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Orion/Documentation/Developer Guide/Plugging into the shell

Overview of contributing services to the Shell

The Shell page provides a view through which users can interact with Orion via a command-line interface. The page provides some basic commands for navigating Orion's workspace, and defines services that allows plug-ins to contribute additional commands and command parameter types.


The orion.shell.command service is used to contribute commands to the Shell page. When the service is executed, an object containing the user-supplied argument values is passed to the service's callback method. The command then optionally returns a response (a return value) to be displayed in the Shell page.

Service methods

Implementations of orion.shell.command may define the following method:

callback(args, context)
Takes the user-supplied command-line arguments and optionally returns a response value. The arguments to this method are:
An object with the user-supplied command-line arguments (if any)
An object with property {cwd: string}, indicating the user's current working directory in the Shell page
This method's basic return value types are:
  • string (note that occurrences of [link text](link address) are converted to links when output)
  • file object: {file: {path: string (relative to CWD), isDirectory: boolean (default: false), blob: aBlob (optional)}}
  • blob object: {blob: aBlob}
  • Implementations of this method can return either a value with one of these basic types, or an orion.Deferred. Returning an orion.Deferred facilitates the asynchronous return of a result value (by invoking Deferred.resolve()), the incremental display of progress (by invoking Deferred.progress(string)), and the interim use of a delegated UI that is shown in a frame provided by the Shell page.
    To make use of a delegated UI invoke Deferred.progress({uriTemplate: url, width: string, height: string}), where url points at the content to show in the provided frame (example). This content is subsequently responsible for sending the command's result value to the Shell page by posting the following message:
    window.parent.postMessage(JSON.stringify({pageService: "orion.page.delegatedUI", source: theCommandName, result: theResultValue}), "*");

    The only context where a contributed command would not define this service method is to assist with the contribution of sub-commands. For example, to contribute commands "tar create" and "tar extract", a parent command "tar" without a service method must first be contributed.

    Service attributes

    Implementations of orion.shell.command define the following attributes:

    The name that is typed at the command line to invoke the command
    (Recommended) A brief description of the command
    (Optional) A longer description of the command
    (Optional) An array of the parameters that the command accepts

    The Shell page currently uses GCLI as its underlying shell widget, and consequently has adopted its syntax for parameter specification. For details on this syntax begin reading at the "## Default argument values" header in the GCLI Writing Commands doc. The basic parameter object attributes are:

    The parameter's identifier
    One of { string | boolean | number | array | selection | a custom orion.shell.type}
    (Recommended) A brief description of the parameter
    (Optional) The value assumed by the parameter if the user does not supply a value for it, makes the parameter optional

    Example of Using a Delegated UI

    The following "login" command implementation delegates to accompanying file "authenticationPrompter.html":

    callback: function(args, context) {
     var result = new orion.Deferred();
     var url = window.location.href;
     url = url.substring(0, url.lastIndexOf('/')); //$NON-NLS-0$
     setTimeout(function() {
       result.progress({uriTemplate: url + "/authenticationPrompter.html", width: "400px", height: "100px"});
     return result;

    authenticationPrompter.html shows simple username/password fields in the frame that has been provided to it by the Shell page. When the page's Submit button is pressed it performs the authentication and posts the result value. The frame showing this page is subsequently removed by the Shell page.

    function authenticate() {
     /* do authentication here, assume is fine, so post result back to Shell page */
     var result = "Authenticated user: " + document.getElementById("username").value;
     window.parent.postMessage(JSON.stringify({pageService: "orion.page.delegatedUI", source: "login", result: result}), "*");
     return true;
     User name:<input type="text" id="username"><br>
     Password:<input type="password" id="password">
     <button type="button" onclick="authenticate();" value="Submit">Submit</button>


    The orion.shell.type service is used to contribute parameter types to the Shell page. These enable contributed commands to have custom parameters with dynamically-computed completion suggestions. The service is executed when the Shell page needs either completion suggestion values to display, or the string representation for a given value.

    Service methods

    Implementations of orion.shell.type define the following methods:

    parse(arg, typeSpec, context)
    Takes the currently-typed user string and returns an object with completion suggestions. The arguments to this method are:
    An object with properties {prefix: string, suffix: string, text: string}, contains the user's currently-typed string for an instance of this parameter
    This parameter's typeSpec as defined by the command that is using it
    An object with property {lastParseTimestamp: number}, which can aid in determining when the completion suggestions being returned should be recomputed

    The return value for this method must be either an orion.Deferred (if computation of the result object has to be done asynchronously), or an object with the following properties:

    One of the following numbers:
    0: (MATCH) the currently-typed string matches a valid value (ie.- the typing of this parameter value can now be considered complete)
    1: (PARTIAL) the currently-typed string partially matches a valid value (ie.- the typing of a valid value in progress)
    2: (ERROR) the currently-typed string does not match a subset of the initial characters of any valid values
    (Optional) An error message to display in the Shell page
    An array of {name: string, value: object} objects that are valid completions for the currently-typed string (name is the string to display in the suggestions list)
    If the currently-typed string is a match for a valid value then set this property to that {name: string, value: object} value, otherwise set its value to undefined
    stringify(object, typeSpec)
    (Optional) Returns an object's string representation that is appropriate for display in the Shell page's output area. An example case where this string may not be the same as the "name" that was provided for it by the parse service is if a typed relative path should be resolved to an absolute path. If this service is not implemented then the object's "name" that was provided for it by the parse service implementation is used as its display string. The arguments to this method are:
    The object to stringify
    This parameter's typeSpec as defined by the command that is using it

    Service attributes

    Implementations of orion.shell.type define the following attribute:

    The name of the parameter type (used in the plug-in definition of contributed commands)


    The following sample plug-in contributes a "lab" type and "printLab" command to the Shell:

    <script src="/orion/plugin.js"></script>
    <script src="/orion/Deferred.js"></script>
     /* first, contribute a custom type that will be used by the contributed command */
     var CompletionStatus = {
       MATCH: 0,
       PARTIAL: 1,
       ERROR: 2
     var labTypeProperties = { 
       name: "lab"
     var labTypeImpl = {
       parse: function(arg, typeSpec, context) {
          * Compute all potential prediction objects here, can be done asynchronously
          * if needed (eg.- if need to wait on an XHR).
         var ottawaValue = {name: 'Ottawa', address: 'Kanata, actually', climate: 'colder'};
         var rtpValue = {name: 'RTP', address: 'Raleigh', climate: 'warmer'};
         var potentialPredictions = [
             name: 'Ottawa', /* the string to be typed */
             value: ottawaValue /* the corresponding object */
             name: 'RTP', /* the string to be typed */
             value: rtpValue /* the corresponding object */
         var value; /* undefined until a valid value is fully typed */
         var status; /* one of the CompletionStatus values above */
         var predictions = []; /* an [] of {name: typedString, value: object} */
         for (var i = 0; i < potentialPredictions.length; i++) {
           if (potentialPredictions[i].name.indexOf(arg.text) === 0) {
             if (potentialPredictions[i].name === arg.text) {
               value = potentialPredictions[i].value;
         status = CompletionStatus.ERROR;
         if (predictions.length > 0) {
           status = value ? CompletionStatus.MATCH : CompletionStatus.PARTIAL;
         var result = {
           value: value,
           message: (status === CompletionStatus.ERROR ? ("'" + arg.text + "' is not valid") : undefined),
           status: status,
           predictions: predictions
          * If all of the above can be computed synchronously then just return result directly.
          * If the above cannot be done synchronously (eg.- waiting on an XHR) then return
          * a promise as demonstrated below and resolve it when the result becomes ready.
         var promise = new orion.Deferred();
           function() {
             promise.resolve(result); /* result has become ready some time later */
         return promise;
     /* contribute a command that uses the custom type */
     var printLabProperties = {
       name: "printLab",
       description: "Print a lab location",
       parameters: [{
         name: "lab",
         type: {name: "lab", showClimateToo: true},
         description: "The name of the lab to print info for"
       returnType: "string"
     var printLabImpl = {
       callback: function(args) {
         var result = "Lab name: " + args.lab.name + "\nLocation: " + args.lab.address;
         if (args.lab.climate) {
           result += "\nClimate: " + args.lab.climate;
         return result;
     var provider = new orion.PluginProvider();
     provider.registerServiceProvider("orion.shell.type", labTypeImpl, labTypeProperties);
     provider.registerServiceProvider("orion.shell.command", printLabImpl, printLabProperties);

    When this plug-in is installed the user can use the "printLab" command in the Shell. The first image below shows a user in the process of entering a printLab command, and is shown a list of valid argument values.


    In the following image the printLab command has executed and its result is shown in the output area.