Angular module/syntax approach using an IIFE

Since day one using Angular, I’ve always debated on how I should be extending modules. This post talks through some common Angular patterns, from variable to chaining and a variant.

The options are via a variable, such as var myApp = angular.module('myApp', []);, or using the “getter” method of the module from Angular via angular.module('myApp') and chaining our methods. I’ve decided on the latter, but with a nice twist to smarten up our JavaScript inside Angular using an IIFE and minimising Angular footprint.

Using a variable

The variable approach isn’t the preferred way of dealing with modules according to Brian Ford on the Angular team, so I’ve tried to break away from it. The variable approach is simple to declare and use:

var app = angular.module('app', []);

app.controller('MainCtrl', function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
  this.doSometing = function () {
    SomeFactory.doSomething();
  };
});

I’m not entirely sure what the implications are from Brian’s advice, so far I’ve not experienced any drawbacks with the applications themselves or writing unit tests.

Initially I opted for this approach as my workflow changed to use Grunt (aaand now Gulp) file concats and minifications – of which I immediately split things into individual files for everything to keep things modular and clean. The easiest way to grab the module namespace I needed was using a variable, because chaining our module between files proved difficult, not to mention jsHint being a pain about semi-colons (can’t put them or you’ll break the chain) amongst other things.

Using chains

Chaining is really smart, it looks a lot more modern as well and very clean:

// set the module
angular.module('app', []);

// get the module
angular.module('app').controller('MainCtrl', function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
  this.doSometing = function () {
    SomeFactory.doSomething();
  };
});

You could argue this isn’t that different from the above, but variables are also minified whereas the angular.module('app') gets aren’t – though that isn’t a huge concern. We can also do this though and chain, chain, chain:

angular.module('app', []);

angular.module('app')
.controller('MainCtrl', function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
  this.doSometing = function () {
    SomeFactory.doSomething();
  };
})
.directive('someDirective', function someDirective ($scope, SomeFactory) {
  this.doSometing = function () {
    SomeFactory.doSomething();
  };
});

Nice and very concise.

Anonymous functions

I’ve written about anonymous functions before and how they can clean up our code, aid debugging (through better stack traces and function naming) and more – so for now I’d been doing this and naming my anonymous functions to counter some of the arguments:

// yes, shame on me for the variable
var app = angular.module('app', []);

// indent the anonymous function and name it `MainCtrl` for visibility
app.controller('MainCtrl',
  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
  this.doSometing = function () {
    SomeFactory.doSomething();
  };
});

So what about moving it outside into it’s own function to make Angular less visible and my JavaScript more “standalone”:

function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
  this.doSometing = function () {
    SomeFactory.doSomething();
  };
}
app.controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);

Introducing an IIFE

In the global scope the above could cause some confusion for Angular as it picks up functions as Controllers if the names match (as well as it being a global function which we should aim to avoid), so to resolve this I can drop it inside an IIFE which we’re quite used to seeing:

(function () {
  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }
  app.controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);
})();

Better! It’s looking more of a “module” now rather than a syntax-driven app, and nothing is public.

But what about the app variable referencing my Module? I think app is pretty naff anyway, but it’s simple and I don’t need to change it per project as it’s pretty generic. But maybe it’s too generic and needs a change. So a module name in the way Brian recommends would be best.

Let’s assume a module is setup, I can then bolt into it:

(function () {
  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }
  angular.module('app').controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);
})();

Looking really nice. If I want to convert my scripts at some point into a bigger module, add more methods and extend:

(function () {
  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }
  function someDirective () {
    return {
      restrict: 'EA',
      replace: true,
      scope: {},
      template: [
        '<div class="someDirective"></div>'
      ].join(''),
      controllerAs: 'someDirectiveCtrl',
      controller: function () {}
      link: function () {}
    };
  }
  angular.module('app').controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl).directive('someDirective', someDirective);
})();

Chaining gets quite long though, let’s neaten things up, add a use strict statement and we’re done:

(function () {

  'use strict';

  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }

  function someDirective () {
    return {
      restrict: 'EA',
      replace: true,
      scope: {},
      template: [
        '<div class="someDirective"></div>'
      ].join(''),
      controllerAs: 'someDirectiveCtrl',
      controller: function () {}
      link: function () {}
    };
  }

  angular
    .module('app')
    .controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl)
    .directive('someDirective', someDirective);

})();

Very clean, shows my intent whilst being very visible. It kind of treats the Angular integration as some kind of exports/return – which I really like.

I also know exactly what this file contains based on the functions powering the module methods, as well as being able to scroll to the bottom of any file and see what’s happening under the hood.

With function hoisting you could even add them to the top, but I prefer not to.

Tip: Generally name the method you’re passing into as similar as possible as your Angular’s extension name to avoid confusion, things like .controller('UserCtrl', myCoolUserFunc); will not help anybody.

The other thing I like about this is it makes my Angular application seem more like myapplication too, rather than it being fully encapsulated inside a tonne of Angular’s syntax as we’ve seen before. It feels more like a JavaScript module.

Unless creating a (fairly) small module, you might want to keep all files separate if you’re automating file concats:

// MainCtrl.js
(function () {

  'use strict';

  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }

  angular
    .module('app')
    .controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);

})();
// someDirective.js
(function () {

  'use strict';

  function someDirective () {
    return {
      restrict: 'EA',
      replace: true,
      scope: {},
      template: [
        '<div class="someDirective"></div>'
      ].join(''),
      controllerAs: 'someDirectiveCtrl',
      controller: function () {}
      link: function () {}
    };
  }

  angular
    .module('app')
    .directive('someDirective', someDirective);

})();

If you’re globally wrapping your code with an IIFE automatically with something like Grunt/Gulp, then extra points for you. This means each file could look like this:

// MainCtrl.js
function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
  this.doSometing = function () {
    SomeFactory.doSomething();
  };
}
angular
  .module('app')
  .controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);

…and be concatenated into one huge file encapsulated in an IIFE. Though beware of scoping/variable issues by doing that as any variables used inside the closure will suddenly be in the same scope if declared outside of your Angular stuff. Inside individual IIFE’s that hold each file, we can create very generic and basic variables which would be available in the lexical scope (quick example):

// removing the IIFE might break any variables needing to be inside this scope
(function () {

  'use strict';

  /**
   * I can have stuff here and no other scope can see it!
   * though you can't refer to any Angular stuff like $scope
   * but for Objects or Arrays you could get clever with
   */

  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }

  angular
    .module('app')
    .controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);

})();

Notes on minification

If you’re stuck adding Angular dependency injection Arrays manually, you’ll have no problem continuing with this approach, you’ll need to use MainCtrl.$inject = ['$scope', 'SomeFactory'] inside your IIFE. Alternatively use.controller('MainCtrl, ['$scope', 'SomeFactory', MainCtrl]);. If you’re not yet utilising the power of a front-end tooling system such as Gulp/Grunt, I highly recommend doing so as using an automation task such as ng-min or ng-annotate will take the manual dependency injection Array off your hands, a huge time saver.

Previously I’ve used ng-min by Brian, but we found a few quirks with it amongst other Gulp tasks so moved across to ng-annotate which appears to pack more punch and features. In the issues it look they’ll be joining forces in the future as well. For now, I’m sticking with ng-annotate which you’ll need to tell it where to annotate your dependency injected Objects:

(function () {

  'use strict';

  /* @ngInject */
  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }

  angular
    .module('app')
    .controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);

})();

That will then output the $inject annotation:

(function () {

  'use strict';

  /* @ngInject */
  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }
  
  MainCtrl.$inject = ['$scope', 'SomeFactory'];

  angular
    .module('app')
    .controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);

})();




I use jsDoc commenting and the above comment sits in flawlessly:

(function () {

  'use strict';

  /**
   * @class MainCtrl
   * @classdesc Main Controller for doing awesome things
   * @ngInject
   */
  function MainCtrl ($scope, SomeFactory) {
    this.doSometing = function () {
      SomeFactory.doSomething();
    };
  }
  
  MainCtrl.$inject = ['$scope', 'SomeFactory'];

  angular
    .module('app')
    .controller('MainCtrl', MainCtrl);

})();

————————————-

Todd Motto

Todd, Founder of Voux, lead front-end engineer at Mozio Inc. JavaScript, Angular, React, conference speaker. Developer Expert at Google.

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