Handlebars is a self-described logicless templating language for JavaScript. It comes with a minimal set of built-in tools and includes a plug-in system for supporting user-defined helpers. Control flow statements are particularily anemic with only if and else included out of the box. A switch helper was proposed and rejected in favor of keeping the standard library lightweight. I thought a switch might be useful, so I created one using the Handlebars Helper API.

Handlebars includes the registerHelper function, which allows you to create your own inline and block template helpers. Here’s what it takes to create switch and case:

Handlebars.registerHelper("switch", function(value, options) {
  this._switch_value_ = value;
  var html = options.fn(this); // Process the body of the switch block
  delete this._switch_value_;
  return html;

Handlebars.registerHelper("case", function(value, options) {
  if (value == this._switch_value_) {
    return options.fn(this);

Here’s how it’s used inside the template:

{{#switch letter}}
  {{#case "a"}}
    A is for alpaca
  {{#case "b"}}
    B is for bluebird

Great, but why isn’t this included out of the box? Given the talented team behind Handlebars you can rest assured it wasn’t an oversight. No, Handlebars omits switch because it takes a philosophical stance against logic in templates.

The good news is we can still achieve the same conditional behavior without betraying Handlebars’s ideals. Here’s what it might look like if you created a specialized helper:

Handlebars.registerHelper("letterText", function(letter, options) {
  switch (letter) {
    case "a":
      return "A is for alpaca";
    case "b":
      return "B is for bluebird";

Here’s how the letterText helper would be used in the template:

{{letterText letter}}

I think it’s clear that the latter example makes for simpler templates. It also puts the branching logic back into JavaScript where it belongs. The “downside” to this approach is that you’ll need to make a new handler for each use case. I use “downside” loosely because I could make an argument that the explicit codification of the use case actually clarifies the code.

Feel free to use the switch helper if you feel that it’s right for you, though I think you’ll find you can work around it.