Angular Material Menu: Nested Menu using Dynamic Data

The Angular Material Menu is a floating panel containing a list of options. In this tutorial, we will learn how we can create nested menus from dynamic data.

We will first learn the basics of Angular Material Menu and how to render a nested menu with a static HTML template.

Then we will understand why and what changes are needed to dynamically render nested menus from data.



Angular Material Menu

<mat-menu> is a floating panel containing a list of options. By itself, the <mat-menu> element does not render anything. The menu is attached to and opened via application of the matMenuTriggerFor directive:

<button mat-button [matMenuTriggerFor]="menu">Menu</button>
<mat-menu #menu="matMenu">
  <button mat-menu-item>Item 1</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Item 2</button>
</mat-menu>

mat-menu output



Static Nested Menu

To render a nested menu with static data, or simply from HTML template, we will have to define the root menu and sub-menus, in addition to setting the [matMenuTriggerFor] on the mat-menu-item that should trigger the sub-menu:

<button mat-button [matMenuTriggerFor]="animals">Animal index</button>

<mat-menu #animals="matMenu">
  <button mat-menu-item [matMenuTriggerFor]="vertebrates">Vertebrates</button>
</mat-menu>

<mat-menu #vertebrates="matMenu">
  <button mat-menu-item [matMenuTriggerFor]="fish">Fishes</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Amphibians</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Reptiles</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Birds</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Mammals</button>
</mat-menu>

<mat-menu #fish="matMenu">
  <button mat-menu-item>Baikal oilfish</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Bala shark</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Ballan wrasse</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Bamboo shark</button>
  <button mat-menu-item>Banded killifish</button>
</mat-menu>

And the output will be like below:

static nested mat-menu



Dynamic Nested Menu

Building a menu from dynamic data is often needed, especially in business or enterprise applications. For example, loading features based on logged-in user’s permissions. The data may come from a REST API.

We will take an example where items and their children are loaded from a database. And we will render a nested menu for each item which has children.



Database

For the database, we are going to assume the following service. You can connect the actual REST API with this service, too:

import  Injectable  from "@angular/core";
import  delay, of  from "rxjs";

@Injectable( providedIn: "root" )
export class DynamicDatabase 
  dataMap = new Map<string, string[]>([
    ["Fruits", ["Apple", "Orange", "Banana"]],
    ["Vegetables", ["Tomato", "Potato", "Onion"]],
    ["Apple", ["Fuji", "Macintosh"]],
    ["Onion", ["Yellow", "White", "Purple"]],
    ["Macintosh", ["Yellow", "White", "Purple"]],
  ]);

  rootLevelNodes: string[] = ["Fruits", "Vegetables"];

  getChildren(node: string) 
    // adding delay to mock a REST API call
    return of(this.dataMap.get(node)).pipe(delay(1000));
  

  isExpandable(node: string): boolean 
    return this.dataMap.has(node);
  

Above service’s code is simple:

  • dataMap represents data, this could be the actual database
  • rootLevelNodes represents first nodes to render
  • getChildren will return the items for a particular node. We will use this to render sub-menu items
  • isExpandable will return whether there are any children. We will use this to identify whether a sub-menu is needed



Nested Menu

Now understand that, we can’t simply follow the standard HTML template of MatMenu for dynamic data. Below are the reasons:

  1. We can’t load the <mat-menu> until we know that item has children
  2. We can’t attach [matMenuTrigger] to mat-menu-item until <mat-menu> is loaded in the DOM

So, to handle the above problems we will follow the below approach in respective order:

  1. Read node from node list
  2. Check if any node is expandable
    1. If yes, then create a sub-menu <mat-menu> with loader and attach it with [matMenuTrigger] in the rendered node’s mat-menu-item
      1. Once the user clicks node, get and render child nodes in sub-menu
      2. For sub-menu’s child-nodes, again follow the same approach and start from step 2
    2. If no, then simply create node’s mat-menu-item



Root Component

To achieve the above approach, we will create a app-menu component and use it in app-root:

<!-- src/app/app.component.html -->

<app-menu
  [trigger]="'Food'"
  [data]="initialData"
  [isRootNode]="true"
></app-menu>
// src/app/app.component.ts

import  Component  from "@angular/core";
import  DynamicDatabase  from "./dynamic-database.service";

@Component(
  selector: "app-root",
  templateUrl: "app.component.html",
)
export class AppComponent 
  title = "mat-menu-dynamic-data";
  initialData: string[] = [];
  constructor(private database: DynamicDatabase) 
    this.initialData = this.database.rootLevelNodes.slice();
  

We are reading rootLevelNodes and passing it as data in app-menu.



Menu Component

For the menu, initially we want to show a button, which will trigger a menu:

<!-- src/app/menu/menu.component.html -->

<button mat-button [matMenuTriggerFor]="menu">
   trigger 
</button>
<mat-menu #menu="matMenu">
  <button mat-menu-item *ngFor="let node of data"> node </button>
</mat-menu>

And the class looks like this:

// src/app/menu/menu.component.ts

export class MenuComponent 
  @Input() data: string[] = [];
  @Input() trigger = "Trigger";
  @Input() isRootNode = false;



Recursion

Now, to render a nested menu, we will just need to handle recursion in this code. And generate the same DOM structure for each nested menu.

So, first we will change the code inside <mat-menu>:

<!-- src/app/menu/menu.component.html -->

<button mat-button [matMenuTriggerFor]="menu">
   trigger 
</button>
<mat-menu #menu="matMenu">
  <ng-container *ngFor="let node of data; let i = index">
    <button mat-menu-item>
      <app-menu
        [trigger]="node"
        *ngIf="isExpandable(node); else menuItem"
      ></app-menu>
    </button>
    <ng-template #menuItem>
      <button mat-menu-item> node </button>
    </ng-template>
  </ng-container>
</mat-menu>

Now, inside the menu, we are checking for each node, if the isExpandable method returns true, we are rendering app-menu again inside it.

isExpandable method will simply call isExpandable from the DynamicDatabase service:

// src/app/menu/menu.component.ts

// ...

export class MenuComponent 

  // ...

  isExpandable(node: string): boolean 
    return this.database.isExpandable(node);
  

Let’s look at the output:

menu component root trigger output

Notice that text is also hoverable inside mat-menu-item. That’s because of the mat-button. When app-menu is rendered inside, we will have to change the directive of the button from mat-button to mat-menu-item, let’s do that:

<!-- src/app/menu/menu.component.html -->

<button *ngIf="isRootNode" mat-button [matMenuTriggerFor]="menu">
   trigger 
</button>
<button *ngIf="!isRootNode" mat-menu-item [matMenuTriggerFor]="menu">
   trigger 
</button>
<mat-menu #menu="matMenu">
  <ng-container *ngFor="let node of data; let i = index">
    <button mat-menu-item>
      <app-menu
        [trigger]="node"
        *ngIf="isExpandable(node); else menuItem"
      ></app-menu>
    </button>
    <ng-template #menuItem>
      <button mat-menu-item> node </button>
    </ng-template>
  </ng-container>
</mat-menu>

Let’s look at the output now:

menu component with nested menu trigger output

It’s rendering the root items fine now, but the sub-menu is blank. Let’s add data in it.



Data

We want to load the data once the menu is rendered and opened. So, we will use the (menuOpened) event to load the data. menuOpened emits the event when the associated menu is opened.

We only want to load the data for non-root items, because for root items, data is coming from the parent component.

<!-- src/app/menu/menu.component.html -->

<button *ngIf="isRootNode" mat-button [matMenuTriggerFor]="menu">
   trigger 
</button>
<button
  *ngIf="!isRootNode"
  mat-menu-item
  [matMenuTriggerFor]="menu"
  (menuOpened)="getData(trigger)"
>
   trigger 
</button>

<!-- rest remains same -->

Let’s create a getData method in menu.component.ts:

// src/app/menu/menu.component.ts

// ...
export class MenuComponent 
  // ...

  isLoading = false;
  dataLoaded = false;

  getData(node: string) 
    if (!this.dataLoaded) 
      this.isLoading = true;
      this.database.getChildren(node).subscribe((d) =>  [];
        this.isLoading = false;
        this.dataLoaded = true;
      );
    
  

With getData, we are creating 2 more flags:

  1. isLoading – Indicates if data is being fetched
  2. dataLoaded – Indicates if data is already loaded and prevents further fetching

Let’s look at the output now:

menu component with dynamic data

Notice that data is getting loaded after a particular time, that’s because we have added a delay in DynamicDatabase.getChildren to simulate an API call. And it’s not fetching the data again if it’s already loaded and in that case menu items are rendered instantly.



Loader

The last thing remaining is to show a loader when data is getting fetched. We already have isLoading flag, let’s use that to show <mat-spinner>:

<!-- src/app/menu/menu.component.html -->

<!-- rest remains same -->

<mat-menu #menu="matMenu">
  <button
    mat-menu-item
    *ngIf="isLoading"
    style="display: flex; justify-content: center; align-items: center"
  >
    <mat-spinner mode="indeterminate" diameter="24"></mat-spinner>
  </button>
  <ng-container *ngFor="let node of data; let i = index">
    <!-- rest remains same -->
  </ng-container>
</mat-menu>

Notice that I have added some inline styles so that <mat-spinner> is displayed in the center of mat-menu-item.

Let’s look at the output now:

nested menu with loader



Summary

We started with a simple example of a menu, where we rendered nested menus using static HTML template.

Then we understood the need for dynamic data in nested menus and the problems to achieve dynamicity with the simple HTML template.

We then created a app-menu component. First we loaded a menu with root items, provided as data input from the parent component.

Then we handled recursion, rendering app-menu inside app-menu, based on isExpandable flag. Next we implemented fetching data based on menuOpened event and finally we displayed a loader while fetching the data.

All the above code is available on GitHub repo: mat-menu-dynamic-data.


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