Creating a plugin

Matic Potočnik edited this page Jul 23, 2017 · 35 revisions



For Developers

How to's

Set up

Advanced steps

Integrating Etherpad in your web app

for Developers

Clone this wiki locally

Important Note: Before you get started you might want to use development settings else your changes won't appear!


I'm lazy, I don't want to read. Show me a video instead.

[A video for how to setup etherpad as a dev environment and to create a plugin.] (

What is a plugin?

Etherpad-Lite allows you to extend its functionality with plugins. A plugin registers functions for certain API hooks (thus certain features of etherpad-lite) to add its own functionality to these.

Tip: If you don't want to copy and paste all these files, you can clone the ep_base repository git clone

Replace all CAPITALIZED names with whatever you want.

Folder structure

A basic plugin has the following folder structure:

 + ep.json
 + package.json

However, a more advanced plugin should follow this folder structure:

 | static/
   | js/
   | css/
   | image/
 | templates/
 + ep.json
 + package.json

If your plugin includes client-side hooks, put them in static/js/. If you're adding in CSS or image files, you should put those files in static/css/and static/image/, respectively.

If your plugin adds or modifies the front end HTML (e.g. adding buttons or changing their functions), you should put the necessary HTML code for such operations in templates/, in files of type ".ejs", since Etherpad-Lite uses EJS for HTML templating.

A Standard directory structure like this makes it easier to navigate through your code. That said, please note, that none of this is actually required to make your plugin run, but it might come in handy some day...


This file registers callback functions (hooks), indicates the parts of a plugin and the order of execution. Hooks are events for certain processes in Etherpad Lite; a documentation of all available hooks can be found in the docs.

  "parts": [
      "name": "main",
      "hooks": {
        "authorize" : "ep_PLUGINNAME/YOURFILE:FUNCTIONNAME1",
        "authenticate": "ep_PLUGINNAME/YOURFILE:FUNCTIONNAME2",
        "expressCreateServer": "ep_PLUGINNAME/YOURFILE:FUNCTIONNAME3"

You can omit the FUNCTIONNAME part, if the function to register has got the same name as the hook. So "authorize" : "ep_PLGUINNAME/YOURFILE" will call the function exports.authorize in ep_PLUGINRNAME/YOURFILE

Note that there is a property called "parts" that is an array. You can use multiple parts in a plugin, and all of the parts will load. This can be helpful simply for organizational purposes, or for managing dependencies better. Read more about Plugin dependencies.


This must be an ordinary npm package file, describing the name , version number, author, dependencies, etc. of your plugin. Additionally, it allows you to publish your plugin in the npm registry. Your peerDependencies value should be set to the Etherpad version in which the hooks you leverage are available.

  "name": "ep_PLUGINNAME",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "description": "DESCRIPTION",
  "contributors": [],
  "dependencies": {"MODULE": "0.3.20"},
  "peerDependencies": {"ep_etherpad_lite":">=1.5.1"},
  "engines": { "node": ">= 0.6.0"}


A normal javascript file exporting the functions, that you want to register for their corresponding API hooks.

exports.FUNCTIONNAME1 = function(hook_name, args, cb){
  // ...

exports.FUNCTIONNAME2 = function(hook_name, args, cb){
 // ...

exports.FUNCTIONNAME3 = function(hook_name, args, cb){
 // ...

Creating your first plugin

Creating your own plugin in Etherpad Lite is really simple. You will need some basic Javascript understanding.

Step 1.

cd <path/to/etherpad-lite>/plugins-available
mkdir ep_my_example
cd ep_my_example
npm init

You can safely accept all the default settings suggested by npm init.

Step 2.

Edit your plugin config file package.json

  "name": "ep_my_example",  // Your plugin name must begin with ep_  
  "description": "Adds an Apple response on /apples",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "author": "RedHog (Egil Moeller) <>",
  "contributors": ["johnyma22 (John McLear) <>"],
  "dependencies": {},
  "engines": { "node": ">= 0.4.1 < 0.7.0" }

Step 3.

Edit your plugin config file ep.json

  "parts": [
      "name": "apples",
      "hooks": {
        "expressCreateServer": "ep_my_example/apples:expressCreateServer"

Step 4.

Create your actual plugin Javascript code.

exports.expressCreateServer = function (hook_name, args, cb) {'/apples', function(req, res) {
    res.send("<em>Abra cadabra</em>");

Step 5.

Install your plugin:

npm install ep_my_example

Step 6.

Start your server and test:

On linux, run:

$ ../../bin/

On windows:


Now open http://localhost:9001/apples in your browser.

Writing and running front-end tests for your plugin

Etherpad allows you to easily create front-end tests for plugins.

  1. Create a new folder
  1. Put your spec file in here (Example spec files are visible in %etherpad_root_folder%/tests/frontend/specs)

  2. Visit your front-end tests will run.

Tip to ease your life

Move all the files from %etherpad_root_folder%/tests/frontend/specs folder elsewhere.
Do the same for the plugins that have a test file in their %your_plugin%/static/tests/frontend/specs folder (after the step before, just run the test to see what plugins have one).
That way, the time you do the tests on your front-end test, you will only have your that runs.
Once your test is good, don't forget to put back all the files.

Using the correct paths

Never use ../ in your require paths, this will break your plugins functionality in windows.. Instead you should use require('ep_etherpad-lite/node/utils/Settings'); as an example..

Publishing your plugin

To publish your plugin so it is available in /admin/plugins type:

npm adduser
npm publish

Providing settings from settings.json in your plugin

So you want to provide an API key or something? You have two ways to pass settings from the server to the client.

Option a) Render the setting inline with the eejs block

var settings = require('ep_etherpad-lite/node/utils/Settings');
var pluginSettings = settings.ep_MY_PLUGIN_NAME;
var checkFrequency = pluginSettings.settingOne || 60000;
var staleTime = pluginSettings.settingTwo || 300000;

exports.eejsBlock_editbarMenuRight = function (hook_name, args, cb) {
  args.content = args.content + "<script>alert('"+pluginSettings.settingOne+"');</script>";
  return cb();

Option b) Pass the setting as a clientVar -- This is often cleaner.

// On the server
var settings = require('ep_etherpad-lite/node/utils/Settings');
exports.clientVars = function(hook, context, callback)
  // return the setting to the clientVars, sending the value
  return callback({ "settingOne": settings.ep_MY_PLUGIN_NAME.settingOne });

// Also add in your file ep.json
  "hooks": {
    "clientVars": "ep_MY_PLUGIN_NAME/client:clientVars"

// On the client
exports.postAceInit = function(hook, context){ // Once the editor has initialized
  alert(clientVars.settingOne); // clientVars is available globally..

With both options admins have to add some JSON to the end of their settings.json. Admins can accomplish this by modifying the file in their favourite editor or by visiting /admin/settings. We strongly recommend you use /admin/settings as this will validate your JSON and restart Etherpad for you.

Example setting block

  settingOne: 6000,
  settingTwo: { 
    host: ""

The only gotcha here is that admins need to be aware that JSON requires a , between objects so need to prefix "ep_MY_PLUGIN_NAME" with a "," resulting in ",ep_MY_PLUGIN_NAME". We need a perma solution for this that makes it easier for plugins to manage settings and apply settings.

My plugin hasn't showed up in Etherpad and I published with an ep_ prefix.

Due to an NPM bug we have to maintain the Etherpad plugin list.. This list is updated every hour and your plugin should be there after the next update. If it is still missing after hours please contact John -