Add power of aa_macro to slack
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slacker.cfg readme - BETA



  • A webserver within which you can install this software is software that brings the extensive text manipulation capabilities of my library to slack's groupware.

The way it works is you type a "Slash Command" invocation into a room, which is private (meaning, no one sees what you type but you) the slash command sends what you typed off to your webserver without dumping it in the public channel, where it is fed through by, and then returned to the room publicly in the processed form via a slack WebHook, identified as having come from you. Here's the data flow:

SlashCommand --> server/ --> --> WebHook --> Channel

For instance, my ID on slack is "fyngyrz", and the slash command I've set up uses /m so this is an example of one of the things I can do:

After I type this: /m The temperature here is {tmp}

This text appears: fyngyrz: The temperature here is 32.2F

Note: is available here

aa_macro is extremely capable. It can take parameters, parse them, run system commands, is extensible via external files and can use include files. For instance, this:

[style gm Good morning, [b]]

When invoked this way:

/m {gm Ben}

Will produce this in-channel (of course it won't say "fyngyrz" for you):

fyngyrz: Good morning, Ben

Here are some actual screen captures where I prod my knowledgebase software right on slack via aa_macro and -- remember that the /m invocations are private so only you see them, while the responses arrive in the public channel:

Further inquiry...

(Okay, look, this is not the time to critique my KB test mindspace, lol)

This is the complete aa_macro source I use to invoke the knowledgebase:

macro source

Here's what you're looking at: The square brackets define aa_macro primitives. "style" is the primitive that defines a macro. "kb" is the name of the macro. "sys" is the primitive that runs and captures system executables. "./" is the actual command run by "sys". and "[b]" is the primitive that feeds the content after the macro name into the macro in that position.

When you invoke a macro you use curly braces: {mymacro}

The stdout output of is automatically captured, and returned to the channel by See how easy that was?

There are three built-in commands in

Command Function
help lists these commands
vocab lists the available macros in slack-cannery.txt
cleanup removes older versions of macros you've re-written

You use these within slack like this (assuming you choose M as I did):

/m help

That's just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. You can parse out individual parameters, process what you get all kinds of ways, etc. I use aa_macro for everything from invoking my knowledgebase software to a script that fetches the local weather conditions from the national weather service. To learn more, visit my aa_macro repo and check it out. It's extensively documented, and of course if you find something needs more explanation, just me know via the repo and I'll get right on it.

Installation and Setup

The slack end of things

You'll need two items from slack. Both are easily obtained from the "Configure Integrations" menu selection on slack within your team space.

The Slash Command

The first is a "Slash Command" token. The slash command is used to send what you type to the script on your server. The token is used to verify that the incoming request to on your webserver is actually coming from slack. You want to set up one of these:

Slash Command Integration

Slack will ask what URL the slash command is to invoke. Let's say that you are using the cgi-bin web structure, so that CGI runs on your server when invoked like this:

In that case, the URL you provide to slack in requesting the slash command token will be:

That's it for the Slash Command setup.

The Incoming WebHook

The second thing to configure on slack is an incoming WebHook URL. The WebHook is used to send the result back to slack. It looks like this:

Incoming WebHook Integration

When you configure the WebHook, slack will provide you with a URL at slack itself that begins like this:

You simply copy and paste that entire URL, including the portion that goes where the "..." is in the above fragment, into the configure file where it says to. That's it for the WebHook setup.

On your server

First, you need to go get -- all you have to do with it is put in the directory where your CGI runs. Permissions should be 755 (-rwxr-xr-x) You don't need anything else from the aa_macro repo. But you'll want to read the aa_macro User's Guide and then keep a link to that and the aa_macro Quick Reference handy. Your webserver must be set up to allow execution of Python scripts in its CGI configuration. You can rename "" and you probably should as a matter of system security. In that case, however, you'll need to change the associated import statement in as well.

Second, you place in the same place. Permissions on the file should be 755 (-rwxr-xr-x) -- You can rename if you like, just be sure to tell slack's slash command configurator what the correct name is.

Third, you put the slack-cannery.txt file in a place that is read-write to your webserver user; this is because you can define macros right from slack, and they are saved in this file, which requires a write operation. Make sure the permissions on slack-cannery.txt are 666 (-rw-rw-rw-) Obligatory remark: "Muhaha"

Fourth, set up the slacker.cfg file with the slash command token, the WebHook, and the location where slack-cannery.txt will be kept according to the directions within the file. slacker.cfg goes in the same CGI location as, as it is read-only under normal conditions.

That's it. From there on in, things should work.


On slack, let's say you set up your slash command to respond to \m (that's what I did... because it's easy to type.) Try typing:

/m my reaction is {d}

You should see, in the channel that you assigned to the WebHook:

yourusername: my reaction is derp

There are two ways to add macros to the system.

Creating Macros on Slack

The first can be done right from slack. Just invoke the slash command with the style:

/m [style pizza I love me some pizza]

After that, typing /m {pizza} will emit "I love me some pizza" in the channel. The style is saved in slack-cannery.txt and will be permanent unless you either replace it with a new definition (later definitions supercede earlier ones) or delete it from the file at the server end.

There is one limitation: You can't create a style, or directly use, aa_macro's sys, embrace, or include operations from within slack. That's because they would open the door to a significant security hole on your server where almost anything could be done. If you want to use these features, you must use the second method.

Creating Macros Directly on the Server

The second way is by directly editing the slack-cannery.txt file at the server end. You can put anything in there directly, which allows you to invoke any arbitrary command or script on your server that the web user has permission to run.

Note: If you use this method, make sure each line with a style definition ends with two spaces: This tells aa_macro to not include the END-OF-LINE in the output text. The EOL is, technically speaking, outside of the style definition, so it is treated as something to reprodude unless the double-space convention is used to prevent it.

Note that the input text to is cleansed of backticks, single and double quotes, the equals sign, and backslashes. These are replaced with UTF-8 entities (slack uses UTF-8) both for security, and so that the JSON sent back via the WebHook doesn't break. This limits what can be sent from the channel in terms of parameters to your aa_macro commands, but you can convert them back using the macros themselves if you really think that's a good idea (it isn't, but hey, it's your server. Perhaps you like security holes.)


The underlying idea here is that this only intended to run in a slack room that you and your more-or-less trusted associates are able to access, and therefore, worries about them trying to actively hack your server are... less than usual. Contrariwise, it is not advisable to run this within a slack environment where you have not actively decided to trust the others present with your server's health, welfare, data, connectivity, and so on.

There are some provisions in place, such as the inability to define a macro that calls an OS system function directly from slack (you'll have to edit the slack-cannery.txt file for that), some laundering of various command-line risky characters, and a requirement that the incoming slash command's token matches the one in the configure file, but that's not to say that this is by any means bulletproof. If you have input for me on how to make it more solid, security-wise, than it is, I will be delighted to pay attention to what you have to say.


If you decide to turn on debugging (see the options at the top of the source code), can record various things to a file called slacking.txt in the directory set by the WWRITE config variable. There are four operating modes; normal, logging on, act-as-slash-command, and logging on + act-as-slash-command.

If find you need to debug something, you might consider submitting any changes you think are required back to the repo so I can improve


About HTML, slack, and aa_macro

If you've read the aa_macro documentation, you're likely now aware that aa_macro has a lot of built-in capabilities for generating HTML such as lists and tables and the like. This isn't of any particular use within the context of slack, as slack doesn't let any HTML through to the channel in such a way as your browser can see it properly.

Consequently you can't color text or change fonts or anything fun like that.

However, aside from the cosmetic aspects of HTML formatting, there isn't much else that can't be done. As far as what slack will accept, such as wrapping underlines and asterisks around text for italic and bold, bulleted lists and so on, you can certainly incorporate those things, or anything else they come up with on the order of text-driven formatting.