Especially for larger jQuery plugins, AMD seems like a reasonable pattern to use when designing and separating the code base into modules, eventually allowing for customized builds to be generated using the r.js compiler. It is especially common in popular plugins for AMD support to be added alongside the standard jQuery plugin registration, which is usually accomplished through an anonymous module and some extra code when the plugin is registered. Doing this for a personal or private project is not difficult, but when working with a public project you cannot always assume that users use AMD or would be willing to switch. Because of this, the project has to be able to handle users without an AMD loader, who just want to use the distributed versions without going through any additional hoops.

Luckily, you can support users without AMD loaders transparently by including an AMD loader in one the compiled version of your plugin. In order to make things easier for those who already use AMD or are willing to handle loading on their own, it is recommended to include a version of your plugin without the AMD loader as well, for those who are already using AMD in their projects.

Choosing the best AMD loader

Ultimately, when picking an AMD loader that should be included in a project one of the most important things to consider is the size and what kind of websites will be using your plugin. If your plugin will be used on websites that can afford downloading a large loader in addition to your plugin (typically websites that cannot be used on a mobile device), then including a fully-featured loader may be worth it over cutting corners with a smaller loader.


The original and most common AMD loader is Require.JS, which has full support for AMD and CommonJS loading, as well additional things such as AMD plugins which may not be required by your plugin. RequireJS comes in at 83kb before it is compressed and minified, but includes full support for the AMD specification and is actively developed.


Almond was created as a lightweight alternative to Require.JS that still supported enough of the AMD specification so it would be compatible with the r.js compiler. Before it is minified and compressed, Almond comes in at 15kb, but it has been shown to compress down to around 1kb, making it one of the best AMD loaders for jQuery plugins.

Using jQuery with AMD modules

By default, jQuery will always create a global window.jQuery object for itself, no matter how it is imported into the application. When jQuery detects an AMD loader, it will also register itself as the named module jquery, allowing it to be used in applications which are using an AMD loader.

jQuery will only register itself as an AMD plugin if the AMD loader is already present when jQuery is loaded. As a third party plugin, you cannot guarantee that an AMD loader will be present ahead of jQuery, especially if the only AMD loader that is being used is for your jQuery plugin. Because of this, you may have to create a jQuery shim for your plugin, so you can ensure that jQuery will always be registered as an AMD module, even if jQuery was imported before an AMD loader.

Shimming jQuery as an AMD module

Most AMD loaders allow defining modules multiple times under the same name, and it will make its own decision as to what module should be used. The jQuery module is generally reserved under the jquery name, so take care when shimming modules under the jquery name. Because jQuery always defines itself with the window.jQuery global, you can be confident that it contains a reference to jQuery, or a library which defines a compatible API.

The easiest way to make a shim for the jQuery library is to create an AMD module, jquery.js, and use it as the named jquery module in the r.js builds. The shim can be as simple as the following, which is used in Select2:

define(function () {
    return jQuery;

This file is named jquery.shim.js and is defined in the paths section of the r.js config as jquery: "jquery.shim", allowing it to be brought in automatically when building the project.