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Vanilla HTML templates


Today I learn there is some basic support for HTML templates using vanilla Javascript!

Suppose you want to dynamically list issues from one of your GitHub repositories within an HTML page. You are fetching data from the GitHub REST API. You are not using any Javascript framework/library such as React, Vue, Angular, JQuery.

You can simply define your HTML structure such as:

<div id="gh-issue-list"></div>

<template id="gh-issue-template">
  <article class="gh-issue-item">
    <h4><a class="gh-issue-url" href="">Title</a></h4>
    <small>Submitted by <a class="gh-issue-author" href="">username</span></small>
  </article>
</template>

The <template> tag will not be rendered by the browser. Then you can trigger a small script to insert all the issues by cloning the template and filling the data:

<script>
  function addIssueItem(issue) {
    const issueList = document.querySelector('#gh-issue-list')
    const issueTemplate = document.querySelector('#gh-issue-template')
    const issueItem = submissionTemplate.content.cloneNode(true)

    const link = submissionItem.querySelector('.gh-issue-url')
    link.setAttribute('href', issue.html_url)
    link.text = issue.title

    const author = submissionItem.querySelector('.gh-issue-author')
    author.setAttribute('href', issue.user.html_url)
    author.text = issue.user.login

    submissionList.appendChild(submissionItem)
  }

  async function getLatestIssues(repository) {
    const response = await fetch(`https://api.github.com/repos/${repository}/issues`)
    const issues = await response.json()
    issues.forEach(addIssueItem)
  }

  getLatestIssues('owner/repo')
</script>

And voilà! No more battling with successive document.createElement and document.appendChild calls everywhere, you just fill the template with the data! This technique is especially useful when writing Markdown documents with a static-site generator, where only a sprinkle of Javascript is needed.

Of course for more complex use-cases, using a proper Javascript library might be the right choice. But I prefer the minimal approach whenever I can!