Intro to Vue.js: Rendering, Directives, and Events

If I was going to sum up my experiences with Vue in a sentence, I’d probably say something like “it’s just so reasonable” or “It gives me the tools I want when I want them, and never gets in my way”. Again and again, when learning Vue, I smiled to myself. It just made sense, elegantly.

This is my own introductory take on Vue. It’s the article I wish I had when I was first learning Vue. If you’d like a more non-partisan approach, please visit Vue’s very well thought out and easy to follow Guide.

Article Series:

  1. Rendering, Directives, and Events (You are here!)
  2. Components, Props, and Slots (Coming soon!)
  3. Vue-cli (Coming soon!)
  4. Vuex (Coming soon!)
  5. Animations (Coming soon!)

One of my favorite things about Vue is that it takes all of the successful things from other frameworks, and incorporates them without getting disorganized. Some examples that stand out for me:

  • A virtual DOM with reactive components that offer the View layer only, props and a Redux-like store similar to React.
  • Conditional rendering, and services, similar to Angular.
  • Inspired by Polymer in part in terms of simplicity and performance, Vue offers a similar development style as HTML, styles, and JavaScript are composed in tandem.

Some benefits I’ve enjoyed over Vue’s competitors: cleaner, more semantic API offerings, slightly better performance than React, no use of polyfills like Polymer, and an isolated, less opinionated view than Angular, which is an MVC.

I could go on, but it’s probably better if you read their comprehensive and community-driven comparison with other frameworks. It’s worth a read, but you can skip back to it later if you’d like to dive into the code.

Let’s Get Started!

We can’t kick this off without the obligatory “Hello, world!” example. Let’s do that so you can get up and running:

<div id="app">  {{ text }} Nice to meet Vue. </div>
new Vue({  el: '#app',  data: {    text: 'Hello World!'  } });

See the Pen Vue Hello World by Sarah Drasner (@sdras) on CodePen.

If you’re familiar with React, this will have some similarities. We’ve escaped into JavaScript in the middle of the content with the mustache template and used a variable, but one difference is we are working with straight up HTML instead of JSX. JSX is pretty easy to work with, but I do think it’s nice that I don’t have to spend time changing class to className, etc. You’ll also notice that this is pretty lightweight to get up and running.

Now let’s try Vue out with something I really love: loops and conditional rendering.

Conditional Rendering

Let’s say I have a set of items, like navigation, that I know I’m going to reuse. It might make sense to put it in an array to update it in a few places dynamically and consistently. In vanilla JS (with Babel) we might do something like this: create the array, then create an empty string where we add each item wrapped in an <li>, and then wrap all of that in a <ul> and add it to the DOM with innerHTML:

<div id="container"></div>
const items = [   'thingie',   'another thingie',   'lots of stuff',   'yadda yadda' ];  function listOfStuff() {   let full_list = '';   for (let i = 0; i < items.length; i++) {       full_list = full_list + `<li> $ {items[i]} </li>`   }   const contain = document.querySelector('#container');   contain.innerHTML = `<ul> $ {full_list} </ul>`;      }  listOfStuff();

See the Pen e699f60b79b90a35401cc2bcbc588159 by Sarah Drasner (@sdras) on CodePen.

This works fine, but it’s a bit messy for something so standard. Now let’s implement that same thing with Vue’s loop with v-for:

<div id="app">   <ul>     <li v-for="item in items">       {{ item }}     </li>   </ul> </div>
const app4 = new Vue({   el: '#app',   data: {     items: [       'thingie',       'another thingie',       'lots of stuff',       'yadda yadda'     ]   } });

See the Pen Conditional Rendering in Vue by Sarah Drasner (@sdras) on CodePen.

Pretty clean and declarative. If you’re familiar with Angular, this will likely be familiar to you. I find this to be such a clean and legible way to conditionally render. If you jumped into the code and had to update it, you could do so very easily.

Another really nice offering is dynamic binding with v-model. Check this out:

<div id="app">   <h3>Type here:</h3>   <textarea v-model="message" class="message" rows="5" maxlength="72"></textarea><br>   <p class="booktext">{{ message }} </p> </div>
new Vue({   el: '#app',   data() {     return {       message: 'This is a good place to type things.'       }   } });

See the Pen Vue Book v-model basic by Sarah Drasner (@sdras) on CodePen.

You’ll probably notice two things about this demo. First, that it really took nothing at all to type directly into the book and dynamically update the text. Vue enables us to very easily set up two-way binding between the <textarea> and the <p> with v-model.

The other thing you might notice is that we’re now putting data in a function. In this example, it would work without doing so. We could have just put it in an object like our earlier examples. But this would only work for the Vue instance and be exactly the same across the application (thus, not so great for individual components). It’s OK for one Vue instance, but this will share data across all of the child components as well. It’s good practice to start putting data in a function because we’ll need to when we start using components and want them to each hold state of their own.

These aren’t the only easy input bindings available to you at all, and even v-if has an alternate, v-show, which won’t mount/unmount the component, but rather, leave it in the DOM and toggle visibility.

There are so many more directives available to you, here’s a sampling of some of the ones I use very often. A lot of these offer shortcuts as well, so I’ll show both. From here on, we’ll mostly use the shortcuts, so it’s good to at least familiarize yourself with them a little bit in this table.

Name Shortcut Purpose Example
v-if, v-else-if, v-else none Conditional Rendering <g v-if="flourish === 'A'"></g>
<g v-else-if="flourish === 'B'"></g>
<g v-else></g>
v-bind : Bind attributes dynamically, or pass props <div :style="{ background: color }"></div>
v-on @ Attaches an event listener to the element <button @click="fnName"></button>
v-model none Creates two-way binding <textarea rows="5" v-model="message" maxlength="72"></textarea>
v-pre none Skip compiling for raw content, can boost performance <div v-pre>{{ raw content with no methods}}</div>
v-once none Don’t rerender <div class=”v-once”>Keep me from rerendering</div>
v-show none Will show or hide a component/element based on state, but will leave it in the DOM without unmounting (unlike v-if) <child v-show=”showComponent”></child> (toggles visibility when showComponent is true)

There are also really nice event modifiers and other API offerings to speed up development like:

  • @mousemove.stop is comparable to e.stopPropogation()
  • @mousemove.prevent this is like e.preventDelegation()
  • @submit.prevent this will no longer reload the page on submission
  • @click.once not to be confused with v-once, this click event will be triggered once.
  • v-model.lazy won’t populate the content automatically, it will wait to bind until an event happens.

You can even configure your own keycodes.

We’ll use these in examples a bit more coming up!

Event Handling

Binding that data is all well and good but only gets us so far without event handling, so let’s cover that next! This is one of my favorite parts. We’ll use the binding and listeners above to listen to DOM events.

There are a few different ways to create usable methods within our application. Just like in vanilla JS, you can pick your function names, but methods are intuitively called, well, methods!

new Vue({   el: '#app',   data() {    return {     counter: 0    }   },   methods: {    increment() {      this.counter++;    } });
<div id="app">   <p><button @click="increment">+</button> {{ counter }}</p> </div>

We’re creating a method called increment, and you can see that this automatically binds to this and will refer to the data in this instance and component. I love this kind of automatic binding, it’s so nice to not have to console.log to see what this is referring to. We’re using shorthand @click to bind to the click event here.

Methods aren’t the only way to create a custom function. You can also use watch. The main difference is that methods are good for small, synchronous calculations, while watch is helpful with more tasking or asynchronous or expensive operations in response to changing data. I tend to use watch most often with animations.

Let’s go a little further and see how we’d pass in the event itself and do some dynamic style bindings. If you recall in the table above, instead of writing v-bind, you can use the shortcut :, so we can bind pretty easily to style (as well as other attributes) by using :style and passing in state, or :class. There are truly a lot of uses for this kind of binding.

In the example below, we’re using hsl(), in which hue calculated as a circle of degrees of color that wraps all the way around. This is good for our use as it will never fail, so as we track our mouse in pixels across the screen, the background style will update accordingly. We’re using ES6 template literals here.

new Vue({   el: '#app',   data() {     return {       counter: 0,       x: 0     }   },   methods: {     increment() {       this.counter++;    },    decrement() {      this.counter--;    },    xCoordinate(e) {      this.x = e.clientX;    }   } });
<div id="app" :style="{ backgroundColor: `hsl($ {x}, 80%, 50%)` }" @mousemove="xCoordinate">   <p><button @click="increment">+</button> {{ counter }} <button @click="decrement">-</button></p>   <p>Pixels across: {{ x }}</p> </div>

See the Pen Showing simple event handling by Sarah Drasner (@sdras) on CodePen.

You can see that we didn’t even need to pass in the event to the @click handler, Vue will automatically pass it for you to be available as a parameter for the method. (shown as e here).

Also, native methods can also be used, such as event.clientX, and it’s simple to pair them with this instances. In the style binding on the element there’s camel casing for hyphenated CSS properties. In this example, you can see how simple and declarative Vue is to work with.

We don’t even actually need to create a method at all, we could also increase the counter directly inline in the component if the event is simple enough:

<div id="app">   <div class="item">     <img src="https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/s.cdpn.io/28963/backpack.jpg" width="235" height="300"/>     <div class="quantity">       <button class="inc" @click="counter > 0 ? counter -= 1 : 0">-</button>       <span class="quant-text">Quantity: {{ counter }}</span>       <button class="inc" @click="counter += 1">+</button>     </div>     <button class="submit" @click="">Submit</button>   </div><!--item--> </div>
new Vue({   el: '#app',   data() {     return {       counter: 0     }   } });

See the Pen Backpack Shop Counter by Sarah Drasner (@sdras) on CodePen.

You can see that we’re updating the state directly in the @click handler without a method at all- you can also see that we can add a little bit of logic in there as well (as you wouldn’t have lower than zero items on a shopping site). Once this logic gets too complex, though, you sacrifice legibility, so it’s good to move it into a method. It’s nice to have the option for either, though.

Article Series:

  1. Rendering, Directives, and Events (You are here!)
  2. Components, Props, and Slots (Coming soon!)
  3. Vue-cli (Coming soon!)
  4. Vuex (Coming soon!)
  5. Animations (Coming soon!)

Intro to Vue.js: Rendering, Directives, and Events is a post from CSS-Tricks

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