Web console with node.js

Continuing with my experiments of node.js, this time I want to create a Web console. The idea is simple. I want to send a few command to the server and I display the output inside the browser. I can do it entirely with PHP but I want to send the output to the browser as fast as they appear without waiting for the end of the command. OK we can do it flushing the output in the server but this solution normally crashes if we keep the application open for a long time. WebSockets again to the rescue. If we need a cross-browser implementation we need the socket.io library. Let’s start:

The node server is a simple websocket server. In this example we will launch each command with spawn function (require(‘child_process’).spawn) and send the output within the websoket. Simple and pretty straightforward.

var sys   = require('sys'),
http  = require('http'),
url   = require('url'),
spawn = require('child_process').spawn,
ws    = require('./ws.js');

var availableComands = ['ls', 'ps', 'uptime', 'tail', 'cat'];
ws.createServer(function(websocket) {
    websocket.on('connect', function(resource) {
        var parsedUrl = url.parse(resource, true);
        var rawCmd = parsedUrl.query.cmd;
        var cmd = rawCmd.split(" ");
        if (cmd[0] == 'help') {
            websocket.write("Available comands: \n");
            for (i=0;i<availableComands.length;i++) {
                if (i< availableComands.length - 1) {
                    websocket.write(", ");

        } else if (availableComands.indexOf(cmd[0]) >= 0) {
            if (cmd.length > 1) {
                options = cmd.slice(1);
            } else {
                options = [];
            try {
                var process = spawn(cmd[0], options);
            } catch(err) {

            websocket.on('end', function() {

            process.stdout.on('data', function(data) {

            process.stdout.on('end', function() {
        } else {
             websocket.write("Comand not available. Type help for available comands\n");
}).listen(8880, '');

The web client is similar than the example of my previous post

var timeout = 5000;
var wsServer = '';

var ws;

function cleanString(string) {
    return string.replace(/&/g,"&amp;").replace(/</g,"&lt;").replace(/>/g,"&gt;");

function pad(n) {
    return ("0" + n).slice(-2);

var cmdHistory = [];
function send(msg) {
    if (msg == 'clear') {
    try {
        ws = new WebSocket('ws://' + wsServer + '?cmd=' + msg);
        $('#toolbar').css('background', '#933');
        $('#socketStatus').html("working ... [<a href='#' onClick='quit()'>X</a>]");
        $('#log').append("<div class='cmd'>" + msg + "</div>");
    } catch (err) {
        setTimeout(startWs, timeout);

    ws.onmessage = function(event) {
        window.scrollBy(0, 100000000000000000);

    ws.onclose = function(){
        $('#toolbar').css('background', '#65A33F');
        $('#socketStatus').html('Type your comand:');

function quit() {
    window.scrollBy(0, 100000000000000000);
util = {
  urlRE: /https?:\/\/([-\w\.]+)+(:\d+)?(\/([^\s]*(\?\S+)?)?)?/g, 

  //  html sanitizer 
  toStaticHTML: function(inputHtml) {
    inputHtml = inputHtml.toString();
    return inputHtml.replace(/&/g, "&amp;")
                    .replace(/</g, "&lt;")
                    .replace("/n", "<br/>")
                    .replace(/>/g, "&gt;");

  //pads n with zeros on the left,
  //digits is minimum length of output
  //zeroPad(3, 5); returns "005"
  //zeroPad(2, 500); returns "500"
  zeroPad: function (digits, n) {
    n = n.toString();
    while (n.length < digits) 
      n = '0' + n;
    return n;

  //it is almost 8 o'clock PM here
  //timeString(new Date); returns "19:49"
  timeString: function (date) {
    var minutes = date.getMinutes().toString();
    var hours = date.getHours().toString();
    return this.zeroPad(2, hours) + ":" + this.zeroPad(2, minutes);

  //does the argument only contain whitespace?
  isBlank: function(text) {
    var blank = /^\s*$/;
    return (text.match(blank) !== null);
$(document).ready(function() {
  //submit new messages when the user hits enter if the message isnt blank
  $("#entry").keypress(function (e) {
    if (e.keyCode != 13 /* Return */) return;
    var msg = $("#entry").attr("value").replace("\n", "");
    if (!util.isBlank(msg)) send(msg);
    $("#entry").attr("value", ""); // clear the entry field.

And that’s all. In fact we don’t need any line of PHP to perform this web console. Last year I tried to do something similar with PHP but it was a big mess. With node those kind of jobs are trivial. I don’t know if node.js is the future or is just another hype, but it’s easy. And cool. Really cool.

You can see the full code at Github here. Anyway you must take care if you run this application on your host. You are letting user to execute raw unix commands. A bit of security layer would be necessary.


5 thoughts on “Web console with node.js

  1. there is a console analyzer already available for nodejs as part of a console debug toolkit, I just can’t remember for the life of me what it’s called ;\

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