NetSurf
JavaScript bindings

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 (WebIDL) within the relevant specifications (e.g. https://dom.spec.whatwg.org/).

Each interface described by the WebIDL must be bound (connected) to the browsers internal representation for the DOM or CSS, etc. These bindings descriptions are processed together with the WebIDL by the nsgenbind tool to generate source code.

A list of DOM and CSSOM methods is available outlining the remaining unimplemented API bindings.

The WebIDL specification defines the interface description language used. The WebIDL is being updated and an editors draft is available but use is inconsistent.

These descriptions should be periodically updated to keep the browser interfaces current.

There is a content/handlers/javascript/WebIDL/Makefile which attempts to automatically update the IDL files by scraping the web specs.

This tool needs a great deal of hand holding, not least because many of the source documents list the IDL fragments multiple times, some even have appendices with the entire IDL repeated.

The IDL uses some slightly different terms than other object orientated systems.

WebIDL JavaScript Common OOP Note
interface prototype class The data definition of the object
constants read-only value property on the prototype class variable Belong to class, one copy
operation method method functions that can be called
attribute property property Variables set per instance

NetSurf consumes the Duktape JS engine in order to run the JS code which is used within the browser. Duktape is exceedingly well documented and its API docs at https://duktape.org/api.html are incredibly useful.

It'll be worthwhile learning about how duktape stacks work in order to work on bindings in NetSurf

Wrappering around and layering between duktape and the browser is a set of functionality we call dukky. This defines a variety of conventions and capabilities which are common to almost all bindings. The header dukky.h provides the interface to these functions.

Normally these functions are used by automatically generated content, but if a binding needs to add DOM nodes back into the JavaScript environment (for example when returning them from a method implementation) dukky_push_node() should be used or when calling a function in a JS context dukky_pcall()

Dukky automatically terminates any JS call which lasts for more than 10 seconds. If you are calling a JS function from outside any of the "normal" means by which dukky might call code on your behalf (js_exec(), events, etc) then you should be sure to use dukky_pcall() and pass in true in reset_timeout otherwise your code may unexpectedly terminate early.

The binding files are processed by the nsgenbind tool to generate c source code which implements the interfaces within the JavaScript engine.

The bindings are specific to a JavaScript engine, the DOM library, the CSS library and the browser. In this case that is the tuple of duktape, libdom, libcss and NetSurf.

In principle other engines or libraries could be substituted (historically NetSurf unsuccessfully tried to use spidermonkey) but the engineering to do so is formidable.

The bindings are kept the main NetSurf source code repository within the duktape JavaScript handler directory content/handlers/javascript/duktape/

The root binding which contains all the interfaces introduced into the JavaScript programs initial execution context is nesurf.bnd this references all the WebIDL to be bound and includes all additional binding definitions to implement the interfaces.

The bindings are a Domain Specific Language (DSL) which allows implementations to be added to each WebIDL method. nsgenbind documentation contains a full description of the language.

The main focus on creating binding is to implement the content within getter, setter and method stanzas. These correspond to implementations of the WebIDL operations on an interface.

The binding implementations are in the form of C code fragments directly pasted into the generated code with generated setup code surrounding it.

The Window interface (class) in the HTML specification has an attribute (property) called name.

The full WebIDL for the Window interface is defined in the content/handlers/javascript/WebIDL/html.idl file but the fragment for our example is just:

interface Window : EventTarget {
    attribute DOMString name;
};

This indicates there is an attribute called name which is a string (technicaly a DOMString but the implementation does not differentiate between string types) which means it has both a setter and a getter.

attributes can be marked readonly which would mean there is only a getter required for them. For example the Plugin interface has a 'name' attribute defined as:

interface Plugin {
    readonly attribute DOMString name;
};

The getter and setter for the Window class attribute will be added to Window.bnd. The entries added will be of the form:

getter Window::name()
%{
%}

setter Window::name()
%{
%}

The top level netsurf.bnd binding includes Window.bnd (using a #include directive) which contains the implementation of the Window class. This is purely to split the bindings up into logical units.

The nsgenbind tool generates code that automatically allows acess to the classes private data structure elements through a variable called priv and the duktape stack in the variable ctx.

The getter binding code must place the retrived value on the duktape stack and return 1 to indicate this or 0 if it failed.

So for the name attribute case the complete getter binding is:

getter Window::name()
%{
        const char *name;
        browser_window_get_name(priv->win, &name);
        duk_push_string(ctx, name);
        return 1;
%}

This uses the browser_window_get_name() interface to retrieve the name string for the window (identified using the private context) and then adds it to the duktape stack. The return value indicates the sucess of the operation.

The setter must retrive the value to set from the duktap stack and update the internal private data structure with that value and return 0 to indicate success.

So for the name attribute case the complete setter binding is:

setter Window::name()
%{
        const char *name;
        name = duk_to_string(ctx, -1);
        browser_window_set_name(priv->win, name);
        return 0;
%}

This uses browser_window_set_name() interface to set the name of the window. The return indicates the success of the operation.

The Location interface (class) in the HTML specification has an operation (method) called asign. This method causes the browser to navigate to a new url.

The full WebIDL for the Window interface is defined in the content/handlers/javascript/WebIDL/html.idl file but the fragment for our example is:

interface Location {
        void assign(DOMString url);
}

This shows there is an operation called assign in the Location interface which takes a single string parameter and returns nothing.

The method binding will be added to Location.bnd similarly to how the attribute example used Window.bnd

method Location::assign()
%{
        window_private_t *priv_win;
        nsurl *joined;
        duk_size_t slen;
        const char *url;

        /* retrieve the private data from the root object (window) */
        duk_push_global_object(ctx);
        duk_get_prop_string(ctx, -1, PRIVATE_MAGIC);
        priv_win = duk_get_pointer(ctx, -1);
        duk_pop(ctx);

        if (priv_win == NULL || priv_win->win == NULL) {
                NSLOG(netsurf, INFO, "failed to get browser context");
                return 0;
        }

        url = duk_safe_to_lstring(ctx, 0, &slen);

        nsurl_join(priv->url, url, &joined);
        browser_window_navigate(priv_win->win,
                joined,
                NULL,
                BW_NAVIGATE_HISTORY,
                NULL,
                NULL,
                NULL);
        nsurl_unref(joined);
        return 0;
%}

The nsgenbind tool generates code that automatically allows acess to the classes private data structure elements through a variable called priv and the duktape stack in the variable ctx.

In this case nsgenbind will generate code that will ensure there is at least one parameter and coerce it to a string on the duktape ctx stack returning a type error if it is unable to do so.

The binding implementation shown here uses browser_window_navigate() to navigate to the new url. To do this it needs the browser window handle (pointer) which is obtained from the global object (the window) private structure.

Note that the duk_safe_to_lstring() call used to obtain the url parameter needs no additional checking as nsgenbind emits this code automaticaly.

The Window interface (class) in the HTML specification has an operation (method) called alert. This method is supposed to cause the user to be alerted about something on the page.

The full WebIDL for the Window interface is defined in the content/handlers/javascript/WebIDL/html.idl file but the fragment for our example is:

interface Window : EventTarget {
      void alert();
      void alert(DOMString message);
};

This indicates there is an operation called alert. It has two overloaded prototypes, one takes no parameters and one takes a string parameter (technicaly a DOMString but the implementation does not differentiate between string types)

The method binding will be added to Window.bnd as the attribute example

method Window::alert()
%{
        duk_idx_t dukky_argc = duk_get_top(ctx);
        if (dukky_argc == 0) {
                NSLOG(netsurf, INFO, "JS ALERT");
        } else {
                duk_size_t msg_len;
                const char *msg;

                if (!duk_is_string(ctx, 0)) {
                        duk_to_string(ctx, 0);
                }
                msg = duk_safe_to_lstring(ctx, 0, &msg_len);
                NSLOG(netsurf, INFO, "JS ALERT: %*s", (int)msg_len, msg);
        }
        return 0;
%}

The nsgenbind tool generates code that automatically allows acess to the classes private data structure elements through a variable called priv and the duktape stack in the variable ctx.

For overloaded method calls nsgenbind does not emit code to do parameter verification and the binding code has to deal with all possible parameters itself.

This binding checks the number of parameters and if one is present it coerces it to be a string and logs the result.