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Guide to loading/error events and substates

In addition to the techniques described in the Asynchronous Routing Guide, the Ember Router provides powerful yet overridable conventions for customizing asynchronous transitions between routes by making use of error and loading substates.

loading substates

Consider the following: {
  this.resource('articles', function() { // -> ArticlesRoute
    this.route('overview');              // -> ArticlesOverviewRoute

If you navigate to articles/overview, and in ArticlesRoute#model, you return an AJAX query promise to load all of the articles that takes a long time to complete. During this time, your UI isn't really giving you any feedback as to what's happening; if you're entering this route after a full page refresh, your UI will be entirely blank, as you have not actually finished fully entering any route and haven't yet displayed any templates; if you're navigating to articles/overview from another route, you'll continue to see the templates from the previous route until the articles finish loading, and then, boom, suddenly all the templates for articles/overview load.

So, how can we provide some visual feedback during the transition?

The loading event

Before going into detail about loading substates, it's important to understand the behavior of the loading event.

The Ember Router allows you to return promises from the various beforeModel/model/afterModel hooks in the course of a transition (described here). These promises pause the transition until they fulfill, at which point the transition will resume. If you return a promise from one of these hooks, and it doesn't immediately resolve, a loading event will be fired on that route and bubble upward to ApplicationRoute. For example: {
  this.resource('foo', function() { // -> FooRoute
    this.route('slowModel');        // -> FooSlowModelRoute

App.FooSlowModelRoute = Ember.Route.extend({
  model: function() {
    return somePromiseThatTakesAWhileToResolve();
  actions: {
    loading: function(transition, originRoute) {
      // displayLoadingSpinner();

      // Return true to bubble this event to `FooRoute`
      // or `ApplicationRoute`.
      return true;

If FooRoute#model had returned the slow promise, the loading event would have fired on FooRoute (and not FooSlowModelRoute).

The default implementation of the loading event

So already, you have a hook to allow you to configure loading behavior in a hierarchical manner. But in addition to this, Ember provides a default implementation of the loading handler that implements the following loading substate behavior we've been alluding to. {
  this.resource('foo', function() {   // -> FooRoute
    this.resource('bar', function() { // -> BarRoute
      this.route('baz');              // -> BarBazRoute

If a route with the path returns a promise that doesn't immediately resolve, Ember will try to find a loading route in the hierarchy above that it can transition into, starting with's sibling:

  2. foo.loading
  3. loading

Ember will find a loading route at the above location if either a) a Route subclass has been defined for such a route, e.g.

  1. App.BarLoadingRoute
  2. App.FooLoadingRoute
  3. App.LoadingRoute

or b) a properly-named loading template has been found, e.g.

  1. bar/loading
  2. foo/loading
  3. loading

During a slow asynchronous transition, Ember will transition into the first loading sub-state/route that it finds, if one exists. The intermediate transition into the loading substate happens immediately (synchronously), the URL won't be updated, and, unlike other transitions that happen while another asynchronous transition is active, the currently active async transition won't be aborted.

After transitioning into a loading substate, the corresponding template for that substate, if present, will be rendered into the main outlet of the parent route, e.g.'s template would render into's outlet. (This isn't particular to loading routes; all routes behave this way by default.)

Once the main async transition into completes, the loading substate will be exited, its template torn down, will be entered, and its templates rendered.

Eager vs. Lazy Async Transitions

Loading substates are optional, but if you provide one, you are essentially telling Ember that you want this async transition to be "eager"; in the absence of destination route loading substates, the router will "lazily" remain on the pre-transition route while all of the destination routes' promises resolve, and only fully transition to the destination route (and renders its templates, etc.) once the transition is complete. But once you provide a destination route loading substate, you are opting into an "eager" transition, which is to say that, unlike the "lazy" default, you will eagerly exit the source routes (and tear down their templates, etc) in order to transition into this substate.

This has implications on error handling, i.e. when a transition into another route fails, a lazy transition will (by default) just remain on the previous route, whereas an eager transition will have already left the pre-transition route to enter a loading substate.

error substates

Ember provides an analogous approach to loading events/substates in the case of errors encountered during a transition. {
  this.resource('articles', function() { // -> ArticlesRoute
    this.route('overview');              // -> ArticlesOverviewRoute

If ArticlesOverviewRoute#model returns a promise that rejects (because, for instance, the server returned an error, or the user isn't logged in, etc.), an error event will fire on ArticlesOverviewRoute and bubble upward. This error event can be handled and used to display an error message, redirect to a login page, etc., but similar to how the default loading event handlers are implemented, the default error handlers will look for an appropriate error substate to enter, if one can be found.

For instance, an error thrown or rejecting promise returned from ArticlesOverviewRoute#model (or beforeModel or afterModel) will look for:

  1. Either ArticlesErrorRoute or articles/error template
  2. Either ErrorRoute or error template

If one of the above is found, the router will immediately transition into that substate (without updating the URL). The "reason" for the error (i.e. the exception thrown or the promise reject value) will be passed to that error state as its model.

If no viable error substates can be found, an error message will be logged.

The only way in which loading/error substate resolution differs is that error events will continue to bubble above a transition's pivot route.

Legacy LoadingRoute

Previous versions of Ember (somewhat inadvertently) allowed you to define a global LoadingRoute which would be activated whenever a slow promise was encountered during a transition and exited upon completion of the transition. Because the loading template rendered as a top-level view and not within an outlet, it could be used for little more than displaying a loading spinner during slow transitions. Loading events/substates give you far more control, but if you'd like to emulate something similar to legacy LoadingRoute behavior, you could do as follows:

App.ApplicationRoute = Ember.Route.extend({
  actions: {
    loading: function() {
      var view = Ember.View.create({
        templateName: 'global-loading',
        elementId: 'global-loading'
   'didTransition', function() {

This will, like legacy LoadingRoute, append a top-level view when the router goes into a loading state, and tear down the view once the transition finishes.


Error Handling / Substates

Loading Substates


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nathanhammond commented Oct 15, 2013

This covers what the code does in perfect detail.

  • It gets a bit rough when you're doing the "1, 2, 3" thing in the middle. Maybe a tabular format?
  • Do you want to include notes on how this impacts your nested routes effort? (Are they going to land at the same time?)
  • Can routes easily identify if they're the pivot route in their loading handler? (Seems like a probable need though I don't have an immediate use case in mind.)
  • It might be valuable to describe a use case where the model intentionally returns in one run loop and then uses Ember's Object update methods to force template redraw late. This has nothing to do with LoadingRoute, but acts as an additional possibility that a person might be looking for if they went to this guide. Paired with CSS transitions, a large number of use-cases are well-served by that approach. (This has been our method of approximating loading routes using a single template.)

Just aiming to provide some feedback so you're not listening to a vacuum. :)

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sly7-7 commented Oct 16, 2013

This looks like really great. I hope my product owners will now give the dev team the opportunity to implement that.
I have a question about the loading/errors routes. Are they basically just subclasses of Ember.Route, and do they have also beforeModel/model/afterModel ? Could we for example abort a transition (use case might be the user cancels during a loading), transitioning to an other route, and so on ? Could we also perform those operations in the loading/error events ?

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sandstrom commented Oct 17, 2013

Looks awesome!

One related thing is inline loading (I think this is what @nathanhammond is mentioning too). Sometimes you don't want a separate loading screen, but rather handle it inline in the template, for example:

{{#if model.isLoading}} I'm loading... {{else}} show model {{/if}}

Two common use-cases:

  1. If the model is a minor part of the view, then it makes sense to show the view and render the model when ready.
  2. Another case could transitions (e.g. slide transition on mobile). Slide animations/transitions partly hides the loading, because loading will typically (but not always) finishes before the transition has completed. In this case inline loading may be needed so that there is a template to transition to.

Would it be possible to allow progression even if model promises hadn't returned? For example by setting something like immediateModel: true or modelDefer: false on the route (came up with these, there is probably a better name).

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jmonma commented Nov 11, 2013

I would echo @sandstrom since my impression of the philosophy behind ember templates is that they should be written to handle any data backing it as it changes. So that would include before/during/after the model has loaded and/or changed. I like the idea of having this granularity of control so that the UI could load for perceived performance if it knows how to handle this state.

I'm not sure if this is possible with the new routing system though, and that may be the trade-off of having the transition control provided by the afterModel hook. In order to achieve this behavior currently, you'd have to supply an empty model and manage setting the model outside the routing system, which is far from ideal and circumvents all the great work @macthy has done on it.

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