« Kevin Ngo

ng-okevin's Angular ch.3 - Controllers

5 Apr 2014

Angular controllers help us initialize the initial state and add behavior to scope objects. Recall that controllers, in the classic MVC pattern, handle the business logic. They are the glue between the controller and the view. Controllers tell the view about changes to the model and manipulate the model when asked by from the view.

In the ch.2 Scopes, we had briefly introduced controllers by necessity. Controllers are intertwined with scopes in the sense that controllers


In Sup, World, we will print “Sup, world” to demonstrate a more correct declaration of controllers that do not reside in the global JS scope.

Rather, it is more correct to create an Angular module and use its controller factory function to register a controller to the view, to not pollute the global namespace.

var app = anglar.module('SupWorldApp', []);

app.controller('SupWorldCtrl', function($scope) {
    $scope.targetOfSalutation = 'World';

module is a global place used to create and register Angular modules. Though we have not covered them yet, along with controllers, types of Angular modules include services, directives, and filters.

We pass in the name of the controller along with the controller function with its dependencies it wants injected.

To use our module, along with our registered SupWorldCtrl controller, we must pass the name of our module into the top-level ngApp directive. Again, we use the ngController directive to create the scope and associate our controller.

<!doctype html>
<html ng-app="SupWorldApp">
  <body ng-controller="SupWorldCtrl">
    <h1>Sup, {{ targetOfSalutation }}</h1>

The rest is just like before, this time with a greener global namespace.

Dependency Injection

We have already briefly trotted around dependency injection. Dependency injection a pattern of passing instance variables into an object rather than hard-coding the instance variables from within the object. Big term for a rather simple concept.

Dependency injection is beneficial because it provides decoupling of code, thus improving testability and maintainability.


The following two examples demonstrate functions getting a hold of their dependencies without dependency injection. These methods hard-code their depedencies, making it difficult to stub out or mock the dependency in tests.

No dependency injection: create the dependency

function SomeClass() {
    this.someDependency = new SomeDependency();

No dependency injection: global dependency

var someDependency = new SomeDependency();
function SomeClass() {
    this.someDependency = someDependency;

By not hard-coding the dependency, we can change them whenever, such as during testing.

Dependency injection

function SomeClass(someDependency) {
    this.someDependency = someDependency;

Dependency Injection in Controllers

Earlier in Sup, World, we properly registered a controller to the view using an Angular module and its factory function, controller. There is yet a more correct method, involving dependency injection.

Javascript minifiers and obfuscators renames parameters of functions. This would disable Angular’s ability to infer a controller’s dependencies by its parameter names. To get around this, we could either use the $inject method of controllers, or we can inject dependencies using an inline annotation.


In Sup, World, we will again print “Sup, World” using a different method to demonstrate declaring controllers with proper dependency injection.

// With better dependency injection.
app.controller('SupWorldCtrl', ['$scope', function(scope) {
    scope.targetOfSalutation = 'World';

In an array , we pass the names of the dependencies we want as strings. We then pass the controller constructor with its dependencies as its parameters in the same order. Note we can name the function parameters what we want as long as they are in the same order as we injected them.

As well as controllers, dependency injection can be used in the other Angular factory methods for creating services, filters, and directives.

Methods in the Controller

We can set a method on the scope from within a controller and can call the method from the template in an expression. It is better practice to place presentational behavior in the controller, as to please MVC’s separation of concerns. Defining behavior in the view would not only be incorrect but would also be more difficult as Angular expressions are inherently limited.


In Jack in the Box, we will create a button that, on a random click, pop goes the weasel, to demonstrate using methods in the controller.

app.controller('JackInTheBoxCtrl', ['$scope', function($scope) {
    $scope.crank = function() {
        if (Math.random() < 0.3) {
            $scope.pop = 'Pop Goes the Weasel!';

We define a method in the controller as a property on the scope. We use Math.random() to set the value of pop on a random click, something we would not be able to do from the template.

<body ng-controller="JackInTheBoxCtrl">
  <h1>Jack in the Box</h1>
  <div><h2>{{ pop }}</h2></div>
  <button ng-click='crank()'>Crank</button>

Then we can call it from the template by passing it to the ngClick directive, with parenthesis to indicate a function. We could even pass parameters to the function if we desired.

Controller Inheritance

Controller inheritance is based on scope inheritance. Just as scopes can inherit from other scopes, controllers can inherit from other controllers. Inner controllers contain their own scopes, while those scopes inherit from their outer controllers’ scopes.

To create a child controller, declare it within the element of the parent controller with the ngController directive.


In No Church in the Wild, we will use Kanye West’s bar, “What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a god? What’s a god to a non-believer?” to create a a little food chain heirarchy.

<body ng-init="alpha = 'Kevin'">
  <h1>No Church in the Wild<h1>
  <div ng-controller="NonBelieverCtrl">
    {{ alpha }}
    <div ng-controller="GodCtrl">
      {{ alpha }}
      <div ng-controller="KingCtrl">
        {{ alpha }}
        <div ng-controller="MobCtrl">
          {{ alpha }}

The body element encompasses the root scope. For each ng- controller, another child controller is added to the heirarchy. The root scope’s value for alpha is initialized to “Kevin”.

When the NonBelieverCtrl child controller is created, a new scope is created that inherits from the root scope, therefore inheriting alpha‘s value of “Kevin”. But in the NonBelieverCtrl controller, we will override that initial value.

app.controller('NonBelieverCtrl', ['$scope', function($scope) {
    $scope.alpha = 'Non-Believer';

app.controller('GodCtrl', ['$scope', function($scope) {
    $scope.alpha = 'God';

We can then continue going down the chain, overriding “Non-Believer” with “God” in GodCtrl, overriding “God” with “King”, then finally overriding “King” with “Mob”.

Up Next

Time to move onto the last component of MVC, the view. We have seen the role of the controller, how it interacts with the scope. Having exposed some capabilties of the controller, we now have more expressive power in the view. In ch.4 Templates, we will explore more about Angular templates, although having already been using them in our examples.