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Magento 2: Understanding the uiElement observe Method


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Every uiElement based object has an observe method. This method allows you to turn any value into a Knockout.js observable.

UiElement = requirejs('uiElement');
object = new UiElement; = 'bar';



As you can see from the above, we’ve turned the foo property, formerly a string, into a an observable while maintaining its value. If you look at the source of the observe method

observe: function (useAccessors, properties) {
    var model = this,

    if (typeof useAccessors !== 'boolean') {
        properties   = useAccessors;
        useAccessors = false;

    trackMethod = useAccessors ? accessor : observable;

    if (_.isString(properties)) {
        properties = properties.split(' ');

    if (Array.isArray(properties)) {
        properties.forEach(function (key) {
            trackMethod(model, key, model[key]);
    } else if (typeof properties === 'object') {
        _.each(properties, function (value, key) {
            trackMethod(model, key, value);

    return this;

You’ll see Magento has gotten a little (too?) clever with the arguments for this method. If the first parameter to observe is a boolean, and if that boolean is true, then Magento will observe the property not via an observable, but via the knockout-es5 plugin’s track method (discussed in the Observables, uiElement Objects, and Variable Tracking article.

object = new UiElement
object.baz = "Hello"
object.observe(true, 'baz');      
object.on('baz', function(value){
object.baz = "Setting A new value"    

Magento also has an alias for this “boolean first” syntax – the track method.

//functionality equivalent
object.observe(true, 'baz');     

If you’re a close follower of my writing, you’ll remember I previously warned you off track. That was an error on my part – track works perfectly fine, I had just forgotten that observables only fire their subscribers when a value changes

Finally, either track or observe will accept a list of properties as an array or a space separated string.

object.track('foo bar baz');          
object.observe(true, 'foo bar baz');  

object.track(['foo', 'bar', 'baz']);          
object.observe(true, 'foo', 'bar', 'baz');

Copyright © Alana Storm 1975 – 2023 All Rights Reserved

Originally Posted: 18th November 2016

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