Tips and Tricks

Reading VCC on ESP8266

If you are running on a battery operated device then function system_get_vdd33() from the official ESP8266 NONOS SDK can help you read the power voltage. For the latter to work properly you should make a small change in your application file and add vdd to the HWCONFIG_OPTS configuration variable.

If you cannot see such a variable in your file then append the following line to it:


You can have multiple options selected. They should be separated by comma. For example the command below will add 4MB flash, spiffs and vdd support:

HWCONFIG := 4m,spiffs,vdd

You can check the final hardware configuration using the command below:

make hwconfig

If a custom hardware configuration is needed then read Storage Management.

Minimising Memory Usage

Literals use up memory, so its a good idea to move them to flash. See Program Space and FlashString.

Webpages and Spiffs

FlashString turns out to be very useful for sending web pages, javascript, CSS and so on. Many examples for the ESP8266 exist where a Spiffs file system is used for this purpose, but in fact Spiffs is not ideal. If you want to release a new version of your software, and your web pages are in spiffs, you now have two things to release, so there is double the chance of something going wrong. Plus you have the challenge of preserving any user files while refreshing just a few.

One solution is to use a FlashString hooked up to a FlashMemoryStream instead. In the example below, the CSS file is sent compressed to save time and space. The browser asks for core.js and gets a compressed version:

IMPORT_FSTR(flash_corejsgz, PROJECT_DIR "/web/build/core.js.gz")

void onSendCore_js(HttpRequest &request, HttpResponse &response)
    response.headers[HTTP_HEADER_CONTENT_ENCODING] = _F("gzip");
    auto stream = new FlashMemoryStream(flash_corejsgz);
    response.sendDataStream(stream, MimeType::MIME_JS);

See FlashString for further details.

Webpages Performance

HTML markup can get quite large and the bigger the file the slower the page loads. One way to deal with that is to remove the white space, this process is called minifying. The downside is that the result is difficult for a human to read. I recommend against it, at least in the early stages of your project.

To support the HTML files there are CSS files and JS files, which must be kept locally on the server if one wants things to work even when the internet is absent.

I use the bootstrap library and the CSS I write goes into another special file. The file count is now three, an HTML file and two CSS files. This is already a lot of files for a microcontroller to deal with especially if it gets download requests for all three at once. A browser will start a download request for each file it sees, and for the ESP, any more than three is a problem, meaning we need to keep this under control.

One way to deal with that is to combine the CSS files together into one.

Next we have JavaScript files which includes the custom code, the bootstrap library and the jquery library. Three extra files. Once again we can deal with these by combining them into one, in which We are back to having 3, one HTML file one CSS file and one JavaScript file.

But the files are big and this is a problem not just because it is slow. The watchdog does not like things to take a long time, and you will almost certainly end up with a timeout.

When a browser asks for a file it doesn’t mind receiving a compressed version using gzip. (Note that you need to add “Content-Encoding/gzip” to the header in the response from the server). Using gzip vastly reduces the sizes of files and it’s well worth doing.

Another size optimisation for CSS files is to remove unused CSS (UNCSS) - I recommend against this as it was too aggressive at removing stuff I really needed - YMMV.

I use gulp to automate the extraction and concatenation and compression of the CSS and JS files, here is the relevant part of my gulpfile.js:

function htm() {
   return gulp.src(htmConfig.src)
      .pipe(gzip())       // compresses to a gzip file
      .pipe(size({ showFiles: true }))

My webpage looks like this

<!-- build:css core.css -->
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="bootstrap.css">
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.css">
<!-- endbuild -->

After gulp runs it looks like this

<link rel="stylesheet" href="core.css">