Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
Ben Nadel at RIA Unleashed (Nov. 2010) with: David Long
Ben Nadel at RIA Unleashed (Nov. 2010) with: David Long@davejlong )

Deferring Attribute Interpolation In AngularJS For Better Performance

By Ben Nadel on

When AngularJS interpolates attributes on the DOM (Document Object Model), it has to install a $watch() binding in order to update the attribute value whenever thew View-Model (VM) changes. This can quickly lead to a very large number of watchers that execute in every digest. At some point, this can become a performance problem. And if it does, you can try to boost performance by deferring attribute interpolation until it is actually needed.


 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Run this demo in my JavaScript Demos project on GitHub.

Every circumstance is different. But, I would guess that a good deal of attribute interpolation doesn't need to be actively updated with every digest. In those cases, attribute interpolation can be deferred until the user starts to engage with the given elements. Two examples of this might be a Title (or tooltip) attribute and an Href attribute. The title (or tooltip) doesn't need to be interpolated until the user mouses into the current element; and, the Href doesn't need to be interpolated until the user focuses the given element.

Since there's no in-built way to prevent interpolation (that I have seen), we have to manually wrangle the interpolation process through custom compilation and linking. The key aspect of this process is to remove the pre-interpolated value from the DOM so that AngularJS stops trying to interpolate it. Then, to bind to some sort of interaction event that triggers a one-timer interpolation.

To see this in action, the following code implements two directives - bnTitle and bnHref - instead of defaulting to the basic interpolation feature of AngularJS.

  • <!doctype html>
  • <html ng-app="Demo">
  • <head>
  • <meta charset="utf-8" />
  •  
  • <title>
  • Deferring Attribute Interpolation In AngularJS For Better Performance
  • </title>
  •  
  • <style type="text/css">
  •  
  • ul {
  • list-style-type: none ;
  • margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px ;
  • padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px ;
  • }
  •  
  • li {
  • background-color: #FAFAFA ;
  • border: 1px solid #CCCCCC ;
  • line-height: 20px ;
  • margin: 0px 0px 3px 0px ;
  • padding: 5px 5px 5px 5px ;
  • }
  •  
  • li:hover {
  • background-color: #FFF0F0 ;
  • }
  •  
  • </style>
  • </head>
  • <body ng-controller="AppController">
  •  
  • <h1>
  • Deferring Attribute Interpolation In AngularJS For Better Performance
  • </h1>
  •  
  • <ul>
  • <!--
  • Notice that we are using interpolation in two different places in the
  • following ngRepeat directive: TITLE attribute and HREF attribute.
  • -->
  • <li
  • ng-repeat="friend in friends track by friend.id"
  • bn-title="My friend, {{ friend.nickname }}">
  •  
  • <a bn-href="#/friend-{{ friend.id }}">{{ friend.id }} - {{ friend.name }}</a>
  •  
  • </li>
  • </ul>
  •  
  •  
  • <!-- Load scripts. -->
  • <script type="text/javascript" src="../../vendor/jquery/jquery-2.1.0.min.js"></script>
  • <script type="text/javascript" src="../../vendor/angularjs/angular-1.2.22.min.js"></script>
  • <script type="text/javascript">
  •  
  • // Create an application module for our demo.
  • var app = angular.module( "Demo", [] );
  •  
  •  
  • // -------------------------------------------------- //
  • // -------------------------------------------------- //
  •  
  •  
  • // I control the root of the application.
  • app.controller(
  • "AppController",
  • function( $scope ) {
  •  
  • // I contain the list of friends being rendered by the ngRepeat.
  • $scope.friends = buildFriends( 100 );
  •  
  •  
  • // ---
  • // PRIVATE METHODS.
  • // ---
  •  
  •  
  • // I return a new friend object.
  • function buildFriend( index ) {
  •  
  • var localIndex = ( index % 3 );
  •  
  • if ( localIndex === 0 ) {
  •  
  • return({
  • id: index,
  • name: "Sarah",
  • nickname: "Stubs"
  • });
  •  
  • } else if ( localIndex === 1 ) {
  •  
  • return({
  • id: index,
  • name: "Joanna",
  • nickname: "J-Diesel"
  • });
  •  
  • } else {
  •  
  • return({
  • id: index,
  • name: "Tricia",
  • nickname: "Boss"
  • });
  •  
  • }
  •  
  • }
  •  
  •  
  • // I create a collection of friends with the given size.
  • function buildFriends( size ) {
  •  
  • var friends = [];
  •  
  • for ( var i = 1 ; i <= size ; i++ ) {
  •  
  • friends.push( buildFriend( i ) );
  •  
  • }
  •  
  • return( friends );
  •  
  • }
  •  
  • }
  • );
  •  
  •  
  • // -------------------------------------------------- //
  • // -------------------------------------------------- //
  •  
  •  
  • // I provide an interpolated Title attribute that uses just-in-time interpolation
  • // rather than a watcher that has to be checked during each digest.
  • app.directive(
  • "bnTitle",
  • function( $interpolate ) {
  •  
  • // When we compile the directive, we have to remove the pre-interpolation
  • // value so that the watcher will not be created during the pre-linking
  • // phase of the native AngularJS attribute-interpolation directive.
  • function compile( tElement, tAttributes ) {
  •  
  • // Compute the interpolation function for the non-interpolated
  • // attribute value.
  • var interpolation = $interpolate( tAttributes.bnTitle );
  •  
  • // Clear the value so the attribute-interpolation directive won't
  • // bind a watcher.
  • // --
  • // NOTE: At this point, the interpolation method has already been
  • // computed twice - once by AngularJS and once by us (above). It will
  • // actually be computed one more time during the pre-linking phase of
  • // the attribute-interpolation directive. However, at that point, the
  • // value (which we are clearing below), will not contain any
  • // interpolation markers ({{}}), and therefore will not cause any
  • // watchers to be bound. At that point, further interpolation is our
  • // responsibility.
  • tAttributes.$set( "bnTitle", null );
  •  
  • // CAUTION: You CANNOT use this notation (ie, using jQuery to change
  • // the attribute) at this point - it will not stop the interpolation
  • // binding from taking place. The reason being (as best I can tell)
  • // is that the AngularJS "Attributes" collection has already been
  • // determined and is subsequently used to access the attribute value
  • // in the pre-linking phased of the interpolation directive.
  • // --
  • // tElement.attr( "bnTitle", "" );
  •  
  •  
  • // I link the JavaScript events to the current scope.
  • function link( scope, element, attributes ) {
  •  
  • // Since the "title" is a visual element, we don't need it to
  • // exist until the user begins to interact with the current
  • // element. As such, we can defer interpolation until the user
  • // actually mouses into the current element, at which point the
  • // native behavior of the browser is to show the title.
  • element.on(
  • "mouseenter",
  • function handleMouseEnterEvent( event ) {
  •  
  • // Get the just-in-time value of the interpolation
  • // function in the context of the current scope.
  • // --
  • // NOTE: We do NOT have to trigger a DIGEST since no
  • // change to the view-model has taken place. These
  • // changes are isolated to the DOM. AngularJS doesn't
  • // need to know about them.
  • element.attr( "title", interpolation( scope ) );
  •  
  • }
  • );
  •  
  • }
  •  
  •  
  • // Return the linking function.
  • return( link );
  •  
  • }
  •  
  • // Return the directive configuration.
  • return({
  • compile: compile,
  • restrict: "A"
  • });
  •  
  • }
  • );
  •  
  •  
  • // -------------------------------------------------- //
  • // -------------------------------------------------- //
  •  
  •  
  • // I provide an interpolated Href attribute that uses just-in-time interpolation
  • // rather than a watcher that has to be checked during each digest. The HREF is
  • // calculated on "focus" of the link element.
  • app.directive(
  • "bnHref",
  • function( $interpolate ) {
  •  
  • // When we compile the directive, we have to remove the pre-interpolation
  • // value so that the watcher will not be created during the pre-linking
  • // phase of the native AngularJS attribute-interpolation directive.
  • function compile( tElement, tAttributes ) {
  •  
  • // Compute the interpolation function.
  • var interpolation = $interpolate( tAttributes.bnHref );
  •  
  • // Clear the attribute since we no longer need it once we have the
  • // computed interpolation function.
  • tAttributes.$set( "bnHref", null );
  •  
  • // Set up an empty href so that the link CSS styles will take place.
  • tElement.attr( "href", "" );
  •  
  •  
  • // I link the JavaScript events to the current scope.
  • function link( scope, element, attributes ) {
  •  
  • // Since the link behavior is activated based on element
  • // interaction, we can defer interpolation until the user
  • // focuses the element (either with mouse or keyboard).
  • element.on(
  • "focus",
  • function handleFocusEvent( event ) {
  •  
  • element.attr( "href", interpolation( scope ) );
  •  
  • }
  • );
  •  
  • }
  •  
  •  
  • // Return the linking function.
  • return( link );
  •  
  • }
  •  
  • // Return the directive configuration.
  • return({
  • compile: compile,
  • restrict: "A"
  • });
  •  
  • }
  • );
  •  
  • </script>
  •  
  • </body>
  • </html>

As you can see, each directive has a compile phase that computes the interpolation function, using $interpolate(). Then, it removes the original attribute from the DOM (using the attributes collection). This second step prevents AngularJS from binding a watcher for the interpolation. Once this has been done, it is then up to the linking phase to determine which user interaction (ex, click, mouseenter) should trigger interpolation and update the DOM.

I am not advocating this approach all the time - it does create a new level of complexity that may be unnecessary. I would probably wait to try this kind of technique only after performance starts to be a concern.




Reader Comments

One downside of `bn-href` here is that user won't be able to see the updated URL the link points to by just hovering on the link I guess.

Reply to this Comment

@Kushagra,

It's funny you mentioned that - I noticed that _right after_ I posted this blog entry :) This could be fixed by binding multiple events to the A-element:

element.on( "focus mouseenter", function handleMouseEvent() { ... } );

This would trigger the interpolation for both "focus" and "mouseenter" events, which should fix the hovering issue.

Reply to this Comment

Since you're not doing anything if the model changes, would it not be easier and more efficient to just use a one time binding for these kinds of things?

<li
ng-repeat="friend in friends track by friend.id"
title="My friend, {{::friend.nickname }}">

<* ng-href="#/friend-{{::friend.id }}">{{::friend.id }} - {{::friend.name }}</*>

</li>

You can even use them for the id and name in this case.
(replaced 'a' tag with *)

Reply to this Comment

Ralph,

that's not quite the same because bind once still resolves all bindings on first render. it's more of a improvement in subsequent digest cycles on the page where all those bindings don't have to be watched, whereas above is a initial load optimization.

Reply to this Comment

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