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Specifying a Route's Model

Templates in your application are backed by models. But how do templates know which model they should display?

For example, if you have a photos template, how does it know which model to render?

This is one of the jobs of an Ember.Route. You can tell a template which model it should render by defining a route with the same name as the template, and implementing its model hook.

For example, to provide some model data to the photos template, we would define an route:photos object:

export default Ember.Route.extend({
  model: function() {
    return [{
      title: "Tomster",
      url: "http://emberjs.com/images/about/ember-productivity-sm.png"
    }, {
      title: "Eiffel Tower",
      url: "http://emberjs.com/images/about/ember-structure-sm.png"

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Asynchronously Loading Models

In the above example, the model data was returned synchronously from the model hook. This means that the data was available immediately and your application did not need to wait for it to load, in this case because we immediately returned an array of hardcoded data.

Of course, this is not always realistic. Usually, the data will not be available synchronously, but instead must be loaded asynchronously over the network. For example, we may want to retrieve the list of photos from a JSON API available on our server.

In cases where data is available asynchronously, you can just return a promise from the model hook, and Ember will wait until that promise is resolved before rendering the template.

If you're unfamiliar with promises, the basic idea is that they are objects that represent eventual values. For example, if you use jQuery's getJSON() method, it will return a promise for the JSON that is eventually returned over the network. Ember uses this promise object to know when it has enough data to continue rendering.

For more about promises, see A Word on Promises in the Asynchronous Routing guide.

Let's look at an example in action. Here's a route that loads the most recent pull requests sent to Ember.js on GitHub:

export default Ember.Route.extend({
  model: function() {
    return Ember.$.getJSON('https://api.github.com/repos/emberjs/ember.js/pulls');

While this example looks like it's synchronous, making it easy to read and reason about, it's actually completely asynchronous. That's because jQuery's getJSON() method returns a promise. Ember will detect the fact that you've returned a promise from the model hook, and wait until that promise resolves to render the pullRequests template.

(For more information on jQuery's XHR functionality, see jQuery.ajax in the jQuery documentation.)

Because Ember supports promises, it can work with any persistence library that uses them as part of its public API. You can also use many of the conveniences built in to promises to make your code even nicer.

For example, imagine if we wanted to modify the above example so that the template only displayed the three most recent pull requests. We can rely on promise chaining to modify the data returned from the JSON request before it gets passed to the template:

export default Ember.Route.extend({
  model: function() {
    var url = 'https://api.github.com/repos/emberjs/ember.js/pulls';
    return Ember.$.getJSON(url).then(function(data) {
      return data.splice(0, 3);

Setting Up Controllers with the Model

So what actually happens with the value you return from the model hook?

By default, the value returned from your model hook will be assigned to the model property of the associated controller. For example, if your route:posts returns an object from its model hook, that object will be set as the model property of the controller:posts.

(This, under the hood, is how templates know which model to render: they look at their associated controller's model property. For example, the photos template will render whatever the controller:photos's model property is set to.)

See the Setting Up a Controller guide to learn how to change this default behavior. Note that if you override the default behavior and do not set the model property on a controller, your template will not have any data to render!

Dynamic Models

Some routes always display the same model. For example, the /photos route will always display the same list of photos available in the application. If your user leaves this route and comes back later, the model does not change.

However, you will often have a route whose model will change depending on user interaction. For example, imagine a photo viewer app. The /photos route will render the photos template with the list of photos as the model, which never changes. But when the user clicks on a particular photo, we want to display that model with the photo template. If the user goes back and clicks on a different photo, we want to display the photo template again, this time with a different model.

In cases like this, it's important that we include some information in the URL about not only which template to display, but also which model.

In Ember, this is accomplished by defining routes with dynamic segments.

A dynamic segment is a part of the URL that is filled in by the current model's ID. Dynamic segments always start with a colon (:). Our photo example might have its photo route defined like this:

Router.map(function() {
  this.route('photo', { path: '/photos/:photo_id' });

In this example, the photo route has a dynamic segment :photo_id. When the user goes to the photo route to display a particular photo model (usually via the {{link-to}} helper), that model's ID will be placed into the URL automatically.

See Links for more information about linking to a route with a model using the {{link-to}} helper.

For example, if you transitioned to the photo route with a model whose id property was 47, the URL in the user's browser would be updated to:


What happens if the user visits your application directly with a URL that contains a dynamic segment? For example, they might reload the page, or send the link to a friend, who clicks on it. At that point, because we are starting the application up from scratch, the actual JavaScript model object to display has been lost; all we have is the ID from the URL.

Luckily, Ember will extract any dynamic segments from the URL for you and pass them as a hash to the model hook as the first argument:

Router.map(function() {
  this.route('photo', { path: '/photos/:photo_id' });
export default Ember.Route.extend({
  model: function(params) {
    return Ember.$.getJSON('/photos/'+params.photo_id/);

In the model hook for routes with dynamic segments, it's your job to turn the ID (something like 47 or post-slug) into a model that can be rendered by the route's template. In the above example, we use the photo's ID (params.photo_id) to construct a URL for the JSON representation of that photo. Once we have the URL, we use jQuery to return a promise for the JSON model data.

Note: A route with a dynamic segment will only have its model hook called when it is entered via the URL. If the route is entered through a transition (e.g. when using the link-to Handlebars helper/), then a model context is already provided and the hook is not executed. Routes without dynamic segments will always execute the model hook.

Refreshing your model

If your data represented by your model is being updated frequently, you may want to refresh it periodically:

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The controller can send an action to the Route; in this example above, the IndexController exposes an action getLatest which sends the route an action called invalidateModel. Calling the route's refresh method will force Ember to execute the model hook again.

Ember Data

Many Ember developers use a model library to make finding and saving records easier than manually managing Ajax calls. In particular, using a model library allows you to cache records that have been loaded, significantly improving the performance of your application.

One popular model library built for Ember is Ember Data. To learn more about using Ember Data to manage your models, see the Models guide.