Get JavaScript state dumps after initialization.
Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Clone or download
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.
Failed to load latest commit information.

About jsnap

jsnap dumps the state of a JavaScript program after executing the top-level code, but before entering the event loop. This state can then be analyzed by other tools.

jsnap is under development. It currently seems to work, but it may have some quirks.


Clone the repository then run npm install from the cloned repo to install the required packages.

Assuming jsnap is installed in folder jsnap, run the tool like this:

node jsnap/jsnap.js FILE...

where FILE is the JavaScript file whose snapshot you would like to take. You can specify multiple files; jsnap will simply concatenate them for you.

By default, the file will run in a browser-like environment (WebKit) using phantomjs. To run the file using node.js's environment, add the parameter --runtime node. Note that this will execute the file with full privileges, there is no sandboxing!

State Dump Format

A state dump is a JSON object, described in the following paragraphs.

A ''value'' in the heap dump satisfies the type:

type Value = 
  string | number | boolean | null | { key: number } | { isUndefined: true }

That is, all primitive JavaScript values except undefined are encoded directly, while objects are indirectly referenced using a numerical key (wrapped inside an object for unambiguity). Function objects are treated like objects in this regard. Undefined is represented as an object because JSON has no syntax for that value.

Objects in the heap are encoded in the following way:

type Obj = {
  function?: UserFunc | NativeFunc | BindFunc | UnknownFunc
  env?: Value
  prototype?: Value
  properties: Array[Property]
type Property = {
  name: string
  writeable: boolean
  configurable: boolean
  enumerable: boolean
  value?: Value
  get?: Value
  set?: Value
type UserFunc = {
    type: 'user'
    id: number
type NativeFunc = {
    type: 'native'
    id: string
type BindFunc = {
    type: 'bind'
    target: Value
    arguments: Array[Value]
type UnknownFunc = {
    type: 'unknown'

The Property type corresponds to what you would get from getOwnPropertyDescriptor, except with the additional name property. The properties occur in the same order as returned by getOwnPropertyNames.

An object is a function if it has a function property. Four types of functions are supported:

  • UserFunc: User functions are functions that have a body in the source code. The id field indicates which function expression, declaration, getter, or setter is the body of the function. Functions are numbered by the order in which they occur in the source code, starting with 1 (so we can use 0 to refer to the top-level, although this is never occurs in a heap dump).

  • NativeFunc: Native functions are the built-in functions that come with the runtime environment (node.js or WebKit). These are identified by a string such as "String.prototype.substring". For platform XXX there is a canonical set of native identifiers is given in natives-XXX.txt.

  • BindFunc: These functions are functions are created using Function.prototype.bind.

  • UnknownFunc: These are functions not covered by any of the above. These could be functions created during a call to eval, by a call to Function or be a native function whose identifier is not canonicalized.

The env property is used to refer to the enclosing environment object. Function objects and environment objects have such a link. For user functions, it refers to the environment object that was active when the function was created (binding the free variables of the function). Environment objects also have an env property, which refers to the environment object one scope further up.

The prototype property refers to the value of the internal prototype link. This property is absent for environment objects; all plain JavaScript objects have the property, although it may have the value null.

A state dump consists of a heap and the key identifying the global object:

type StateDump = {
  global: number
  heap: Array[Obj]

The heap is a mapping from keys to objects, represented by an array. Keys should therefore be condensed close to 0, although any number of entries in the array may be null, for unused keys. The global property is the key of the global object.

How it Works

jsnap instruments the target JavaScript program so that it outputs its own state at the end of its top-level.

JavaScript has reflective capabilities that lets us explore the object graph, although the state of a function object is tricky to capture. Given a function object, it is not generally possible to inspect the free variables of this function (i.e. variables defined in enclosing functions). The instrumentation rewrites local variables so they reside inside explicit "environment objects" that we can look at when dumping the state.

For example:

function f(x) {
    return function(y) { 
        return x + y;
var g = f(5)

Given a reference g, it is not possible to tell that x is bound 5. The above code function will therefore be re-written to something like this:

function f(x) {
    var env1 = {}
    env1.x = x;
    var inner = function(y) { 
        var env2 = { env: env1 }
        env2.y = y;
        return env1.x + env2.y;
    inner.env = env1;
    return inner;
var g = f(5)

Given a reference to g, one can now inspect g.env to look at the enclosing variables, and see that x is 5.