Simon Willison’s Weblog

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Datasette Client for Observable (via) Really elegant piece of code design from Alex Garcia: DatasetteClient is a client library he built designed to work in Observable notebooks, which uses JavaScript tagged template literals to allow SQL query results to be executed against a Datasette instance and displayed as inline tables in a notebook, or used to return JSON data for further processing. His example notebook includes a neat d3 stacked area chart example built against a Datasette of congresspeople, plus examples using interactive widgets to update the Notebook. # 24th November 2020, 6:53 pm

The Cleanest Trick for Autogrowing Textareas (via) This is a very clever trick. Textarea content is mirrored into a data attribute using a JavaScript one-liner, then a visibility: hidden ::after element clones that content using content: attr(data-replicated-value). The hidden element exists in a CSS grid with the textarea which allows the textarea to resize within the grid when the hidden element increases its height. # 14th November 2020, 5:24 am

Learning from Mini Apps (via) WeChat, Baidu, Alipay and Douyin in China are all examples of “Super apps” that can host “Mini apps” written in HTML and JavaScript by other developers and installed via in-app search or through scanning a QR code. Mini apps are granted (permission-gated) access to further system APIs via a JavaScript bridge. It’s a fascinating developer ecosystem, explored in detail here by Thomas Steiner. # 5th November 2020, 5:21 pm

Render Markdown tool (via) I wrote a quick JavaScript tool for rendering Markdown via the GitHub Markdown API—which includes all of their clever extensions like tables and syntax highlighting—and then stripping out some extraneous HTML to give me back the format I like using for my blog posts. # 3rd September 2020, 12:08 am

Refactoring optional chaining into a large codebase: lessons learned (via) JavaScript now supports foo?.bar?.baz?.() optional chaining syntax across all major browsers. Lea Verou provides the definitive guide to using it to refactor code. # 18th June 2020, 3:23 pm

Deno 1.0. Deno is a new take on server-side JavaScript from a team lead by Ryan Dahl, who originally created Node.js. It’s built using Rust and crammed with fascinating ideas—like the ability to import code directly from a URL. # 13th May 2020, 11:38 pm

New developer features in Firefox 75 (via) Firefox 75 just came out with a bunch of new developer features. My favourite is instant evaluation in the JavaScript console: any statement without side effects now shows a preview of its results as you type. # 7th April 2020, 7:23 pm

gifcap (via) This is really neat: a purely client-side implementation of animated gif screen capture, using navigator.mediaDevices.getDisplayMedia for the screen capturing, mithril for the UI and the gif.js pure JavaScript GIF encoding library to render the output. # 30th March 2020, 9:29 pm

datasette-search-all: a new plugin for searching multiple Datasette tables at once

I just released a new plugin for Datasette, and it’s pretty fun. datasette-search-all is a plugin written mostly in JavaScript that executes the same search query against every searchable table in every database connected to your Datasette instance.

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We write a lot of JavaScript at Basecamp, but we don’t use it to create “JavaScript applications” in the contemporary sense. All our applications have server-side rendered HTML at their core, then add sprinkles of JavaScript to make them sparkle. [...] It allows us to party with productivity like days of yore. A throwback to when a single programmer could make rapacious progress without getting stuck in layers of indirection or distributed systems. A time before everyone thought the holy grail was to confine their server-side application to producing JSON for a JavaScript-based client application.

David Heinemeier Hansson # 8th February 2020, 8:10 am

2020 Web Milestones (via) A lot of stuff is happening in 2020! Mike Sherov rounds it up—highlights include the release of Chromium Edge (Microsoft’s Chrome-powered browser for Windows 7+), Web Components supported in every major browser, Deno 1.x, SameSite Cookies turned on by default (which should dramatically reduce CSRF exposure) and Python 2 and Flash EOLs. # 24th January 2020, 4:43 am

Snowpack (via) Really interesting new twist on build systems for JavaScript. Modern browsers (everything since IE11) support JavaScript modules, but actually working with them is tricky since so much of the JavaScript ecosystem expects you to be using a bundler like Webpack. Snowpack is a tool for converting npm dependencies into JavaScript modules which can then be loaded directly by the browser, taking advantage of HTTP/2 to efficiently load the resulting larger number of files. # 10th January 2020, 5:06 am

μPlot (via) “An exceptionally fast, tiny time series chart. [...] from a cold start it can create an interactive chart containing 150,000 data points in 40ms. [...] at < 10 KB, it’s likely the smallest and fastest time series plotter that doesn’t make use of WebGL shaders or WASM” # 14th October 2019, 11:03 pm

Optimizing for the mobile web: Moving from Angular to Preact. Grubhub reduced their mobile web load times from 9-11s to 3-4s by replacing Angular with Preact (and replacing other libraries such as lodash with native JavaScript code). The conversion took 6 months and involved running Angular and Preact simultaneously during the transition—not a huge additional overhead as Preact itself is only 4KB. They used TypeScript throughout and credit it with providing a great deal of confidence and productivity to the overall refactoring. # 5th August 2019, 12:26 pm

When should you be using Web Workers? 85% of worldwide mobile devices are massively less performant than high end iPhones. Surma argues that we should be making aggressive use of Web Workers to keep as much of our JavaScript as possible off the main UI thread, to avoid freezing up the entire interface. # 15th June 2019, 4:31 am

Monaco Editor. VS Code is MIT licensed and built on top of Electron. I thought “huh, I wonder if I could run the editor component embedded in a web app”—and it turns out Microsoft have already extracted out the code editor component into an open source JavaScript package called Monaco. Looks very slick, though sadly it’s not supported in mobile browsers. # 21st May 2019, 8:47 pm

If you want the fastest website despite implementation difficulty, the answer is: SSR behind a CDN with assets in best compression formats (webp, Brotli, woff2) served over http2 (or 3) from same origin with JS as enhancement only

Mike Sherov # 15th February 2019, 7:12 pm

Fast Autocomplete Search for Your Website

Every website deserves a great search engine—but building a search engine can be a lot of work, and hosting it can quickly get expensive.

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How Does React Tell a Class from a Function? (via) Understanding the answer requires a deep understanding of the history of the JavaScript class system plus how Babel and other tools work with it. “For an API to be simple to use, you often need to consider the language semantics (possibly, for several languages, including future directions), runtime performance, ergonomics with and without compile-time steps, the state of the ecosystem and packaging solutions, early warnings, and many other things. The end result might not always be the most elegant, but it must be practical.” # 3rd December 2018, 1:30 am

The nature of NPM is such that I’d expect most large corporate Node software to depend on at least a couple of single individuals’ hobby projects. The problem is that those projects don’t tend to fulfill the same expectations of security, quality and maintenance.

Sébastien Cevey # 2nd December 2018, 9:32 pm

BigInt: arbitrary-precision integers in JavaScript (via) The BigInt specification is now supported in Chrome—but it hasn’t yet made it to other browsers. The Chrome team have a really interesting solution: they’ve released a JSBI library which you can use to do BigInt calculations in any browser today, and an accompanying Babel plugin which can rewrite calls to that library into BigInt syntax once browser support catches up. I’ve never seen a library that includes a tool for refactoring itself into oblivion before. # 28th November 2018, 2:22 am

A Netflix Web Performance Case Study (via) Fascinating description of how Netflix knocked the 3G loading times of their homepage in half for logged-out users by rendering the React templates on the server-side and using the bare amount of vanilla JavaScript necessary to get the homepage interactive—then XHR prefetching the full React code needed to power the subsequent signup flow. Via Alex Russell, who tweets “I’m increasingly optimistic that we can cap JS emissions by quarantining legacy frameworks to the server side.” # 6th November 2018, 8:54 pm

Svelte RFC 0001: Reactive assignments (via) Svelte is a really interesting JavaScript framework: it offers a similar component-based developer experience to React but does it while delivering a tiny amount of code-to-the-browser thanks to being built entirely around a compiler that generates the minimum code necessary. In this RFC the Svelte team propose taking this approach even further, by generating code to accompany every relevant variable assignment that can trigger the corresponding view update. The document also has a very clear explanation of how React, Vue and current Svelte differ in their solutions to the challenge of updating the visible HTML view when the corresponding state changes. # 3rd November 2018, 4:58 pm

matthewp/haunted: React’s Hooks API implemented for web components (via) It’s been fascinating over the past few days watching various frontend web stacks start playing with the new ideas introduced by the proposed React hooks API. lit-html is one of my favourite React alternatives—it’s built on web components and makes really clever use of ES6 template literals (in place of React’s JSX, which requires an additional compilation step). With Haunted Matthew Phillips explores the combination of lit-html, web components and hooks-style state management. # 31st October 2018, 1:04 am

Sqorn (via) JavaScript library for building SQL queries that makes really smart usage of ES6 tagged template literals. The magic of tagged template literals is that they let you intercept and process interpolated values, making them ideally suited to escaping parameters in SQL queries. Sqorn takes that basic ability and layers on some really interesting API design to allow you to further compose queries. # 19th September 2018, 6:34 pm

Tech Notes: TypeScript at Google (via) In which Evan Martin provides some fascinating colour on the state of JavaScript tooling within Google, which has some unique challenges given that Gmail is 14 years old now and Google have evolved their own internal JavaScript stack which differs widely from the rest of the industry (mainly because it predates most of the successful open source tools). “Which leads me to the middle path, which my little team has been pursuing: incrementally adopt some external tooling where it makes sense, by figuring out how to make it interoperate with our existing code base.” # 2nd September 2018, 7:08 pm

A tour of JavaScript timers on the web (via) Do you understand the differences between setTimeout, setInterval, setImmediate, requestAnimationFrame and requestIdleCallback? I didn’t. # 2nd September 2018, 10:10 am

6 Great Uses of the Spread Operator. As I’ve been getting more comfortable with 2018-era JavaScript the spread operator and object restructuring are two of the features I have found most interesting. # 22nd August 2018, 3:17 pm

Observable Tutorial 2: Dog pictures (via) Observable have a neat new set of tutorials on how to get started with their reactive notebooks. You don’t even need to sign up for the service: they have a “Scratchpad” link in their navigation bar now which lets you spin up a test notebook with one click. # 18th August 2018, 7:55 pm

ES6 In Depth: Template strings. Useful guide to the advanced features of backtick template strings in ES6. # 17th July 2018, 4:08 pm

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