FediRenderer – A much needed Mastodon tool

Long wished for, a way to view user data Backups

'FediRenderer' — a project for a much needed new tool for viewing User Backup Exports from Mastodon instances in the Fediverse.

See a backed up toot as displayed by the viewer?

We have a working FediRenderer below. And some background as well. Plus, very detailed, illustrated instructions for new users.

Sharing this in hope we can find people who value the idea and could take part in it in any way – contributing, suggesting, etc.

We have a working version, but what is it ?

Many details in messages below — but the basic idea is to be able to use the Backup Data Archive, which Mastodon instances offer to all users.

And which, until now, we had no way to access or use much at all.

A series of direct messages, sent to friends with a discussion of a project I am very interested in — and which maybe you might be as well?

In a hurry? Jump straight to a working version. Or ^—top of page


This is regarding the User Data backup files that mastodon can create. And which are mostly useless, since we didn't have ANY software so far capable of accessing and making useful to a user.

Eugen R. covered the project's legal obligation, by providing a copy of the user data as required by the European GDPR regulations.

Wrote in my Tech blog about it, but no tool existed. ^—top of page

How is it useful ?

This tool is the first step into making backups useful — I have thousands of posts at some instance, which I do not intend to remain on.

With the backup on hand, and a Viewer tool, I could retrieve toots, text, and media — and repost any of them, anywhere else I desire. Done manually, they will be full new posts, new timestamps, new instance and user ID.

There are no technical limits and implications as in a full or selective automated restore process, which is indeed very complex, and not possible at the moment. ^—top of page

And an earlier direct message, which introduced the idea

Sent on Nov 22, 9:40 AM :

This is a much needed and until now non-existent viewer utility for the Mastodon user data export files. I have dreamed about one, and never found it.

A young software engineer friend already sent me a first test version — a working Fediverse Backup Archive Viewer, which I'm awed by!

This friend is not a Fediverse user, and the protocols and data formats were all new to him.

Took about 4 hours, from my email with my desired features and info, plus the backup file; to his reply email with a working first Fediverse viewer.

A couple of snapshots attached. ^—top of page

FediRenderer Toot display from backup archive

A couple of perfectly presented Toots, as viewed by FediRenderer – both have all the links live, a time stamp linked to the original instance's Toot URL, and a media attachment displayed.

Isn't this wonderful ?? 😄😎 ^—top of page

Latest developer email bring a working version

And instructions on how to install and use it.

Download a copy here : FediRenderer project, version 1.0.0. Or see it on GitHub here.

Hey R., I'm glad you found it useful. I fixed a couple bugs, here's the source if you want to play with it and add more features.

To run it you need node.js installed, and from the command line run npm install once inside that directory to install the library dependencies.

Then node run.js <yourExportedDirectory>

...where <yourExportedDirectory> is the path to your unzipped backup directory containing outbox.json.

Let me know if there are any issues with running it! I haven't tested it on Windows.

And that's it. 😉 Terse, unlike me. ^—top of page

How to use this tool for Windows users

The first step you need is to install Node JS, if you don't have it already. A couple of detailed, illustrated pages show how — not hard at all:

Or got straight to the Node JS source :

The first step to install Node.js on windows is to download the installer. Visit the official Node.js website and download the .msi installer file according to your system environment (32 or 64-bit).

Getting your Mastodon Backup

This is done via the Mastodon Preferences area :

The command is at this location: https://instance.name/settings/export

Viewing the backup data – First step

We need to unzip the FediRenderer Tool on the same folder.

Use your Archive viewer tool, open the downloaded copy of the FediRenderer Project tool. It is a small archive, and only a few small files are inside.

You need to extract these into our working folder, c:\Fediverse , as well.

Second step – update and install needed pieces

Let's open the backup location, via a command line.

Now we need a one time command, to update the Node JS libraries needed for the viewer to work. Enter this command : npm install. This results :

Third step – create the Viewable HTML

And now we are ready to use the FediRenderer. Enter this command: node run.js <yourExportedDirectory> — here, the yourExportedDirectory is where we placed our instance's extracted (unzipped) backup files. If using my suggestion, it's :

node run.js C:\Fediverse, and enter key. Like this :

Fourth step – opening the outbox.html file

If all went well, your last command above created a new file, outbox.html.

This file is pure HTML, and can be opened in any Browser – Firefox, MS Edge, Opera, Chrome, etc.

A quick way to open is, from inside the browser window to press 'Control-O' (the file Open command), and give it the path : c:\Fediverse\outbox.html

Viewing the HTML Account Backup file

And once opened in the browser, the full list of all the Toots in your backup archive will be displayed as a large HTML file. Example :

The red underlines here were added, just to signal those are live links:

And you can see any image that a toot contained originally. At the moment, only one image is shown if there are multiple ones in it. ^—top of page

Desired Features and additions ?

We could take on and improve the project. There are many very talented programmers in our fediverse, and I hope some will see the value of this tool — and take part on developing it.

From my desired features, I would mention :

A huge kudo to the talented programmer who took my request and produced this version – much appreciated. Thank you! ^—top of page

Follow Blog via your Fediverse/Mastodon account :


This page created entirely in MarkDown language. Thank you for reading, feel free to comment about this post – reach me at my Writer's Lounge.

R.G. @rgx@muensterland.social ^—top of page