Architecture Overview 4.0

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AngularDart (which we usually call simply Angular in this documentation) is a framework for building client applications in HTML and Dart. It is published as the angular package, which (like many other Dart packages) is available via the Pub tool.

You write Angular applications by composing HTML templates with Angularized markup, writing component classes to manage those templates, adding application logic in services, and boxing components and services in modules.

Then you launch the app by bootstrapping the root module. Angular takes over, presenting your application content in a browser and responding to user interactions according to the instructions you’ve provided.

Of course, there is more to it than this. You’ll learn the details in the pages that follow. For now, focus on the big picture.

overview

The architecture diagram identifies the eight main building blocks of an Angular application:

Learn these building blocks, and you’re on your way.

The code referenced on this page is available as a .

Modules

Modules

Angular apps are modular; that is, applications are assembled from many modules.

In this guide, the term module refers to a Dart compilation unit, such as a library, or a package. (If a Dart file has no library or part directive, then that file itself is a library and thus a compilation unit.) For more information about compilation units, see the chapter on “Libraries and Scripts” in the Dart Language Specification.

Every Angular app has at least one module, the root module. While the root module may be the only module in a small application, most apps have many more feature modules, each a cohesive block of code dedicated to an application domain, a workflow, or a closely related set of capabilities.

The simplest of root modules defines a single root component class such as this one:

lib/app_component.dart (class)

class AppComponent {}

By convention, the name of the root component is AppComponent.

Angular libraries

Libraries

Angular ships as a collection of libraries within the angular package. The main Angular library is angular, which most application modules import as follows:

import 'package:angular/angular.dart';

The angular package has other important libraries, such as angular.security.

Components

Component

A component controls a patch of screen called a view.

For example, the following views are controlled by components:

  • The app root with the navigation links.
  • The list of heroes.
  • The hero editor.

You define a component’s application logic—what it does to support the view—inside a class. The class interacts with the view through an API of properties and methods.

For example, this HeroListComponent has a heroes property that returns a list of heroes that it acquires from a service. HeroListComponent also has a selectHero() method that sets a selectedHero property when the user clicks to choose a hero from that list.

lib/src/hero_list_component.dart (class)

class HeroListComponent implements OnInit { List<Hero> heroes; Hero selectedHero; final HeroService _heroService; HeroListComponent(this._heroService); void ngOnInit() { heroes = _heroService.getHeroes(); } void selectHero(Hero hero) { selectedHero = hero; } }

Angular creates, updates, and destroys components as the user moves through the application. Your app can take action at each moment in this lifecycle through optional lifecycle hooks, like ngOnInit() declared above.

Templates

Template

You define a component’s view with its companion template. A template is a form of HTML that tells Angular how to render the component.

A template looks like regular HTML, except for a few differences. Here is a template for our HeroListComponent:

lib/src/hero_list_component.html

<h2>Hero List</h2> <p><i>Pick a hero from the list</i></p> <ul> <li *ngFor="let hero of heroes" (click)="selectHero(hero)"> {{hero.name}} </li> </ul> <hero-detail *ngIf="selectedHero != null" [hero]="selectedHero"></hero-detail>

Although this template uses typical HTML elements like <h2> and <p>, it also has some differences. Code like *ngFor, {{hero.name}}, (click), [hero], and <hero-detail> uses Angular’s template syntax.

In the last line of the template, the <hero-detail> tag is a custom element that represents a new component, HeroDetailComponent.

The HeroDetailComponent is a different component than the HeroListComponent you’ve been reviewing. The HeroDetailComponent (code not shown) presents facts about a particular hero, the hero that the user selects from the list presented by the HeroListComponent. The HeroDetailComponent is a child of the HeroListComponent.

Metadata

Notice how <hero-detail> rests comfortably among native HTML elements. Custom components mix seamlessly with native HTML in the same layouts.

Metadata

Metadata

Metadata tells Angular how to process a class.

Looking back at the code for HeroListComponent, you can see that it’s just a class. There is no evidence of a framework, no “Angular” in it at all.

In fact, HeroListComponent really is just a class. It’s not a component until you tell Angular about it.

To tell Angular that HeroListComponent is a component, attach metadata to the class.

In Dart, you attach metadata by using an annotation. Here’s some metadata for HeroListComponent:

lib/src/hero_list_component.dart (metadata)

@Component( selector: 'hero-list', templateUrl: 'hero_list_component.html', directives: const [CORE_DIRECTIVES, formDirectives, HeroDetailComponent], providers: const [HeroService], ) class HeroListComponent implements OnInit { /* . . . */ }

Here is the @Component annotation, which identifies the class immediately below it as a component class.

Annotations often have configuration parameters. The @Component annotation takes parameters to provide the information Angular needs to create and present the component and its view.

Here are a few of the possible @Component parameters:

  • selector: CSS selector that tells Angular to create and insert an instance of this component where it finds a <hero-list> tag in parent HTML. For example, if an app’s HTML contains <hero-list></hero-list>, then Angular inserts an instance of the HeroListComponent view between those tags.

  • templateUrl: module-relative address of this component’s HTML template, shown above.

  • directives: list of the components or directives that this template requires. For Angular to process application tags, like <hero-detail>, that appear in a template, the component corresponding to the tag must be declared in the directives list.

  • providers: list of dependency injection providers for services that the component requires. This is one way to tell Angular that the component’s constructor requires a HeroService so it can get the list of heroes to display.

Metadata

The metadata in the @Component tells Angular where to get the major building blocks you specify for the component.

The template, metadata, and component together describe a view.

Apply other metadata annotations in a similar fashion to guide Angular behavior. @Injectable, @Input, and @Output are a few of the more popular annotations.

The architectural takeaway is that you must add metadata to your code so that Angular knows what to do.

Data binding

Without a framework, you would be responsible for pushing data values into the HTML controls and turning user responses into actions and value updates. Writing such push/pull logic by hand is tedious, error-prone, and a nightmare to read as any experienced jQuery programmer can attest.

Data Binding

Angular supports data binding, a mechanism for coordinating parts of a template with parts of a component. Add binding markup to the template HTML to tell Angular how to connect both sides.

As the diagram shows, there are four forms of data binding syntax. Each form has a direction — to the DOM, from the DOM, or in both directions.

The HeroListComponent example template has three forms:

lib/src/hero_list_component.html (binding)

<li>{{hero.name}}</li> <hero-detail [hero]="selectedHero"></hero-detail> <li (click)="selectHero(hero)"></li>
  • The {{hero.name}} interpolation displays the component’s hero.name property value within the <li> element.

  • The [hero] property binding passes the value of selectedHero from the parent HeroListComponent to the hero property of the child HeroDetailComponent.

  • The (click) event binding calls the component’s selectHero method when the user clicks a hero’s name.

Two-way data binding is an important fourth form that combines property and event binding in a single notation, using the ngModel directive. Here’s an example from the HeroDetailComponent template:

lib/src/hero_detail_component.html (ngModel)

<input [(ngModel)]="hero.name">

In two-way binding, a data property value flows to the input box from the component as with property binding. The user’s changes also flow back to the component, resetting the property to the latest value, as with event binding.

Angular processes all data bindings once per JavaScript event cycle, from the root of the application component tree through all child components.

Data Binding

Data binding plays an important role in communication between a template and its component.

Parent/Child binding

Data binding is also important for communication between parent and child components.

Directives

Parent child

Angular templates are dynamic. When Angular renders them, it transforms the DOM according to the instructions given by directives.

A directive is a class with a @Directive annotation. A component is a directive-with-a-template; a @Component annotation is actually a @Directive annotation extended with template-oriented features.

While a component is technically a directive, components are so distinctive and central to Angular applications that this architectural overview separates components from directives.

Two other kinds of directives exist: structural and attribute directives.

They tend to appear within an element tag as attributes do, sometimes by name but more often as the target of an assignment or a binding.

Structural directives alter layout by adding, removing, and replacing elements in DOM.

The example template uses two built-in structural directives:

lib/src/hero_list_component.html (structural)

<li *ngFor="let hero of heroes"></li> <hero-detail *ngIf="selectedHero != null"></hero-detail>
  • *ngFor tells Angular to stamp out one <li> per hero in the heroes list.
  • *ngIf includes the HeroDetail component only if a selected hero exists.

In Dart, the only value that is true is the boolean value true; all other values are false. JavaScript and TypeScript, in contrast, treat values such as 1 and most non-null objects as true. For this reason, the JavaScript and TypeScript versions of this app can use just selectedHero as the value of the *ngIf expression. The Dart version must use a boolean operator such as != instead.

Attribute directives alter the appearance or behavior of an existing element. In templates they look like regular HTML attributes, hence the name.

The ngModel directive, which implements two-way data binding, is an example of an attribute directive. ngModel modifies the behavior of an existing element (typically an <input>) by setting its display value property and responding to change events.

lib/src/hero_detail_component.html (ngModel)

<input [(ngModel)]="hero.name">

Angular has a few more directives that either alter the layout structure (for example, ngSwitch) or modify aspects of DOM elements and components (for example, ngStyle and ngClass).

Of course, you can also write your own directives. Components such as HeroListComponent are one kind of custom directive.

Services

Service

Service is a broad category encompassing any value, function, or feature that your application needs.

Almost anything can be a service. A service is typically a class with a narrow, well-defined purpose. It should do something specific and do it well.

Examples include:

  • logging service
  • data service
  • message bus
  • tax calculator
  • application configuration

There is nothing specifically Angular about services. Angular has no definition of a service. There is no service base class, and no place to register a service.

Yet services are fundamental to any Angular application. Components are big consumers of services.

Here’s an example of a service class that logs to the browser console:

lib/src/logger_service.dart (class)

class Logger { void log(Object msg) => window.console.log(msg); void error(Object msg) => window.console.error(msg); void warn(Object msg) => window.console.warn(msg); }

Here’s a HeroService that uses a Future to fetch heroes. The HeroService depends on the Logger service and another BackendService that handles the server communication grunt work.

lib/src/hero_service.dart (class)

class HeroService { final BackendService _backendService; final Logger _logger; final heroes = <Hero>[]; HeroService(this._logger, this._backendService); List<Hero> getHeroes() { _backendService.getAll(Hero).then((heroes) { _logger.log('Fetched ${heroes.length} heroes.'); this.heroes.addAll(heroes as List<Hero>); // fill cache }); return heroes; } }

Services are everywhere.

Component classes should be lean. They don’t fetch data from the server, validate user input, or log directly to the console. They delegate such tasks to services.

A component’s job is to enable the user experience and nothing more. It mediates between the view (rendered by the template) and the application logic (which often includes some notion of a model). A good component presents properties and methods for data binding. It delegates everything nontrivial to services.

Angular doesn’t enforce these principles. It won’t complain if you write a “kitchen sink” component with 3000 lines.

Angular does help you follow these principles by making it easy to factor your application logic into services and make those services available to components through dependency injection.

Dependency injection

Dependency injection

Dependency injection is a way to supply a new instance of a class with the fully-formed dependencies it requires. Most dependencies are services. Angular uses dependency injection to provide new components with the services they need.

Angular can tell which services a component needs by looking at the types of its constructor parameters. For example, the constructor of your HeroListComponent needs a HeroService:

lib/src/hero_list_component.dart (constructor)

final HeroService _heroService; HeroListComponent(this._heroService);

When Angular creates a component, it first asks an injector for the services that the component requires.

An injector maintains a container of service instances that it has previously created. If a requested service instance is not in the container, the injector makes one and adds it to the container before returning the service to Angular. When all requested services have been resolved and returned, Angular can call the component’s constructor with those services as arguments. This is dependency injection.

The process of HeroService injection looks a bit like this:

Service

If the injector doesn’t have a HeroService, how does it know how to make one?

In brief, you must have previously registered a provider of the HeroService with the injector. A provider is something that can create or return a service, typically the service class itself.

You can register providers during bootstrapping or with a component, regardless of its level in the application component tree.

The most common way to register providers is at the component level using the providers argument of the @Component annotation:

lib/app_component.dart (providers)

@Component( /* . . . */ providers: const [BackendService, HeroService, Logger], ) class AppComponent {}

Registering with a component means you get a new instance of the service with each new instance of that component. A service provided through a component is shared with all of the component’s descendants in the app component tree.

Registering providers when bootstrapping is much less common. See the Configuring the injector section of the Dependency Injection page for details.

Points to remember about dependency injection:

  • Dependency injection is wired into the Angular framework and used everywhere.

  • The injector is the main mechanism.
    • An injector maintains a container of service instances that it created.
    • An injector can create a new service instance from a provider.
  • A provider is a recipe for creating a service.

  • Register providers with injectors.

Wrap up

You’ve learned the basics about the eight main building blocks of an Angular application:

That’s a foundation for everything else in an Angular application, and it’s more than enough to get going. But it doesn’t include everything you need to know.

Here is a brief, alphabetical list of other important Angular features and services.

  • Forms: Support complex data entry scenarios with HTML-based validation and dirty checking.

  • HTTP: Communicate with a server to get data, save data, and invoke server-side actions with an HTTP client.

  • Lifecycle hooks: Tap into key moments in the lifetime of a component, from its creation to its destruction, by implementing the lifecycle hook interfaces.

  • Pipes: Improve the user experience by transforming values for display.

  • Router: Navigate from page to page within the client application and never leave the browser.

  • Testing: Write component tests and end-to-end tests for your app.