Javascript Generated Code

This page describes exactly what JavaScript code the protocol buffer compiler generates for any given protocol definition. Any differences between proto2 and proto3 generated code are highlighted. You should read the proto2 language guide and/or the proto3 language guide before reading this document.

Compiler Invocation

The protocol buffer compiler produces JavaScript output when invoked with the --js_out= command-line flag. The parameter to the --js_out= option is the directory where you want the compiler to write your Javascript output. The exact output depends on whether you want to use Closure-style imports or CommonJS-style imports; the compiler supports both.

Support for ES6-style imports is not implemented yet. Browsers can be supported by using Browserify, webpack, Closure Compiler, or similar to resolve imports at compile time.

Closure Imports

By default, the compiler generates code with Closure-style imports. If you specify a library option when running the compiler, the compiler creates a single .js file with your specified library name. Otherwise the compiler generates a .js file for each message in your .proto file. The names of the output files are computed by taking the library value or message name (lowercased), with the following changes:

  • A .js extension is added.
  • The proto path (specified with the --proto_path= or -I command-line flag) is replaced with the output path (specified with the --js_out= flag).

So, for example, let's say you invoke the compiler as follows:

protoc --proto_path=src --js_out=library=whizz/ponycopter,binary:build/gen src/foo.proto src/bar/baz.proto

The compiler will read the files src/foo.proto and src/bar/baz.proto and produce a single output file, build/gen/whizz/ponycopter.js. The compiler will automatically create the directory build/gen/whizz if necessary, but it will not create build or build/gen; they must already exist.

The generated file(s) goog.provide() all the types defined in your .proto file(s), and goog.require() many types in the core protocol buffers library and Google Closure library. Make sure your that your goog.provide() / goog.require() setup can find all of your generated code, the core library .js files, and the Google Closure library itself.

You should be able to import your generated types with statements like:

goog.require('proto.my.package.MyMessage');

var message = proto.my.package.MyMessage();
CommonJS Imports

To specify that you want to use CommonJS-style imports instead of the default Closure style, you run the compiler with the import_style=commonjs option. The names of the output files are computed by taking the name of the each input .proto file and making two changes:

  • The extension (.proto) is replaced with _pb.js.
  • The proto path (specified with the --proto_path= or -I command-line flag) is replaced with the output path (specified with the --js_out= flag).

Specifying a library option is ignored with this import style.

So, for example, let's say you invoke the compiler as follows:

protoc --proto_path=src --js_out=import_style=commonjs,binary:build/gen src/foo.proto src/bar/baz.proto

The compiler will read the files src/foo.proto and src/bar/baz.proto and produce two output files: build/gen/foo_pb.js and build/gen/bar/baz_pb.js. The compiler will automatically create the directory build/gen/bar if necessary, but it will not create build or build/gen; they must already exist.

The generated code depends on the core runtime, which should be in a file called google-protobuf.js. If you installed protoc via npm, this file should already be built and available. If you are running from GitHub, you need to build it first by running:

gulp dist

You should be able to import your generated types with statements like:

var messages = require('./messages_pb');

var message = new messages.MyMessage();
Compiler Options

The protocol buffer compiler for JavaScript has many options to customize its output in addition to the library and import_style options mentioned above. For example:

  • binary: Using this option generates code that lets you serialize and deserialize your proto from the protocol buffers binary wire format. We recommend that you enable this option.
    --js_out=library=myprotos_lib.js,binary:.
  • error_on_name_conflict: Using this option means a compiler error is returned if there are two types in your input that would generate output files with the same name.

As in the above examples, multiple options can be specified, separated by commas. You can see a complete list of available options in js_generator.h.

Packages

Packages and Closure Imports

If you are using Closure-style imports and a .proto file contains a package declaration, the generated code uses the proto's package as part of the Javascript namespace for your message types. For example, a proto package name of example.high_score results in a Javascript namespace of proto.example.high_score.

goog.provide('proto.example.high_score.Ponycopter');

Otherwise, if a .proto file does not contain a package declaration, the generated code just uses proto as the namespace for your message types, which is the root of the protocol buffers namespace.

Packages and CommonJS Imports

If you are using CommonJS-style imports, any package declarations in your .proto files are ignored by the compiler.

Messages

Given a simple message declaration:

message Foo {}

the protocol buffer compiler generates a class called Foo. Foo inherits from jspb.Message.

You should not create your own Foo subclasses. Generated classes are not designed for subclassing and may lead to "fragile base class" problems.

Your generated class has accessors for all its fields (which we'll look at in the following sections) and the following methods that apply to the entire message:

  • toObject(): Returns an object representation of the message, suitable for use in Soy templates. This method comes in static and instance versions. Field names that are reserved in JavaScript are renamed to pb_name. If you don't want to generate this method (for instance, if you're not going to use it and are concerned about code size), set jspb.Message.GENERATE_TO_OBJECT to false before code generation. Note that this representation is not the same as proto3's JSON representation.
  • cloneMessage(): Creates a deep clone of this message and its fields.

The following methods are also provided if you have enabled the binary option when generating your code:

  • deserializeBinary(): Static method. Deserializes a message from protocol buffers binary wire format and returns a new populated message object. Does not preserve any unknown fields in the binary message.
  • deserializeBinaryFromReader(): Static method. Deserializes a message in protocol buffers binary wire format from the provided BinaryReader into the provided message object. Does not preserve any unknown fields in the binary message.
  • serializeBinary(): Serializes this message to protocol buffers binary wire format.
  • serializeBinaryToWriter(): Serializes this message in protocol buffers binary wire format to the specified BinaryWriter. This method has a static variant where you can serialize a specified message to the BinaryWriter.

Fields

The protocol buffer compiler generates accessors for each field in your protocol buffer message. The exact accessors depend on its type and whether it is a singular, repeated, map, or oneof field.

Note that the generated accessors always use camel-case naming, even if the field name in the .proto file uses lower-case with underscores (as it should). The case-conversion works as follows:

  1. The first letter in the method name is always lower-case.
  2. If the field name contains an underscore, the underscore is removed, and the following letter is capitalized.

Thus, the proto field foo_bar_baz has, for example, a getFooBarBaz() method.

Singular Scalar Fields (proto2)

For either of these field definitions:

optional int32 foo = 1;
required int32 foo = 1;

the compiler generates the following instance methods:

  • setFoo(): Set the value of foo.
  • getFoo(): Get the value of foo. If the field has not been set, returns the default value for its type.
  • hasFoo(): Returns true if this field has been set.
  • clearFoo(): Clears the value of this field: after this has been called hasFoo() returns false and getFoo() returns the default value.

Similar methods are generated for any of protocol buffers' scalar types

Singular Scalar Fields (proto3)

For this field definition:

int32 foo = 1;

the compiler generates the following instance methods:

  • setFoo(): Set the value of foo.
  • getFoo(): Get the value of foo.

Similar methods are generated for any of protocol buffers' scalar types

Bytes Fields

For this field definition:

bytes foo = 1;

the compiler generates the same methods as for other scalar value types. The set.. method accepts either a base-64 encoded string or a Uint8Array. The get.. method returns whichever representation was set last. However, there are also special methods generated that allow you to coerce the returned representation to your preferred version:

  • getFoo_asB64(): Returns the value of foo as a base-64 encoded string.
  • getFoo_asU8(): Returns the value of foo as a Uint8Array.

Singular Message Fields

Given the message type:

message Bar {}
For a message with a Bar field:
// proto2
message Baz {
  optional Bar foo = 1;
  // The generated code is the same result if required instead of optional.
}

// proto3
message Baz {
  Bar foo = 1;
}

the compiler generates the following instance methods:

  • setFoo(): Set the value of foo.
  • getFoo(): Get the value of foo. Returns undefined if the field has not been set.
  • hasFoo(): Returns true if this field has been set. Equivalent to !!getFoo().
  • clearFoo(): Clears the value of this field to undefined.

Repeated Fields

For this message with a repeated field:

message Baz {
  repeated int32 foo = 1;
}

the compiler generates the following instance methods:

  • setFooList(): Set the value of foo to the specified Javascript array.
  • getFooList(): Gets the value of foo as a Javascript array. You should not mutate the list returned from this method.
  • clearFooList(): Clears the value of this field to [].

Map Fields

For this message with a map field:

message Bar {}

message Baz {
  map<string, Bar> foo = 1;
}

the compiler generates the following instance method:

  • getFooMap(): Returns the Map containing foo's key-value pairs. You can then use Map methods to interact with the map.

Oneof Fields

For this message with a oneof field:

package account;
message Profile {
  oneof avatar {
    string image_url = 1;
    bytes image_data = 2;
  }
}

The class corresponding to Profile will have accessor methods just like regular fields (getImageUrl(), getImageData()). However, unlike regular fields, at most one of the fields in a oneof can be set at a time, so setting one field will clear the others. Also note that if you are using proto3, the compiler generates has.. and clear.. accessors for oneof fields, even for scalar types.

In addition to the regular accessor methods, the compiler generates a special method to check which field in the oneof is set: for our example, the method is getAvatarCase(). The possible return values for this are defined in the AvatarCase enum:

proto.account.Profile.AvatarCase = {
  AVATAR_NOT_SET: 0,
  IMAGE_URL: 1,
  IMAGE_DATA: 2
};

Enumerations

Given an enumeration like:

message SearchRequest {
  enum Corpus {
    UNIVERSAL = 0;
    WEB = 1;
    IMAGES = 2;
    LOCAL = 3;
    NEWS = 4;
    PRODUCTS = 5;
    VIDEO = 6;
  }
  Corpus corpus = 1;
  ...
}

the protocol buffer compiler generates a corresponding Javascript enum.

proto.SearchRequest.Corpus = {
  UNIVERSAL: 0,
  WEB: 1,
  IMAGES: 2,
  LOCAL: 3,
  NEWS: 4,
  PRODUCTS: 5,
  VIDEO: 6
};

The compiler also generates getters and setters for enum fields, just like regular singular scalar fields. Note that in proto3, you can set an enum field to any value. In proto2, you should provide one of the specified enum values.