LuCI2 (OpenWrt web user interface)

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For years OpenWrt was using LuCI, a web user interface written in Lua. It required several Lua extensions (like ubus, luci.model.uci, nixio.fs, etc.) to access system info and settings. Unfortunately this solution appeared to be quite resource consuming and didn't work well on devices with slow CPU and little amount of RAM.

This led to developing LuCI2, a new web interface with a different architecture. It doesn't use Lua anymore, but static HTML page and JavaScript XHR method. It means building HTML pages is done on client (browser) side offloading OpenWrt device. To access any kind of system data ubus is used (with the help of uhttpd-mod-ubus to provide HTTP based API).

LuCI2 is still experimental. Its predecessor is still used by default in all builds, including the trunk.

As explained above, LuCI2 uses ubus to communicate with OpenWrt subsystems (that includes for example network and service but also many others). Unfortunately not every major OpenWrt tool registers itself with ubus. For example it's not possible to use opkg (packages management) that way. LuCI2 resolves this problem providing it's own rpcd plugin which adds extra ubus namespaces. For the previous example of opkg it registers new luci2.opkg path in the ubus.

To sum up, LuCI2 consists of two things: a pack of HTML/CSS/JS files (htdocs) and few extra small tools working in the OpenWrt environment.

In next sections you will find details about various LuCI2 parts that should help in the development.

The first thing to know about LuCI2 menu is that it is not hardcoded in any file received by a browser. Instead of that, it's provided by ubus using luci2.ui path and menu method. For debugging purposes menu layout can be verified using:

ubus call luci2.ui menu '{ "ubus_rpc_session": "invalid" }'

Internally rpcd plugin parses all files located in /usr/share/rpcd/menu.d, joins them and removes entries that are not available for a current user (based on a passed ubus_rpc_session). This results in a two-level menu limited to entries that current has rights to.

Top level entries are defined using following JSON:

"foo": {
	"title": "Foo",
	"index": 12

(and ordered using index values).

Second level entries are defined in a similar way:

"foo/bar": {
	"title": "Bar",
	"acls": [ "baz", "qux" ],
	"view": "foo/bar",
	"index": 5

Please note that second level entries may be located in separated files. This allows easy addition of new entries without modifying existing files.

Every LuCI2 subpage has to have it's template located in /www/luci2/template/. These are very simple HTML files providing place for a content. Please note they don't contain references to any variables, it's JavaScript role to access them and fill with a content. The only special syntax in these files is for internationalization (i18n) system that uses following special tags:

<p><%:Hello world%></p>

Apart from a template, every LuCI2 subpage requires also it's view to be defined and placed in /www/luci2/view/. Views are JavaScript files extending L.ui.view using subpage specific object. They are obligated to provide execute method that will be called after loading a template. Optionally they may also provide subpage title and description.

A bit of attention requires execute method. Building a view may fail because of various reasons, especially when it requires loading extra data using ubus. So it makes sense for execute method to provide info if it succeed or failed. Unfortunately it can't simply return true of false, as loading extra data is done asynchronously. To resolve this problem a Promise object should be returned which allows to postpone taking a decision about a success or failure.

The simplest view could look like this:

	title:'Foo'),			/* Optional title */
	description: 'Bar',			/* Optional description */

	execute: function() {
		var deferred = $.Deferred();	/* Create a new Deferred object */
		deferred.resolve();		/* Resolve it immediately, there is nothing that could fail */
		return deferred.promise();	/* Return Promise object (a subset of Deferred) */

Before starting, please know that LuCI2 provides many helpers for accessing UCI system. To write a simple view managing config files in /etc/config/, the full understanding of ubus calls is not required and this section can be skipped.

For more complicated LuCI2 views it's good to first figure out all needed ubus calls. A complete list of objects and methods can be listed using ubus -v list command.

Below is an example of simple call to log object and write method. It requires event parameter to be passed as an argument. When using ubus command-line tool, this call could be done with:

ubus call log write '{ "event": "Foo" }'

LuCI2 provides a helper for ubus communication called L.rpc.declare. This is JavaScript helper magically creating a function that will call specified ubus method. Please note that at declaring time no call is executed and no arguments are passed. This is only preparing a function that will be used later. Below is an example function calling log object and it's write method:

var writeToLog = L.rpc.declare({
	object: 'log',
	method: 'write',
	params: [ 'event' ]

Once declared such a function, it can be called at anytime simply using:


In the above example result of the call was silently ignored. It's not an option if view has to access data returned by an ubus call. The next example will access info method of the system object. In the command-line this would be following call:

# ubus call system info
	"uptime": 123,
	"localtime": 1234567890,
	"load": [
	"memory": {
		"total": 67108864,
		"free": 33554432,
		"shared": 0,
		"buffered": 16777216
	"swap": {
		"total": 0,
		"free": 0

When using LuCI2 (and JavaScript) declaration for the above call should look like this:

var readSystemInfo = L.rpc.declare({
	object: 'system',
	method: 'info',
	expect: { memory: { } }			/* Optional, extracts only part of the result */

Accessing result of the call requires using a simple .then function:

readSystemInfo().then(function(memory) {
  • libubox (~ 12KiB) is a general purpose library which provides things like an event loop, binary blob message formatting and handling, the Linux linked list implementation, and some JSON helpers. The functions in libubox are used to write the other software in LuCI2
  • ubus (~ 13KiB) is an IPC daemon similar to D-Bus but with a much friendlier C API
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  • Last modified: 2021/03/18 12:48
  • by hnyman