High-level DOM-like terminal interface library
JavaScript CSS
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High-level DOM-like terminal interface library

Check out our other OSS projects!Try out the MyLittleDom playground!


  • DOM-like API (element.appendChild(), element.removeChild(), element.parentNode, element.childNodes, ...)
  • CSS-like API (element.classList, element.style.display, element.style.position, element.style.backgroundColor, ...)
  • Complex flex positioning (thanks to the awesome Yoga library!)
  • Work in Node.js but also inside web browsers (through XTerm.js)
  • Automatic text layout à-la-CSS (text-align, overflow-wrap, white-space, ...)
  • Border support, padding support, positioning support, custom rendering support ...
  • Native React renderer


Warning: MyLittleDom is definitely not yet ready to be used in production. Some dependencies haven't yet been merged into the master trunk of their respective repositories, and some parts of the public API are expected to heavily change in the future. Feel free to start hacking with it, but be aware that the final product might be very different from what you can see here.

$> npm install --save @manaflair/mylittledom

Example (raw js)

import { TermScreen, TermElement } from '@manaflair/mylittledom/term';

let screen = new TermScreen();

let ball = new TermElement();
ball.style.position = `absolute`;
ball.style.left = 0;
ball.style.top = 0;
ball.style.width = 6;
ball.style.height = 3;
ball.style.borderCharacter = `modern`;

(function run() {

    let left = ball.style.left + dx;
    let top = ball.style.top + dy;

    Object.assign(ball.style, { left, top });

    let screenWidth = screen.scrollWidth;
    let screenHeight = screen.scrollHeight;

    let ballWidth = ball.offsetWidth;
    let ballHeight = ball.offsetHeight;

    if (left <= 0)
        dx = +1;
    else if (left + ballWidth >= screenWidth)
        dx = -1;

    if (top <= 0)
        dy = +1;
    else if (top + ballHeight >= screenHeight)
        dx = -1;

    setTimeout(() => run(dx, dy), 1000 / 60);

})(+1, +1)

Example (React)

import { render }     from '@manaflair/mylittledom/term/react';
import { TermScreen } from '@manaflair/mylittledom/term';

let screen = new TermScreen();

render(<div>Hello world!</div>, screen);

HTML compatibility


MyLittleDom does not aim to be a perfect HTML renderer and, as such, will not attempt to implement DOM or CSS features that wouldn't make sense in a terminal environment, or would simply be too complex to implement for too little gain. Some of these unimplemented features are:

  • Perfect HTML compatibility
  • Floating positioning
  • Block / Inline display
  • Font size
  • Opacity

Major changes

For the same reasons than those exposed above, some features work a bit differently in MyLittleDom than what you could expect from a regular browser environment. Some key differences are detailed below.


  • Unless specified otherwise, scrollIntoView and its variants will automatically detect the best alignment, depending on the current location of the target. In the same spirit, the default behaviour of scrollIntoView and its variants is to have no effect if the target is already visible.


Because MyLittleDom uses Yoga to layout its elements, it is subject to the same limitations:

  • The only display currently supported are display: flex and display: none (using null instead of none).

  • In order to emulate the display: block behaviour, the default value for flex-direction is column.

  • Element layouts are computed as if they had been declared with box-sizing: content-box.

Additionally, the MyLittleDom renderer deviates from the CSS standard on a few additional points:

  • Fixed positioning will be applied relative to the nearest positioned element instead of the window.

  • Form elements must live inside form objects, and only live inside their top-most form. Two form checkboxes with similar names will not be linked together if they live under two different forms.


  • Unlike actual CSS properties, MyLittleDom properties are correctly typed, and expect a literal null instead of "none".

  • In the same fashion, integer values are stored and returned as such in style properties, instead of being strings.

  • Pixel units are replaced by raw numbers, but percent strings are kept as strings. No other unit is currently supported.

  • To prevent mistakes and facilitate onboarding, setting an invalid value will throw instead of being silently ignored.

  • For the same reason, setting an invalid style property will also throw an error.

Supported CSS properties

An up-to-date list of supported CSS properties and supported values for each property can be found in the actual source code of the repository.

User API

  • new TermScreen({ debugPaintRects })

    • You will need to call screen.attachScreen({ stdin, stdout }) before the screen actually prints anything (with stdin and stdout being Node.js streams). Use screen.releaseScreen() once you are done.

    • When debugPaintRects is on, the renderer will use random background colors to help you detect which parts of the screen have been redrawn. Check the section below for more information.

  • new TermElement({ decored })

    • Each other term element is a subclass of TermElement (including TermScreen). As such, any TermElement prop can also be used on other elements (unless they strongly override it).

    • You can focus an element (if it actually supports being focused!) by using element.focus(), and blur it by using element.blur().

    • Scrolling to a specific row in the element can be done by using element.scrollRowIntoView(row, { force, block }). The force option is a boolean to instruct the function to scroll even if the specified row is already in the viewport, and block is used to specify where should the row be aligned (top or bottom). The default value is auto, which means that the algorithm will automatically compute the best alignment given the current position of the row relative to the viewport.

    • The decored option can be set to false in order to disable any particular style set for the element, except those strongly required for the element to behave as expected. For example, you can use this option to remove the default style used by TermInput elements and display them as plain boxes instead.

  • new TermText({ textContent, textBuffer, multiline })

    • If you omit the textBuffer option when instanciating the element, a default one will be created and populated with the value of the textContent option.

    • The textContent property contains the actual text content of the element. You can also access it directly from the textBuffer property.

  • new TermForm()

    • Forms are used to wrap various input elements.
  • new TermInput({ value, textBuffer, multiline })

    • If you omit the textBuffer option when instanciating the element, a default one will be created and populated with the value of the value option.

    • The value property contains the actual value of the element. You can also access it directly from the textBuffer property. Setting this property will replace the text inside the buffer.

    • You can instruct the TermInput to not add any particular style to the element by setting the decored option to false.

    • When enabled, the multiline option will make enter insert newline characters inside the element content. When disabled, enter keystrokes will be forwarded to the nearest TermForm ancestor, or ignored if there's none to be found.

    • A change event will be emitted when the text buffer gets updated.

  • new TermLabel()

    • This component will forward any click directed to it directly to the nearest focusable child.
  • new TermRadio({ checked })

    • Display a radio button. The status of the element (checked / unchecked) can be altered through the checked option. When a radio button becomes checked, all other radio buttons sharing the same name (excepting null) and located inside the same form element will be automatically unchecked.
  • new TermCheckbox({ checked })

    • Display a checkbox. The status of the element (checked / unchecked) can be altered through the checked option.
  • new TermButton({ textContent, textBuffer, submit })

    • Display a simple button.

    • You can instruct the TermButton to not add any particular style to the element by setting the decored option to false.

    • When pressed while the submit option is enabled, a submit event will be dispatched on the closest parent form.

Developer API

How to render elements

The MyLittleDom renderer units of work are lines. When it detects that some part of the screen needs to be redrawn, it will forward the calls to the affected elements, asking them to re-render the lines they own. The various results obtained this way will be merged together before being printed on screen. You can easily setup your elements to use your own rendering implementation by overriding a few methods, detailed below.

Element.prototype.render(x, y, l)

The engine will call this method every time some part of an element needs to be redrawn, exactly once for each line that needs to be redrawn. You can't make any assumption about the coordinates, nor about the requested length (MyLittleDom will sometimes ask your element to render only a small part of a line instead of its entirety).

The default implementation includes all the logic required to support borders and paddings, and we don't advise you to override it. Consider overriding renderContent instead.

Element.prototype.renderContent(x, y, l)

This method is called by the default render implementation when a part of the content box of the element needs to be redrawn (the content box is similar to the element box, except that it might be smaller to account for borders and paddings).

The default implementation doesn't render anything else than the background, so you can safely override it to add your own behaviour to the rendering process. To help you with this, two helper functions exist: renderText and renderBackground.


You can call this function by passing it a string as parameter. It will return the same string wrapped into each terminal sequences required to match the fontWeight, textDecoration, backgroundColor and color style properties of the element.

Note that the length property of the returned string cannot be trusted to be equal to the length property of the input string, since the string might also contain additional invisible characters used for terminal sequences.


You can call this function by passing it a number as parameter. It will return a string of the given length, using backgroundColor and backgroundCharacter style properties to generate the right sequence.

Just like for renderText, you can't trust the length property of the returned string to be equal to the requested size, since it might contain additional invisible characters used for terminal sequences.

Tips & Tricks

Logging things

Because the default MyLittleDom settings use the standard output to render the screen, it might be hard to log events as they occur.

An easy workaround is to instruct MyLittleDom to use something else than the standard output. To do this, just set an stdout option when calling attachScreen, using a stream that better suits your needs. For example, the following code completely disable any kind of output from MyLittleDom (which will in turn make your console.log calls display properly), but doesn't prevent it from accepting inputs:

let screen = new TermScreen();
screen.attachScreen({ stdout: new stream.Writable() });

A less radical variant is to still print the MyLittleDom strings, but encoded as JSON so that terminal sequences aren't interpreted by your terminal:

let screen = new TermScreen();
screen.attachScreen({ stdout: { write: str => console.log(JSON.stringify(str)) } });

Debugging rendering passes

The debugPaintRects option can be set on TermScreen elements. As long as this option is enabled, the rendering process will automatically use a random background color that wil be different for each render. It makes it super-easy to quickly find out which parts of the screen have been invalidated and when they have been invalidated, which can in turn help you find memory hogs.

A small catch tho: this option has no effect on elements that have a background color (because the element background color will unfortunately override the one set by the TermScreen element).

License (MIT)

Copyright © 2014 Maël Nison & Manaflair

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.