Templating Engines for Javascript

29 May 2024

Top Templating Engines for JavaScript

Ed Robinson, Lead Software Engineer

Introduction to JavaScript Templating Engines

JavaScript templating engines have become an essential tool for developers building dynamic web applications. They simplify the process of generating HTML markup by allowing you to define reusable templates and inject dynamic data into them. In this article, we'll explore the world of JavaScript templating engines, their benefits, and how they have evolved over time.

For a comparison of Javascript and Typescript click here.

What are JavaScript Templating Engines?

A JavaScript templating engine is a library or framework that enables you to define templates for generating HTML markup. These templates contain placeholders for dynamic data, which are replaced with actual values during runtime. Templating engines provide a clean separation between the presentation logic and the application logic, making your code more maintainable and easier to understand.

Templating engines are particularly useful when working with headless CMS systems like Caisy. Headless CMS platforms decouple the content management from the presentation layer, allowing developers to choose their preferred templating engine and frontend framework. By leveraging templating engines, developers can efficiently render the content retrieved from a headless CMS and create dynamic, engaging user interfaces.

Why Use Templating Engines in Web Development?

There are several compelling reasons to use templating engines in web development:

  1. Code Reusability: Templating engines allow you to define reusable templates, reducing code duplication and making your codebase more maintainable.

  2. Separation of Concerns: By separating the presentation logic from the application logic, templating engines promote a cleaner and more modular codebase.

  3. Dynamic Content: Templating engines enable you to easily inject dynamic data into your templates, making it simple to create personalized and data-driven web pages.

  4. Improved Productivity: With templating engines, you can focus on building the core functionality of your application while leveraging pre-defined templates for rendering the user interface.

Brief History and Evolution of Templating Engines

The concept of templating engines has been around for quite some time. Early templating engines were server-side, where the templates were processed on the server and the resulting HTML was sent to the client. Popular server-side templating engines include PHP, ASP, and JSP.

However, with the rise of JavaScript and the shift towards client-side rendering, JavaScript templating engines gained popularity. These engines allowed developers to define templates directly in the browser and dynamically update the DOM based on data changes.

Over the years, numerous JavaScript templating engines have emerged, each with its own syntax and features. Some notable examples include:

  • Mustache: A logic-less templating engine that emphasizes simplicity and readability.

  • Handlebars: An extension of Mustache with additional features like helpers and block expressions.

  • EJS: A simple templating engine that allows embedding JavaScript code directly in the templates.

  • Pug (formerly known as Jade): A concise and expressive templating engine that uses indentation to define the HTML structure.

As JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue (read a framework comparison) gained prominence, they introduced their own templating systems. These frameworks often provide a more integrated and optimized approach to templating, leveraging virtual DOMs and component-based architectures.

Despite the evolution of templating engines and the rise of modern frameworks, standalone templating engines still have their place in web development. They offer flexibility, simplicity, and the ability to be used independently of any particular framework.

Headless CMS for developers

Your terms, your stack. Experience unmatched speed and flexibility with caisy - the headless CMS you've been dreaming of.

A graphic showing caisy's benefits for developers, including frameworks and features.

Popular JavaScript Templating Engines in 2024

In this section, we'll explore some of the most popular and highly recommended JavaScript templating engines as of 2024. These templating engines offer a range of features and benefits, catering to different project requirements and developer preferences.

Mustache and Handlebars: Logic-less Templating

Mustache and Handlebars are two widely-used logic-less templating engines. They provide a simple and intuitive syntax for creating templates, focusing on separating the presentation logic from the application logic. With Mustache and Handlebars, you can easily create reusable templates and populate them with data, without the need for complex logic within the templates themselves.

doT.js, EJS, and Nunjucks: Lightweight and Flexible Options

doT.js, EJS (Embedded JavaScript), and Nunjucks are lightweight and flexible templating engines that offer a balance between simplicity and functionality. These engines allow you to embed JavaScript code directly into your templates, providing more control over the templating process. They support features like conditionals, loops, and custom helpers, making them suitable for a wide range of templating scenarios.

Pug (Jade) and Webix: Concise and Productivity-Boosting Syntax

Pug (formerly known as Jade) and Webix are templating engines that offer a concise and expressive syntax. Pug uses indentation-based syntax, eliminating the need for closing tags and reducing the overall code footprint. Webix, on the other hand, provides a declarative syntax for building user interfaces, making it easier to create complex UI components. Both Pug and Webix can significantly boost developer productivity by streamlining the templating process.

Other Notable Templating Engines: Hogan, Marko, JsRender, Squirrelly, and Template7

In addition to the templating engines mentioned above, there are several other notable options worth considering. Hogan, Marko, JsRender, Squirrelly, and Template7 are just a few examples. Each of these templating engines has its own unique features and performance characteristics. Hogan is known for its compatibility with Mustache templates, Marko for its high performance and server-side rendering capabilities, JsRender for its rich templating syntax and observable data support, Squirrelly for its speed and small size, and Template7 for its mobile-first approach and integration with Framework7.

Performance Comparison of JavaScript Templating Engines

When choosing a JavaScript templating engine for your project, performance is often a critical factor to consider. In this section, we'll explore benchmarks, performance metrics, and comparisons between various templating engines to help you make an informed decision.

Benchmarking and Performance Metrics

The Templating Benchmarks Project provides a framework for running benchmarks on multiple JavaScript templating engines under Node.js. It includes popular engines such as Dust, doT, Handlebars, Pug, Marko, Nunjucks, React, and Swig. The project offers performance benchmarks and compiled size comparisons for various template scenarios, allowing developers to assess the efficiency of each engine.

Fastest Templating Engines: Marko, Pug, and Others

According to the benchmarks, Marko consistently ranks as one of the fastest templating engines, with up to 87.75% improvement over other engines in most cases. Pug (formerly known as Jade) is also known for its high performance and optimized rendering. Other engines like Handlebars and EJS demonstrate efficient template rendering as well.

Compiled and Runtime Size Comparisons

In addition to runtime performance, it's important to consider the compiled and runtime sizes of templating engines. Dust has the smallest gzipped and uncompressed compiled sizes in most cases, making it a lightweight option. Marko's runtime size is around 1.2KB gzipped (2.7KB uncompressed), while Dust's runtime size is approximately 3.41KB gzipped (10.07KB uncompressed) for the core library and 4.7KB gzipped (14.2KB uncompressed) with the helpers.

Balancing Performance with Maintainability and Features

While performance is crucial, it's equally important to consider other factors such as maintainability, readability, and the features offered by each templating engine. Pug provides a simplified syntax and powerful features like code reusability, but it has a learning curve and less clear error handling. Handlebars offers a logic-less approach with a familiar HTML-like syntax and flexibility through custom helpers and partials. EJS, on the other hand, focuses on simplicity and seamless integration with plain JavaScript.

When selecting a templating engine, it's essential to evaluate your project's specific requirements and prioritize the aspects that matter most to your development team. Consider the balance between performance, maintainability, and the desired features or complexity of your application.

Server-side vs. Client-side Templating

When it comes to JavaScript templating engines, developers have the choice between server-side and client-side rendering. Each approach has its own advantages and considerations, making it crucial to understand the differences and choose the right one for your project.

Key Differences Between Server-side and Client-side Templating

Server-side templating, also known as isomorphic or universal JavaScript, involves rendering the full page on the server before sending it to the client. This approach leads to faster initial load times, as the server does the heavy lifting of rendering the HTML. On the other hand, client-side templating, commonly used in Single Page Applications (SPAs), relies on the browser to render the templates, resulting in a simpler server-side implementation but potentially slower initial page loads.

Advantages of Server-side Templating: Faster Initial Load and SEO Benefits

One of the main advantages of server-side templating is its ability to deliver faster initial load times. Since the server renders the complete page, it can be quickly displayed to the user, even on older browsers or devices with limited capabilities. Additionally, server-side rendering improves SEO, as search engine crawlers can easily index the content. However, it's important to note that server-side templating can be more resource-intensive on the server, especially for high-traffic websites.

Want to know another SEO-hack? Learn about the benefits of Headless SEO.

Advantages of Client-side Templating: Simpler Server and Better UX

Client-side templating offers a simpler server-side implementation, as the server only needs to serve static files. This approach is easier to develop and debug, with the application logic centralized in the client-side code. Client-side templating also enables cost-effective hosting, as the static SPA files can be served from a Content Delivery Network (CDN). However, the initial page load may be slower, as the client needs to download the application code and assets before rendering the templates.

Choosing the Right Approach for Your Project

When deciding between server-side and client-side templating, consider your project requirements and target audience. If you need to support older browsers, limited devices, or users with JavaScript disabled, server-side templating may be the better choice. On the other hand, if you're building a modern, high-performance web application with a focus on user experience, client-side templating could be the way to go. In some cases, a hybrid approach, where certain pages or components are rendered on the server, can provide the best of both worlds.

Templating Engines with Built-in Data Binding

What is Data Binding in Templating Engines?

Data binding is a crucial feature in templating engines that simplifies the process of synchronizing data between the model and the view. It allows developers to establish a connection between the data source and the template, enabling automatic updates to the rendered output whenever the underlying data changes. This eliminates the need for manual DOM manipulation and streamlines the development process.

Handlebars and JSRender: Powerful Data Binding Capabilities

Among the various JavaScript templating engines available, Handlebars and JSRender stand out for their robust data binding capabilities. These widely-used engines are often integrated with the jsreport platform, providing developers with a seamless experience when generating dynamic reports and documents.

Handlebars and JSRender offer a rich set of features that enhance data binding, such as:

  • Expressions: Embed dynamic values within the template using curly braces {{ }}.

  • Helpers: Utilize built-in or custom helper functions to perform complex logic and transformations.

  • Partials: Reuse common template snippets across multiple templates.

  • Iterators: Loop through arrays and objects to generate repeating sections of the template.

Custom Helpers and Asynchronous Rendering

One of the powerful features of templating engines like Handlebars and JSRender is the ability to define custom helper functions. Helpers are essentially JavaScript functions that can be invoked within the template to perform calculations, generate dynamic HTML, or even leverage third-party modules.

Here's an example of a custom helper in Handlebars:


In this case, the formatDate helper function would receive the date value and apply custom formatting logic before rendering the result.

Additionally, templating engines support asynchronous rendering through the use of async helpers. These helpers can return promises, allowing for non-blocking rendering and enabling integration with asynchronous data sources.

Internationalization Support in Templating Engines

Internationalization (i18n) is an important consideration when building applications that cater to a global audience. Templating engines like Handlebars and JSRender provide support for internationalization, allowing developers to create templates that adapt to different locales and languages.

By leveraging the ECMA Script Intl standard, templating engines can handle tasks such as:

  • Date and time formatting

  • Number and currency formatting

  • Pluralization and message formatting

This enables the creation of templates that dynamically adjust their content based on the user's locale, enhancing the overall user experience.

Integrating Templating Engines with Popular Frameworks

While JavaScript templating engines have been around for a while, their integration with modern frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js has become increasingly important. Let's explore how these templating engines can be used in conjunction with popular JavaScript frameworks.

Using Templating Engines with React

React has its own built-in templating solution called JSX, which allows you to write HTML-like code directly within your JavaScript. However, there may be cases where you want to use a different templating engine alongside React. For example, you could use Handlebars to create reusable templates that can be rendered within your React components.

Here's a simple example of using Handlebars with React:

import React from 'react';
import Handlebars from 'handlebars';

const template = Handlebars.compile('<h1>Hello, {{name}}!</h1>');

function Greeting({ name }) {
  return <div dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{ __html: template({ name }) }} />;

export default Greeting;

Integrating Templating Engines in Angular Projects

Angular has its own powerful templating system, but it also allows you to integrate third-party templating engines if needed. For instance, you can use Nunjucks or Handlebars to create templates that can be used within your Angular components.

Here's an example of using Nunjucks with Angular:

import { Component } from '@angular/core';
import nunjucks from 'nunjucks';

  selector: 'app-greeting',
  template: `
    <div [innerHTML]="renderedTemplate"></div>
export class GreetingComponent {
  name = 'John';
  template = '{% raw %}<h1>Hello, {{ name }}!</h1>{% endraw %}';

  get renderedTemplate() {
    return nunjucks.renderString(this.template, { name: this.name });

Templating Engines and Vue.js: A Perfect Match

Vue.js has its own template syntax that is very similar to HTML, making it easy to create dynamic templates. However, you can also use other templating engines like Mustache or Handlebars within your Vue.js applications.

Here's an example of using Mustache with Vue.js:

  <div v-html="renderedTemplate"></div>

import Mustache from 'mustache';

export default {
  data() {
    return {
      name: 'Alice',
      template: '<h1>Hello, {{ name }}!</h1>'
  computed: {
    renderedTemplate() {
      return Mustache.render(this.template, { name: this.name });

Considerations for Choosing a Templating Engine for Your Framework

When choosing a templating engine to use with your preferred JavaScript framework, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Compatibility: Ensure that the templating engine you choose is compatible with your framework and can be easily integrated.

  • Syntax and Learning Curve: Consider the syntax and learning curve of the templating engine. Some engines have a more intuitive syntax, while others may require more time to learn.

  • Performance: Evaluate the performance impact of using a templating engine. Some engines may have a slight overhead, while others are optimized for fast rendering.

  • Community and Documentation: Look for a templating engine with a strong community and comprehensive documentation. This will make it easier to find support and resources when needed.

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can select a templating engine that aligns with your project requirements and enhances your development workflow within your chosen JavaScript framework.

Conclusion and Future of JavaScript Templating Engines

Key Takeaways for Developers

JavaScript templating engines have been an essential part of web development for many years, providing developers with powerful tools to create dynamic, reusable templates. While the landscape of web development has evolved, with the rise of component-based frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js, templating engines remain relevant and valuable in certain contexts. Developers should be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of various templating engines, as well as their integration capabilities with popular frameworks, to make informed decisions when choosing the right tool for their projects.

Trends and Shifts in Web Development Landscape

The web development landscape has undergone significant changes in recent years, with a shift towards component-based architectures and the increasing popularity of Single-Page Applications (SPAs). These trends have led to a decline in the prominence of standalone JavaScript templating engines, as many modern frameworks now include built-in templating solutions. However, this does not mean that templating engines have become obsolete. They still offer unique benefits, such as server-side rendering, improved SEO, and compatibility with older browsers or devices. Don't miss this article on web development trends 2024.

Continued Relevance and Evolution of Templating Engines

Despite the changing web development landscape, JavaScript templating engines continue to evolve and remain relevant. Many templating engines now offer advanced features, such as built-in data binding, custom helper functions, and internationalization support. These features enable developers to create more sophisticated and maintainable templates, while still benefiting from the performance and flexibility advantages of templating engines. As web development continues to evolve, it is likely that templating engines will adapt and find new ways to provide value to developers and enhance the web development experience.

In conclusion, JavaScript templating engines remain a valuable tool in the web developer's arsenal, despite the rise of component-based frameworks and the shifting web development landscape. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different templating engines, as well as their integration capabilities with popular frameworks, developers can make informed decisions and leverage these powerful tools to create efficient, maintainable, and dynamic web applications.

For developers seeking a high-performing, user-friendly, and versatile content management solution, caisy is an excellent choice. The unique headless CMS built for developers and agency workflows, caisy offers remarkable speed, a user-friendly interface, and a powerful GraphQL API that enables developers to create frontends using their preferred technology. The platform's blueprint functionality and scalable multi-tenancy system make it an ideal solution for projects of varying scopes and budgets, while its comprehensive Digital Asset Management system streamlines project management. Caisy's flexible pricing tiers and partnership opportunities further enhance its appeal.

For developers who value efficiency, flexibility, and staying ahead of the technology curve, caisy is a compelling choice that is well worth exploring.

Focus on Your Code
Let caisy Handle the Content.