Backbone Support Build Status Gem Version


Backbone Support provides a collection of utility classes for use with Backbone.js. There's no built-in garbage collection for Backbone’s event bindings, and forgetting to unbind can cause bugs and memory leaks. Backbone Support has you covered.

Backbone Support provides two utility classes, SwappingRouter and CompositeView, which are extensions of Backbone's standard View and Router objects. They provide methods that simplify creating and managing nested views and automate the cleanup of events when switching between views.

Inspired by our projects and the Backbone.js on Rails book.

The book contains complete instructions and in-depth coverage of the internals of CompositeView and SwappingRouter, and an example application that shows their usage.


A Router subclass the provides a standard way to swap one view for another.

This introduces a convention that all views have a leave() function, responsible for unbinding and cleaning up the view. And the convention that all actions underneath the same Router share the same root element, and define it as el on the router. Additionally, the render method for every view must return that view (a fairly standard backbone convention).

Now, a SwappingRouter can take advantage of the leave() function, and clean up any existing views before swapping to a new one. It swaps into a new view by rendering that view into its own el:

swap: function(newView) {
  if (this.currentView && this.currentView.leave) {

  this.currentView = newView;

An example SwappingRouter would look as follows:

Trajectory.Routers.Stories = Support.SwappingRouter.extend({
  initialize: function(options) {
    this.el = $("div.primary_content");
  routes: {
    "stories": "index",
    "stories/new": "newStory"
  index: function() {
    var view = new Trajectory.Views.StoriesIndex();
  newStory: function() {
    var view = new Trajectory.Views.StoryNew({ model: new Story() });


CompositeView provides a convention for a parent view that has one or more child views.

This introduces a convention that all views have a leave() function, responsible for unbinding and cleaning up the view.

CompositeView provides methods for adding and removing children from the parent view.

CompositeView maintains an array of its immediate children as this.children. Using this reference, a parent view's leave() method will invoke leave() on all its children, ensuring that an entire tree of composed views is cleaned up properly.

For child views that can dismiss themselves, such as dialog boxes, children maintain a back-reference at this.parent. This is used to reach up and call this.parent.removeChild(this) for these self-dismissing views.


Backbone Support is compatible with Backbone v0.5.3 and higher, including Backbone v1.0 (as of Backbone Support v0.4.0).


Backbone Support requires the following libraries:

  • jQuery or Zepto
  • Underscore
  • Backbone

Included Versions

For convenience, Backbone Support comes with a vendored copy of Backbone and Underscore to get you up and running as quickly as possible. If you want to use these included files, simply follow the instructions below in the Installation section. The current vendored versions are:

  • Backbone v1.0.0
  • Underscore v1.4.4

Alternate Versions

If you require a different version of Backbone or Underscore than those provided by this gem, simply put the script files in vendor/assets/javascripts which has higher precedence than the versions provided by the gem thanks to the ordering of the search paths in the asset pipeline.


We recommend you use Backbone-Support with Rails 3.1 or higher in order to take advantage of the asset pipeline.

With Rails 3.1 or higher

Add the gem to your Gemfile:

gem "backbone-support"

And then bundle install.

Before including any part of Backbone Support, you must include its dependencies. In your application.js (or any other manifest file), add the following to load in the needed dependencies:

// jQuery is provided by the 'jquery-rails' gem, included with Rails
//= require jquery
// Backbone Support includes Backbone and Underscore, or you can provides
// alternate versions by placing them in vendor/assets/javascripts/
//= require backbone
//= require underscore

To require all of Backbone Support, add the following:

//= require backbone-support

This should be above any usage of SwappingController or SwappingRouter, but below the inclusion of Backbone.js, Underscore, and jQuery.

If you do not wish to include all of backbone-support, you can include individual pieces. Require the support file and the individual assets you wish to use:

//= require backbone-support/support
//= require backbone-support/swapping_router


//= require backbone-support/support
//= require backbone-support/observer
//= require backbone-support/composite_view

With Jammit

First off: rails plugin install [email protected]:thoughtbot/backbone-support.git

In your config/application.rb:

config.middleware.use Rack::Static,
                      :urls => ['/vendor/plugins/backbone-support/lib/assets/javascripts']

And in your config/assets.yml:

    - public/javascripts/vendor/underscore.js
    - public/javascripts/vendor/backbone.js
    - vendor/plugins/backbone-support/lib/assets/**/*.js

If you have evergreen tests, you will need to change your require statements since these files live in vendor/. Change config/evergreen.rb to be this:

Evergreen.configure do |config|
  config.public_dir = '.'

Your individual specs will then need the full root path in require. For example:

requirePublic = function(path) {
  require("/public/javascripts/" + path);






While TDD'ing:

bundle exec rake jasmine

To not open tests in a browser window:

bundle exec rake jasmine:ci


Copyright 2012 thoughtbot. Please check LICENSE for more details.