs, $content ) = @_;
    $attrs->{style} .= "; color: red";
    $$content = uc $$content;
}, shift ) };

And that’s mostly all that one needs to know to use Caribou.

Now, if you want to stay with a good impression of the beast, you should probably stop reading here. The next sections deal with what’s going on behind the curtain and… it’s going to take a turn for the eldritch.

The templates are methods

Yup, you read that right. The keyword template is just a bit of sugar that does

sub template { 
    my ( $meta, $label, $sub ) = @_;

    $meta->add_method( "template_$label" => $sub );

So the template foo() becomes the method template_foo(). The end-goal, here, is to make really easy to pepper after(), before() and around() modifiers all over the place, so that adding a menu would be as easy as:

before template_main => sub {
    $_[0]->render( 'menu' );

Keeping the templates so simple means that the gymnastics to render them have to be a little more esoteric. What I ended up doing was to use global variables, and to matryoshka the hell out of them.

sub render {
    my ( $self, $template, @args ) = @_;

    my $method = "template_$template";

    my $output = do
        local $Template::Caribou::TEMPLATE =
            $Template::Caribou::TEMPLATE || $self;
        local $Template::Caribou::IN_RENDER = 1;
        local *STDOUT;
        local *::RAW;
        local $Template::Caribou::OUTPUT;
        local %Template::Caribou::attr;
        tie *STDOUT, 'Template::Caribou::Output';
        tie *::RAW, 'Template::Caribou::OutputRaw';
        my $res = $self->$method( @_ );

            or ref $res ? $res : Template::Caribou::Output::escape( $res );

    $output = Template::Caribou::String->new( $output );

    print $output unless defined wantarray or $Template::Caribou::IN_RENDER;

    return $output;

I’ll not explain everything in details, but there are a lot of dirty tricks there. STDOUT and RAW are localized and tied to private classes that grooms and redirects them to $Template::Declare::OUTPUT. The current template object is stored in Template::Caribou::TEMPLATE such that the function show() can be used instead of self->render(). And there is the heuristic print/return dance at the end that is done to ensure that the template will DWIM in most of those cases:

template foo => sub {
    "just print this";

template foo2 => sub {
    say ::RAW "just print <this>";

template foo3 => sub {
    p { "foo" };

template foo4 => sub {
    h1 { 'Foo!' };
    div {
        p { "foo" };

 # etc. Trust me, the fun never ends...

And… beside a few other twisted implementation details, that’s basically it.

But does it blends?

I dunno. The next step is to try it for a real project. Probably for the rewrite of Galuga. But don’t you worry: I’ll keep you updated. :-)