Using JavaScript code modules

  • Revision slug: JavaScript_code_modules/Using
  • Revision title: Using JavaScript code modules
  • Revision id: 31956
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  • Creator: Morn
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{{ gecko_minversion_header("1.9") }}

JavaScript code modules are a concept introduced in Gecko 1.9 {{ geckoRelease("1.9") }} and can be used for sharing code between different privileged scopes. Modules can also be used to create global JavaScript singletons that previously required using JavaScript XPCOM objects. A JavaScript code module is simply some JavaScript code located in registered location. The module is loaded into a specific JavaScript scope, such as XUL script or JavaScript XPCOM script, using Components.utils.import().

Creating a JavaScript code module

A very simple JavaScript module looks like this:

var EXPORTED_SYMBOLS = ["foo", "bar"];

function foo() {
  return "foo";
}

var bar = {
  name : "bar",
  size : 3
};

var dummy = "dummy";

Notice that the module uses normal JavaScript to create functions, objects, constants and any other JavaScript type. The module also defines a special Array named EXPORTED_SYMBOLS. Any JavaScript item named in EXPORTED_SYMBOLS will be exported from the module and injected into the importing scope. For example:

Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(foo());         // displays "foo"
alert(bar.size + 3);  // displays "6"
alert(dummy);         // displays "dummy is not defined" because 'dummy' was not exported from the module

An extremely important behavior of Components.utils.import() is that modules are cached when loaded and subsequent imports do not reload a new version of the module, but instead use the previously cached version. This means that a given module will be shared when imported multiple times. Any modifications to data, objects or functions will be available in any scope that has imported the module. For example, if the simple module were imported into two different JavaScript scopes, changes in one scope can be observed in the other scope.

Scope 1:

Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(bar.size + 3);  // displays "6"

bar.size = 10;

Scope 2:

Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(foo());         // displays "foo"
alert(bar.size + 3);  // displays "13"

This sharing behavior can be used to create singleton objects that can share data across windows and between XUL script and XPCOM components.

{{ Note("Each scope which imports a module receives a by-value copy of the exported symbols in that module. Changes to the symbol\'s value will not propagate to other scopes (though an object\'s properties will be manipulated by reference).") }}

Scope 1:

Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

bar = "foo";
alert(bar);         // displays "foo"

Scope 2:

Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(bar);         // displays "[object Object]"

The main effect of the by-value copy is global variables of simple types won't be shared across scopes. Always put variables in a wrapper class and export the wrapper (such as bar in the above example).

Locating the code module

{{ gecko_callout_heading("2") }}

Prior to Gecko 2 {{ geckoRelease("2") }}, JavaScript code modules could only be loaded using file: or resource: URLs. Gecko 2 adds support for loading modules from chrome: URLs, even those inside JAR archives.

When using Components.utils.import(), code modules must be loaded using a file:, chrome:, or resource: URL pointing to a file on the disk.

Using a resource: URL

Prior to Gecko 2 {{ geckoRelease("2") }}, the most common way to load code modules was using resource: URLs. The basic syntax of a resource URL is as follows:

resource://<alias>/<relative-path>/<file.js|jsm>

The <alias> is an alias to a location, usually a physical location relative to the application or XUL runtime. There are several pre-defined aliases setup by the XUL runtime:

  • app - Alias to the location of the XUL application.
  • gre - Alias to the location of the XUL runtime.

The <relative-path> can be multiple levels deep and is always relative to the location defined by the <alias>. The common relative path is "modules" and is used by XUL Runner and Firefox. Code modules are simple JavaScript files with a .js or .jsm extension.

The easiest way for extensions and XUL applications to add custom aliases is by registering an alias in the chrome manifest using a line like this:

resource aliasname uri/to/files/

For example, if the XPI for your foo extension includes a top-level modules/ directory containing the bar.js module (that is, the modules/ directory is a sibling to chrome.manifest and install.rdf), you could create an alias to that directory via the instruction:

resource foo modules/

(Don't forget the trailing slash!) You could then import the module into your JavaScript code via the statement:

Components.utils.import("resource://foo/bar.js");

Custom modules and XPCOM components

Note that JavaScript XPCOM components are loaded before chrome registration. This means you can't use Components.utils.import() with your own resource URL at the top level in a component source. A possible solution is moving the call to Components.utils.import() into the XPCOM component constructor (discussion).

Programmatically adding aliases

Custom aliases to paths that can be represented as an {{ interface("nsILocalFile") }} can be programmatically added as well. For example:

var ioService = Components.classes["@mozilla.org/network/io-service;1"]
                          .getService(Components.interfaces.nsIIOService);
var resProt = ioService.getProtocolHandler("resource")
                       .QueryInterface(Components.interfaces.nsIResProtocolHandler);

var aliasFile = Components.classes["@mozilla.org/file/local;1"]
                          .createInstance(Components.interfaces.nsILocalFile);
aliasFile.initWithPath("/some/absolute/path");

var aliasURI = ioService.newFileURI(aliasFile);
resProt.setSubstitution("myalias", aliasURI);

// assuming the code modules are in the alias folder itself

See also

JavaScript code modules topic page.

{{ languages( { "es": "es/Usando_m\u00f3dulos_de_c\u00f3digo_JavaScript", "fr": "fr/Utilisation_de_modules_de_code_JavaScript", "ja": "ja/Using_JavaScript_code_modules", "pl": "pl/Zastosowanie_modu\u0142\u00f3w_JavaScript" } ) }}

Revision Source

<p>{{ gecko_minversion_header("1.9") }}</p>
<p>JavaScript code modules are a concept introduced in Gecko 1.9 {{ geckoRelease("1.9") }} and can be used for sharing code between different privileged scopes. Modules can also be used to create global JavaScript singletons that previously required using JavaScript XPCOM objects. A JavaScript code module is simply some JavaScript code located in registered location. The module is loaded into a specific JavaScript scope, such as XUL script or JavaScript XPCOM script, using <code><a href="/en/Components.utils.import" title="en/Components.utils.import">Components.utils.import()</a></code>.</p>
<h2>Creating a JavaScript code module</h2>
<p>A very simple JavaScript module looks like this:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">var EXPORTED_SYMBOLS = ["foo", "bar"];

function foo() {
  return "foo";
}

var bar = {
  name : "bar",
  size : 3
};

var dummy = "dummy";
</pre>
<p>Notice that the module uses normal JavaScript to create functions, objects, constants and any other JavaScript type. The module also defines a special Array named <code>EXPORTED_SYMBOLS</code>. Any JavaScript item named in <code>EXPORTED_SYMBOLS</code> will be exported from the module and injected into the importing scope. For example:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(foo());         // displays "foo"
alert(bar.size + 3);  // displays "6"
alert(dummy);         // displays "dummy is not defined" because 'dummy' was not exported from the module
</pre>
<p>An extremely important behavior of <code><a href="/en/Components.utils.import" title="en/Components.utils.import">Components.utils.import()</a></code> is that modules are cached when loaded and subsequent imports do not reload a new version of the module, but instead use the previously cached version. This means that a given module will be shared when imported multiple times. Any modifications to data, objects or functions will be available in any scope that has imported the module. For example, if the simple module were imported into two different JavaScript scopes, changes in one scope can be observed in the other scope.</p>
<p>Scope 1:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(bar.size + 3);  // displays "6"

bar.size = 10;
</pre>
<p>Scope 2:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(foo());         // displays "foo"
alert(bar.size + 3);  // displays "13"
</pre>
<p>This sharing behavior can be used to create singleton objects that can share data across windows and between XUL script and XPCOM components.</p>
<p>{{ Note("Each scope which imports a module receives a by-value copy of the exported symbols in that module. Changes to the symbol\'s value will not propagate to other scopes (though an object\'s properties will be manipulated by reference).") }}</p>
<p>Scope 1:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

bar = "foo";
alert(bar);         // displays "foo"
</pre>
<p>Scope 2:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">Components.utils.import("resource://app/my_module.jsm");

alert(bar);         // displays "[object Object]"
</pre>
<p>The main effect of the by-value copy is global variables of simple types won't be shared across scopes. Always put variables in a wrapper class and export the wrapper (such as <code>bar</code> in the above example).</p>
<h3 name="resource:_Protocol">Locating the code module</h3>
<div class="geckoVersionNote">
<p>{{ gecko_callout_heading("2") }}</p>
<p>Prior to Gecko 2 {{ geckoRelease("2") }}, JavaScript code modules could only be loaded using <strong>file:</strong> or <strong>resource:</strong> URLs. Gecko 2 adds support for loading modules from <strong>chrome:</strong> URLs, even those inside JAR archives.</p>
</div>
<p>When using <code><a href="/en/Components.utils.import" title="en/Components.utils.import">Components.utils.import()</a></code>, code modules must be loaded using a <strong>file:</strong>, <strong>chrome:</strong>, or <strong>resource:</strong> URL pointing to a file on the disk.</p>
<h4>Using a resource: URL</h4>
<p>Prior to Gecko 2 {{ geckoRelease("2") }}, the most common way to load code modules was using <strong>resource:</strong> URLs. The basic syntax of a resource URL is as follows:</p>
<pre class="eval">resource://&lt;alias&gt;/&lt;relative-path&gt;/&lt;file.js|jsm&gt;
</pre>
<p>The <code>&lt;alias&gt;</code> is an alias to a location, usually a physical location relative to the application or XUL runtime. There are several pre-defined aliases setup by the XUL runtime:</p>
<ul> <li><code>app</code> - Alias to the location of the XUL application.</li> <li><code>gre</code> - Alias to the location of the XUL runtime.</li>
</ul>
<p>The <code>&lt;relative-path&gt;</code> can be multiple levels deep and is always relative to the location defined by the <code>&lt;alias&gt;</code>. The common relative path is "modules" and is used by XUL Runner and Firefox. Code modules are simple JavaScript files with a .js or .jsm extension.</p>
<p>The easiest way for extensions and XUL applications to add custom aliases is by registering an alias in the <a href="/en/Chrome_Registration" title="en/Chrome_Registration">chrome manifest</a> using a line like this:</p>
<pre class="eval">resource <em>aliasname</em> <em>uri/to/files/</em>
</pre>
<p>For example, if the XPI for your <em>foo</em> extension includes a top-level modules/ directory containing the <em>bar.js</em> module (that is, the modules/ directory is a sibling to chrome.manifest and install.rdf), you could create an alias to that directory via the instruction:</p>
<pre class="eval">resource foo modules/
</pre>
<p>(Don't forget the trailing slash!) You could then import the module into your JavaScript code via the statement:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">Components.utils.import("<a class=" external" href="resource://foo/bar.js" rel="freelink">resource://foo/bar.js</a>");
</pre>
<h3>Custom modules and XPCOM components</h3>
<p>Note that JavaScript XPCOM components are loaded before chrome registration. This means you can't use <code><a href="/en/Components.utils.import" title="en/Components.utils.import">Components.utils.import()</a></code> with your own resource URL at the top level in a component source. A possible solution is moving the call to <code><a href="/en/Components.utils.import" title="en/Components.utils.import">Components.utils.import()</a></code> into the XPCOM component constructor (<a class=" external" href="http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.dev.apps.firefox/browse_thread/thread/e178d41afa2ccc87?hl=en#" title="http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.dev.apps.firefox/browse_thread/thread/e178d41afa2ccc87?hl=en#">discussion</a>).</p>
<h2 name="Programmatically_adding_aliases">Programmatically adding aliases</h2>
<p>Custom aliases to paths that can be represented as an {{ interface("nsILocalFile") }} can be programmatically added as well. For example:</p>
<pre class="brush: js">var ioService = Components.classes["@mozilla.org/network/io-service;1"]
                          .getService(Components.interfaces.nsIIOService);
var resProt = ioService.getProtocolHandler("resource")
                       .QueryInterface(Components.interfaces.nsIResProtocolHandler);

var aliasFile = Components.classes["@mozilla.org/file/local;1"]
                          .createInstance(Components.interfaces.nsILocalFile);
aliasFile.initWithPath("/some/absolute/path");

var aliasURI = ioService.newFileURI(aliasFile);
resProt.setSubstitution("myalias", aliasURI);

// assuming the code modules are in the alias folder itself
</pre>
<h2 name="See_also">See also</h2>
<p><a href="/en/JavaScript/Code_modules" title="en/JavaScript code modules">JavaScript code modules</a> topic page.</p>
<p>{{ languages( { "es": "es/Usando_m\u00f3dulos_de_c\u00f3digo_JavaScript", "fr": "fr/Utilisation_de_modules_de_code_JavaScript", "ja": "ja/Using_JavaScript_code_modules", "pl": "pl/Zastosowanie_modu\u0142\u00f3w_JavaScript" } ) }}</p>
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