Client Editor

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External Client Editor

It is often convenient to use an external editor to write new WeBWorK questions rather than to compose them using the web browser interface. To do this your local editor calls the script which sends the current contents of the editor off to a WeBWorK server for processing and then displays the resulting rendered problem in a browser. The question is "live" so you can enter responses and see whether they are graded correctly. The text file for the new question remains on your desktop or laptop.

How to use it


  • Create a short screencast showing the external client in action.

Install Perl on your local desktop machine

  • For a windows machine do the following:

Goto and click on one of the blue buttons (for the 64 or 32 bit versions) "Download ActivePerl 5.12.2 for Windows" .

After it installs under programs you will have a "Perl Package Manager". It will probably be pretty prominent but if not under "all programs" look in "ActivePerl ..."

Open it up and install the following three packages: SOAP-Lite, Class-Inspector and Crypt-SSLeay

You need Crypt-SSLeay only if you plan to access a site using the secure protocol (https). In that case you also need to uncomment the line "use Crypt::SSLeay".

Obtaining the client files

On your desktop machine you need the files and

You can download them from the svn repository using the links above or you can find them in webwork2/clients/ and webwork2/lib/ if you have already downloaded the full WeBWorK software package.

  • For UltraEdit on Windows put these files in a directory, for example \akp\perl\render
  • For BBEdit on the Mac, see below for where to put the files


The configuration section for the client is at the top of the file.

  • For Windows, you need to edit the use lib line (not necessary on the Mac).
  • A valid local path must be entered for the TEMPOUTPUTFILE.
  • A valid command line string must be entered for the DISPLAY_COMMAND.
  • Choose a server site to render the questions for display.
    • You can add additional server sites in the script file

 #Sample use lib line when using Windows (not necessary on the Mac). 
 #Comment out the original line and enter the directory containing and
 #use lib '/opt/webwork/webwork2/lib';
 use lib 'C:/akp/perl/render';

 # Sample path to a temporary file for storing the output of on a Mac.
 use constant  TEMPOUTPUTFILE   => '/Users/gage/Desktop/renderProblemOutput.html'; 

 # Sample command lines for displaying the temporary file in a browser on a Mac.
 use constant  DISPLAY_COMMAND  => 'open -a firefox ';   #browser opens tempoutputfile above
 # use constant  DISPLAY_COMMAND  => "open -a 'Google Chrome' ";

 # Sample path to a temporary file for storing the output of on Windows.
 use constant  TEMPOUTPUTFILE   => '/Users/Arnie/Desktop/renderProblemOutput.html';

 # Sample command lines for displaying the temporary file in a browser on Windows.
 # I found the directory by right clicking on a shortcut for the browser and then hitting properties.
 use constant  DISPLAY_COMMAND  => '/Users/Arnie/AppData/Local/Google/Chrome/Application/chrome.exe file:///C:';
 # use constant  DISPLAY_COMMAND  => "open -a 'Google Chrome' ";

 my $use_site;
 $use_site = 'test_webwork';    # select rendering site
 #$use_site = 'local';           # select rendering site localhost
 #$use_site = 'rochester_test';  # select rendering site (at Rochester)

Configuring the client editor

  • BBEdit on the Mac

For BBEdit (on the Mac) the must be copied from webwork2/clients/ to ~/Library/Application Support/BBEdit/Unix Support/Unix Filters/ on the Mac. file should be copied to this same directory unless you have all of the webwork software installed at /opt/webwork/webwork2

Assigning this filter a key command ^R allows you to render a problem with a single stroke.

Problems with pictures and applets might not render perfectly on the external editor since there are some auxiliary files that are not transferred between the server and the desktop.

  • UltraEdit on Windows

Open Ultraedit and in the top toolbar click on Advanced, Tool Configuration..., Insert: Enter WeBWorK for the name,

C:\akp\perl\render\ "%f"   

for the command line (where you should change \akp\perl\render\ to match the location of the files) and save it.

To display a problem, open the pg file in UltraEdit (either locally or on a remote machine via sftp). Then click on Advanced, WeBWorK and you should see the problem displayed. If you think clicking "Advanced, WeBWorK" is too hard, you can set up a hot key to do that in one click.

  • Unix editors

Most modern browsers have facilities for passing their contents through a command line filter.

  • Command line

From the command line <TextInputFileName 
  • grabs the contents of the file TextInputFileName
  • ships it to the WeBWorK server site for rendering,
  • stores the result in the TEMPOUTPUTFILE and then
  • executes the DISPLAY_COMMAND to display the TEMPOUTPUTFILE.

Configuring the server

Every WeBWorK site is automatically configured to be a server for external client editors. But it needs to be turned on. Here is the relevant snippet in webwork.apache2-config:

########### WebworkWebservice XMLRPC handler ##########

PerlModule WebworkWebservice

<Location /mod_xmlrpc>
	SetHandler perl-script
	PerlHandler Apache::XMLRPC::Lite
	PerlSetVar dispatch_to "WebworkXMLRPC"
	PerlSetVar options "compress_threshold => 10000"
	Order Allow,Deny
	Allow from All

IMPORTANT: The line defining the server url must be completed. It should appear near the top of global.conf and should be copied from global.conf.dist if it does not.

$server_root_url   = "";  #

Other changes, such as modifications to the password and to the name of the "daemon_course" associated with the external client editor are made in webwork2/lib/WeBWorK/ContentGenerator/ (These configuration lines may be moved to global.conf at a later date.)

When working correctly a reboot of the apache server should print to the command line several messages specifying the location of the top directory (e.g. /opt/webwork/webwork2 ) of the WeBWorK source code.

webwork.apache2-config:  WeBWorK server is starting
webwork.apache2-config:  WeBWorK root directory set to /opt/webwork/webwork2 in webwork2/conf/webwork.apache2-config
webwork.apache2-config:  The following locations and urls are set in webwork2/conf/global.conf
webwork.apache2-config:  PG root directory set to /opt/webwork/pg
webwork.apache2-config:  WeBWorK server userID is wwadmin
webwork.apache2-config:  WeBWorK server groupID is wwdata
webwork.apache2-config:  The webwork url on this site is http://localhost/webwork2
WebworkWebservice: webwork_directory set to /opt/webwork/webwork2 via $WeBWorK::Constants::WEBWORK_DIRECTORY set in webwork.apache2-config