X-Tag: or how to cut your html in half by adding 28 lines of Javascript…

As a side-project, I’ve been working on a prototype which is heavily based on a demo page from Stephen Horlander. Now, that page is pretty amazing, but if you look at the source (using command-u or control-u in Firefox, and command-alt-u or control-alt-u in Chrome), you’ll see a lot of code that looks like this:

<div class="menuPanelButton subscribeButton">
  <div class="button"></div>
  <div class="label">Subscribe</div>


<div class="customizeToolbarItem">
  <div class="customizeToolbarItemIcon share"></div>
  <div class="customizeToolbarItemLabel">Share</div>

Now, one or two of those would be fine, but when we get into more than that, the repetition really starts to bug me, and I think “Wouldn’t it be better if I could just write stuff like:

<panel-button type="subscribe">Subscribe</panel-button>
<toolbar-item type="share">Share</toolbar-item>

instead?” And it turns out I can, using a new library called x-tag! The first thing I need to do is register the new tags I’ll be using. That’s done with code like this:

// These first two lines are here because I’m using require.js, which I’ll
// talk about in a future blog post…
define(function (require) {
  require(["jquery", "x-tag"], function($, xtag) {

    // And this is the meat of the functionality.
    // First, we’ll register the new "panel-button" tag.
    xtag.register("panel-button", {
      onCreate: function(){
        var self = $(this);
        // When the tag is first seen, make the innerHTML be this stuff below.
        self.html("<div class='menuPanelButton " + self.attr("type") + "'>" +
                    "<img src='images/button-" + self.attr("type") + ".png'" +
                    "     class='button'>" +
                    "<div class='label'>" + self.text() + "</div>" + 

    // And then, we’ll register the new "toolbar-item" tag.
    xtag.register("toolbar-item", {
      onCreate: function(){
        var self = $(this);
        // We could also replace this element with the html below, but I
        // haven’t done that here because I haven’t needed to yet.
        self.html("<div class='customizeToolbarItem'>" +
                    "<div class='customizeToolbarItemIcon " + (self.attr("type") || "") + "'></div>" +
                    "<div class='customizeToolbarItemLabel'>" + self.text() + "</div>" +


The second step is to replace all the old html with the new tags. (I did that, too, of course.) And there we go. That’s it. In the file I was modifying, the combination of that and moving the javascript out into a separate file took the html from 275 lines down to 146 lines, and let me more easily change the buttons around, and add new ones. I call that a win, and from now on, whenever I see large blocks of repeated html, I’m going to be seriously tempted to switch them to an x-tag!

One caveat I will mention is that in my first attempt, I tried to use both the content property, and the onCreate method, and that totally didn’t work, since the content would be replaced by the value of the content property long before I had a chance to muck around with it in the onCreate. So in the future, I think I’ll just jump straight into using the onCreate method, since it’s not that much harder.