Source Code Directory Structure

The source code of Electron is separated into a few parts, mostly following Chromium on the separation conventions.

You may need to become familiar with Chromium's multi-process architecture to understand the source code better.

Structure of Source Code

  ├── atom/ - C++ source code.
  |   ├── app/ - System entry code.
  |   ├── browser/ - The frontend including the main window, UI, and all of the
  |   |   main process things. This talks to the renderer to manage web pages.
  |   |   ├── ui/ - Implementation of UI stuff for different platforms.
  |   |   |   ├── cocoa/ - Cocoa specific source code.
  |   |   |   ├── win/ - Windows GUI specific source code.
  |   |   |   └── x/ - X11 specific source code.
  |   |   ├── api/ - The implementation of the main process APIs.
  |   |   ├── net/ - Network related code.
  |   |   ├── mac/ - Mac specific Objective-C source code.
  |   |   └── resources/ - Icons, platform-dependent files, etc.
  |   ├── renderer/ - Code that runs in renderer process.
  |   |   └── api/ - The implementation of renderer process APIs.
  |   └── common/ - Code that used by both the main and renderer processes,
  |       including some utility functions and code to integrate node's message
  |       loop into Chromium's message loop.
  |       └── api/ - The implementation of common APIs, and foundations of
  |           Electron's built-in modules.
  ├── brightray/ - Thin shim over libcc that makes it easier to use.
  ├── chromium_src/ - Source code copied from Chromium. See below.
  ├── default_app/ - The default page to show when Electron is started without
  |   providing an app.
  ├── docs/ - Documentations.
  ├── lib/ - JavaScript source code.
  |   ├── browser/ - Javascript main process initialization code.
  |   |   └── api/ - Javascript API implementation.
  |   ├── common/ - JavaScript used by both the main and renderer processes
  |   |   └── api/ - Javascript API implementation.
  |   └── renderer/ - Javascript renderer process initialization code.
  |       └── api/ - Javascript API implementation.
  ├── spec/ - Automatic tests.
  ├── electron.gyp - Building rules of Electron.
  └── common.gypi - Compiler specific settings and building rules for other
      components like `node` and `breakpad`.


The files in /chromium_src tend to be pieces of Chromium that aren't part of the content layer. For example to implement Pepper API, we need some wiring similar to what official Chrome does. We could have built the relevant sources as a part of libcc but most often we don't require all the features (some tend to be proprietary, analytics stuff) so we took parts of the code. These could have easily been patches in libcc, but at the time when these were written the goal of libcc was to maintain very minimal patches and chromium_src changes tend to be big ones. Also, note that these patches can never be upstreamed unlike other libcc patches we maintain now.

Structure of Other Directories

  • script - Scripts used for development purpose like building, packaging, testing, etc.
  • tools - Helper scripts used by gyp files, unlike script, scripts put here should never be invoked by users directly.
  • vendor - Source code of third party dependencies, we didn't use third_party as name because it would confuse it with the same directory in Chromium's source code tree.
  • node_modules - Third party node modules used for building.
  • out - Temporary output directory of ninja.
  • dist - Temporary directory created by script/create-dist.py script when creating a distribution.
  • external_binaries - Downloaded binaries of third-party frameworks which do not support building with gyp.

Keeping Git Submodules Up to Date

The Electron repository has a few vendored dependencies, found in the /vendor directory. Occasionally you might see a message like this when running git status:

$ git status
  	modified:   vendor/libchromiumcontent (new commits)
  	modified:   vendor/node (new commits)

To update these vendored dependencies, run the following command:

git submodule update --init --recursive

If you find yourself running this command often, you can create an alias for it in your ~/.gitconfig file:

  	su = submodule update --init --recursive

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