5 of the best JavaScript frameworks

Best for:

  • Combining with other platforms and frameworks
  • Working with JavaScript standards

Polymer is a lightweight library designed to help you take full advantage of Web Components. Read on to find out how to use it to create pain-free forms, bundle your components to keep requests low and sizes small, and finally how to upgrade to the latest Polymer release: 3.0. 

Work with forms

Custom elements are part of the browser. Once they are set up they work like any native element would do on the page. Most of the time, Polymer is just bridging the gap between now and what custom elements will be capable of in the future, along with bringing features like data binding.

One place where custom elements shine is their use as form inputs. Native input types in browsers are limited at best, but provide a reliable way of sending data. In cases where a suitable input isn't available – such as in an autocomplete field, for example – then custom elements can  provide a suitable drop-in solution.

As their work is performed within the shadow DOM, however, custom input values will not get submitted alongside regular form elements like usual. Browsers will just skip over them without looking at their contents.

  <form action="/submit">

One way around this is to use an <iron-form> component, which is provided by the Polymer team. This component wraps around an existing form and will find any values either as a native input or custom element. Provided a component exposes a form value somewhere within the element, it will be detected and sent like usual.

In cases where a custom element does not expose an input, it's still possible to use that element within a form, provided it exposes a property that can be bound to.

<form action="/submit">
  <my-input value="{{formValue}}"></my-input>
  <input type="hidden" value="[[formValue]]" name="formValue" />
  <input type="submit" />

If <my-input> exposes a property like "value" to hook into we can pull that value out as part of a two-way binding. The value can then be read out into a separate hidden input as part of the main form. It can be transformed at this point into a string to make it suitable for form transmission. Forms not managed by Polymer that would need to make use of these bindings, the Polymer team also provide a <dom-bind> component to automatically bind these values.

Bundle components

One of Polymer's biggest advantages is that components can be imported and used without any need for a build process. As optimised as these imports may be, each component requires a fresh request, which slows things down. While HTTP/2 would speed things up in newer browsers, those who do not support it will have a severely degraded experience. For those users, files should be bundled together.

If a project is set up using the Polymer CLI, bundling is already built in to the project. By running polymer build, the tool will collect all components throughout the project and inline any subcomponents they use. 

This cuts down on requests, removes unnecessary comments and minifies to reduce the file size. It also has the added benefit of creating separate bundles for both ES5 and ES2015 to support all browsers.

polymer-bundler my-input.html > bundled-component.html

Outside of Polymer CLI, applications can still be bundled using the separate Polymer Bundler library. This works much like the CLI, but is more of a manual process. By supplying a component, it will sift through the imports of the file, 
inline their contents, and output a bundled file. 

Polymer Bundler has a few separate options to customise the output. For example, developers can choose to keep comments or only inline specific components. 

Upgrade to Polymer 3.0

The philosophy behind Polymer is to 'use the platform': instead of fighting against browser features, work with them to make the experience better for everyone. HTML imports are a key part of Polymer 2, but are being removed from the web components specification moving forward.

Polymer 3.0 changes the way that components are written to work with more established standards. While no breaking changes are made with the framework itself, it's important 
to know how the syntax changes 
in this new version.

First thing to note is that Polymer is migrating away from Bower as a package manager. To keep up with the way developers work, npm will become the home of Polymer, as well as any related components in the future.

To avoid using HTML imports, components are imported as JavaScript modules using the existing standardised syntax.

The major difference inside a component is that the class is now exported directly. This enables the module import <script> tag to 
work correctly. Any other components can be included by using ES2015 import statements within this file.

Finally, templates have been moved into the class and work 
with template literals. A project by the Polymer team called lit-html is working to provide the same flexibility as <template> tags 
along with the efficiency of 
selective DOM manipulation.

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