Assembling a Page from Components

Templating System : Developer Guide : User Guide : Composite

A typical page served to a browser is made up from several component pages. The idea is to have reusable parts (widgets, skins), a bit like in a programming language where code that may be used more than once makes up a procedure. The complete page may have the following structure.

root (main)



The "root" page includes the "widget" and wraps itself in the "master". That page in turn includes the "top" and "bottom".

Overall structure

The parts are put together with the <include> tag (in the diagram below, black links going right) and the <master> tag (brown link going left); and the concept is similar to a procedure call. The structure of the composite page looks like this as a graph.

 code  template 
master code  template  code  template widget
 code  template  code  template 

Any (sub)page can have 0 or 1 master and 0 or more included pages. Each page has its own separate scope for variables. Arguments can be passed to dependent pages as attributes to <include>, or as properties to <master>. The directed graph of pages will often be be acyclic, as in the example, but this is not required.

Evaluation Order

Sometimes it is of interest in which order the different parts are evaluated. The "code" always runs first, followed by the template. The <include> tag causes the subpage to be evaluated at this point of the template, and the rest of the including template is evaluated after that's done. This is like a procedure call. In contrast, the <master> tag is deferred until the whole slave page ("root" in the example) is done. For our example, the following order results.

root.adp(beginning and middle)
master.adp(middle, containing <slave> tag)

Here we assume the ACS/Tcl situation, where the "code" is a Tcl script in a .tcl file. The template is a .adp file.

Variants of Page Nodes

The graph of the overall structure has five nodes, shown as a code/template pair. This is the standard situation, where the "code" part sets up datasources and the template uses them. In some situations, the following facility can help to reduce duplication or to handle special situations more effectively.

The "code" part can divert to another page by calling template::set_file to modify the file name stub of the page being processed. For convenience, ad_return_template can be used with the same effect; it is a wrapper for template::set_file, and it supplies the current file as the reference path. Neither affects the flow of control; the script runs to completion. If at the end the name is changed, the template of the original page is not used; instead the new page is processed, code first, then template. As that page's code can call set_file again, we get the following picure.

code A(template A ignored)
code B(template B ignored)
code Ztemplate Z

This assumes page "A" was originally wanted. An arrow () exits from code which calls template::set_file (directly or through ad_return_template). All scripts and the template are executed in the same scope, i.e., they share variables.

Furthermore, either of the final files can be omitted if it is not needed, giving three basic possibilities.

b)(no code)template
c)code(no template)

It is an error to omit both parts; this is a special case intended to speed up debugging.