Creating UMD Module from Emscripten using CMake

By default, Emscripten creates a module which can be used from both Node.JS and the browser, but it has the following issues:

  1. The module pollutes the global namespace
  2. The module is created with the name Module (in my case, I require streamingPercentiles)
  3. The module cannot be loaded by some module loaders such as require.js

While the above issues can (mostly) be corrected by using –s MODULARIZE=1, it changes the semantics of the resulting JavaScript file, as the module now returns a function rather than an object. For example, code which previously read var x = new Module.Klass() would become var x = new Module().Klass(). I found this semantic change unacceptable, so I decided to abandon Emscripten’s -s MODULARIZE=1 option in favor of hand-crafting a UMD module.

I determined that the most appropriate pattern for my use case was the no dependencies pattern from UMD’s templates/returnExports.js. Applied to an Emscripten module, and using the default module name streamingPercentiles, the stanzas look like the following:


(function (root, factory) {
    if (typeof define === 'function' && define.amd) {
        // AMD.  Register as an anonymous module.
        define([], factory);
    } else if (typeof module === 'object' && module.exports) {
        module.exports = factory();
    } else {
        // streamingPercentiles is the 'default' name of the module
        root.streamingPercentiles = factory();
}(typeof self !== 'undefined' ? self : this, function () {


    return Module;

While I might be able to use Emscripten’s --pre-js and --post-js‘s options to prepend and append the above JavaScript files, these options do not guarantee in all cases that the above JavaScript files will be first and last. Therefore, I decided to prepend and append the JavaScript manually.

As my build system is CMake based, I needed to change change the compilation process to generate an intermediate file streamingPercentiles-unwrapped.v1.js, and then use some CMake magic to prepend and append the above JavaScript files:

add_executable(streamingPercentiles-unwrapped.v1.js ${STMPCT_JS_SRC})

file(WRITE ${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/concat.cmake "
file(WRITE \${DST} \"\")

file(READ \${SRC1} S1)
file(APPEND \${DST} \"\${S1}\")

file(READ \${SRC2} S2)
file(APPEND \${DST} \"\${S2}\")

file(READ \${SRC3} S3)
file(APPEND \${DST} \"\${S3}\")
add_custom_command(OUTPUT ${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/streamingPercentiles.v1.js
                   COMMAND ${CMAKE_COMMAND} -D SRC1=${CMAKE_CURRENT_SOURCE_DIR}/umdprefix.js
                                            -D SRC2=${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/streamingPercentiles-unwrapped.v1.js
                                            -D SRC3=${CMAKE_CURRENT_SOURCE_DIR}/umdsuffix.js
                                            -D DST=${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/streamingPercentiles.v1.js
                                            -P ${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/concat.cmake
                   DEPENDS ${CMAKE_CURRENT_SOURCE_DIR}/umdprefix.js ${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/streamingPercentiles-unwrapped.v1.js ${CMAKE_CURRENT_SOURCE_DIR}/umdsuffix.js)

With the above code, all of the original three issues are fixed without any semantic changes for users.

About Steven Engelhardt, CFA, AIF
Adjunct Professor of Software Engineering at DePaul University • Software Engineering, Data & Analytics in FinTech • Lives in Chicago, IL

One Response to Creating UMD Module from Emscripten using CMake

  1. Pingback: Unit Testing Emscripten Library in Browser Using CMake and Nightwatch.JS | Steven Engelhardt, CFA, AIF

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