Using Nim to write JavaScript

Sunday, 28 June 2020

I’ve been playing around with Nim1 recently and have been finding it to be quite the enjoyable language. I knew it was possible to have the language compile to JavaScript but wanted to see how that worked, since I find JavaScript to not be that enjoyable to work with.

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I plan on writing about this once I actually get around to finishing it

Recently a friend of mine made wheelman in Elm, itself being a recreation of wheeldecide and I decided to do pretty much the same thing except in Nim. The end result is available as Nimdecision.

Nimdecision is a really lame play on “Nim” and “indecision”

There are already framework for making web pages with Nim, like karas and Jester but I wanted to see what the base language was capable of, so decided against using anything outside of the core library.

Compiling is simple, just use nim js file.nim instead of nim c file.nim, and then the resulting javascript file is free for including in whichever html page you want.

Getting started

I decided I would write some basic HTML, using my current favourite CSS framework, bulma for some basic styling. I put some IDs on some elements, which I would use as both input and output selectors. Things started out simple with using document.getElementById() to get the elements and updating with the standard JavaScript DOM API. I decided to use an SVG to actually render the wheel, and that is where I saw my first major problem. The SVG wouldn’t render even though it appeared in the DOM just fine. If I edited the DOM in Firefox then the SVG would show up just fine though, even though I didn’t actually change anything.

It turns out I just missed something somewhat important with how you have to declare an SVG element. They need a namespace defined, in particular I wanted to define the http://www.w3.org/2000/svg namespace. Normally you use the createElementNS function to create an element with a specific namespace, but that isn’t exposed in Nim so I had to write the wrapper for it myself. Luckily this is incredibly simple and ended up just being

import dom

proc createElementNS*(d: Document, namespace: cstring, identifier: cstring): Element {.importcpp.}
proc setAttributeNS*(n: Node, namespace: cstring, name, value: cstring) {.importcpp.}

With the NS functions defined I was able to make the SVG and actually have it render properly!

Animating the wheel

I just used some basic CSS animations for the rotating of the wheel, which is all just flavour since the application has already decided what the outcome is before any animation starts. One new thing I used here but haven’t used before was CSS custom properties which is a really cool way of dynamically adjusting style sheets from JavaScript (or Nim, in my case). For example

var svg = document.getElementById("svg")
svg.style.setProperty("--rotationEnd", fmt("{rotation}deg"))

will update the --rotationEnd variable defined in the style sheet initially as

#svg {
    --rotationEnd: 0deg;
}

@keyframes spin-stop {
    from { transform:rotate(0deg); }
    to { transform:rotate(var(--rotationEnd)); }
}

to be whatever angle the variable rotation is.

Conclusion

In summary, this was a simple project that let me discovery how simple it is to use Nim as a replacement for JavaScript in any future projects I may have that require it. I believe that I could recommend it going forward to others that dislike JavaScript and don’t really see TypeScript as solving the problems that JavaScript has.

The source code for this is available on as a GitHub repository.

Written Sunday, 28 June 2020

Modified Friday, 3 July 2020.

Tagged with nim and javascript.

Categorized as “