tags: JQuery, Javascript, Ajax, Ruby on Rails date: 2011-05-26 23:37:05.000000000Z

Have you ever asked yourself…

How twitter urls work with thoses hash-bangs (#!)?

/lost image/

Actually it’s pretty simple; you need to listen the url changes and try to match the route. If it matches, you just need to call an ajax function to do the html replace stuffs.

And how I listen to a url changes?


PathJS is a lightweight, client-side routing library that allows you to create “single page” applications.

You can create stuffs like that:

// Use an anonymous function
    alert("Hello, World!");

// Or define one and use it
function hello_world(){
    alert("Hello, World!");

You can check the full documentation here: path.js repository

Creating a twitter like app

Setting up

I will create a table called ‘users’ and put some information there just to see the PathJs and ajax in action.

rails g model user username:string email:string info:text
  invoke  active_record
  create    db/migrate/20110526012026_create_users.rb
  create    app/models/user.rb
  invoke    test_unit
  create      test/unit/user_test.rb
  create      test/fixtures/users.yml

I know it’s not a good practice to insert data inside a migration, but I will do this here just for testing purpose. After running the migration our app will already have some basic data. My migration looks just like that:

class CreateUsers < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def self.up
    create_table :users do |t|
      t.string :username
      t.string :email
      t.text :info


      :username => "stjhimyblog",
      :email => "stjhimy@gmail.com",
      :info => "Ruby developer"

      :username => "jhonm",
      :email => "jhonm123@gmail.com",
      :info => "Java developer"

      :username => "Link",
      :email => "link123past@gmail.com",
      :info => "Game character"


  def self.down
    drop_table :users

Now I need a view and a route for that, I also gonna use the nifty-generators gem to create a basic layout.


source 'http://rubygems.org'

gem 'rails', '3.0.7'
gem 'sqlite3'
gem 'nifty-generators'
#bundle install after that

rails g nifty:layout
   force  app/views/layouts/application.html.erb
  create  public/stylesheets/application.css
  create  app/helpers/layout_helper.rb
  create  app/helpers/error_messages_helper.rb


rails g controller home index
  create  app/controllers/home_controller.rb
   route  get "home/index"
  invoke  erb
  create    app/views/home
  create    app/views/home/index.html.erb
  invoke  test_unit
  create    test/functional/home_controller_test.rb
  invoke  helper
  create    app/helpers/home_helper.rb
  invoke    test_unit
  create      test/unit/helpers/home_helper_test.rb


PathjsAjax::Application.routes.draw do
  root :to => "home#index"

At last we need to add JQuery and Pathjs inside our layout, in my case the application.html.erb:

<%= javascript_include_tag "jquery.min.js" %>
<%= javascript_include_tag "path.js"%>

And delete the file public/index.html:

rm public/index.html

You can now start the app server.

Time to code, ohay!

I will get all users in my home controller and add links using the hash-bang (#!) in my view:


def index
  @users = User.all

application.html.erb layout:

<% @users.each do |user| %>
  <%= link_to user.username, "#!/#{user.username}" %>
<% end %>
<%= yield %>

If you click on one of the links in the page now, you’ll be able to see the url changing:

/lost image/

The pathjs magic

All we need to do now is to create PathJs route and do the ajax stuff.

I like to write a separated file for my PathJs routes, routes.js:

  var username = this.params['username'];
    url: "/home/user_info/" + username,
    error: function(){
      alert("fail :(");

Add the route.js to your layout:

<%= javascript_include_tag "routes" %>

And finally add the Path.listen() to the end of the html body:

<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript" charset="utf-8">

If you click any link now, you’re going to see a fail alert.

** What just happened? PathJs are listening to our url. Any change that matches a route written inside our routes.js will call the correspondent function. In our case it will try to make an ajax call to /home/user_info/:username and, since we do not have this route, it will throw an error. **

The ajax magic

First we need a place to render the html returned from the ajax call, in my application.html.erb layout I’ll create a div:

<% @users.each do |user| %>
  <%= link_to user.username, "#!/#{user.username}" %>
<% end %>
<div id="ajax-content">
<%= yield %>

A bit of style to our div:

#ajax-content {
  width: 90%;
  height: 250px;
  margin: 0 auto;
  margin-top: 20px;
  padding:15px 20px;
  background-color: #DDD;
  border: solid 2px #efefef;

Now we need a route that matches /home/user_info/:username, so in my routes.rb:

match "/home/user_info/:username", :to => "home#user_info"

And an action in the home controller:

def user_info
  @user = User.find_by_username(params[:username])

Almost there, now we just need a view.

I like to create two files here: one for the js response and a partial for the real html. The partial file will be called _info.html.erb and it will render the user information:

<h1><%= @user.username %></h1>
<h2><%= @user.email %></h2>
<h2><%= @user.info %></h2>

The js file which responds the ajax call will be named user_info.js.erb and it will replace the div #ajax-content for the partial file created before:

$("#ajax-content").html("<%= escape_javascript(render :partial => 'info') %>")

If you try to click any of the user’s links, you should see this info bellow:

/lost image/

Ohay! Creating hash-bang urls using PathJs is pretty fun and clearly very easy. If you prefer there is an alternative called sammyjs.

The source code of this post can be found here