A JavaScript Module Pattern

By YUI TeamJune 12, 2007

Eric Miraglia (@miraglia) is an engineering manager for the YUI project at Yahoo. Eric has been at Yahoo since 2003, working on projects ranging from Yahoo Sports to YUI. For the past several years, Eric and his colleagues on the YUI team have worked to establish YUI as the foundation for Yahoo's frontend engineering work while open-sourcing the project and sharing it with the world under a liberal BSD license. Eric is an editor and frequent contributor to YUIBlog; his personal blog is at ericmiraglia.com. Prior to working at Yahoo, Eric taught writing at Stanford and elsewhere and led frontend engineering teams at several startups.

Global variables are evil. Within YUI, we use only two globals: YAHOO and YAHOO_config. Everthing in YUI makes use of members within the YAHOO object hierarchy or variables that are scoped to such a member. We advise that you exercise similar discipline in your own applications, too.

Douglas Crockford has been teaching a useful singleton pattern for achieving this discipline, and I thought his pattern might be of interest to those of you building on top of YUI. Douglas calls this the "module pattern." Here's how it works:

1. Create a namespace object: If you're using YUI, you can use the YAHOO.namespace() method:


This assigns an empty object myProject as a member of YAHOO (but doesn't overwrite myProject if it already exists). Now we can begin adding members to YAHOO.myProject.

2. Assign the return value of an anonymous function to your namespace object:

YAHOO.myProject.myModule = function () {

	return  {
		myPublicProperty: "I'm accessible as YAHOO.myProject.myModule.myPublicProperty.",
		myPublicMethod: function () {
			YAHOO.log("I'm accessible as YAHOO.myProject.myModule.myPublicMethod.");

}(); // the parens here cause the anonymous function to execute and return

Note the very last line with the closing curly brace and then the parentheses () — this notation causes the anonymous function to execute immediately, returning the object containing myPublicProperty and myPublicMethod. As soon as the anonymous function returns, that returned object is addressable as YAHOO.myProject.myModule.

3. Add "private" methods and variables in the anonymous function prior to the return statement. So far, the above code hasn't bought us any more than we could have gotten by assigning myPublicProperty and myPublicMethod directly to YAHOO.myProject.myModule. But the pattern does provide added utility when we place code before the return statement:

YAHOO.myProject.myModule = function () {

	//"private" variables:
	var myPrivateVar = "I can be accessed only from within YAHOO.myProject.myModule.";
	//"private" method:
	var myPrivateMethod = function () {
		YAHOO.log("I can be accessed only from within YAHOO.myProject.myModule");

	return  {
		myPublicProperty: "I'm accessible as YAHOO.myProject.myModule.myPublicProperty.",
		myPublicMethod: function () {
			YAHOO.log("I'm accessible as YAHOO.myProject.myModule.myPublicMethod.");

			//Within myProject, I can access "private" vars and methods:

			//The native scope of myPublicMethod is myProject; we can
			//access public members using "this":

}(); // the parens here cause the anonymous function to execute and return

In the codeblock above, we're returning from an anonymous function an object with two members. These members are addressable from within YAHOO.myProject.myModule as this.myPublicProperty and this.myPublicMethod respectively. From outside of YAHOO.myProject.myModule, these public members are addressable as YAHOO.myProject.myModule.myPublicProperty and YAHOO.myProject.myModule.myPublicMethod.

The private variables myPrivateProperty and myPrivateMethod can only be accessed from within the anonymous function itself or from within a member of the returned object. They are preserved, despite the immediate execution and termination of the anonymous function, through the power of closure — the principle by which variables local to a function are retained after the function has returned. As long as YAHOO.myProject.myModule needs them, our two private variables will not be destroyed.

4. Do something useful with the pattern. Let's look at a common use case for the module pattern. Suppose you have a list, some of whose list items should be draggable. The draggable items have the CSS class draggable applied to them.

<!--This script file includes all of the YUI utilities:-->
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://yui.yahooapis.com/2.2.2/build/utilities/utilities.js"></script>

<ul id="myList">
	<li class="draggable">Item one.</li>
	<li>Item two.</li> <!--item two won't be draggable-->
	<li class="draggable">Item three.</li>

YAHOO.myProject.myModule = function () {

	//private shorthand references to YUI utilities:
	var yue = YAHOO.util.Event,
		yud = YAHOO.util.Dom;

	//private method:
	var getListItems = function () {
		//note that we can use other private variables here, including
		//our "yud" shorthand to YAHOO.util.Dom:
		var elList = yud.get("myList");
		var aListItems = yud.getElementsByClassName(
			"draggable", //get only items with css class "draggable"
			"li", //only return list items
			elList //restrict search to children of this element
		return aListItems;
	//the returned object here will become YAHOO.myProject.myModule:
	return  {

		aDragObjects: [], //a publicly accessible place to store our DD objects
		init: function () {
			//we'll defer making list items draggable until the DOM is fully loaded:
			yue.onDOMReady(this.makeLIsDraggable, this, true);
		makeLIsDraggable: function () {
			var aListItems = getListItems(); //these are the elements we'll make draggable
			for (var i=0, j=aListItems.length; i<j; i++) {
				this.aDragObjects.push(new YAHOO.util.DD(aListItems[i]));

}(); // the parens here cause the anonymous function to execute and return

//The above code has already executed, so we can access the init
//method immediately:

This example is a simple one, and it's deliberately verbose — if this was all we were doing, we could doubtless write it in a more compact way. However, this pattern scales well as the project becomes more complex and as its API grows. It stays out of the global namespace, provides publicly addressable API methods, and supports protected or "private" data and methods along the way.