The Madness of the HTML5 FileSystem API

I’m quite excited about the possibilities that the FileSystem API opens up to web applications. At the moment it’s only implemented in Chrome, but the w3c has a spec and I hope to see it in other browsers soon. I’ve been working on a library to make it easier to use.

The FileSystem API is asynchronous, so you’ll notice quickly from the html5rocks guide that even simple tasks involve many many levels of nesting of callbacks to get them sequenced correctly. Take a look at this piece of code to create a file and then list all the files in the root folder:

window.webkitStorageInfo.requestQuota(PERSISTENT, 1024*1024, function(grantedBytes) {
  window.webkitRequestFileSystem(PERSISTENT, grantedBytes, onInitFs, errorHandler);
}, errorHandler);

function onInitFs(fs) {
  fs.root.getFile('log.txt', {create: true}, function(fileEntry) {
        fileEntry.createWriter(function(fileWriter) {

          fileWriter.onwriteend = function(e) {

                function listResults(entries) {
                    // finished!  Output the directory entries
                    console.log(entries);
                };

                var dirReader = fs.root.createReader();
                var entries = [];

                // Call the reader.readEntries() until no more results are returned.
              var readEntries = function() {
                 dirReader.readEntries (function(results) {
                  if (results.length < 1) {
                    listResults(entries.sort());
                  } else {
                    entries.push.apply(entries, results);
                    readEntries();
                  }
                }, errorHandler);
              };

              readEntries(); // Start reading dirs.
          };

          fileWriter.onerror = errorHandler;

          // Create a new Blob and write it to log.txt.
          var bb = new WebKitBlobBuilder();
          bb.append('Hello FileSystem API');
          fileWriter.write(bb.getBlob('text/plain'));

        }, errorHandler);
  }, errorHandler);
}

function errorHandler(err) {
    console.log("ERROR", err);
}

While this code can be tidied up a little, compare it with the bash commands to do the same thing:

echo Hello FileSystem API > log.txt
ls

There’s quite a difference in length and complexity. You may not have noticed because some of it is split out, but by the time we get to the listResults function and the end of the task, we are 5 levels deep, mainly in closures.

Here’s the equivalent code using this library:

var fs = FS.request(window.PERMANENT, 1024*1024);
fs.seq(
    FS.getFile("log.txt", true),
    FS.write("Hello FileSystem API"),
    fs,
    FS.list
).then(function(entries) {
    // we're done!
    console.log(entries);
}, function(err) {
    console.log("ERROR", err);
});

It’s still not as simple as the bash code, but the nesting has been turned into sequential calls, and this gives us the power to compose and reuse pieces of functionality much more easily. It’s actually an implementation of the Monad Design Pattern; Promises that gives us the ability to unwrap all of those nested calls.

2 thoughts on “The Madness of the HTML5 FileSystem API

    • As it happens, the whole fsapi thing I did is based on promises implemented in javascript. I think that if we keep going down this asyncrhonous route with new browser APIs it will become really important to have a good promise implementation as part of the javascript standard library in browsers.

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