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How does data binding work in the AngularJS framework?

I haven't found technical details on their site. It's more or less clear how it works when data is propagated from view to model. But how does AngularJS track changes of model properties without setters and getters?

I found that there are JavaScript watchers that may do this work. But they are not supported in Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7. So how does AngularJS know that I changed for example the following and reflected this change on a view?

myobject.myproperty="new value";

By dirty checking the $scope object

Angular maintains a simple array of watchers in the $scope objects. If you inspect any $scope you will find that it contains an array called $$watchers.

Each watcher is an object that contains among other things

  1. An expression which the watcher is monitoring. This might just be an attribute name, or something more complicated.
  2. A last known value of the expression. This can be checked against the current computed value of the expression. If the values differ the watcher will trigger the function and mark the $scope as dirty.
  3. A function which will be executed if the watcher is dirty.

How watchers are defined

There are many different ways of defining a watcher in AngularJS.

  • You can explicitly $watch an attribute on $scope.

    $scope.$watch('person.username', validateUnique);
    
  • You can place a {{}} interpolation in your template (a watcher will be created for you on the current $scope).

    <p>username: {{person.username}}</p>
    
  • You can ask a directive such as ng-model to define the watcher for you.

    <input ng-model="person.username" />
    

The $digest cycle checks all watchers against their last value

When we interact with AngularJS through the normal channels (ng-model, ng-repeat, etc) a digest cycle will be triggered by the directive.

A digest cycle is a depth-first traversal of $scope and all its children. For each $scope object, we iterate over its $$watchers array and evaluate all the expressions. If the new expression value is different from the last known value, the watcher's function is called. This function might recompile part of the DOM, recompute a value on $scope, trigger an AJAX request, anything you need it to do.

Every scope is traversed and every watch expression evaluated and checked against the last value.

If a watcher is triggered, the $scope is dirty

If a watcher is triggered, the app knows something has changed, and the $scope is marked as dirty.

Watcher functions can change other attributes on $scope or on a parent $scope. If one $watcher function has been triggered, we can't guarantee that our other $scopes are still clean, and so we execute the entire digest cycle again.

This is because AngularJS has two-way binding, so data can be passed back up the $scope tree. We may change a value on a higher $scope that has already been digested. Perhaps we change a value on the $rootScope.

If the $digest is dirty, we execute the entire $digest cycle again

We continually loop through the $digest cycle until either the digest cycle comes up clean (all $watch expressions have the same value as they had in the previous cycle), or we reach the digest limit. By default, this limit is set at 10.

If we reach the digest limit AngularJS will raise an error in the console:

10 $digest() iterations reached. Aborting!

The digest is hard on the machine but easy on the developer

As you can see, every time something changes in an AngularJS app, AngularJS will check every single watcher in the $scope hierarchy to see how to respond. For a developer this is a massive productivity boon, as you now need to write almost no wiring code, AngularJS will just notice if a value has changed, and make the rest of the app consistent with the change.

From the perspective of the machine though this is wildly inefficient and will slow our app down if we create too many watchers. Misko has quoted a figure of about 4000 watchers before your app will feel slow on older browsers.

This limit is easy to reach if you ng-repeat over a large JSON array for example. You can mitigate against this using features like one-time binding to compile a template without creating watchers.

How to avoid creating too many watchers

Each time your user interacts with your app, every single watcher in your app will be evaluated at least once. A big part of optimising an AngularJS app is reducing the number of watchers in your $scope tree. One easy way to do this is with one time binding.

If you have data which will rarely change, you can bind it only once using the :: syntax, like so:

<p>{{::person.username}}</p>

or

<p ng-bind="::person.username"></p>

The binding will only be triggered when the containing template is rendered and the data loaded into $scope.

This is especially important when you have an ng-repeat with many items.

<div ng-repeat="person in people track by username">
  {{::person.username}}
</div>

  1. The one-way data binding is an approach where a value is taken from the data model and inserted into an HTML element. There is no way to update model from view. It is used in classical template systems. These systems bind data in only one direction.

  2. Data-binding in Angular apps is the automatic synchronisation of data between the model and view components.

Data binding lets you treat the model as the single-source-of-truth in your application. The view is a projection of the model at all times. If the model is changed, the view reflects the change and vice versa.


Angular.js creates a watcher for every model we create in view. Whenever a model is changed, an "ng-dirty" class is appeneded to the model, so the watcher will observe all models which have the class "ng-dirty" & update their values in the controller & vice versa.


AngularJS handle data-binding mechanism with the help of three powerful functions : $watch(),$digest()and $apply(). Most of the time AngularJS will call the $scope.$watch() and $scope.$digest(), but in some cases you may have to call these functions manually to update with new values.

$watch() :-

This function is used to observe changes in a variable on the $scope. It accepts three parameters: expression, listener and equality object, where listener and equality object are optional parameters.

$digest() -

This function iterates through all the watches in the $scope object, and its child $scope objects
(if it has any). When $digest() iterates over the watches, it checks if the value of the expression has changed. If the value has changed, AngularJS calls the listener with new value and old value. The $digest() function is called whenever AngularJS thinks it is necessary. For example, after a button click, or after an AJAX call. You may have some cases where AngularJS does not call the $digest() function for you. In that case you have to call it yourself.

$apply() -

Angular do auto-magically updates only those model changes which are inside AngularJS context. When you do change in any model outside of the Angular context (like browser DOM events, setTimeout, XHR or third party libraries), then you need to inform Angular of the changes by calling $apply() manually. When the $apply() function call finishes AngularJS calls $digest() internally, so all data bindings are updated.


AngularJs supports Two way data-binding.
Means you can access data View -> Controller & Controller -> View

For Ex.

1)

// If $scope have some value in Controller. 
$scope.name = "Peter";

// HTML
<div> {{ name }} </div>

O/P

Peter

You can bind data in ng-model Like:-
2)

<input ng-model="name" />

<div> {{ name }} </div>

Here in above example whatever input user will give, It will be visible in <div> tag.

If want to bind input from html to controller:-
3)

<form name="myForm" ng-submit="registration()">
   <label> Name </lbel>
   <input ng-model="name" />
</form>

Here if you want to use input name in the controller then,

$scope.name = {};

$scope.registration = function() {
   console.log("You will get the name here ", $scope.name);
};

ng-model binds our view and render it in expression {{ }}.
ng-model is the data which is shown to the user in the view and with which the user interacts.
So it is easy to bind data in AngularJs.


Explaining with Pictures :

Data-Binding needs a mapping

The reference in the scope is not exactly the reference in the template. When you data-bind two objects, you need a third one that listen to the first and modify the other.

Here, when you modify the <input>, you touch the data-ref3. And the classic data-bind mecanism will change data-ref4. So how the other {{data}} expressions will move ?

Events leads to $digest()

Angular maintains a oldValue and newValue of every binding. And after every Angular event, the famous $digest() loop will check the WatchList to see if something changed. These Angular events are ng-click, ng-change, $http completed ... The $digest() will loop as long as any oldValue differs from the newValue.

In the previous picture, it will notice that data-ref1 and data-ref2 has changed.

Conclusions

It's a little like the Egg and Chicken. You never know who starts, but hopefully it works most of the time as expected.

The other point is that you can understand easily the impact deep of a simple binding on the memory and the CPU. Hopefully Desktops are fat enough to handle this. Mobile phones are not that strong.


I wondered this myself for a while. Without setters how does AngularJS notice changes to the $scope object? Does it poll them?

What it actually does is this: Any "normal" place you modify the model was already called from the guts of AngularJS, so it automatically calls $apply for you after your code runs. Say your controller has a method that's hooked up to ng-click on some element. Because AngularJS wires the calling of that method together for you, it has a chance to do an $apply in the appropriate place. Likewise, for expressions that appear right in the views, those are executed by AngularJS so it does the $apply.

When the documentation talks about having to call $apply manually for code outside of AngularJS, it's talking about code which, when run, doesn't stem from AngularJS itself in the call stack.


It happened that I needed to link a data model of a person with a form, what I did was a direct mapping of the data with the form.

For example if the model had something like:

$scope.model.people.name

The control input of the form:

<input type="text" name="namePeople" model="model.people.name">

That way if you modify the value of the object controller, this will be reflected automatically in the view.

An example where I passed the model is updated from server data is when you ask for a zip code and zip code based on written loads a list of colonies and cities associated with that view, and by default set the first value with the user. And this I worked very well, what does happen, is that angularJS sometimes takes a few seconds to refresh the model, to do this you can put a spinner while displaying the data.


Obviously there is no periodic checking of Scope whether there is any change in the Objects attached to it. Not all the objects attached to scope are watched . Scope prototypically maintains a $$watchers . Scope only iterates through this $$watchers when $digest is called .

Angular adds a watcher to the $$watchers for each of these

  1. {{expression}} — In your templates (and anywhere else where there’s an expression) or when we define ng-model.
  2. $scope.$watch(‘expression/function’) — In your JavaScript we can just attach a scope object for angular to watch.

$watch function takes in three parameters:

  1. First one is a watcher function which just returns the object or we can just add an expression.

  2. Second one is a listener function which will be called when there is a change in the object. All the things like DOM changes will be implemented in this function.

  3. The third being an optional parameter which takes in a boolean . If its true , angular deep watches the object & if its false Angular just does a reference watching on the object. Rough Implementation of $watch looks like this

Scope.prototype.$watch = function(watchFn, listenerFn) {
   var watcher = {
       watchFn: watchFn,
       listenerFn: listenerFn || function() { },
       last: initWatchVal  // initWatchVal is typically undefined
   };
   this.$$watchers.push(watcher); // pushing the Watcher Object to Watchers  
};

There is an interesting thing in Angular called Digest Cycle. The $digest cycle starts as a result of a call to $scope.$digest(). Assume that you change a $scope model in a handler function through the ng-click directive. In that case AngularJS automatically triggers a $digest cycle by calling $digest().In addition to ng-click, there are several other built-in directives/services that let you change models (e.g. ng-model, $timeout, etc) and automatically trigger a $digest cycle. The rough implementation of $digest looks like this.

Scope.prototype.$digest = function() {
      var dirty;
      do {
          dirty = this.$$digestOnce();
      } while (dirty);
}
Scope.prototype.$$digestOnce = function() {
   var self = this;
   var newValue, oldValue, dirty;
   _.forEach(this.$$watchers, function(watcher) {
          newValue = watcher.watchFn(self);
          oldValue = watcher.last;   // It just remembers the last value for dirty checking
          if (newValue !== oldValue) { //Dirty checking of References 
   // For Deep checking the object , code of Value     
   // based checking of Object should be implemented here
             watcher.last = newValue;
             watcher.listenerFn(newValue,
                  (oldValue === initWatchVal ? newValue : oldValue),
                   self);
          dirty = true;
          }
     });
   return dirty;
 };

If we use JavaScript’s setTimeout() function to update a scope model, Angular has no way of knowing what you might change. In this case it’s our responsibility to call $apply() manually, which triggers a $digest cycle. Similarly, if you have a directive that sets up a DOM event listener and changes some models inside the handler function, you need to call $apply() to ensure the changes take effect. The big idea of $apply is that we can execute some code that isn't aware of Angular, that code may still change things on the scope. If we wrap that code in $apply , it will take care of calling $digest(). Rough implementation of $apply().

Scope.prototype.$apply = function(expr) {
       try {
         return this.$eval(expr); //Evaluating code in the context of Scope
       } finally {
         this.$digest();
       }
};

This is my basic understanding. It may well be wrong!

  1. Items are watched by passing a function (returning the thing to be watched) to the $watch method.
  2. Changes to watched items must be made within a block of code wrapped by the $apply method.
  3. At the end of the $apply the $digest method is invoked which goes through each of the watches and checks to see if they changed since last time the $digest ran.
  4. If any changes are found then the digest is invoked again until all changes stabilize.

In normal development, data-binding syntax in the HTML tells the AngularJS compiler to create the watches for you and controller methods are run inside $apply already. So to the application developer it is all transparent.





data-binding