reffy
W3C/WHATWG spec dependencies exploration companion. Features a short set of tools to study spec references as well as WebIDL term definitions and references found in W3C specifications.
Last updated 2 years ago by tidoust .
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Reffy

Reffy is your W3C spec dependencies exploration companion. It features a short set of tools to study spec references as well as WebIDL term definitions and references found in W3C specifications.

See published reports for daily human-readable reports generated by Reffy.

How to use

Pre-requisites

  • To install Reffy, you need Node.js.
  • If you want to run the crawler, you need a W3C account and an API key.
  • If you want to generate HTML reports, you need to install Pandoc.

Installation

Reffy is available as an NPM package. To install, run:

npm install reffy

Launch the crawler

This should install Reffy's command-line interface tools to Node.js path.

To launch the crawler and the report study tool, follow these steps:

  1. Create a config.json file, initialized with { "w3cApiKey": [API key] }, where [API key] is your API key.
  2. To produce a W3C-centric vision of the Web platform using Editor's Drafts, create a reports/w3c folder and run reffy run w3c.
  3. To produce a W3C-centric vision of the Web platform using latest published versions in /TR/, create a reports/w3c-tr folder and run reffy run w3c-tr.
  4. To produce a WHATWG-centric vision of the Web platform, create a reports/whatwg folder and run reffy run whatwg.

Under the hoods, these commands run the following steps (and related commands) in turn:

  1. Crawling: Crawls a list of spec and outputs relevant information in a JSON structure in the specified folder. crawl-specs src/specs/specs-w3c.json reports/w3c [tr]. Add tr to tell the crawler to load the latest published version of TR specifications instead of the latest Editor's Draft.
  2. Analysis: Analyses the result of the crawling step, and produces a study report. study-crawl reports/w3c/crawl.json [url]. When the url parameter is given, the resulting analysis will only contain the results for the spec at that URL (multiple URLs may be given as a comma-separated value list without spaces). You will probably want to redirect the output to a file, e.g. using study-crawl reports/w3c/crawl.json > reports/w3c/study.json.
  3. Markdown report generation: Produces a human-readable report in Markdown format out of the report returned by the analysis step, or directly out of results of the crawling step. generate-report reports/w3c/study.json [perspec|dep]. By default, the tool generates a report per anomaly, pass perspec to create a report per specification and dep to generate a dependencies report. You will probably want to redirect the output to a file, e.g. using generate-report reports/w3c/study.json > reports/w3c/index.md.
  4. Conversion to HTML: Takes the Markdown analysis per specification and prepares an HTML report with expandable sections. pandoc reports/w3c/index.md -f markdown -t html5 --section-divs -s --template report-template.html -o reports/w3c/index.html (where report.md is the Markdown report)
  5. Diff with latest published version of the crawl report: Compares the crawl results with the latest published crawl results and produce a human-readable diff in Markdown format. generate-report reports/w3c/crawl.json diff https://tidoust.github.io/reffy-reports/w3c/crawl.json

Some notes:

  • The crawler may take some time
  • The crawler uses a local cache for HTTP exchanges. It will create and fill a .cache subfolder in particular.

Reffy's tools

Specs crawler

Reffy's crawler takes an initial list of spec URLs as input and generates a machine-readable report with facts about each spec, including:

  1. Generic information such as the title of the spec or the URL of the Editor's Draft. This information is typically extracted from the W3C API.
  2. The list of normative/informative references found in the spec.
  3. Extended information about WebIDL term definitions and references that the spec contains

Study tool

Reffy's report study tool takes the machine-readable report generated by the crawler, and creates a study report of potential anomalies found in the report. The study report can then easily be converted to a human-readable Markdown report. Reported potential anomalies are:

  1. specs that do not seem to reference any other spec normatively;
  2. specs that define WebIDL terms but do not normatively reference the WebIDL spec;
  3. specs that contain invalid WebIDL terms definitions;
  4. specs that use obsolete WebIDL constructs (e.g. [] instead of FrozenArray);
  5. specs that define WebIDL terms that are also defined in another spec;
  6. specs that use WebIDL terms defined in another spec without referencing that spec normatively;
  7. specs that use WebIDL terms for which the crawler could not find any definition in any of the specs it studied;
  8. specs that link to another spec but do not include a reference to that other spec;
  9. specs that link to another spec inconsistently in the body of the document and in the list of references (e.g. because the body of the document references the Editor's draft while the reference is to the latest published version).

WebIDL terms explorer

See the related WebIDLPedia project and its repo.

Other tools

Some of the tools that compose Reffy may also be used directly.

The references parser takes the URL of a spec as input and generates a JSON structure that lists the normative and informative references found in the spec. To run the references parser: parse-references [url]

The WebIDL extractor takes the URL of a spec as input and outputs the IDL definitions found in the spec as one block of text. To run the extractor: extract-webidl [url]

The WebIDL parser takes the URL of a spec as input and generates a JSON structure that describes WebIDL term definitions and references that the spec contains. The parser uses WebIDL2 to parse the WebIDL content found in the spec. To run the WebIDL parser: parse-webidl [url]

The Spec finder takes a JSON crawl report as input and checks a couple of sites that list Web specifications to detect new specifications that are not yet part of the crawl. To run the spec finder: find-spec results.json

The crawl results merger merges a new JSON crawl report into a reference one. This tool is typically useful to replace the crawl results of a given specification with the results of a new run of the crawler on that specification. To run the crawl results merger: merge-crawl-results [new crawl report] [reference crawl report] [crawl report to create]

The spec checker takes the URL of a spec, a reference crawl report and the name of the study report to create as inputs. It crawls and studies the given spec against the reference crawl report. Essentially, it applies the crawler, the merger and the study tool in order, to produces the anomalies report for the given spec. Note the URL can check multiple specs at once, provided the URLs are passed as a comma-separated value list without spaces. To run the spec checker: check-specs [url] [reference crawl report] [study report to create]

For instance:

parse-references https://w3c.github.io/presentation-api/
extract-webidl https://www.w3.org/TR/webrtc/
parse-webidl https://fetch.spec.whatwg.org/
check-specs https://www.w3.org/TR/webstorage/ reports/w3c/crawl.json reports/study-webstorage.json

Technical notes

Reffy is still at an early stage of development. It may crash from time to time.

Reffy should be able to parse most of the W3C/WHATWG specifications that define WebIDL terms (both published versions and Editor's Drafts). The tool may work with other types of specs, but has not been tested with any of them.

List of specs to crawl

The recommended lists appear in src/specs/specs-w3c.json and src/specs/spec-whatwg.json. Both files reference a common list in src/specs/specs-common.json and in src/specs/specs-cg.json. These lists were built out of the JavaScript APIs TR bucket, semi-manually completed to create a more comprehensive list.

It should be possible to crawl other specs, but note Reffy has not yet been tested with specs that do not define any WebIDL term, and would need to be adjusted to return "interesting" information. Feel free to try out other specs and report any issue!

Crawling a spec

Given the URL of a spec, the crawler basically goes through the following steps:

  1. If the URL looks like http(s)://www.w3.org/TR/[something], the crawler extracts the shortname of the specification, and sends a couple of requests to the W3C API to retrieve the URL of the Editor's Draft, or the URL of the latest published version if the URL of the Editor's Draft could not be found. This new URL replaces the given one.
  2. Fetch the URL. Note Reffy uses a network cache on the local filesystem, and sends conditional HTTP requests if the URL is already in that cache
  3. Render the response with jsdom, which should create a Window object.
  4. If the document contains a "head" section that includes a link whose label looks like "single page", go back to step 2 and load the target of that link instead. This makes the crawler load the single page version of multi-page specifications such as HTML5.
  5. If the document uses ReSpec, let ReSpec run in JSDOM and process the generated HTML.
  6. Run internal tools on the generated document to build the relevant information.

The crawler processes 10 specifications at a time. Network and parsing errors should be reported in the crawl results.

Config parameters

The crawler reads parameters from the config.json file. To be able to interact with the W3C API, that file must contain a w3cApiKey entry whose value is a valid W3C API Key.

Optional parameters:

  • cacheRefresh: set this flag to never to tell the crawler to use the cache entry for a URL directly, instead of sending a conditional HTTP request to check whether the entry is still valid. This parameter is typically useful when developing Reffy's code to work offline.
  • resetCache: set this flag to true to tell the crawler to reset the contents of the local cache when it starts.

Hardcoded rules

Some rules or exceptions to the rule are hardcoded. In particular:

  • The URL of some of the Editor's Drafts returned by the W3C API can be invalid, or a document that when loaded redirects to another. The list is hardcoded in the completeWithInfoFromW3CApimethod in src/cli/crawl-specs.js. The crawler loads the latest published version for these specs.
  • Some specs cannot be loaded with jsdom for the time being, typically some specs that use ReSpec's markdown format. This should hopefully be fixed soon. The list is hardcoded in the completeWithInfoFromW3CApimethod in src/cli/crawl-specs.js.
  • Some specs load external scripts that may not run properly in jsdom. Such scripts are ignored. See details in download function in src/lib/jsdom-monkeypatch.js.
  • The heuristics used to find the "single page" link are defined in the loadSpecificationFromHtml function in util.js. They may need to be extended to support other cases.
  • For each spec, the crawler reports a list of URLs which may be considered as equivalent for the purpose of referencing. This list typically includes the initial shortname URL for W3C specs, the dated URL of the latest published version of the spec, and the URL of the Editor's Draft. For a couple of specs, it also includes links to previous or alternate "versions" of the spec. For instance, the versions of the HTML5.1 spec include the HTML5 W3C Recommendation and the WHATWG HTML Living Standard. The study tool uses that information when it checks the list of references to find missing ones. Ideally, the W3C API would return up-to-date information such as "supercedes" to clarify the relationship between versions of the same spec. The mapping is hardcoded in addKnownVersions in src/lib/util.js.

Contributing

Authors so far are François Daoust and Dominique Hazaël-Massieux.

Additional ideas, bugs and/or code contributions are most welcome. Create issues on GitHub as needed!

Licensing

The code is available under an MIT license.

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