Dynamically load a template in an Angular directive

  angularjs , javascript , template , directive

I've been having an issue with a dynamic templateUrl in an Angular directive. This might be an edge case, but for the people who are running into the same issue, I might have a solution.

The issue

I ran into this issue when trying to create a date picker directive that changes it's functionality based on the HTML element it is bound to. Basically, I wanted to display the date picker as a popup when placed on an input field, and display it inline if placed on any other element. This meant that I only wanted to load a template for the inline version.

<!-- This should not load a template -->
<input date-picker name="date" />

<!-- This should load a template -->
<div date-picker>
  <!-- Content gets generated based on the template --->


At first I figured I could just use templateUrl. Angular provides a nice way to compose the templateUrl dynamically, by accepting a function.

templateUrl: function(element, attributes) {
  if (element[0].tagName === 'INPUT') {
    return 'templates/input.html';
  } else {
    return 'templates/default.html';

The problem is, that you have to return a URL, so there is no way to not load a template. You can't return null or undefined, because this will throw an error.

In theory, I could have created a template for the input, with the replace: true option to make sure the elements get merged. However, the replace options has been deprecated and even though it is not being removed I'd rather not use something that isn't going to be fixed when a bug is found.


Note: This only works for AngularJS v1.3 and up.

The other option that came to mind was manually fetching the template and appending the compiled content to the directive element. When researching the best way to do this I found some examples which didn't impress me at all. They we're either too bulky or used $http to fetch the template.

A solution I did like, was using the $templateRequest factory that was added in v3.0. This factory provides a simple way to fetch a template, after which it is very easy to compile and append it to the directive element. Also, the $templateRequest function checks and saves to the $templateCache.

var directive = {
    restrict: 'EA',
    link: function() {
        var isField = ($element[0].tagName === 'INPUT');

        if(!isField) {
            // Load the html through $templateRequest
                // Convert the html to an actual DOM node
                var template = angular.element(html);
                // Append it to the directive element
                // And let Angular $compile it