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Binding: Basics

The basics of data-binding with Aurelia.


This article covers the basics of data-binding with Aurelia. You'll learn how to bind to HTML attributes, DOM Events and element content. You'll also see how to give your view-models references to DOM elements, making it easy work with elements directly.

HTML and SVG Attributes

Aurelia supports binding HTML and SVG attributes to JavaScript expressions. Attribute binding declarations have three parts: attribute.command="expression".

  • attribute: an HTML or SVG attribute name.
  • command: one of Aurelia's attribute binding commands:
    • one-time: flows data one direction: from the view-model to the view, once.
    • to-view / one-way: flows data one direction: from the view-model to the view.
    • from-view: flows data one direction: from the view to the view-model.
    • two-way: flows data both ways: from view-model to view and from view to view-model.
    • bind: automically chooses the binding mode. Uses two-way binding for form controls and to-view binding for almost everything else.
  • expression: a JavaScript expression.

Typically you'll use the bind command since it does what you intend most of the time. Consider using one-time in performance critical situations where the data never changes because it skips the overhead of observing the view-model for changes. Below are a few examples.

  <input type="text" value.bind="firstName">
  <input type="text" value.two-way="lastName">
  <input type="text" value.from-view="middleName">
  <a class="external-link" href.bind="profile.blogUrl">Blog</a>
  <a class="external-link""profile.twitterUrl">Twitter</a>
  <a class="external-link""profile.linkedInUrl">LinkedIn</a>

The first input uses the bind command which will automatically create two-way bindings for input value attribute bindings. The second and third input uses the two-way / from-view commands which explicitly set the binding modes. For the first and second inputs, their value will be updated whenever the bound view-model firstName / lastName properties are updated, and the those properties will also be updated whenever the inputs change. For the third input, changes in the bound view-model middleName property will not update the input value, however, changes in the input will update the view-model. The first anchor element uses the bind command which will automatically create a to-view binding for anchor href attributes. The other two anchor elements use the to-view and one-time commands to explicitly set the binding's mode.

DOM Events

The binding system supports binding to DOM events. A DOM event binding will execute a JavaScript expression whenever the specified DOM event occurs. Event binding declarations have three parts: event.command="expression".

  • event: the name of a DOM event, without the "on" prefix.
  • command: one of Aurelia's event binding commands:
    • trigger: attaches an event handler directly to the element. When the event fires, the expression will be invoked.
    • delegate: attaches a single event handler to the document (or nearest shadow DOM boundary) which handles all events of the specified type in bubbling phase, properly dispatching them back to their original targets for invocation of the associated expression.
    • capture: attaches a single event handler to the document (or nearest shadow DOM boundary) which handles all events of the specified type in capturing phase, properly dispatching them back to their original targets for invocation of the associated expression.
  • expression: a JavaScript expression. Use the special $event property to access the DOM event in your binding expression.

Below are a few examples.

  <button type="button" click.trigger="cancel()">Cancel</button>
  <button type="button" click.delegate="select('yes')">Yes</button>
  <button type="button" click.delegate="select('no')">No</button>
  <input type="text" blur.trigger="elementBlurred($">
  <input type="text" change.delegate="lastName = $">

The cancel button uses the trigger command to attach an event listener to the button element that will call the view-model's cancel method. The yes and no buttons use the delegate command which will use the event delegation pattern. The input elements have binding expressions that use the special $event property to access the DOM event .

Aurelia will automatically call preventDefault() on events handled with delegate or trigger binding. Most of the time this is the behavior you want. To turn this off, return true from your event handler function.

Function References

While developing custom elements or custom attributes you may encounter a situation where you have a @bindable property that expects a reference to a function. Use the call binding command to declare and pass a function to the bindable property. The call command is superior to the bind command for this use-case because it will execute the function in the correct context, ensuring this is what you expect it to be.

  <input type="text" value.bind="taskName">

Your custom element or attribute can invoke the function that was passed to the @bindable property using standard call syntax: this.go();. If you need to invoke the function with arguments, create an object whose keys are the argument names and whose values are the argument values, then invoke the function with this "arguments object". The object's properties will be available for data-binding in the call binding expression. For example, invoking the function with this.go({ x: 5, y: -22, z: 11})) will make x, y and z available for binding:

  <my-element"doSomething(x, y)"></my-element>

Referencing Elements

Use the ref binding command to create a reference to a DOM element. The ref command's most basic syntax is ref="expression". When the view is data-bound the specified expression will be assigned the DOM element.

    <input type="text" ref="nameInput"> ${nameInput.value}

The ref command has several qualifiers you can use in conjunction with custom elements and attributes:

  • element.ref="expression": create a reference to the DOM element (same as ref="expression").
  • attribute-name.ref="expression": create a reference to a custom attribute's view-model.
  • view-model.ref="expression": create a reference to a custom element's view-model.
  • view.ref="expression": create a reference to a custom element's view instance (not an HTML Element).
  • controller.ref="expression": create a reference to a custom element's controller instance.

String Interpolation

String interpolation expressions enable interpolating (surprise!) the result of an expression with text. The best way to demonstrate this capability is with an example. Below are two span elements with data-bound textcontent:

  <span textcontent.bind="'Hello' + firstName"></span>
  <span>Hello ${firstName}</span>

The first span uses the bind command. The second uses string interpolation. The interpolated version is much easier to read and easy to remember because the syntax matches the template literal syntax standardized in ES2015/ES6.

String interpolation can be used within html attributes as an alternative to to-view binding. By default, the mode of an interpolation binding is to-view and the result of the expression is always coerced to a string. Results that are null or undefined will result in empty string.

Element Content

The previous example compared string interpolation binding with textcontent.bind. Interpolation is easier to read but textcontent.bind can come in handy when you need to two-bind a contenteditable element:

  <div contenteditable textcontent.bind="firstName"></div>
  <div contenteditable textcontent.bind="lastName"></div>

You may also need to bind html text to an element's innerHTML property:

    <div innerhtml.bind="htmlProperty | sanitizeHTML"></div>
    <div innerhtml="${htmlProperty | sanitizeHTML}"></div>

Always use HTML sanitization. We provide a simple converter that can be used. You are encouraged to use a more complete HTML sanitizer such as sanitize-html .

Binding using the innerhtml attribute simply sets the element's innerHTML property. The markup does not pass through Aurelia's templating system. Binding expressions and require elements will not be evaluated.

Contextual Properties

The binding system makes several properties available for binding in your templates, depending on the context.

  • $this - The binding context (the view-model).
  • $parent - Explicitly accesses the outer scope from within a compose or repeat template. You may need this when a property on the current scope masks a property on the outer scope. Chainable- eg $parent.$ is supported.
  • $event - The DOM Event in delegate or trigger bindings.
  • $index - In a repeat template, the index of the item in the collection.
  • $first - In a repeat template, is true if the item is the first item in the array.
  • $last - In a repeat template, is true if the item is the last item in the array.
  • $even - In a repeat template, is true if the item has an even numbered index.
  • $odd - In a repeat template, is true if the item has an odd numbered index.

Expression Syntax

Aurelia's expression parser implements a subset of ECMAScript Expressions . For the features that are supported, you can typically expect the JavaScript in your view to work the same way as it would in your view model, or in the browser console. In addition there are two adjustments:

  • The Ampersand & represents a BindingBehavior (instead of Bitwise AND)
  • The Bar | represents a ValueConverter (instead of a Bitwise OR)

Non-expression syntax (statements, declarations, function and class definitions) is not supported.

As an overview of various expressions that are possible, the following list is for illustrative purposes and not exhaustive (and not necessarily recommended, either), but should give you a fairly good idea of what you can do:

Primary Expressions


  • foo - The foo variable in the current view-model
  • ßɑṙ - The ßɑṙ variable in the current view-model

non-ASCII characters in the Latin script are supported. This script contains 1,350 characters covering the vast majority of languages. Other Non-BMP characters / Surrogate Pairs are not supported.

Identifiers with special meaning in Aurelia

  • $this - The current view-model
  • $parent - The parent view-model

Primitive literals

  • true - The literal value true
  • false - The literal value false
  • null - The literal value null
  • undefined - The literal value undefined

String literals and escape sequences

  • 'foo' or "foo" - The literal string foo
  • '\n' - The literal string [NEWLINE]
  • '\t' - The literal string [TAB]
  • '\'' - The literal string '
  • '\\' - The literal string \
  • '\\n' - The literal string \n
  • '\u0061' - The literal string a

Unsupported string literals include '\x61' (2-point hex escape), '\u{61}' or '\u{000061}' (n-point braced unicode escape), and Non-BMP characters and Surrogate Pairs.

Template literals

  • `foo` - Equivalent to 'foo'
  • `foo${bar}baz${qux}quux` - Equivalent to 'foo'+bar+'baz'+qux+'quux'

Numeric literals

  • 42 - The literal number 42
  • 42. or 42.0 - The literal number 42.0
  • .42 or 0.42 - The literal number 0.42
  • 42.3 - The literal number 42.3
  • 10e3 or 10E3 - The literal number 1000

Unsupported numeric literals include 0b01 (binary integer literal), 0o07 (octal integer literal), and 0x0F (hex integer literal).

Array literals

  • [] - An empty array
  • [1,2,3] - An array containing the literal numbers 1, 2 and 3
  • [foo, bar] - An array containing the variables foo and bar
  • [[]] - An array containing an empty array

Unsupported array literals include [,] - Elision

Object literals

  • {} - An empty object
  • {foo} or {foo,bar} - ES6 shorthand notation, equivalent to {'foo':foo} or {'foo':foo,'bar':bar}
  • {42:42} - Equivalent to {'42':42}

Unsupported object literals include {[foo]: bar} or {['foo']: bar} (computed property names).

Unary expressions

foo here represents any valid primary expression or unary expression.

  • +foo or +1 - Equivalent to foo or 1 (the + unary operator is always ignored)
  • -foo or -1 - Equivalent to 0-foo or 0-1
  • !foo - Negates foo
  • typeof foo - Returns the primitive type name of foo
  • void foo - Evaluates foo and returns undefined

Unary increment (++foo or foo++), decrement (--foo or foo--), bitwise (~), delete, await and yield operators are not supported.

Binary expressions (from highest to lowest precedence)

a and b here represent any valid primary, unary or binary expression.

  • a*b or a/b or a%b - Multiplicative
  • a+b or a-b - Additive
  • a<b or a>b or a<=b or a>=b or a in b or a instanceof b - Relational
  • a==b or a!=b or a===b or a!==b - Equality
  • a&&b - Logical AND
  • a||b - Logical OR

Exponentiation (a**b) and bitwise operators are not supported.

Conditional expressions

foo etc here represent any valid primary, unary, binary or conditional expression.

  • foo ? bar : baz
  • foo ? bar : baz ? qux : quux

Assignment expressions

foo here must be an assignable expression (a simple accessor, a member accessor or an indexed member accessor). bar can any valid primary, unary, binary, conditional or assignment expression.

  • foo = bar
  • foo = bar = baz

Member and Call expressions

Member expressions with special meaning in Aurelia:

  • $ - Access the foo variable in the parent view-model
  • $parent.$ - Access the foo variable in the parent's parent view-model
  • $this - Access the current view-model (equivalent to simply this inside the view-model if it's an ES class)

Normal member and call expressions:

foo here represents any valid member, call, assignment, conditional, binary, unary or primary expression (provided the expression as a whole is also valid JavaScript).

  • - Member accessor
  • foo['bar'] - Keyed member accessor
  • foo() - Function call
  • - Member function call
  • foo['bar']() - Keyed member function call

Tagged template literals:

foo here should be a function that can be called. The string parts of the template are passed as an array to the first argument and the expression parts are passed as consecutive arguments.

  • foo`bar` - Equivalent to foo(['bar'])
  • foo`bar${baz}qux` - Equivalent to foo(['bar','qux'], baz)
  • foo`bar${baz}qux${quux}corge` - Equivalent to foo(['bar','qux','corge'],baz,quux)
  • foo`${bar}${baz}${qux}` - Equivalent to foo(['','','',''],bar,baz,qux)

Binding Behaviors and Value Converters

These are not considered to be a part of normal expressions and must always come at the end of an expression (though multiple can be chained). Furthermore, BindingBehaviors must come after ValueConverters. (note: BindingBehavior and ValueConverter are abbreviated to BB and VC for readability)

Valid BB expressions:

  • foo & bar & baz - Applies the BB bar to the variable foo, and then applies the BB baz to the result of that.
  • foo & bar:'baz' - Applies the BB bar to the variable foo, and passes the literal string 'baz' as an argument to the BB
  • foo & bar:baz:qux - Applies the BB bar to the variable foo, and passes the variables baz and qux as arguments to the BB
  • 'foo' & bar - Applies the BB bar to the literal string 'foo'

Valid VC expressions (likewise):

  • foo | bar | baz
  • foo | bar:'baz'
  • foo | bar:baz:qux
  • 'foo' | bar

Combined BB and VC expressions:

  • foo | bar & baz
  • foo | bar:42:43 & baz:'qux':'quux'
  • foo | bar | baz & qux & quux

Invalid combined BB and VC expressions (BB must come at the end):

  • foo & bar | baz
  • foo | bar & baz | qux