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WebREPL client for MicroPython

This repository contains the WebREPL client and related tools, for accessing a MicroPython REPL (interactive prompt) over WebSockets.

To start WebREPL terminal client, clone or download this repository (in full) and open webrepl.html in a browser. Recent versions of Firefox and Chrome (or Chromium) are supported.

The latest version of the client is also hosted online at http://micropython.org/webrepl (note: while it’s hosted online, all interaction with your boards still happen locally in your own network).

At this time, WebREPL client cannot be accessed over HTTPS connections. This is due to not widely published policy that HTTPS pages may access only WSS (WebSocket Secure) protocol. This is somewhat similar to warnings issued when e.g. an HTTPS page loads an image over plain HTTP. However, in case of WebSockets, some browsers don’t even issue a user-visible warning, and others may word it confusingly, so it’s hard to understand that it applies to WebSocket connections. As WebREPL is intended to be used only within a user’s local network, HTTPS isn’t strictly required, and not accessing webrepl.html over HTTPS is a suggested workaround.

WebREPL file transfer

WebREPL protocol includes experimental support for file transfer. This feature is currently in alpha and has known issues on systems which have it enabled (ESP8266).

To use WebREPL file transfer capabilities, a separate command line utility is provided, webrepl_cli.py (file transfer is not supported via webrepl.html client). Run

webrepl_cli.py --help

to see usage information. Note that there can be only one active WebREPL connection, so while webrepl.html is connected to device, webrepl_cli.py can’t transfer files, and vice versa.

Technical details

WebREPL is the latest standard (in the sense of an Internet RFC) for communicating with and controlling a MicroPython-based board. Following were the requirements for the protocol design:

  1. Single connection/channel, multiplexing terminal access, filesystem access, and board control.

  2. Network ready and Web technologies ready (allowing access directly from a browser with an HTML-based client).

Based on these requirements, WebREPL uses a single connection over WebSocket as a transport protocol. Note that while WebREPL is primarily intended for network (usually, wireless) connection, due to its single-connection, multiplexed nature, the same protocol can be used over a lower-level, wired connection like UART, SPI, I2C, etc.

Few other traits of WebREPL:

  1. It is intended (whenever possible) to work in background, i.e. while WebREPL operations are executed (like a file transfer), normal REPL/user application should continue to run and be responsive (though perhaps with higher latency, as WebREPL operations may take its share of CPU time and other system resources). (Some systems may not allow such background operation, and then WebREPL access/operations will be blocking).

  2. While it’s intended to run in background, like a Unix daemon, it’s not intended to support multiple, per-connection sessions. There’s a single REPL session, and this same session is accessible via different media, like UART or WebREPL. This also means that there’s usually no point in having more than one WebREPL connection (multiple connections would access the same session), and a particular system may actually limit number of concurrent connections to ease implementation and save system resources.

WebREPL protocol consists of 2 sub-protocols:

This protocol is finalized and is very simple in its nature, akin to Telnet protocol. WebSocket “text”-flagged messages are used to communicate terminal input and output between a client and a WebREPL- enabled device (server). There’s a guaranteed password prompt, which can be detected by the appearance of characters ‘:’, ‘ ‘ (at this point, server expected a password ending with ‘\n’ from client). If you’re interested in developing a 3rd-party application to communicate using WebREPL terminal protocol, the information above should be enough to implement it (or feel free to study implementation of the official clients in this repository).

This protocol uses WebSocket “binary”-flagged messages. At this point, this protocol is in early research/design/proof-of-concept phase. The only available specification of it is the reference code implementation, and the protocol is subject to frequent and incompatible changes. The webrepl_cli.py module mentioned above intended to be both a command-line tool and a library for 3rd-party projects to use, though it may not be there yet. If you’re interested in integrating WebREPL transfer/control capabilities into your application, please submit a ticket to GitHub with information about your project and how it is useful to MicroPython community, to help us prioritize this work.

While the protocol is (eventually) intended to provide full-fledged filesystem access and means to control a board (all subject to resource constraints of a deeply embedded boards it’s intended to run on), currently, only “get file” and “put file” operations are supported. As above, sharing information with us on features you miss and how they can be helpful to the general MicroPython community will help us prioritize our plans. If you’re interested in reducing wait time for new features, you’re also welcome to contribute to their implementation. Please start with discussing the design first, and with small changes and improvements. Please keep in mind that WebREPL is just one of the many features on which MicroPython developers work, so having sustainable (vs revolutionary) development process is a must to have long-term success.