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Extensions Overview

The Neutralino framework provides a native API that allows users to perform various operating system-level operations such as accessing the filesystem, executing commands, and showing dialog boxes. While users may require additional native APIs like database connectors for building their applications, adding all of them to the core would make the framework bloated. Therefore, the framework offers a WebSocket-based extension system that enables users to extend the Neutralinojs API without having to build the framework from source.

The extensions API provides the flexibility to write custom backend code for your application using any programming language. Furthermore, the extensions API allows you to include the Neutralinojs process as a part of any source file.

Defining the extensions

First, you need to define extensions you use in neutralinojs.config.json with the following structure.

"extensions": [
"id": "js.neutralino.sampleextension",
"commandLinux": "${NL_PATH}/extensions/binary/linux/ext_bin",
"commandDarwin": "${NL_PATH}/extensions/binary/mac/ext_bin",
"commandWindows": "${NL_PATH}/extensions/binary/win/ext_bin.exe"
"id": "js.neutralino.binaryextension",
"command": "node ${NL_PATH}/extensions/binary/main.js",
  • id String: A unique key to identify each extension. This id cannot contain any characters except for letters, numbers, and periods.
  • command String (optional): A cross-platform command to start the extension. Eg: node ${NL_PATH}/extensions/binary/main.js will work on every platform.
  • commandLinux String (optional): Extension startup command for Linux.
  • commandDarwin String (optional): Extension startup command for macOS.
  • commandWindows String (optional): Extension startup command for Windows.

Enable the extensions feature

The extensions API is disabled by default. Enable extensions by adding the following setting to your app config.

"enableExtensions": true

Connecting an extension with Neutralinojs

As you already noticed, an extension is just a separate process. Neutralinojs starts spawning extension instances during the framework bootstrap process and initiates each extension process by sending the following JSON object via standard input streams:

"nlPort": "",
"nlToken": "",
"nlConnectToken": "",
"nlExtensionId": ""

The above JSON properties contains connectivity information as follows:

  • nlPort: port of the Neutralinojs server.
  • nlToken: Access token to use the native API.
  • nlConnectToken: A token that extension should send during WebSocket connection initialization.
  • nlExtensionId: Extension identifier.

Now, you can connect with the Neutralinojs server with the above details. Use the following WebSocket URL to initiate a new WebSocket connection.


Sending a message from app to an extension

The extensions API uses an event-based messaging protocol. Every message uses the following JSON structure.

"event": "<event_name>",
"data": {}

Use the built-in extensions API to send a message to any extension, as shown below.

let extension = 'js.neutralino.sampleextension';
let event = 'helloExtension';
let data = {
testValue: 10,

await Neutralino.extensions.dispatch(extension, event, data);

The above code snippet sends a message to the js.neutralino.sampleextension extension instance. You can send messages to extensions with the dispatch function anytime. If you send a message before the extension connects with the main process, the Neutralinojs client library queues and sends it when the target extension's connection is established. In other words, you don't need to worry about extensions' status when you send messages to extensions.

Sending a message from the extension to app

When you connect your extensions with the Neutralinojs main process, you can call the native API by sending WebSocket messages to the Neutralinojs process directly. Neutralinojs server processes messages based on the following format.

"id": "<id>",
"method": "<method>",
"accessToken": "<token>",
"data": {}
  • id String: A UUID v4 string.
  • method String: Native method name. Eg: window.setTitle.
  • accessToken String: Access token generated by the Neutralinojs server.
  • data Object (optional): Parameters for the native method.

You can invoke the app.broadcast native method to send messages to all app instances. Register a callback with the events.on in the application code to receive the message send by the extension process.

Terminating an extension instance

When Neutralino exits, it does not send kill signals to all extension instances. Therefore, it is necessary to stop the extension process when the WebSocket-based IPC (Inter-Process Communication) closes. The following Node.js extension code shows how to do this:

const fs = require('fs');
const process = require('process');
const WS = require('websocket').w3cwebsocket;
const { v4: uuidv4 } = require('uuid');
const chalk = require('chalk');

// Obtain required params to start a WS connection from stdIn.
const processInput = JSON.parse(fs.readFileSync(process.stdin.fd, 'utf-8'));
const NL_PORT = processInput.nlPort;
const NL_TOKEN = processInput.nlToken;
const NL_CTOKEN = processInput.nlConnectToken;
const NL_EXTID = processInput.nlExtensionId;

const client = new WS(

client.onerror = () => log("Connection error!", "ERROR");
client.onopen = () => log("Connected");
client.onclose = () => process.exit();

client.onmessage = (e) => {
const { event, data } = JSON.parse(;

if (event === "eventToExtension") {

id: uuidv4(),
method: "app.broadcast",
accessToken: NL_TOKEN,
data: { event: "eventFromExtension", data: "Hello app!" },

function log(message, type = "INFO") {
const logLine = `[${NL_EXTID}]: ${chalk[
type === "INFO" ? "green" : "red"
](type)} ${message}`;
console[type === "INFO" ? "log" : "error"](logLine);

This code implements a simple Node.js extension for Neutralinojs, which establishes a WebSocket connection to the Neutralinojs server and handles incoming messages from the server. It also sends a message to the server using the client.send method when it receives a specific event from the server.

For more information on how to terminate an extension instance, you can refer to the sample extension source.

Using Neutralinojs from your source files

The above approach helps you to extend Neutralinojs API with a custom backend code. Neutralinojs process can spawn multiple extensions as child processes and communicate with the internal messaging protocol. On the other hand, you can spawn Neutralinojs processes from your own processes and communicate with the same messaging protocol. Using this approach, it's possible to write Neutralinojs apps with any backend language.

You can obtain authentication details for the Neutralinojs process by setting your config as below.

"exportAuthInfo": true

The above setting exports authentication details to ${NL_PATH}/.tmp/auth_info.json with the following format.

"nlPort": "<port>",
"nlToken": "<token>",
"nlConnectToken": "<connect_token>"

Connect with the Neutralinojs process by using the extension API as usual with the extension identifier you used in the application configuration file.