Corresponding to w3mir version 1.0.2 and above

W3mir is an all purpose WWW copying and mirroring program. Its main focus is copying complete directory structures keeping your copy browseable through a web server, or directly off a disk or CDROM if you want. W3mir will fix URLs that are redirected and everything else that needs to be fixed to make your copy browseable. But it also does odd jobs, retrieving single documents, batch getting several documents and more. You may tell w3mir not to change anything in the retrieved documents. W3mir has been in development quite a long time so you find options to do a lot of things needed when copying things off the web.

With w3mir you may copy the entire contents a web server. Or just a directory hierarchy, or several related hierarchies off as many servers as you like. They don't even have to be related.

W3mir supports HTML4, and has partial support for CSS, Java, ActiveX and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. And it works on Win32 machines.

Warning: W3mir enables you to copy a lot of things off the Web, but remember, the things you retrieve might be copyrighted and the copy you make with w3mir might in fact be illegal to make and posses.


README (You want to read this! Really!)

How do I...

  1. copy a file?

  2. copy a directory hierarchy?

  3. copy the needed resource files from another directory hierarchy?

  4. avoid copying files I don't want or copy only files I want?

  5. remove the files that are no longer on the original site from the mirror?

  6. limit how deep w3mir will recurse?

  7. limit w3mirs memory usage?

  8. copy files from multiple sites?

  9. copy files from one server with several names?

  10. restart a mirror process after stopping it prematurely?

  11. enlarge or prune an established mirror?

  12. 'cat' a file?

  13. list URLs in a document?

  14. disable robots.txt obedience?

  15. stop w3mir from corrupting binary files?

  16. copy a site that wants user-name and password?

  17. access a site that wants several different user-names and passwords?

  18. use a proxy server?

  19. authenticate myself to a proxy server?

  20. ensure that the proxy server ...?

  21. batch get files with w3mir?

  22. handle CGI?

  23. handle server side image-maps?

  24. handle Java and ActiveX?

  25. handle java-script and other script languages?

  26. handle the other things with 'partial support'?

  27. keep my identity secret?

  28. pretend that I'm using Netscape, Internet Explorer or Lynx?

  29. do other things?


W3mir may be used in two, main, ways:

To copy something random once there is a high likeliness you can just start w3mir with some simple options and it will do the job you want it to. Providing that the remote site is not too complex and your expectations of the copy aren't high :-) This is what wget, the gnu w3 mirroring program, does and is good at.

Configuration file

Once you want to keep a copy of a remote site up-to-date over time, mirror something with server side image-maps, redirects or authentication you have to write a configuration file for w3mir. This is what w3mir is good at, compared to wget. Writing the file is not hard, and there are two example files in the w3mir distribution. It will also be explained here. The configuration file is typically called .w3mirc (w3mir.ini on win32 machines), and can be written with a simple text editor. It is kept in the top directory of the mirror, where w3mir will find it when it starts. Please refer to the contents for how to handle a specific problem with a configuration file.

The answers:

How do I copy a file?

To copy the top page off www.starwars.com:

w3mir http://www.starwars.com/

Note: it is important that you give the trailing slash for server names and directories.

How to I copy a directory hierarchy?

To copy the entire stuff about episode I from www.starwars.com which is stored in http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/ (I don't recommend this, it's quite a lot of data):

w3mir -r http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/

The corresponding configuration file is simple:

Options: recurse
URL: http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/
Fixup: run

The -r option makes w3mir recurse down from the starting point. It will only copy all the documents under http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/ that it sees referenced from those same documents. W3mir will not retrieve documents from http://www.starwars.com/ because it is considered to be 'over' the starting point.

The command-line will get you a copy that is definitely browseable via a WEB server, and possibly browseable directly from a CDROM or hard-disk. To ensure that it is browseable from CDROM and disk you need to use a configuration file with the Fixup: run line in. It causes w3mir to edit anything that needs editing after the mirror has completed, including fixing URLs that caused redirects. The dirty work is done by w3mirs helper program w3mfix. The directive will cause w3mfix to be run each time w3mir completes the mirror.

Note: it is important that you give the trailing slash after the directory name. Specifying http://www.starwars.com/episode-i and http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/ is quite different in w3mirs eyes. In the former case episode-i is considered to be a document within the / (top) directory of www.starwars.com and w3mir will recurse from /, which is a lot more than you wanted. In the latter case w3mir understands that episode-i is a directory and will consider that directory to be the staring point, which is what you wanted.

How do I copy the needed resource files from another directory hierarchy?

Some sites store their documents in one place, and puts their banners, icons and such in a separate directory called /images, /banners, /icons, /resources or some such. Unless you retrieve these as well as the documents things will probably not be too colorful. So, imagine that the starwars site stored all the images in one holding directory called /imagery and you want to copy all the stuff in it that the episode-i pages need. Then you do this:

Options: recurse
URL: http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/ episode-i
Also: http://www.starwars.com/imagery/ imagery
Fixup: run

There are two changes here compared to the simpler file we started with: There is an extra argument at the end of the URL directive. It tells w3mir to store everything gotten from http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/ in the subdirectory episode-i. The directory can be omitted, but I think its neater this way. Then the new directive 'Also:'. It tells w3mir that you also want whatever the documents under http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/ references under http://www.starwars.com/imagery/.

Note: this will only get stuff that was used by the documents under http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/, anything stored under http://www.starwars.com/imagery/ which is not used will not be retrieved. If you want everything under imagery to be retrived use the Also-quene: directive.

How do I avoid copying files I don't want or copy only files I want?

To control what files w3mir copies you can use the Ignore:, Fetch:, Ignore-RE: and Fetch-RE: directives in the configuration file. The embeded references to any file you chose to ignore, i.e., not copy, will point at the original site, not to the mirror. This means that the mirror user may still get ahold of the file from the original source by simply clicking if she so desires.

If a site contains huge .wav audio files that you are not interested in you put

Ignore: *.wav

in the configuration file. You may ignore as many different filename patterns as you want. If you are mirroring a site you want very few, specific files from, say all HTML (named something.html) and all Mpeg video files (named something.mpg) you can write this:

Fetch: *.html
Fetch: *.mpg
Ignore: *

W3mir will test each filename against each Fetch/Ignore rule in sequence. A html file will match the first line and be fetched. Any mpg file will match the second line and be fetched. All other files will match the third line, and be ignored. This last line is needed because the default is to get any files which are not ignored. By arranging fetch and ignore rules carefully you may retrieve exactly the filename patterns you want and not retrieve anything else.

If you decide you also want all Mpeg Layer 3 audio files (something.mp3) from the site, after the mirror has been established. Then you add this:

Fetch: *.mp3

as the third line, making the Ignore: * line the forth and last. Then you must fix all references to .mp3 files within the mirror by running w3mfix thus:

w3mfix -editref .mp3

which will edit all references to .mp3 files, pointing them the right place, on your disk. Ditto when you remove a fetch rule, or add or remove an ignore rule. See the answer about enlarging and pruning mirrors for more examples of using w3mfix -editme ...

Note: when retrieving only a very limited set of files, as in the example above, you must retrieve the html files, because how else will w3mir find URLs of files to retrieve? Only html files contain links to other files.

Similarly, you may chose to not mirror whole branches of the original site. If you for example mirror my home-pages, and you decide not to mirror the comics pages you can put

Ignore: /ts/

or more precisely

Ignore: http://www.ifi.uio.no/~janl/ts/

in the configuration file. If you do this after having established the mirror you use w3mfix to fix the references:

w3mfix -editref /ts/

Fetch: and Ignore: rules can only use a very limited subset of the Unix wild-cards. w3mir understands only '?', '*', and '[a-z]' ranges.

Ignore-RE: and Fetch-RE: are the same as Fetch: and Ignore: except that they give you access to the full power of Regular Expressions to make rules for that to get or not to get. They support perls superset of the normal Unix regular expression syntax. They must be completely specified, including the prefixed m, a delimiter of your choice (except the paired delimiters: parenthesis, brackets and braces), and any of the RE modifiers. I.e.,

Ignore-RE: m/.gif$/i


Ignore-RE: m~/.*/.*/.*/~

and so on. "#" cannot be used as delimiter as it is the comment character in the configuration file.

There are some traps when using Ignore-RE and Fetch-RE, please see their documentation in mandoc w3mir for a more complete explanation.

How do I limit how deep w3mir will recurse?

W3mir has no explicit mechanism to limit the depth of recursion, but the same result can be achieved with a simple Ignore rule:

Ignore: /*/*/*/*/*/*/

This will ignore any URLs that contain at least 7 slashes ("/"). Note that a URL contains three slashes that does not have anything to do with depth:


so only the surplus slashes are used for depth in this match. In the example above the limit is 4 levels from the top. The Ignore: rule that is used to limit recursion depth must be listed before any Fetch: rules to be effective.

How do I limit w3mirs memory usage?

In a mirror consisting of many files, such as a archive of an active mailinglist w3mir will build a very large referer table, in part for w3mir to use in the Referer: header and in part for w3mfix to use in fixing references.

If you disable both the Referer: header and don't use w3mfix w3mir will not build a referer table. You do this in the configuration file:

Disable-headers: referer
Fixup: off

Please note the potential problems of turning off fixup described earlier in this howto. There are normaly no problems associated with simple sites, but if there are redirects fixup is needed for a consistent mirror.

How do I remove the files are no longer on the original site from the mirror?

Over time the site you mirror will add files, and quite possibly remove files. Or you might introduce new Ignore: rules after establishing the mirror that reduces the files wanted in the mirror.

By default w3mir will not delete such old files, some people might want to keep the files even if they are removed from the original site. To remove the old/unwanted files you add 'remove' to the Options: line.

How do I copy files from multiple sites?

In the answer to the previous question we see how to mirror several related sites. For example, say you want to mirror all my home-pages into one mirror:

Option: recurse
URL: http://www.math.uio.no/~janl/ math/janl
Also: http://www.math.uio.no/drift/personer/ math/drift
Also: http://www.ifi.uio.no/~janl/ ifi/janl
Also: http://www.mi.uib.no/~nicolai/ math-uib/nicolai

As in the previous example this will only get documents that are referenced. Any documents that are stored at these location but to which w3mir finds no references will not be retrieved. So this will fail if the sites are not in any way related, or if you wanted everything stored at each site.

To mirror unrelated sites, or get it all you may specify that the given URL should be considered a starting-point as well:

Also-quene: http://www.math.uio.no/drift/personer/ math/drift

and, if you want to add an additional starting-point within a already named site:

Quene: http://www.math.uio.no/drift/personer/foo.html

Armed with that you should be able to get pretty much anything you like.

How do I copy files from one server with several names?

Simple, the same way you mirror several servers with different names. The math department at University of Oslo has a web server known under two names: math-www.uio.no and www.math.uio.no, and both names are used in documents stored on it. To copy the whole server, one time only, give these URL and Also lines:

URL: http://www.math.uio.no/ .
Also: http://math-www.uio.no/ .

Note the period/dot (.) at the end of each line. It means that w3mir will store the files in the current directory, i.e. documents from both servers will be stored in the same place. But since w3mir asks to only get documents that are newer than the ones it already has any document gotten from the server under the www.math.uio.no name will not be gotten from the math-www.uio.no name as well. ... w3mir will ask for the document, but the server will tell w3mir that its copy is current and there will be no additional transfer of the document.

How do I enlarge or prune an established mirror?

This only works if you use a configuration file.

If you want to add a site or directory to a mirror you simply add the needed Also: or Also-Quene: to the configuration file and then you run w3mfix manually, with the -editref option. If, you for example have established a mirror of my home-pages, but want to add my wife's home-page you add this

Also: http://www.ifi.uio.no/~annen/ ifi/annen

to the configuration shown earlier. Then you run w3mfix, and you want it to fix all URLs referencing her home-page, the distinguishing characteristic is the name 'annen':

w3mfix -editref annen


w3mirx -editref http://www.ifi.uio.no/~annen/

would work too, but it's a lot more to type. This fixes all the references to her home-page so that they point to the mirror instead of the original pages.

To prune (cut out something) a mirror you do the same. Make the change in the configuration file and run 'w3mfix -editme ...' to fix the references to that which you removed.

How do I 'cat' a file?

W3mir will output the fetched document to its standard output (normally your screen/window) if you specify the '-s' command line option. The corresponding configuration file directive is

File-Disposition: stdout

How do I list URLs in a document?

To list the URLs in http://www.math.uio.no/:

w3mir -q -f -l http://www.math.uio.no/

The -q switch causes w3mir to produce no other output which would disturb the URL listing. The -f switch tells w3mir to forget the document once it has been analyzed, i.e., not save it on disk. And finally, the -l switch makes w3mir list the URLs in the document. You may combine -l with -r and you need not use it with -f.

In the configuration file you put list on the Options: line.

How to I restart a mirror process after stopping it prematurely?

You may just rerun the same command once more. But that makes w3mir request all the documents you have already once more to see if a more recent version is available on the server. You can save time by using the -fs (Fetch Some) option. This makes w3mir only request documents it does not find on your disk. E.g.:

w3mir -fs -r http://www.starwars.com/

This is not something you would normally put in the configuration file, but you can, by adding 'only-nonexistent' on the 'Options:' line.

How do I disable robots.txt obedience?

Normally w3mir will read and obey each sites robots.txt file, because w3mir wants to be a nice tool. However robots.txt was designed with something slightly different than the normal use of w3mir in mind, so if you want w3mir to disregard the robot rules you can use -drr (Disable Robot Rules) on the command-line, or the line

Robot-Rules: off

in the configuration file. The robot exclusion standard is described in http://info.webcrawler.com/mak/projects/robots/norobots.htm.

How do I stop w3mir from corrupting binary files?

During the normal course of events w3mir converts the newline format of fetched HTML documents to your systems native newline format. On Unix a newline consists of a single ASCII LF character, on Macintoshes it's a single ASCII CR character and on Dos/Windows it's a ASCII CR/LF pair. W3mir understands all these and all HTML files are saved in the format your operating system prefers.

If, and this is very unlikely, a web server identifies a binary file as HTML w3mir will very likely corrupt the file. If you discover a file which is obviously ruined in the mirror, but is not ruined when you view it on the original site do this:

  1. Notify the webmaster on the original site that the file has the wrong MIME type
  2. Use the -nnc (No Newline Conversion) option on the command line, or
    Options: no-newline-conv
    in the configuration file.
  3. Remove the corrupt file(s).
  4. Run "w3mir -fs...", to fetch only the deleted file(s) again.

How do I copy a site that wants user-name and password?

This can only be done with a configuration file. Being able to give this on the command-line would give the user-name and password away to other users of the system, so the ability to give authentication information that way has not been put in w3mir.

In the configuration file you put:

Auth-domain: */*
Auth-user: me
Auth-passwd: my-password

This will cause w3mir to give the user-name and password each time the server asks. There is no way to make w3mir give the user-name and password each time no matter if the server asks or not.

How do I access a site that wants several different user-names and passwords?

If you have several user-names and passwords across the server(s) that are copied you need a slightly more advanced version of this that associates each user-name/password with a authentication "domain". "Domain" is a HTTP concept. It is simply a grouping of files and documents within a "realm". One file or a whole directory hierarchy can belong to a realm. One server may have many realms. A user may have separate passwords for each realm, or the same password for all the realms the user has access to. A combination of a server name, server port and a realm is called a domain.

Auth-domain: theserver:theport/therealm
Auth-user: me
Auth-passwd: my-password

Auth-domain: theserver:theport/otherrealm
Auth-user: other-me
Auth-password: other-password
W3mir will tell you what the name of the realm is if it is unable to authenticate itself with the server. You may also use '*' as the realm name if you only copy documents from one realm on that server.

How do I use a proxy server?

On some secured sites you have to access the Internet through proxy servers to get out of the internal network.

A proxy server has a host name, and a port you must use. On the command line you simply specify -P proxy-host-name:proxy-port. In the configuration file you put this:

HTTP-Proxy: proxy-host-name:proxyport

The main advantage of working through proxy servers other than security is that you take advantage of any caching the proxy server which can speed up retrievals enormously.

Another use of the proxy option is to "prime" the proxy servers cache. I.e. you can use w3mir to fetch the documents through the proxy server to ensure that the documents are cached there later when you want to read them with your browser. If you also specify

File-Disposition: forget

it won't even use any space on your disk, w3mir will just process the documents looking for URLs and then not save them.

How do I authenticate myself to a proxy server?

Some proxy servers demands a user-name and password to let you use them. W3mir does not support the domain concept in connection with proxy authentication because the author cannot imagine that it will be needed. You need to put this in your configuration file:

HTTP-Proxy-user: proxy-username
HTTP-Proxy-passwd: proxy-password

How do I ensure that the proxy server ...?

HTTP/1.0 proxy servers may be told to not use its current copy of a document if you specify the -pflush command-line option. Or

Proxy-Options: refresh

in the configuration file. This is useful if the proxy has an old copy of some document and does not realize that a newer version exists on the origin site. W3mir uses the HTTP/1.0 version of this command by default. You can force w3mir to use the HTTP/1.1 version by adding no-pragma to the line. If you do this it will not work at all as you want unless the server knows the HTTP/1.1 protocol.

HTTP/1.1 proxy servers can be manipulated in a few more ways. The configuration file Proxy-Options: directive also takes revalidate and no-store options. The former tells the proxy server to check if there is any newer version available. This is, in principle, more network friendly than the refresh option since it will only cause a copy if there is a newer file available. The no-store option tells the proxy server to not store the documents you transfer. This might be useful if the documents are 'sensitive' or something like that, but if the proxy server does not understand HTTP/1.1 it will not obey this option, and it might store the document anyway because the functionality is not implemented, so you should not count on this to work.

How do I batch get files with w3mir?

Normally when fetching files w3mir will process each html (and PDF) file to find URLs in them for further retrievals. This is time-consuming, and not always wanted. Sometimes you simply want to get a file, or more, and save it, untouched:

w3mir -B http://www.starwars.com/ http://www.ifi.uio.no/~janl/

There is a companion switch for -B, namely -I, it makes w3mir read URLs from its standard input, one pr. line. Thus you can use w3mir in a pipe to batch get several files whose URLs you find in some way. This is a stupid example:

w3mir -q -l -f http://www.ifi.uio.no/ | w3mir -I -B

-B may also be used with -r, but the only effect it will have then is to save the html files unchanged on disk, because to recurse w3mir has to examine all the html the documents for URLs.

Please note that using -B combined with -r for mirroring will probably lead to a unstable mirror, because w3mir does not get a chance to manipulate the URLs in the documents as it needs to be able to maintain a mirror later, and most important of all, w3mir needs all html files to contain a <HTML> tag to be able to recognize a HTML file as a HTML file. When running with the -B switch w3mir will not ensure the presence of this and thus we must rely on the original documents author to be nice. This is a bad bet. In other words, don't use -B for recursive mirroring, only for batch copying/mirroring of single documents.

How do I handle CGI?

There is no way w3mir can duplicate the process that happens on the Web server when it comes to CGI. For some CGI programs w3mir can simply copy the output and store on disk. For other CGI programs this is not possible, and the only way out is to make w3mir not get the involved files using Ignore rules in the configuration file. These will avoid a lot of cgi programs:

Ignore: *.cgi
Ignore: *-cgi

You might have to add other/more rules for some sites if they have other naming conventions or if it's simply impossible to tell from the file-name if it's a CGI or not.

When you add ignore rules this causes two things:

  1. W3mir will not retrieve documents matching the rules

  2. W3mir will make all references to matching documents point to the site you mirrored from instead of pointing to a non-existent file in the mirror.

How do I handle server side image-maps?

Server side image-maps is yet another thing it's impossible for w3mir to relate to. w3mir simply cannot handle them. Put ignore rules in the configuration file:

Ignore: *.map

W3mir has full support for client side image-maps though.

How do I handle Java and ActiveX?

Java and Active X objects are are included in html pages with a <OBJECT> or <APPLET> tag. W3mir can handle these on one condition: The CODEBASE attribute names the directory where the program stores its resources (such as subprograms, graphic files, sound, text, and so on) and w3mir must have read access to this directory. Otherwise w3mir is without hope, it's impossible to extract the name of the resources the program needs in any reliable way.

HTML4 supports a attribute that enumerates the resources the program needs, w3mir is not able to use this yet.

How do I handle java-script and other script languages?

W3mir does its best to pass scripts (java-script, perl-script, etc...) embedded in the HTML undamaged. It cannot, however, extract any URLs the script generates and the browser would cause the document to refer to or embed in a page.

It will however work if the script generates relative references and there is some other way for w3mir to access the referenced file in some other manner. Or if the script generates absolute references and the person browsing the mirror has access to the site named, then the user will be able to browse the referenced documents via that other server.

How to I handle the other things with 'partial support'

W3mir has partial support for CSS. This means that <style> tags and the enclosed style data are passed undamaged by w3mir. W3mir will also retrieve the external CSSes named in HTML documents. But w3mir will not (yet) analyze the CSSes data to find URLs of other resources (such as fonts) named in these.

W3mir also has partial support for Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. This means that w3mir can extract URLs from PDF files, and get the named documents if you want them. But w3mir cannot edit those URLs so that the PDF files point to the mirror instead of wherever on the original site they were pointing. If the PDF files contain absolute URLs they will continue pointing to where they were pointing before. However, if the PDF files contain relative references things will work out.

The reason that URLs in PDF files cannot be edited is that they are binary and contain byte pointers. If the URLs length is changed the byte pointers will point to the wrong place in the document. Writing code to correct these pointers would be quite complex. But if you write it I will use it.

How do I keep my identity secret?

The HTTP protocol has a header, User: which is recommended to use by robots, such as w3mir. Another way to track you is looking at the 'Referer:' header w3mir gives in HTTP requests. Both can be disabled:

Disable-headers: referer, user

If you in addition use a proxy server that many other users use there is little probability you can be tracked (easily) by the server you are copying things from. You are however much easier to track from the logs in the proxy server. And a court order is quite likely to get you tracked in spite of any precautions you take.

W3mir does not support cookies and thus you cannot be tracked with the help of that mechanism.

How do I pretend that I'm using Netscape, Internet Explorer or Lynx?

Some web sites give you different documents when you ask for a specific URL based on what browser you use, or even what OS you appear to be using. w3mir identifies itself with a string that looks like this:


Netscape identifies itself with strings that look something like this:

Mozilla/3.01 (X11; I; Linux 2.0.30 i586)

and Internet Explorer says it's something like this:

Mozilla/2.0 (compatible; MSIE 3.02; Windows NT)

and Lynx says something like this

Lynx/2.6 libwww-FM/2.14

You can change w3mirs identification with -agent 'string' on the command line. In the configuration file you put

Agent: Mozilla/3.01 (X11; I; Linux 2.0.30 i586)

to pretend w3mir is netscape 3.01.

How do I do other things?

This document is by no means a complete list of the things you can do with w3mir. The w3mir man page (man w3mir or perldoc w3mir lists more things, and goes into more detail of how things work so you can use the knowledge to do neat things. There are several things mentioned only in the man-page that helps you with tricky multi-server mirroring, and gives you better control of what to get and not to get and under what name to save it on disk. And a couple of other things...

Nicolai Langfeldt 9/7/1998