A JavaScript Primer

This is a quick primer to help you getting started with Javascript in case you never seen it before.

To try this out, use the Clarive REPL. The REPL is a useful tool to getting started with JavaScript within the Clarive automation environment. Refer to the REPL documentation to learn more.

Hello World

This is the most basic program you can write:

print('Hello world');

Basic Syntax

All Clarive JS programs are strict by default. That's done by setting a `"use strict;" at the beginning of code evaluation.

So this code will fail:

xx = 20;
print(xx); // syntax error due to undefined variable xx

Declaring variables

Variables are declared with the keyword var. JavaScript has no types, so you don't need to define its type.

var foo;
foo = 100;
var bar = 10;
var age,time,address;


Conditionals in JavaScript is done with the if instruction:

var foo = false;
if( foo ) {
} else {
    // ...

// you can also use switch-case to dispatch conditional values

var xx = 100;
switch(xx) {
    case 100:
    case 200: print('high');


Loops allows us to repeat a block of code many times over. Most loops in JS are built using for and while.

for( var i=10; i<100; i++ ) {
    print("Hello " + i);
    if( i > 20 ) {

Another elegant and clever way to iterate through arrays is to use map() which is natively supported in the Clarive JS.

var arr = [1,2,3];
    print( "This is " + el );


var arr = [];
arr.push( 100 );

var arr2 = [1,2,3];
var arr3 = arr2.concat( arr, 100 );

print( arr3.join(',') );


var obj = {};
obj[ 'myvalue' ] = 100;

// object keys can also be nested
obj = { address: {} };
obj['address']['zip'] = 90210;

You can also use shorthand notation:

var obj = { myvalue: 200 };
// these are the same:
print( obj.myvalue );
print( obj[ 'myvalue' ] );


function nada(name) {
    return "Nada is everything, dear " + name;

print( nada("Bob") );

The console

A set of JavaScript console methods are implemented in Clarive JS.

console.warn('hello there');  // to standard error
console.assert(true, 'nada');

Templating and multiline strings

For writing multi-line strings that can also be templated (ie. that have variables interpolated), Clarive implments the Ecmascript ES6 templating literals standard.


This is done by enclosing your string between backticks:

var txt = `This is
a muiltiline


This is also a good templating mechanism since it can be interpolated with expressions (including variables) that can be executed as javascript in a function.

var name = 'Joe';
var address = `111 Elm St.
Nowhere, NY 10001
var html = `


Not only variables can be interpolated, but also expressions:

num = 100;
This is normal: ${num}
This is double: ${num * 2}

To escape interpolation of variable and expressions, use backslash: \${...}

var bashScript = `
echo \${var};
exit 1;


Templated strings can be extremely powerful, so heredocs (or here-documents ), a simpler, multi-line string format is also implemented.

The advantage of using heredocs is that it avoids having to escape templated variables (ie. ${myvar}) which can clash with the current Clarive variable system, which also uses the Ecmascript ${...} enclosure for variable formatting. Also, other scripting languages and templating systems share this enclosure (ie. Bash, Perl, etc.) so it's always handy to be able to count on a non-interpolated multi-line string such as heredocs.

A here-document allows you to create a string that spreads on multiple lines and preserves white spaces and new-lines. If you run the following code it will print exactly what you see starting from the word Dear till the line before the second appearance of END_MESSAGE.

The here document starts with two less-than characters << followed by an arbitrary string that becomes the designated end-mark of the here-document, followed by the semi-colon ; (or newline) marking the end of the statement.

This is a bit strange as the statement does not really end here. Actually the content of the here document just starts on the line after the semi-colon, (in our case with the word "Dear"), and continues till perl finds the arbitrarily selected end-mark. In our case the string END_MESSAGE.

All of these are valid uses of heredocs.

var str = <<END_MESSAGE;
So here it starts.

A long "string".


// note that the closing END_MESSAGE above does not have an ending semicolon ;

Another example, no semicolon after the end-mark.

var str = <<"END"



Chosing the right end-mark is the trick for holding long, abritary strings. End marks cannot have spaces and only alphanumeric character, plus underscore _.

Error management

Error raising should be done using the throw statement (unless a Clarive JS logging error is to be thrown, in which case it's better to use the more powerful cla.error() function).

To catch errors, use the try-catch statements.

try {
    if( somethingIsNotright ) {
        throw new Error("This is not ok");
    // ... keep processing here ...
} catch(e) {
    print( "Error caught on tape, everything under control: " + e);

General JavaScript Error Messages

Here are some of the general, language related error messages that can be issued by the Clarive JS interpreter.

TypeError: invalid base value

This error indicates that either a method or attribute is being called on an undefined variable, where typically an Object or Array type was expected.

For example:

var myfunc = function(){ return undefined };
var foo = myfunc();  // say myfunc() returns undefined
print( foo.arg );   // Invalid base value error
print( foo.doIt() );   // Invalid base value error too

To fix it, always check for undefined or null objects and arrays before calling methods or attributes on objects you are not sure are correct.

var myfunc = function(){ return undefined };
var foo = myfunc();
if( foo != undefined ) {
    print( foo.arg );
} else {
    throw new Error("Not the value I expected!");

ReferenceError: identifier '...' undefined

This error is thrown when there's an attempt to use a variable or function that has not been defined.

print( xxx );
// ReferenceError: identifier 'xxx' undefined

Remember that Clarive JS has strictures turned on by default, which requires every variable to be declared in the current context.

TypeError: not callable

This error occurs when trying to call a method that is not part of an object. For example:

var obj = { age: function(){ return 19 } };
print( obj.age() ); // prints 19
print( obj.name() ); // TypeError: not callable

SyntaxError: parse error

This error may be caused by an internal error, which can be probably have more data or info further down the message.

SyntaxError: error parsing token

Error caused by an invalid JavaScript syntax, such as using invalid or incorrect characters.

SyntaxError: unterminated statement

This error usually indicates there is a missing semicolon ; somewhere in the code.

Modules Included

Clarive JS can load JavaScript modules from the filesystem. The software is shipped with useful modules such as Handlebars.js and Underscore.js.

More can be included by adding them to the plugins/[plugin]/modules directory in the Clarive base.

Read more about plugins here.


Handlebars are a templating system, for replacing strings within another from data.

var hs = require('handlebars');
var tt = "Hi there,\
    this is {{mom}}\
var foo = hs.compile(tt);
print( foo({ mom: "Johanna"}) );

For more info, read the Handlebars.js library reference


Underscore.js is a utility library that adds plenty of handy functions to the global object \_ (underscore).

var _ = require('underscore');
_.each([1,2], function(x){ print(x) });

For more info, read the Underscore library reference

Not implemented in Clarive

The following is not implemented by the Clarive JS server interpreter:

  • alert(), confirm() and other messaging features
  • console.log() and other console methods
  • window, document and other DOM-related features
  • system. and other NodeJS features
  • an evented machine: Clarive JS has a blocking interface and code is non-reentrant

So, basically, just remember:

  • Clarive JS is not a browser interpreter, it has no DOM or similar concept
  • Clarive JS is not NodeJS

Our intention here is just to give the reader enough basic concepts for getting off the ground with the language.

For more in depth learning of the JavaScript language, actually called Ecmascript, we recommend the following reference: