« Kevin Ngo

ng-okevin's Angular ch.2 - Scopes

6 Apr 2014

Angular scopes are objects that gives us access to the model. Remember the model holds the data and state of an MVC application. Besides applying context against which expressions are evaluated, scopes allow us to:

Each Angular application has exactly one root scope, which can have child scopes that inherit from it.

$rootScope.color = 'black';
childScope = $rootScope.$new();  // Child scope's color is 'black'.
childScope.color = 'yellow';  // Child scope's color is 'yellow'.

We can assign properties to the scope to update the model, as seen above. Though, we can implicitly use the scope from the template to manipulate the model. For now, we will be working with the root scope for simplicity.


In Black and Yellow, we will create two buttons that toggle the color of a circle between two colors, black and yellow, to demonstrate basic use of the scope.

<h1>Black and Yellow</h1>
<div style="background: {{ color }}" ng-init="color = 'white'"></div>
<button ng-click="color= 'black'">Black</button>
<button ng-click="color= 'yellow'">Yellow</button>

We instantiate the color attribute on the root scope with the ngInit directive. We have the div watch for changes to color with the placeholder. Whenever color changes, the background of the div changes as well.

To register this behavior with the buttons, we use the ngClick directive which attaches an event handler to the DOM element. For the yellow button, we attach the expression, color = 'yellow', which will set the attribute of the scope to be “yellow”.

$watching the Model

Sometimes, we want to observe the model for changes. The scope object exposes an application programming interface (API), a handful abstracted useful functions. Among these functions is $watch, which observes an attribute on the scope and runs a callback function whenever that attribute changes.

Explicitly using $watch allows us to run additional logic that consists of more than simply updating the view. Though in the previous example Black and Yellow, a $watch was still being implicitly set on . Whenever color changed, $watch automatically updated the DOM.

Aside, it is worth noting that Angular prefixes the names of its objects and attributes with $ to avoid accidental namespace collisions.


In Gentleman, we will blink an image when both of two checkboxes are checked, but to stop blinking when either of the two checkboxes are unchecked, to demonstrate $watch.

<body ng-controller="GentlemanCtrl">
  <img src="gentleman.png">
  <input type="checkbox" ng-model="mother">
  <input type="checkbox" ng-model="father">

This example is slightly more complex; we need to be able to conditionally set intervals and clear stored timeouts. This is difficult to do with Angular expressions alone in the template.

Thus, we will be making use of a controller. Controllers allow us set up the initial state and add behavior to scope objects, from the Javascript side. The controller will give us a scope object. We can then use its $watch function to observe the checkboxes.

A child scope of the root scope is created under the ngController directive. As we see, this is one way to create child scopes. We have also been creating the root scope in the template as well. The ngApp directive we have been using to bootstrap our Angular applications has been creating the root scope.

We pass in the name of our controller, GentlemanCtrl to associate it with our new scope.

function GentlemanCtrl($scope) {
    var timeout;

    $scope.$watch('mother', function(newVal, oldVal) {
        if (newVal && $scope.father) {
            // 'Mother' and 'Father' checked.
        } else if (!newVal) {
            // 'Mother' unchecked.

    $scope.$watch('father', function(newVal, oldVal) {
        if (newVal && $scope.mother) {
        } else if (!newVal) {

    function motherfather() {
        timeout = setInterval(function() {
        }, 500);

In the controller, we can ask Angular for the $scope object by asking for it as a parameter. Angular will then supply the $scope through dependency injection. Dependency injection is a method of removing hard- coded dependencies and making it possible to change them at run-time or compile-time.

There are better ways of creating controllers that uses a better pattern of dependency injection and does not involve polluting the global namespace, ways which will be discussed in ch.3 Controllers,

We set a $watch on the scope on mother and father. When either attribute changes value, the supplied callback function will execute.

$applying Changes from Non-Angular Runtime

Scopes let us notify Angular about model changes that occur outside of Angular. Angular splits the browser-event loop into two separate runtimes, or execution contexts, into classical and Angular runtimes. Only operations that happen within Angular runtime will propagate to, or update, the view.

Instances of non-Angular runtimes include:

When the model changes through these events, we need to call $apply if we want to refresh the data-binding from the model to the view. Though in most cases, $apply is called for you automatically. Calling $apply does several things on the backend:

When calling $digest, Angular enters the digest loop. $digest iterates over $watch list, which contain watchers that may then change the model even further. This would cause $digest to then be called again. This digest loop continues until the model stabilizes, when the $watch list no longer detects any changes.

Depiction of Angular Runtime (docs.angularjs.org)



In HL3 Countdown, we will create a countdown timer with setInterval alongside Angular to demonstrate $apply.

function HL3CountdownCtrl($rootScope, $scope) {
    $rootScope.countdown = 9999;

    setInterval(function() {
        $rootScope.$apply(function() {
    }, 1000);

For variety, we are using $rootScope to demonstrate more of dependency injection. We ask for $rootScope, Angular will recognize the name and supply it to us. Since dependencies are not hard-coded, we can ask for dependencies in any particular order.

Since $rootScope.countdown-- takes place within a setInterval, it runs outside of Angular runtime. If we were to not use $apply, countdown would not be updated to the view, and the countdown would not run. Since we do call $apply, the data-binding is effectively refreshed, and the countdown runs.

Note we put counter-decrementing code within the function passed into $apply. We could just as well call $apply on its own to achieve the same effect.


Up Next

Scopes cover the M in MVC. We will pass over the V for now and head directly for the C, the controllers. We have slowly been getting introduced to controllers during this chapter. And now we can naturally delve into the meatier portions of Angular in ch.3 Controllers.

As a bonus, check out the full-blown example of Gentleman with audio.