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p5-analysis API documentation

P5 Analysis

npm version

This library provides a programmatic API for finding, analyzing, and generating P5.js sketches. It was created for the p5-server command-line tool, and the P5 Server Visual Studio Code extension.

The API consists of three classes:

  • Sketch represents an sketch. This is at least a script file, and may also include an HTML file and additional scripts an assets. It is the interface to generate sketch files, find associated files, infer libraries, and scan directories for sketches that they contain.

  • Script represents a JavaScript file. It provides script analysis features that are used to detect whether a script is a p5.js sketch, and to perform automatic library inclusion.

  • Library represents a p5.js library.

The API reference is here.

These APIs are not stable until this package reaches version 1.0.


npm install --save p5-analysis
yard add p5-analysis

Command-Line Usage

p5-libraries list – list the known libraries

With --json, this can be used with jq, e.g. yarn cli:libraries list --json | jq '.[].importPath' to list all the import paths, or yarn cli:libraries list --json | jq '.[] | select(.packageName) | .name' to print the names of libraries that have been published as NPM packages.

p5-libraries check all – validate the library homepages, import paths, and other properties

p5-library describe LIBRARY_NAME – print the name, home page, import path, and defines of a specific library

p5-library property LIBRARY_NAME import-path [--html] – print the import path for named library. With the --html options, print a <script> element that can be included in an HTML page.

p5-library docs [-o OUTPUT] [-t TEMPLATE] – create a documentation page that lists all the libraries. TEMPLATE should be a Nunjucks file.

p5-tree PATH – print the sketches in PATH and its subfolders, and the files and libraries that each sketch uses.

p5-analyze sketch PATH - print the files and libraries associated with a sketch

If p5-server is installed, these commands can also be accessed via p5 analyze, p5 libraries and p5 tree (without the hyphen).


import { Sketch } from "p5-analysis";

let { sketches } = Sketch.analyzeDirectory(); // find all the sketches in a directory

let sketch = Sketch.fromFile('sketch.js');

See the source to p5-server for additional usage examples.

Implementation Notes

Sketch detection

A “JavaScript-only sketch file” is a JavaScript file that includes a function definition for setup() function, and a call to createCanvas() (and does not itself define createCanvas).

An HTML sketch file is an HTML file that includes a <script> element with a src attribute that ends in p5.js or p5.min.js.

A directory is recognized as a sketch if it contains a single sketch and either no loose files, or the only loose file is a README.

Sketch descriptions

The directory listing displays the sketch description. For an HTML sketch, this is the value of the content attribute of the <meta name="description"> element. For a JavaScript sketch that begins with a block comment, this is the paragraph that begins with "Description: " in that block.

Automatic library inclusion

JavaScript-only sketches can automatically include any of the libraries in this list. For example, if the sketch source contains a call to loadSound, the sketch will include the p5.sound library. If the sketch source refers to ml5, the sketch will include the ml5.js library.

Automatic library loading is done by examining the free variables, and references to p5.prop where prop is any property name, in the JavaScript source.

A list of libraries, and the global variables that trigger including a library, is in ./src/libraries.json.

Associated files

The directory listing groups the files that are associated with a project into the card for that project.

The files that are associated with an HTML file are just the local script files that are included via the <script> tag and <link> tags. The server does not inspect <img> tags, etc., and it does not inspect CSS files.

The files that are associated with a script file are the string literal arguments to functions whose names begin with load, such as loadImage() and loadModel(). The server will recognize cat.png as an associated file in the first call below, but not in the others:

loadImage("cat.png"); // recognizes `cat.png` as an associated file
let name = "cat.png";
loadImage(name); // does not recognize any associated files
let name = "cat";
loadImage(`${name}.png`); // does not recognize any associated files
for (let name of ['dog.png', 'cat.png']) {
loadImage(name); // does not recognize any associated files
let loader = loadImage;
loader("cat.png"); // does not recognize any associated files


  • This code hasn't been tested on Windows.
  • Generated sketches require an internet connection to run. (However: see the airplane mode features of p5 server.) They load the p5.js libraries and other libraries from a content delivery network (“CDN”). Browsers cache these files, so reloading a page or running other sketches that use the same (or no) libraries do not require additional internet access, but you will need internet access the first time you use this extension or after the browser cache has expired.
  • This code hasn't been tested with instance-mode sketches.
  • Automatic library inclusion hasn't been tested with sketches that are written as modules.
  • See the implementation notes for limitations on the recognition of associated files.


MIT © by Oliver Steele

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