# Building a shell with JavaScript

ShellJS is a JS library that provides functions like cd() and ls() which you can use to write Node scripts instead of bash scripts. That’s great for scripts, but what about an interactive shell? Well, we could just run the Node repl and import ShellJS:

$node > require('shelljs/global'); {} > pwd() { [String: '/tmp'] stdout: '/tmp', stderr: null, code: 0, cat: [Function: bound ], exec: [Function: bound ], grep: [Function: bound ], head: [Function: bound ], sed: [Function: bound ], sort: [Function: bound ], tail: [Function: bound ], to: [Function: bound ], toEnd: [Function: bound ], uniq: [Function: bound ] }  Hmm, that’s a little verbose, and we might want to avoid manually importing ShellJS. We also might want more features than the Node repl offers, such as vi keybindings. We can get vi keybindings with rlwrap, but then tab completion goes away. The solution is given in this SO answer. First we need to install an rlwrap filter that negotiates tab-completion with a Node repl. The filter file can be found at that link, where it’s called node_complete. Put node_complete in $RLWRAP_FILTERDIR, which should be the folder on your system containing the RlwrapFilter.pm Perl module. For me it’s /usr/share/rlwrap/filters.

Now rlwrap is ready to negotiate tab completion, but the Node repl isn’t. We’ll have to actually write our own Node repl, which is easy because the repl module gives us all the tools we need. We’ll create a file called, say, myrepl.js, the contents of which are also given in the SO answer, only 9 lines. This script starts a repl with a hook to negotiate tab completion with rlwrap. If myrepl.js is in ~/bin, now we can run

$rlwrap -z node_complete -e '' -c ~/bin/myrepl.js  and have both JS tab completion and rlwrap features, such as vi keybindings if that’s what we’ve configured. Let’s create a file called mysh with the following contents: #!/usr/bin/env bash rlwrap -z node_complete -e '' -c ~/bin/myrepl.js  Assuming ~/bin is in our path variable, we can put mysh there and launch our shell anywhere by just running mysh. So far so good but we wanted to automatically import ShellJS. In myrepl.js, add the following: var shell = require('shelljs'); Object.assign(myrepl.context, shell);  Those two lines add all the ShellJS functions to the JS global object inside the repl. We have: $ mysh
> pwd()
{ [String: '/tmp']
stdout: '/tmp',
stderr: null,
code: 0,
cat: [Function: bound ],
exec: [Function: bound ],
grep: [Function: bound ],
sed: [Function: bound ],
sort: [Function: bound ],
tail: [Function: bound ],
to: [Function: bound ],
toEnd: [Function: bound ],
uniq: [Function: bound ] }


Progress. Now, how do we clean up this output? The repl module allows us to define a custom writer. This is a function which takes the output of a line of JS and returns a string to represent the output in the repl. What we need to do is intercept objects like the one returned by pwd() above and only show the stderr and stdout properties. Add the following near the beginning of myrepl.js:

var util = require('util');

var myWriter = function(output) {
var isSS = (
output &&
output.hasOwnProperty('stdout') &&
output.hasOwnProperty('stderr'));
if (isSS) {
var stderrPart = output.stderr || '';
var stdoutPart = output.stdout || '';
return stderrPart + stdoutPart;
} else {
return util.inspect(output, null, null, true);
}
};


And load this writer by changing

var myrepl = require("repl").start({terminal:false});


to

var myrepl = require("repl").start({
terminal: false,
writer: myWriter});


Now we get

$mysh > pwd() /tmp  Much better. However, since the echo function prints its argument to the console and returns an object with it in the stdout property, we get this: $ mysh
> echo('hi')
hi
hi


I haven’t solved this issue quite yet although I’d be surprised if there isn’t a reasonable solution out there. You can add to mysh and myrepl.js to get more features, such as colors, custom evaluation, custom pretty printing, other pre-loaded libraries, et cetera. The sky is the limit. I added an inspect function which allows us to see the full ShellJS output of a command if we really want it. My complete myrepl.js file is:

#!/usr/bin/env node

var util = require('util');
var colors = require('colors/safe');

var inspect = function(obj) {
if (obj && typeof obj === 'object') {
obj['__inspect'] = true;
}
return obj;
};

var myWriter = function(output) {
var isSS = (
output &&
output.hasOwnProperty('stdout') &&
output.hasOwnProperty('stderr') &&
!output.hasOwnProperty('__inspect'));
if (isSS) {
var stderrPart = output.stderr || '';
var stdoutPart = output.stdout || '';
return colors.cyan(stderrPart + stdoutPart);
} else {
if (typeof output === 'object') {
delete output['__inspect'];
}
return util.inspect(output, null, null, true);
}
};

var myrepl = require("repl").start({
terminal: false,
prompt: colors.green('% '),
ignoreUndefined: true,
useColors: true,
writer: myWriter});

var shell = require('shelljs');
Object.assign(myrepl.context, shell);
myrepl.context['inspect'] = inspect;

// add REPL command rlwrap_complete(prefix) that prints a simple list
//   of completions of prefix
myrepl.context['rlwrap_complete'] =  function(prefix) {
myrepl.complete(prefix, function(err,data) {
for (x of data[0]) {console.log(x);}
});
};


So this is basically what we wanted. We have a JS repl with convenient ShellJS commands. We also have vi keybindings, and tab completion for JS and filenames. It’s very rough around the edges, but it was really simple to make. GitHub user streamich built a more advanced form of this, called jssh which adds many features but lacks some too. The bottom line is, if you know JS, you might be surprised at what you can build.

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