Data sent between our agent and our front-end will all be encoded as JSON. In this section, we'll briefly look at how JSON works in Urbit, and write a library to convert our agent's structures to and from JSON for our front-end.

JSON data comes into Eyre as a string, and Eyre parses it with the ++de:json:html function in zuse.hoon. The hoon type it's parsed to is $json, which is defined as:

+$ json :: normal json value
$@ ~ :: null
$% [%a p=(list json)] :: array
[%b p=?] :: boolean
[%o p=(map @t json)] :: object
[%n p=@ta] :: number
[%s p=@t] :: string
== ::

Once Eyre has converted the raw JSON string to a $json structure, it will be converted to the mark the web client specified and then delivered to the target agent (unless the mark specified is already %json, in which case it will be delivered directly). Outbound facts will go through the same process in reverse - converted from the agent's native mark to $json, then encoded in a string by Eyre using ++en:json:html and delivered to the web client. The basic flow for both inbound messages (pokes) and outbound messages (facts and scry results) looks like this:

eyre mark flow diagram

The mark conversion will be done by the corresponding mark file in /mar on the agent's desk. In our case it would be /mar/journal/action.hoon and /mar/journal/update.hoon in the %journal desk for our %journal-action and %journal-update marks, which are for the $action and $update structures we defined previously.

Mark conversion functions can be included directly in the mark file, or they can be written in a separate library, then imported and called by the mark file. We will do the latter in this case, so before we create the mark files themselves, we'll write a library called /lib/journal.hoon with the conversion functions.

$json utilities

zuse.hoon contains three main cores for converting to and from $json:

  • ++enjs:format - Functions to help encode data structures as $json.
  • ++dejs:format - Functions to decode $json to other data structures.
  • ++dejs-soft:format - Mostly the same as ++dejs:format except the functions produce units which are null if decoding fails, rather than just crashing.


This contains ten functions for encoding $json. Most of them are for specific hoon data types, such as ++tape:enjs:format, ++ship:enjs:format, ++path:enjs:format, etc. We'll just have a look at the two most general and useful ones: ++frond:enjs:format and ++pairs:enjs:format.


This function is for forming a JSON object from a single key-value pair. For example:

> (frond:enjs:format 'foo' s+'bar')
[%o p={[p='foo' q=[%s p='bar']]}]

When stringified by Eyre, this will look like:

{ "foo": "bar" }


This is similar to ++frond and also forms a JSON object, but it takes multiple key-value pairs rather than just one:

> (pairs:enjs:format ~[['foo' n+~.123] ['bar' s+'abc'] ['baz' b+&]])
[%o p={[p='bar' q=[%s p='abc']] [p='baz' q=[%b p=%.y]] [p='foo' q=[%n p=~.123]]}]

When stringified by Eyre, this will look like:

"foo": 123,
"baz": true,
"bar": "abc"

Notice that we used a knot for the value of foo (n+~.123). Numbers in JSON can be signed or unsigned and integers or floating point values. The $json structure uses a knot so that you can decide whether a particular number should be treated as @ud, @sd, @rs, etc.


This core contains many functions for decoding $json. We'll touch on some useful families of ++dejs functions in brief, but because there's so many, in practice you'll need to look through the ++dejs reference to find the correct functions for your use case.

Number functions

  • ++ne - decode a number to a @rd.
  • ++ni - decode a number to a @ud.
  • ++no - decode a number to a @ta.
  • ++nu - decode a hexadecimal string to a @ux.

For example:

> (ni:dejs:format n+'123')

String functions

  • ++sa - decode a string to a tape.
  • ++sd - decode a string containing a @da aura date value to a @da.
  • ++se - decode a string containing the specified aura to that aura.
  • ++so - decode a string to a @t.
  • ++su - decode a string by parsing it with the given parsing rule.

Array functions

++ar, ++as, and ++at decode a $json array to a list, set, and n-tuple respectively. These gates take other ++dejs functions as an argument, producing a new gate that will then take the $json array. For example:

> ((ar so):dejs:format a+[s+'foo' s+'bar' s+'baz' ~])
<|foo bar baz|>

Notice that ++so is given as the argument to ++ar. ++so is a ++dejs function that decodes a $json string to a cord. The gate resulting from (ar so) is then called with a $json array as its argument, and its product is a (list @t) of the elements of the array.

Many ++dejs functions take other ++dejs functions as their arguments. A complex nested $json decoding function can be built up in this manner.

Object functions

  • ++of - decode an object containing a single key-value pair to a head-tagged cell.
  • ++ot - decode an object to a n-tuple.
  • ++ou - decode an object to an n-tuple, replacing optional missing values with a given value.
  • ++oj - decode an object of arrays to a jug.
  • ++om - decode an object to a map.
  • ++op - decode an object to a map, and also parse the object keys with a parsing rule.

For example:

> =js %- need %- de:json:html
"foo": "hello",
"baz": true,
"bar": 123
> %- (ot ~[foo+so bar+ni]):dejs:format js
['hello' 123]

Our types as JSON

We need to decide how our $action and $update types will be represented as JSON in order to write our conversion functions. There are many ways to do this, but in this case we'll do it as follows:


{"add":{"id":1648366311070,"txt":"some text"}}[%add id=1.648.366.034.844 txt='some text']
{"edit":{"id":1648366311070,"txt":"some text"}}[%edit id=1.648.366.034.844 txt='some text']
{"del":{"id":1648366311070}}[%del id=1.648.366.034.844]


[1.648.366.492.459 %add id=1.648.366.034.844 txt='some text']{time:1648366481425,"add":{"id":1648366311070,"txt":"some text"}}
[1.648.366.492.459 %edit id=1.648.366.034.844 txt='some text']{time:1648366481425,"edit":{"id":1648366311070,"txt":"some text"}}
[1.648.366.492.459 %del id=1.648.366.034.844]{time:1648366481425,"del":{"id":1648366311070}}
[1.648.366.492.459 %jrnl ~[[id=1.648.366.034.844 txt='some text'] ...]{time:1648366481425,"entries":[{"id":1648366311070,"txt":"some text"},...]}
[1.648.366.492.459 %logs ~[[1.648.366.492.459 %add id=1.648.366.034.844 txt='some text'] ...]{time:1648366481425,"logs":[{time:1648366481425,"add":{id":1648366311070,"txt":"some text"}},...]}

Now let's write our library of encoding/decoding functions.


/- *journal

First, we'll import the /sur/journal.hoon structures we previously created. Next, we'll create two arms in our core, ++dejs-action and ++enjs-update, to handle incoming poke $actions and outgoing facts or scry result $updates.

$json to $action

++ dejs-action
=, dejs:format
|= jon=json
^- action
%. jon
%- of
:~ [%add (ot ~[id+ni txt+so])]
[%edit (ot ~[id+ni txt+so])]
[%del (ot ~[id+ni])]

The first thing we do is use the =, rune to expose the ++dejs:format namespace. This allows us to reference ot, ni, etc rather than having to write ot:dejs:format every time. Note that you should be careful using =, generally as the exposed wings can shadow previous wings if they have the same name.

We then create a gate that takes $json and returns a $action structure. Since we'll only take one action at a time, we can use the ++of function, which takes a single key-value pair. ++of takes a list of all possible $json objects it will receive, tagged by key.

For each key, we specify a function to handle its value. Ours will be objects, so we use ++ot and specify the pairs of the key and +dejs function to decode it. We then cast the output to our $action structure.

You'll notice the nesting of these ++dejs functions approximately reflects the nested structure of the $json it's decoding.

$update to $json

++ enjs-update
=, enjs:format
|= upd=update
^- json
?+ -.q.upd (logged upd)
%- pairs
:~ ['time' (numb p.upd)]
['entries' a+(turn list.q.upd entry)]
%- pairs
:~ ['time' (numb p.upd)]
['logs' a+(turn list.q.upd logged)]
++ entry
|= ent=^entry
^- json
%- pairs
:~ ['id' (numb id.ent)]
['txt' s+txt.ent]
++ logged
|= lgd=^logged
^- json
?- -.q.lgd
%- pairs
:~ ['time' (numb p.lgd)]
:- 'add'
%- pairs
:~ ['id' (numb id.q.lgd)]
['txt' s+txt.q.lgd]
== ==
%- pairs
:~ ['time' (numb p.lgd)]
:- 'edit'
%- pairs
:~ ['id' (numb id.q.lgd)]
['txt' s+txt.q.lgd]
== ==
%- pairs
:~ ['time' (numb p.lgd)]
:- 'del'
(frond 'id' (numb id.q.lgd))

Our $update encoding function's a little more complex than our $action decoding function, since our $update structure is more complex.

Like the previous one, we use =, to expose the namespace of ++enjs:format.

Our gate takes an $update and returns a $json structure. We use |^ so we can separate out the encoding functions for individual entries (++entry) and individual logged actions (++logged).

We first test the head of the $update, and if it's %jrnl (a list of entries), we turn over the entries and call ++entry to encode each one. If it's %logs, we do the same, but call ++logged for each item in the list. Otherwise, if it's just a single update, we encode it with ++logged.

We primarily use ++pairs to form the object, though sometimes ++frond if it only contains a single key-value pair. We also use ++numb to encode numerical values.

You'll notice more of our encoding function is done manually than our previous decoding function. For example, we form arrays by tagging an ordinary list with %a, and strings by tagging an ordinary cord with %s. This is typical when you write $json encoding functions, and is the reason there are far fewer +enjs functions than +dejs functions.


  • The JSON Guide - The stand-alone JSON guide covers JSON encoding/decoding in great detail.

  • The Zuse reference - The zuse.hoon reference documents all JSON-related functions in detail.

  • ++enjs:format reference - This section of the zuse.hoon documentation covers all JSON encoding functions.

  • ++dejs:format reference - This section of the zuse.hoon documentation covers all JSON decoding functions.

  • Eyre overview - This section of the Eyre vane documentation goes over the basic features of the Eyre vane.