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Web Sparv

Web Sparv is a web interface for an older version of the Sparv pipeline (Sparv 3). If you are interested in the new version of the Pipeline, click here.

The source code for Sparv's graphical user interface is available at GitHub. It is divided into three parts:

  1. frontend: a javascript application
  2. backend: a Flask application, providing the REST-API
  3. catapult: an auxiliary tool for running the Sparv pipeline

The code is distributed under the MIT license. Please refer to the above repositories for installation instructions.

The Sparv pipeline is also required for running the Sparv interface.

Technical Documentation of the frontend

This section describes the internal structure of the Sparv frontend and can be used as a developer's guide.

The frontend is available at https://spraakbanken.gu.se/sparv/.


  • Node v0.10.x, which should be installed through you package manager. This should by default include NPM, the node package manager.
  • Grunt, install using npm install -g grunt-cli.
  • CoffeeScript, install using npm install -g coffeescript.
  • Sass, install using npm install sass.

Frontend Configuration

The app/config.js file contains the configuration of the backend address, the address to the default settings JSON schema and also the address to Karp.

Running the Frontend

For running the frontend locally (while developing) run grunt serve. In you browser, open http://localhost:9010 to launch Sparv. While running grunt serve the CoffeeScript and Sass files are automatically compiled upon edit, additionally causing the browser window to be reloaded to reflect the new changes.

Before releasing a new version, the scripts are compiled by running grunt in the frontend directory. This will create a directory called dist which contains all the files necessary to run the frontend.

Technical Documentation of the backend

This section describes the internal structure of the Sparv backend and its usage of the catapult and can be used as a developer's guide.


The backend is run through the WSGI script index.py. It is available at https://spraakbanken.gu.se/ws/sparv.


Python virtual environment

Though it is not required, we recommend that you use a Python virtual environment to run the Sparv backend. This is the easiest way to ensure that you have all the Python dependencies needed to run the modules.

Set up a Python virtual environment as a subdirectory to the backend/html/app directory:

python3 -m venv venv

Activate the virtual environment and install the required Python packages:

source venv/bin/activate
pip install -r requirements.txt

You can then deactivate the virtual environment:


Backend Configuration

The configuration variables are stored in html/app/config.py:

  • backend: the address where the backend is hosted
  • sparv_python: the Python path to the sparv pipeline python directory
  • sparv_backend: the path to the backend directory
  • builds_dir: the directory that hosts running and completed builds
  • log_dir: location of the log files. Can be set to None to log to stdout.
  • sparv_models: location of the sparv pipeline models
  • sparv_makefiles: location of the sparv pipeline makefiles
  • secret_key: a string of your choosing. It is needed for queries that may cause deletions of builds.
  • venv_path: path to the activation script of the Python virtual environment (may be set to None)
  • processes: number of processes that make will run while annotating
  • fileupload_ext: extension used for builds that contain file uploads
  • socket_file: path to the socket file used to communicate with the catapult
  • catalaunch_binary: path to the catalaunch binary file
  • python_interpreter: "Python" interpreter, replaced with catalaunch

When running the backend with gunicorn (recommended) you may also want to modify the configuration in html/app/gunicorn_config.py.

The suggested location for the Sparv pipeline is the directory data/pipeline.

Running the Backend

The backend is set up to be run with gunicorn which is installed automatically inside the Python virtual environment. From the backend directory you can run the following command:

html/app/venv/bin/gunicorn -c html/app/gunicorn_config.py index

This will start a WSGI server and bind it to the socket defined in gunicorn_config.py. Log messages are written to the file specified in the same file (or to the terminal if nothing is specified).

The backend can also be started by running index.py with the Python interpreter but this is mostly used for development or debugging.

Makefile and Settings JSON Schema

The makefile for each corpus is created from a JSON object that is created by the script html/app/schema_generator.py. The frontend builds its form based on the requested schema. New entries can be added and the frontend should render them automatically. The file that creates the makefile is html/app/make_makefile.py.


The catapult runs a Python instance that shares the loaded lexicons, keeps malt processes running and lowers the Python interpreter startup time. Scripts are run on the catapult with the tiny c program catalaunch.


Catapult setup

The catapult can for example be placed inside the data directory.

Just as for the Sparv backend we recomment that you use a Python virtual environment for running the catapult. Check the backend requirements for instructions. The standard location for installing the virtual environment for the catapult is inside the catapult directory.

After setting up the Python virtual environment you need to adapt the variable VENV_PATH in the Sparv pipeline in /makefiles/Makefile.config so it points to the catapult virtual environment.

Catapult Configuration

The configuration variables are stored in config.sh:

  • SPARV_PYTHON: the path to the sb pipeline Python directory
  • SPARV_MODELS: location of the sb pipeline models
  • SPARV_BIN: location of the sb pipeline binaries
  • SPARV_MAKEFILES: location of the pipeline makefiles
  • CATAPULT_DIR: location of the catapult directory
  • BUILDS_DIR: the directory that hosts running and completed builds
  • LOGDIR: the path to the log file directory
  • CATAPULT_VENV: the path to the Python virtual environment used by the catapult

Running the Catapult

  • Run make to build catalaunch.
  • Run ./start-server.sh to start the catapult.
  • Set up the cron jobs listed in catapult/cronjobs. for the automatic maintenance of Sparv.

Cron jobs

The following cron jobs are used in Sparv:

  • Cleanup: Builds that have not been accessed for 7 days are removed every midnight by issuing https://ws.spraakbanken.gu.se/ws/sparv/cleanup?secret_key=SECRETKEY.
  • Keep-alive: The script catapult/keep-alive.sh is run every five minutes and restarts the catapult with catapult/start-server.sh if it does not respond to ping. Instead of setting up this cron job you can run the catapult using a process control system like supervisord.
  • Update-saldo: The Saldo lexicon is updated daily with the script catapult/update-saldo.sh. This takes some time, and is therefore run during the night. The catapult is restarted afterwards by the keep-alive.sh script.

Interaction between the Sparv components

The following image illustrates how the components involved in the Sparv web interface interact with each other and with the user, both before and during the analysis.

Interaction between the Sparv components