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Rendering HTML
Phabricator Contributor Documentation (Developer Guides)

Rendering HTML in the Phabricator environment.

Overview

Phabricator attempts to prevent XSS by treating strings as default-unsafe when rendering. This means that if you try to build HTML through string concatenation, it won't work: the string will be escaped by the rendering pipeline, and the browser will treat it as plain text, not HTML.

This document describes the right way to build HTML components so they are safe from XSS and render correctly. Broadly:

See below for discussion.

Building Tags: phutil_tag()

Build HTML tags with phutil_tag(). For example:

phutil_tag(
  'div',
  array(
    'class' => 'some-class',
  ),
  $content);

phutil_tag() will properly escape the content and all the attributes, and return a PhutilSafeHTML object. The rendering pipeline knows that this object represents a properly escaped HTML tag. This allows phutil_tag() to render tags with other tags as content correctly (without double-escaping):

phutil_tag(
  'div',
  array(),
  phutil_tag(
    'strong',
    array(),
    $content));

In Phabricator, the javelin_tag() function is similar to phutil_tag(), but provides special handling for the sigil and meta attributes.

Building Blocks: hsprintf()

Sometimes, phutil_tag() can be particularly awkward to use. You can use hsprintf() to build larger and more complex blocks of HTML, when phutil_tag() is a poor fit. hsprintf() has sprintf() semantics, but %s escapes HTML:

// Safely build fragments or unwieldy blocks.
hsprintf(
  '<div id="%s">',
  $div_id);

hsprintf() can be especially useful when:

  • You need to build a block with a lot of tags, like a table with rows and cells.
  • You need to build part of a tag (usually you should avoid this, but if you do need to, phutil_tag() can not do it).

Note that it is unsafe to provide any user-controlled data to the first parameter of hsprintf() (the sprintf()-style pattern).

Like phutil_tag(), this function returns a PhutilSafeHTML object.

Composing Tags

When you are building a view which combines smaller components, like a section with a header and a body:

$header = phutil_tag('h1', ...);
$body = phutil_tag('p', ...);

...you should NOT use string concatenation:

// Not dangerous, but does the wrong thing.
phutil_tag('div', array(), $header.$body);

Instead, use an array:

// Render a tag containing other tags safely.
phutil_tag('div', array(), array($header, $body));

If you concatenate PhutilSafeHTML objects, they revert to normal strings and are no longer marked as properly escaped tags.

(In the future, these objects may stop converting to strings, but for now they must to maintain backward compatibility.)

If you need to build a list of items with some element in between each of them (like a middot, comma, or vertical bar) you can use phutil_implode_html():

// Render links with commas between them.
phutil_tag(
  'div',
  array(),
  phutil_implode_html(', ', $list_of_links));

AphrontView Classes

Subclasses of AphrontView in Phabricator should return a PhutilSafeHTML object. The easiest way to do this is to return phutil_tag() or javelin_tag():

return phutil_tag('div', ...);

You can use an AphrontView subclass like you would a tag:

phutil_tag('div', array(), $view);

Internationalization: pht()

The pht() function has some special rules. If any input to pht() is a PhutilSafeHTML object, pht() returns a PhutilSafeHTML object itself. Otherwise, it returns normal text.

This is generally safe because translations are not permitted to have more tags than the original text did (so if the original text had no tags, translations can not add any).

Normally, this just means that pht() does the right thing and behaves like you would expect, but it is worth being aware of.

Special Cases

NOTE: This section describes dangerous methods which can bypass XSS protections. If possible, do not use them.

You can build PhutilSafeHTML out of a string explicitly by calling phutil_safe_html() on it. This is dangerous, because if you are wrong and the string is not actually safe, you have introduced an XSS vulnerability. Consequently, you should avoid calling this if possible.

You can use phutil_escape_html_newlines() to escape HTML while converting newlines to <br />. You should not need to explicitly use phutil_escape_html() anywhere.

If you need to apply a string function (such as trim()) to safe HTML, use PhutilSafeHTML::applyFunction().

If you need to extract the content of a PhutilSafeHTML object, you should call getHTMLContent(), not cast it to a string. Eventually, we would like to remove the string cast entirely.

Functions phutil_tag() and hsprintf() are not safe if you pass the user input for the tag or attribute name. All the following examples are dangerous:

phutil_tag($evil);

phutil_tag('span', array($evil => $evil2));

phutil_tag('span', array('onmouseover' => $evil));

// Use PhutilURI to check if $evil is valid HTTP link.
hsprintf('<a href="%s">', $evil);

hsprintf('<%s>%s</%s>', $evil, $evil2, $evil);

// We have a lint rule disallowing this.
hsprintf($evil);