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Components and documentation pages both make use of view templates.

For components, the view template is the file that the component’s markup lives in. For pages, it’s the file that contains the content of the page.

View templates are, at their core, just specially named files that are rendered using a template engine. Documentation pages are then additionally (optionally) passed through a Markdown parser to generate the final output.

Using configuration files, you can pass context data into your view templates to avoid having to hard code values in them and so allow them to be re-useable in many places - including directly in your application if desired!

Template rendering

By default, Fractal uses Handlebars to render view templates for both components and documentation pages. However you are free to use a different template engine like Nunjucks (or even React!) if it suits the needs of your project better.

You can also use one template engine for your components and another different engine for your documentation pages, should you so wish.

It’s important to understand that the syntax, capabilities and even behaviour of your view templates will all depend on the template engine you have chosen to use. The contents of this documentation will assume the use of the default Handlebars engine.

File extensions

By default, Fractal will look for component view templates with a .hbs file extension, and documentation view templates with a .md file extension.

You can customise this to your liking using the ext configuration setting for components and/or docs as follows:

fractal.components.set('ext', '.handlebars');
fractal.docs.set('ext', '.html');

Note that the extension should contain the . character before the extension itself.

Using Handlebars

Handlebars is the default template engine used by Fractal. Handlebars templates look like regular HTML but with some additional embedded handlebars expressions. A handlebars expression is a {{, some contents, followed by a }}

<div class="entry">
    <h1>{{ title }}</h1>
    <div class="body">
    {{ body }}

It’s worth familiarising yourself with Handlebars using its documentation if you want to get the most out of Fractal.

Handlebars helpers

On top of the standard set of Handlebars helpers, Fractal makes a small set of additional helpers available to your component templates and documentation pages.

Using these helpers is not required in any way, although they are often helpful. If you need to integrate your templates directly into your production site or application build you may find that using them ties your templates too tightly into Fractal, in which case you might be better off disabling them or adding your own.

The available helpers are:


The render helper renders a component (referenced by its handle) using the context data provided to it. If no data is provided, it will use the context data defined within the component’s configuration file, if it has one.

This can be very useful as an alternative to using the regular partial {{> @name }} helper to import sub-components. Partials do not pull in their own context so using the render helper instead can help prevent repetition of context data in the configuration files of components that include sub-components.

<!-- pass in data for rendering -->
{{render '@example' someData}}
{{render '@example--variant' otherData}}

<!-- use the config file data for rendering -->
{{render '@example'}}
{{render '@example--variant'}}

You can also pass in a partial data object (i.e. containing only some of the properties the component expects) and then set the merge property to true to populate the missing items from the default context data. This allows you to override only the items you need to for this instance of the rendered component.

{{render '@example' partialData merge=true}}


Takes a root-relative path and re-writes it if required to make it work in static HTML exports.

It is strongly recommended to use this helper whenever you need to link to any static assets from your templates.

{{path '/css/my-stylesheet.css'}}

The path argument should begin with a slash and be relative to the web root. During a static HTML export this path will then be re-written to be relative to the current page.


Outputs a string of the resolved context data for a component.

{{context '@example'}}


Returns an object containing the resolved context data for the specified component. A second data object can optionally be passed in which will override any context data properties with the same keys.

This returns an object, not a string, and so is really only useful within Handlebars subexpressions.

  Include the @button-1 component template but pass in
  the context data from @button-2
{{> '@button-1' (contextData '@button-2') }}

  The same as above, but passing in some data to override
   some items in the @button-2 data. 'someData' is an
   object, i.e. {text: 'foo'}
{{> '@button-1' (contextData '@button-2' someData) }}


Outputs the raw view template contents for the specified component.

{{view '@example'}}

Special variables

Fractal also makes a few special variables available to your templates. They all have names prefixed with an underscore to help prevent clashes with any context data variables that are set by the user.

The same caveats as noted about the helpers above apply to using these - they will tie your templates a little more tightly into Fractal so you may choose not to use them for that reason.


Contains the full Fractal configuration object. Useful for when you want to refer to a configuration item in your documentation (or components).

{{ _config.project.title }} <!-- outputs the project title -->
{{ _config.components.ext }} <!-- outputs the extension used for components -->


Contains a simple data object representation of the item (i.e. component or page) being rendered.

{{ _self.title }} <!-- outputs 'Button' -->


This variable is only set in component preview layouts, and contains a simple data object representation of the item (i.e. component or page) being rendered within the preview layout.

{{ _target.title }} <!-- outputs 'Button' -->

Customising Handlebars

If you wish to customise the default Handlebars instance for components and/or documentation pages, you can do so by requiring the adapter and configuring it with custom helpers.

Note that you will need to run npm install --save @frctl/handlebars to install the @frctl/handlebars package into your project directly before you can start customising it.

const hbs = require('@frctl/handlebars')({
    helpers: {
        uppercase: function(str) {
            return str.toUpperCase();
    /* other configuration options here */

fractal.components.engine(hbs); /* set as the default template engine for components */
fractal.docs.engine(hbs); /* you can also use the same instance for documentation, if you like! */

Configuration options


A set of Handlebars helpers to make available to your templates.

    helpers: {
        uppercase: function(str) {
            return str.toUpperCase();
        lowercase: function(str) {
            return str.toLowerCase();


A set of Handlebars partials to make available to your templates. The contents of these can then be included using the standard Handlebars {{> myPartialName}} syntax.

    partials: {
        foobar: 'This is a partial!',


Defaults to false. Set to true if you do not wish to automatically load any of the bundled helpers into your Handlebars instance.

    pristine: true

Accessing the underlying Handlebars instance

Calling the fractal.components.engine() or fractal.docs.engine() method without any arguments will return the registered adapter for the components or docs, respectively.

You can then access the underlying Handlebars instance by using the handlebars property:

const instance = fractal.components.engine();

// `instance.handlebars` is now a Handlebars instance that you can
//  register helpers with or pass to other libraries/modules etc.

instance.handlebars.registerHelper('foo', function(str){
    /* handlebars helper code */

This still works if you have customised your handlebars adapter previously:

const hbs = require('@frctl/handlebars')({
    /* configuration options here */

const instance = fractal.components.engine(hbs);

instance.handlebars.registerHelper('bar', function(str){
    /* do something */

You can also pass this handlebars instance into other modules or libraries:

const instance = fractal.components.engine();

// Using handlebars-layouts (https://www.npmjs.com/package/handlebars-layouts)

const layouts = require('handlebars-layouts');

// Using handlebars-helpers (https://github.com/assemble/handlebars-helpers)

const helpers = require('handlebars-helpers');
    handlebars: instance.handlebars

Note that you will need to npm install any other libraries that you use in your project before requiring them.