These notes are provisional, as the protocol between front-end and back-end (aka “core”) is expected to evolve. Even so, it might be interesting to experiment with new front-ends other than the official Cocoa one. This document captures the protocol as it exists (and should be updated as it changes).

The front-end starts the core process and communicates to it through stdin and stdout. The outer layer is based heavily on JSON-RPC 2, communicating over stdin and stdout, with messages encoded in UTF-8 and terminated in newlines. However, there are two differences. Most importantly, the protocol is peer-to-peer rather than defining strict server and client roles; both peers can send RPC’s to the other. To reflect that it is not exactly JSON-RPC 2, the “jsonrpc” parameter is missing.

A mixture of synchronous and asynchronous RPC’s is used. Most editing commands are sent as asynchronous RPC’s, with the expectation that the core will send an (also asynchronous) update RPC with the updated state.

When the front-end quits, it closes the stdin pipe, and the core is expected to quit silently.

The protocol is currently not versioned, as there is only one official front-end, and it is distributed along with the back-end; both should change in lock step. That may well change if and when there are other front-ends developed independently, in which case a simple version negotiation at startup will support a small window of versions.

First steps

When a frontend is initialized, the first thing it does is launch and connect to the core. Currently, the core is always run as a process, although we expect at some point it could be run in the client process as a library.

After establishing a connection with the core, the client sends the client_started RPC. Core will respond by notifying the client of some initial state, such as a list of available themes. The client then normally sends a new_view request; when it receives a response it can begin sending editing operations against that view.

Additional Resources

This document is not always perfectly up to date. For a comprehensive list of supported commands, the canonical resource is the source, specifically rust/core-lib/src/