How to access the page context variables and functions in Chrome extensions? [Answered]

Sample problem:

I’m learning how to create Chrome extensions. I just started developing one to catch YouTube events. I want to use it with YouTube flash player (later I will try to make it compatible with HTML5).

manifest.json:

{
    "name": "MyExtension",
    "version": "1.0",
    "description": "Gotta catch Youtube events!",
    "permissions": ["tabs", "http://*/*"],
    "content_scripts" : [{
        "matches" : [ "www.youtube.com/*"],
        "js" : ["myScript.js"]
    }]
}

myScript.js:

function state() { console.log("State Changed!"); }
var player = document.getElementById("movie_player");
player.addEventListener("onStateChange", "state");
console.log("Started!");

The problem is that the console gives me the “Started!”, but there is no “State Changed!” when I play/pause YouTube videos.

When this code is put in the console, it worked. What am I doing wrong?

Use a content script to access the page variables and functions- Answer #1:

Underlying cause:
Content scripts are executed in an “isolated world” environment.

Solution::
To access functions/variables of the page context (“main world”) you have to inject the code into the page itself using DOM. Same thing if you want to expose your functions/variables to the page context (in your case it’s the state() method).

  • Note in case communication with the page script is needed:
    Use DOM CustomEvent handler. Examples: one and two.
  • Note in case chrome API is needed in the page script:
    Since chrome.* APIs can’t be used in the page script, you have to use them in the content script and send the results to the page script via DOM messaging (see the note above).

Safety warning:
A page may redefine or augment/hook a built-in prototype so your exposed code may fail if the page did it in an incompatible fashion. If you want to make sure your exposed code runs in a safe environment then you should either a) declare your content script with “run_at”: “document_start” and use Methods 2-3 not 1, or b) extract the original native built-ins via an empty iframe. Note that with document_start you may need to use DOMContentLoaded event inside the exposed code to wait for DOM.

Table of contents

  • Method 1: Inject another file – compatible with ManifestV3
  • Method 2: Inject embedded code
  • Method 2b: Using a function
  • Method 3: Using an inline event
  • Dynamic values in the injected code

Method 1: Inject another file

The only ManifestV3-compatible method at the moment. Particularly good when you have lots of code. Put the code in a file within your extension, say script.js. Then load it in your content script like this:

var s = document.createElement('script');
s.src = chrome.runtime.getURL('script.js');
s.onload = function() {
    this.remove();
};
(document.head || document.documentElement).appendChild(s);

The js file must be exposed in web_accessible_resources:

  • manifest.json example for ManifestV2"web_accessible_resources": ["script.js"],
  • manifest.json example for ManifestV3"web_accessible_resources": [{ "resources": ["script.js"], "matches": ["<all_urls>"] }]

If not, the following error will appear in the console:

Denying load of chrome-extension://[EXTENSIONID]/script.js. Resources must be listed in the web_accessible_resources manifest key in order to be loaded by pages outside the extension.

Method 2: Inject embedded code

This method is useful when you want to quickly run a small piece of code.

var actualCode = `// Code here.
// If you want to use a variable, use $ and curly braces.
// For example, to use a fixed random number:
var someFixedRandomValue = ${ Math.random() };
// NOTE: Do not insert unsafe variables in this way, see below
// at "Dynamic values in the injected code"
`;

var script = document.createElement('script');
script.textContent = actualCode;
(document.head||document.documentElement).appendChild(script);
script.remove();

Note: template literals are only supported in Chrome 41 and above. If you want the extension to work in Chrome 40-, use:

var actualCode = ['/* Code here. Example: */' + 'alert(0);',
                  '// Beware! This array have to be joined',
                  '// using a newline. Otherwise, missing semicolons',
                  '// or single-line comments (//) will mess up your',
                  '// code ----->'].join('\n');

Method 2b: Using a function

For a big chunk of code, quoting the string is not feasible. Instead of using an array, a function can be used, and stringified:

var actualCode = '(' + function() {
    // All code is executed in a local scope.
    // For example, the following does NOT overwrite the global `alert` method
    var alert = null;
    // To overwrite a global variable, prefix `window`:
    window.alert = null;
} + ')();';
var script = document.createElement('script');
script.textContent = actualCode;
(document.head||document.documentElement).appendChild(script);
script.remove();

This method works, because the + operator on strings and a function converts all objects to a string. If you intend on using the code more than once, it’s wise to create a function to avoid code repetition. An implementation might look like:

function injectScript(func) {
    var actualCode = '(' + func + ')();'
    ...
}
injectScript(function() {
   alert("Injected script");
});

Note: Since the function is serialized, the original scope, and all bound properties are lost!

var scriptToInject = function() {
    console.log(typeof scriptToInject);
};
injectScript(scriptToInject);
// Console output:  "undefined"

Method 3: Using an inline event

Sometimes, you want to run some code immediately, e.g. to run some code before the <head> element is created. This can be done by inserting a <script> tag with textContent (see method 2/2b).

An alternative, but not recommended is to use inline events. It is not recommended because if the page defines a Content Security policy that forbids inline scripts, then inline event listeners are blocked. Inline scripts injected by the extension, on the other hand, still run. If you still want to use inline events, this is how:

var actualCode = '// Some code example \n' + 
                 'console.log(document.documentElement.outerHTML);';

document.documentElement.setAttribute('onreset', actualCode);
document.documentElement.dispatchEvent(new CustomEvent('reset'));
document.documentElement.removeAttribute('onreset');

Note: This method assumes that there are no other global event listeners that handle the reset event. If there is, you can also pick one of the other global events. Just open the JavaScript console (F12), type document.documentElement.on, and pick on of the available events.

Dynamic values in the injected code

Occasionally, you need to pass an arbitrary variable to the injected function. For example:

var GREETING = "Hi, I'm ";
var NAME = "Rob";
var scriptToInject = function() {
    alert(GREETING + NAME);
};

To inject this code, you need to pass the variables as arguments to the anonymous function. Be sure to implement it correctly! The following will not work:

var scriptToInject = function (GREETING, NAME) { ... };
var actualCode = '(' + scriptToInject + ')(' + GREETING + ',' + NAME + ')';
// The previous will work for numbers and booleans, but not strings.
// To see why, have a look at the resulting string:
var actualCode = "(function(GREETING, NAME) {...})(Hi, I'm ,Rob)";
//                                                 ^^^^^^^^ ^^^ No string literals!

The solution is to use JSON.stringify before passing the argument. Example:

var actualCode = '(' + function(greeting, name) { ...
} + ')(' + JSON.stringify(GREETING) + ',' + JSON.stringify(NAME) + ')';

If you have many variables, it’s worthwhile to use JSON.stringify once, to improve readability, as follows:

...
} + ')(' + JSON.stringify([arg1, arg2, arg3, arg4]) + ')';

Examples mentioned above:

Example 1:

contentscript.js ("run_at": "document_end" in manifest):

var s = document.createElement('script');
s.src = chrome.extension.getURL('script.js');
(document.head||document.documentElement).appendChild(s);
s.onload = function() {
    s.remove();
};

// Event listener
document.addEventListener('RW759_connectExtension', function(e) {
    // e.detail contains the transferred data (can be anything, ranging
    // from JavaScript objects to strings).
    // Do something, for example:
    alert(e.detail);
});

script.js – Located in the extension directory, this will be injected into the page itself:

setTimeout(function() {
    /* Example: Send data from the page to your Chrome extension */
    document.dispatchEvent(new CustomEvent('RW759_connectExtension', {
        detail: GLOBALS // Some variable from Gmail.
    }));
}, 0);

Since this file is being loaded via a chrome-extension: URL from within the DOM, “script.js” must be added to the web_accessible_resources section of the manifest file. Otherwise, Chrome will refuse to load the script file.

You should run as little logic as possible on the web page, and handle most of your logic in the content script. This has multiple reasons. First and foremost, any script injected in the page runs in the same context as the web page, so the web page can (deliberately or inadvertently) modify JavaScript/DOM methods in such a way that your extension stops working. Secondly, the content scripts have access to extra features, such a limited subset of the chrome.* APIs and cross-origin network requests (provided that the extension has declared permissions for those).

Example 2:

The only thing missing hidden from the excellent answer above is how to communicate between the injected page script and the content script.

On the receiving side (either your content script or the injected page script) add an event listener:

document.addEventListener('yourCustomEvent', function (e) {
  var data = e.detail;
  console.log('received', data);
});

On the initiator side (content script or injected page script) send the event:

var data = {
  allowedTypes: 'those supported by structured cloning, see the list below',
  inShort: 'no DOM elements or classes/functions',
};

document.dispatchEvent(new CustomEvent('yourCustomEvent', { detail: data }));

Notes:

  • DOM messaging uses structured cloning algorithm, which can transfer only some types of data in addition to primitive values. It can’t send class instances or functions or DOM elements.
  • In Firefox, to send an object (i.e. not a primitive value) from the content script to the page context you have to explicitly clone it into the target using cloneInto (a built-in function), otherwise it’ll fail with a security violation error.document.dispatchEvent(new CustomEvent('yourCustomEvent', { detail: cloneInto(data, document.defaultView), }));

Chrome extensions- access global variables from a webpage- Answer #2:

I’ve also faced the problem of ordering of loaded scripts, which was solved through sequential loading of scripts. The loading is based on Rob W’s answer.

function scriptFromFile(file) {
    var script = document.createElement("script");
    script.src = chrome.extension.getURL(file);
    return script;
}

function scriptFromSource(source) {
    var script = document.createElement("script");
    script.textContent = source;
    return script;
}

function inject(scripts) {
    if (scripts.length === 0)
        return;
    var otherScripts = scripts.slice(1);
    var script = scripts[0];
    var onload = function() {
        script.parentNode.removeChild(script);
        inject(otherScripts);
    };
    if (script.src != "") {
        script.onload = onload;
        document.head.appendChild(script);
    } else {
        document.head.appendChild(script);
        onload();
    }
}

The example of usage would be:

var formulaImageUrl = chrome.extension.getURL("formula.png");
var codeImageUrl = chrome.extension.getURL("code.png");

inject([
    scriptFromSource("var formulaImageUrl = '" + formulaImageUrl + "';"),
    scriptFromSource("var codeImageUrl = '" + codeImageUrl + "';"),
    scriptFromFile("EqEditor/eq_editor-lite-17.js"),
    scriptFromFile("EqEditor/eq_config.js"),
    scriptFromFile("highlight/highlight.pack.js"),
    scriptFromFile("injected.js")
]);

Actually, I’m kinda new to JS, so feel free to ping me to the better ways.

Answer #3:

In the content script, I add a script tag to the head which binds a ‘onmessage’ handler, inside the handler i use , eval to execute code. In both content scripts, I use onmessage handler as well, so I get two-way communication. Chrome Docs

//Content Script

var pmsgUrl = chrome.extension.getURL('pmListener.js');
$("head").first().append("<script src='"+pmsgUrl+"' type='text/javascript'></script>");


//Listening to messages from DOM
window.addEventListener("message", function(event) {
  console.log('CS :: message in from DOM', event);
  if(event.data.hasOwnProperty('cmdClient')) {
    var obj = JSON.parse(event.data.cmdClient);
    DoSomthingInContentScript(obj);
 }
});

pmListener.js is a post message url listener

//pmListener.js

//Listen to messages from Content Script and Execute Them
window.addEventListener("message", function (msg) {
  console.log("im in REAL DOM");
  if (msg.data.cmnd) {
    eval(msg.data.cmnd);
  }
});

console.log("injected To Real Dom");

This way , I can have 2 way communication between CS to Real Dom. Its very usefull for example if you need to listen webscoket events , or to any in memory variables or events.

Hope you learned something from this post.

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