NetSurf web browser
CII Best Practices


User Interface

Netsurf is divided into a series of frontends which provide a user interface around common core functionality. Each frontend is a distinct implementation for a specific GUI toolkit.

Because of this the user interface has different features in each frontend allowing the browser to be a native application.


As GUI toolkits are often applicable to a single Operating System (OS) some frontends are named for their OS instead of the toolkit e.g. RISC OS WIMP frontend is named riscos and the Windows win32 frontend is named windows.


Frontend specific to the amiga


Frontend specific to the atari


Frontend specific to the Haiku OS


There is a basic user guide for theframebuffer


Frontend that uses the GTK+2 or GTK+3 toolkit


This is the internal unit test frontend.

There is a basic user guide monkey


Frontend for the RISC OS WIMP toolkit.


Frontend which uses the Microsodt win32 GDI toolkit.

User configuration

The behaviour of the browser can be changed from the defaults with a configuration file. The core user options of the browser are common to all versions and are augmented by each frontend in a specific manner.


Working with the team

Generally it is sensible to check with the other developers if you are planning to make a change to NetSurf intended to be merged.

We are often about on the IRC channel but failing that the developer mailing list is a good place to try.

All the project sources are held in public git repositories

Compilation environment

Compiling a development edition of NetSurf requires a POSIX style environment. Typically this means a Linux based system although Free BSD, Open BSD, Mac OS X and Haiku all known to work.


Compilation for non POSIX toolkits/frontends (e.g. RISC OS) generally relies upon a cross compilation environment which is generated using the makefiles found in our toolchains repository. These toolchains are built by the Continuous Integration (CI) system and the results of the system are published as a convenience.

Quick setup

The quick start guide can be used to get a development environment setup quickly and uses the script the core team utilises.

Manual setup

The Manual environment setup and compilation method is covered by the details in the netsurf libraries document for the core libraries and then one of the building documents for the specific frontend.

These documents are sometimes not completely up to date and the script should be considered canonical.


The logging interface controls debug and error messages not output through the GUI.

Documented API

The NetSurf code makes use of Doxygen for code documentation.

There are several documents which detail specific aspects of the codebase and APIs.

Core window

The core window API allows frontends to use generic core code for user interface elements beyond the browser render.

Source object caching

The source object caching provides a way for downloaded content to be kept on a persistent storage medium such as hard disc to make future retrieval of that content quickly.


Javascript provision is split into four parts:


JavaScript is provided by integrating the duktape library. There are instructions on how to update the library.

Interface binding

In order for javascript programs to to interact with the page contents it must use the Document Object Model (DOM) and Cascading Style Sheet Object Model (CSSOM) API.

These interfaces are described using web Interface Description Language (IDL) within the relevant specifications (e.g.

Each interface described by the webIDL must be bound (connected) to the browsers internal representation for the DOM or CSS, etc. The process of writing bindings is ongoing.