Reading this chapter is not mandatory for writing Eliom applications. However, it is worth reading if you are planning to hack on the Eliom codebase.


The server side of Eliom can communicate to the client other kinds of data than the raw XML contents of the pages. The wrapper mechanism is used to allow the browser side to access to the contents of variables declared on server side. For instance when we write

ignore [%client (Dom_html.window##alert(Js.string ~%text) : unit)]

the contents of the text variable is sent along the page for the client code to access it.

Server side, when

[%client (Dom_html.window##alert(Js.string ~%text) : unit)]

is executed, the variable text is registered into a table and an id is associated to it. This table will contain all the data references by variables annotated with ~% in a page, and will be sent marshalled to the client. On client side the id will be used to retrieve text.

Since all data are sent in one table, if a variable is referenced multiples times, it will be sent only once, and sharing will be preserved:

let a = ref 0 in
let b = (1,a) in
ignore [%client
  ((~%a := 42;
    Dom_html.window##alert(snd ~%b |> string_of_int |> Js.string))
   : unit)

This code will display 42. After being sent, the client and server side values are distinct: the server side version of a won't be modified by the client side affectation and conversely the client side value won't change if a is changed later on server side.

Special types

Custom wrappers

Usually, client and server side values are represented the same way, and it is sufficient to only copy their content ( marshalled ) to the client. But certain types can't be transmitted this easily: for instance, services.

Those values must be transformed before marshalling: We need for this to use custom wrappers. This wrapping mechanism is defined in Eliom_wrap.

Before sending, the values goes thought Eliom_wrap.​wrap which transform marked values. A value marked is a value which have as its last field a value of type Eliom_wrap.​wrapper. For instance

type marked_tupple =
  int * ... * marked_tupple Eliom_wrap.wrapper
type marked_record =
  { f1 : int;
    fn : marked_record Eliom_wrap.wrapper }

but not

type not_marked_tupple = int * ... * marked_tupple Eliom_wrap.wrapper * float
type not_marked_tupple = int * ... * (int * marked_tupple Eliom_wrap.wrapper)
type not_marked_tupple = int * ... * marked_tupple Eliom_wrap.wrapper list
type not_marked_record =
     { f1 : int;
       fn : marked_record Eliom_wrap.wrapper;
       fk : float; }

A wrapper is created by the Eliom_wrap.​create_wrapper function. It takes a function as parameter which will be called to transform the value during the wrapping. There is also a special wrapper Eliom_wrap.​empty_wrapper which does nothing. It is useful to stop calling the wrapper on a value: If there is still a wrapper in a value after its transformation, it will be called another time, potentially leading to an infinite loop.

For instance

type v = Fun of unit -> int | Value of int
type wrapped_type = v * wrapped_type Eliom_wrap.wrapper
let wrapper =
  let wrap = function
    | Value i,wrapper -> Value i, Eliom_wrap.empty_wrapper
    | Fun f,wrapper -> Value (f ()), Eliom_wrap.empty_wrapper
  in Eliom_wrap.create_wrapper f
let v = ( Fun (fun () -> 1), wrapper )
let (v', empty_wrapper) = Eliom_wrap.wrap v

At that time v' will be Value 1. Notice that Eliom_wrap.​create_wrapper does not enforce the output type of the wrapping function to be the same as the input type: Eliom_wrap is to be use with much caution! Do not use it if you don't understand how it works, it may lead to unpredictable segmentation faults and corrupted memory.

Eliom types with predefined custom wrappers

The Eliom types that are marked are: