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Prototype & JSON Tutorial

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Introduction to JSON:

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a lightweight data-interchange format.

  • JSON is easy for humans to read and write.

  • JSON is easy for machines to parse and generate.

  • JSON is based on a subset of the JavaScript Programming Language.

  • JSON is notably used by APIs all over the web and is a fast alternative to XML in Ajax requests.

  • JSON is a text format that is completely language independent

Prototype 1.5.1 and later version features JSON encoding and parsing support.

JSON Encoding:

Prototype provides following methods for encoding:

NOTE: Make sure you have at least version 1.6 of prototype.js.

Number.toJSON()Returns a JSON string for the given Number.
String.toJSON()Returns a JSON string for the given String.
Array.toJSON()Returns a JSON string for the given Array.
Hash.toJSON()Returns a JSON string for the given Hash.
Date.toJSON()Converts the date into a JSON string (following the ISO format used by JSON).
Object.toJSON()Returns a JSON string for the given Object.

If you are unsure of what type the data you need to encode is, your best bet is to use Object.toJSON like so:

var data = {name: 'Violet', occupation: 'character', age: 25 };

This will produce following result:

'{"name": "Violet", "occupation": "character", "age": 25}'

Furthermore, if you are using custom objects, you can set your own toJSON method which will be used by Object.toJSON. For example:

var Person = Class.create();
Person.prototype = {
  initialize: function(name, age) {
    this.name = name;
    this.age = age;
  toJSON: function() {
    return ('My name is ' + this.name + 
      ' and I am ' + this.age + ' years old.').toJSON();
var john = new Person('John', 49);

This will produce following result:

'"My name is John and I am 49 years old."'

Parsing JSON:

In JavaScript, parsing JSON is typically done by evaluating the content of a JSON string. Prototype introduces String.evalJSON to deal with this. For example:

var d='{ "name":"Violet","occupation":"character" }'.evalJSON();

This will produce following result:


Using JSON with Ajax:

Using JSON with Ajax is very straightforward, simply invoke String.evalJSON on the transport's responseText property:

new Ajax.Request('/some_url', {
  onSuccess: function(transport){
     var json = transport.responseText.evalJSON();

If your data comes from an untrusted source, be sure to sanitize it:

new Ajax.Request('/some_url', {
  requestHeaders: {Accept: 'application/json'},
  onSuccess: function(transport){
    var json = transport.responseText.evalJSON(true);

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