Integration Patterns

Sometimes you want to have at your fingertips in client-side code things that live primarily live on the server. This interface between JavaScript code and the data and systems we take for granted on the server can get messy and ugly.

This section lays out some conventions for getting the data you need to your JavaScript code and points you to some frameworks we’ve set up for making particularly common things really easy.

JavaScript in Django Templates

The initial_page_data template tag and initial_page_data.js library are for passing generic data from python to JavaScript.

In a Django template, use initial_page_data to register a variable. The data can be a template variable or a constant.

{% initial_page_data 'renderReportTables' True %}
{% initial_page_data 'defaultRows' report_table.default_rows|default:10 %}
{% initial_page_data 'tableOptions' table_options %}

Your JavaScript can then include <script src="{% static 'hqwebapp/js/initial_page_data.js' %}"></script> and access this data using the same names as in the Django template:

var get = hqImport('hqwebapp/js/initial_page_data').get,
    renderReportTables = get('renderReportTables'),
    defaultRows = get('defaultRows'),
    tableOptions = get('tableOptions');

When your JavaScript data is a complex object, it’s generally cleaner to build it in your view than to pass a lot of variables through the Django template and then build it in JavaScript. So instead of a template with

{% initial_page_data 'width' 50 %}
{% initial_page_data 'height' 100 %}
{% initial_page_data 'thingType' type %}
{% if type == 'a' %}
    {% initial_page_data 'aProperty' 'yes' %}
{% else %}
    {% initial_page_data 'bProperty' 'yes' %}
{% endif %}

that then builds an object in JavaScript, when building your view context

options = {
    'width': 50,
    'height': 100,
    'thingType': type,
if type == 'a':
    options.update({'aProperty': 'yes'})
    options.update({'bProperty': 'yes'})
context.update({'options': options})

and then use a single {% initial_page_data 'thingOptions' %} in your Django template.

Note that the initial_page_data approach uses a global namespace (as does the inline JavaScript approach). That is a problem for another day. An error will be thrown if you accidentally register two variables with the same name with initial_page_data.

Initial Page Data in Tests

Since initial page data contains server-provided data, JavaScript tests relying on it may need to fake it. The register method allows setting initial page data in JavaScript instead of in a Django template:

hqDefine("my_app/js/spec/my_test", ["hqwebapp/js/initial_page_data"], function (initialPageData) {
    initialPageData.register("apps", [{
        "_id": "my-app_id",


The initial page data pattern can get messy when working with partials: the initial_page_data tag generally needs to go into a base template (a descendant of hqwebapp/base.html), not the partial template, so you can end up with tags in a template - or multiple templates - not obviously related to the partial.

An alternative approach to passing server data to partials is to encode is as data- attributes. This can get out of hand if there’s a lot of complex data to pass, but it often works well for partials that define a widget that just needs a couple of server-provided options. Report filters typically use this approach.


Just like Django lets you use ugettext('...') in python and {% trans '...' %}, you can also use gettext('...') in any JavaScript.

For any page extending our main template, there’s nothing further you need to do to get this to work. If you’re interested in how it works, any page with <script src="{% statici18n LANGUAGE_CODE %}"></script> in the template will have access to the global django module and its methods.

If djangojs.js is missing, you can run ./ compilejsi18n to regenerate it.

For more on Django JS I18n, check out

Django URLs

Just like you might use {% url ... %} to resolve a URL in a template

<a href="{% url 'all_widget_info' domain %}">Widget Info</a>

(or reverse(...) to resolve a URL in python), you can use {% registerurl %} to make a URL available in javascript, through the initial_page_data.reverse utility (modeled after Django’s python reverse function).

in template

{% registerurl 'all_widget_info' domain %}

in js

var initial_page_data = hqImport('hqwebapp/js/initial_page_data');

$.get(initial_page_data.reverse('all_widget_info')).done(function () {...});

As in this example, prefer inlining the call to initial_page_data.reverse over assigning its return value to a variable if there’s no specific motivation for doing so.

In addition, you may keep positional arguments of the url unfilled by passing the special string '---' to {% registerurl %} and passing the argument value to initial_page_data.reverse instead.

in template

{% registerurl 'more_widget_info' domain '---' %}

in js

var initial_page_data = hqImport('hqwebapp/js/initial_page_data');
var widgetId = 'xxxx';
$.get(initial_page_data.reverse('more_widget_info', widgetId)).done(function () {...});

registerurl is essentially a special case of initial page data, and it gets messy when used in partials in the same way as initial page data. Encoding a url in a DOM element, in an attribute like data-url, is sometimes cleaner than using the registerurl template tag. See partials above for more detail.

Like initial page data, registerurl can be used in JavaScript tests directly:

hqDefine("my_app/js/spec/my_test", ["hqwebapp/js/initial_page_data"], function (initialPageData) {
    initialPageData.registerUrl("apps", [{
        "build_schema": "/a/---/data/export/build_full_schema/",

Toggles and Feature Previews

In python you generally have the ability to check at any point whether a toggle or feature preview is enabled for a particular user on a particular domain.

In JavaScript it’s even easier, because the user and domain are preset for you. To check, for example, whether the IS_DEVELOPER toggle is enabled, use


and to check whether the 'ENUM_IMAGE' feature preview is enabled, use


and that’s pretty much it.

On a page that doesn’t inherit from our main templates, you’ll also have to include

<script src="{% static 'hqwebapp/js/hqModules.js' %}"></script>
<script src="{% static 'hqwebapp/js/toggles.js' %}"></script>
<script src="{% static 'style/js/bootstrap3/main.js' %}"></script>

Remote Method Invocation

We use our own dimagi/jquery.rmi library to post ajax calls to methods in Django Views that have been tagged to allow remote method invocation. Each RMI request creates a Promise for handling the server response.

dimagi/jquery.rmi was modeled after Djangular’s RMI), and currently relies on a portion of that library to handle server responses.

The README for dimagi/jquery.rmi has excellent instructions for usage.

The notifications app is a good example resource to study how to use this library:

  • NotificationsServiceRMIView is an example of the type of view that can accept RMI posts.

  • NotificationsService.ko.js is an example of the client-side invocation and handling.

  • style/bootstrap3/base.html has a good example for usage of NotificationsService.

<script type="text/javascript" src="{% static '/notifications/js/NotificationsService.ko.js' %}"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
    $(function () {
        $('#js-settingsmenu-notifications').startNotificationsService('{% url 'notifications_service' %}');

NOTE: It is not always the case that the RMI view is a separate view from the one hosting the client-side requests and responses. More often it’s the same view, but the current examples are using Angular.js as of this writing.