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Skygear Chat

Skygear Chat Basic (iOS)

Skygear Chat is a collection of APIs to help you build Chat apps much easier.

Skygear Chat is built on top of the cloud database and the PubSub module. If you want to know more about how the underlying works, check out the guide for cloud database and PubSub.

Enabling Chat

To start using Skygear Chat feature, make sure you have already enabled Chat in the Plug-ins tab in your [Skygear Portal] (https://portal.skygear.io). Please refer to Quick Start for the instructions.

Users

Most real-time chat apps require a user login system and you can do it with the Skygear user authentication module. It offers various sign up methods - sign up with email, sign up with username and sign up with Facebook and Google account.

Check out the guide for User Authentication Basics and User Profile Best Practices.

Conversations

In order to send messages, you need to create a conversation first. You can consider conversations as chatrooms or channels in your application.

There are two types of conversations in Skygear Chat:

  • Direct Conversation, a chatting group between one and another user
  • Group Conversation, a chatting group among 2 or more users

Creating direct conversations

You can use createDirectConversation to create a conversation with another user. Please specify the user ID as userID.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.createDirectConversation(userID: userBen,
    title: "Chat with Ben",
    metadata: nil,
    completion: { (conversation, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Create direct conversation failed." +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }
        print ("Created direct conversation")
})

The above example creates a direct chat between the current user and userBen.

You can also set up an optional parameter, metadata, for customization.

Creating group conversations

Besides direct chats, you can also create a group conversation with 2 or more people.

Instead of a single userID parameter, createConversation accepts a list of users called participantIDs. A new conversation will be created with the given participant IDs.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.createConversation(
    participantIDs: [userBen, userCharles, userDavid, userEllen],
    title: "Random chat group",
    metadata: nil,
    completion: { (conversation, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Create conversation failed." +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }
        print ("Created Conversation")
})

Creating group chat by distinct participants (distinctByParticipants)

By default, createConversation allows you to create multiple conversations with identical participants. However, depending on application design, it may not be a desired behavior. Therefore, Skygear Chat provides distinctByParticipants option, which enables distinctive participants in every conversation.

The default value of distinctByParticipants is false. If it is set to be true, then the participants cannot be identical to any existing conversation. Otherwise, an error will be returned.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.createConversation(
    participantIDs: [userBen, userCharles, userDavid],
    title: "Our chat group",
    metadata: nil,
    adminIDs: nil,
    distinctByParticipants: true,
    completion: { (conversation, error) in
        if let err = error as NSError? {
             if let conversationId = err.userInfo["conversation_id"] as? String {
                 print("Conversation already exists " +
                   conversationId)
             } else {
                 print ("Create conversation failed. " +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
             }
        }
        print ("Created conversation")
})

If the conversation already exists, then completion callback returns an error object. You can retrieve the original conversation ID via err.userInfo["conversation_id"].

Note: distinctByParticipants will be false automatically after participant list is being altered.

There are a few more attributes you can specify when you create a conversation with createConversation.

  • title: That's the title of a conversation. It can be omitted.
  • meta: It is for application specific purpose. Say in your app you have different type of conversations, you can specific it here.

Setting admins

All users in participantIDs will be administrators unless adminIDs is specified in createConversation.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.createConversation(
   participantIDs: [userBen, userCharles, userDavid],
   title: "Ben's world",
   adminIDs: [userBen],
   distinctByParticipants: false,
   completion: { (conversation, error) in
      if error != nil {
          print("Unable to admin. " +
                "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
          return
      }

      print("Added as admin")
})

In the above example, userBen will be the only administrator.

Fetching existing conversations

In SKYKitChat, SKYConversation represents a conversation, it contains information of a conversation that is shared among all participants, such as participantIds and adminIds.

There are two methods to fetch existing conversations:

Fetch all conversations which involves the current user. The parameter fetchLastMessage can be used for fetching the last message and last read message in the conversation.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.fetchConversations(
    fetchLastMessage: false,
    completion: { (conversations, error) in
    if let err = error {
        print ("Error when fetching conversations. " +
               "Error:\(err.localizedDescription)")
        return
    }

    if let fetchedConversations = conversations {
        print("Fetched \(fetchedConversations.count) conversations.")
    }
})

Please refer to the documentation for more options here.

Leaving conversations

To leave a conversation, you can call leave(conversationID:completion:) on the chat extension.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.leave(
    conversationID: conversationID!) { (error) in
        if error != nil {
            print("Unable to Leave Conversation. " +
                  "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
    }

    print("Left Conversation")
)

Managing conversation participants

At some point of your conversation, you may wish to update the participant list. You may add or remove participants in a conversation.

Adding users to conversation

You can add users to an existing conversation with addParticipantsWithUserIDs:toConversation:completion:. In the following code, userBen, userCharles, userDavid and userEllen will be added to conversation.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.addParticipants(
    userIDs: [userBen, userCharles, userDavid, userEllen],
    to: conversation,
    completion: { (conversation, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Unable to add the users. " +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }

        print ("Users added to the conversation.")
})

Removing users from conversation

To remove users from a conversation, you can call removeParticipantsWithUserIDs:fromConversation:completion:. In the following code, userBen and userCharles will be removed from conversation.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.removeParticipants(
    userIDs: [userBen, userCharles],
    from: conversation,
    completion: { (conversation, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Unable to remove the users. " +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }

        print ("Users removed from the conversation")
})

Admin

An admin of the conversation has the following permissions:

  1. add or remove participants from to conversation,
  2. add or remove admins from the conversation and
  3. delete the conversation

The number of admins in a conversation is unlimited, so you may add everyone as an admin.

Adding admins

You can add admins to a conversation via calling addAdminsWithUserIDs:toConversation:completion:. In the following example, userDavid and userEllen are added as admins of the conversation.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.addAdmins(
    userIDs: [userDavid, userEllen],
    to: conversation,
    completion: { (conversation, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print("Unable to add the admins. " +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
    }

    print("Admins added")
})

Removing admins

To remove admins from a conversation, use removeAdminsWithUserIDs:fromConversation:completion:. In the following example, userDavid and userEllen are no longer admins.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.removeAdmins(
    userIDs: [userDavid, userEllen],
    from: conversation,
    completion: { (conversation, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print("Unable to remove the admins. " +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
    }

    print("Admins removed")
})

Messages

Skygear Chat supports real time messaging. A message is the real content of a conversation. Skygear Chat supports 2 types of messages, one is plain text, the other one is assets. Assets include files, images, voice message and video.

Loading messages from a conversation

When users get into the chatroom, you may call fetchMessagesWithConversation:limit:beforeTime:order:completion: to load the messages of the conversation. You can specify the limit of the messages in limit and the time constraint for the message in beforeTime.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.fetchMessages(
    conversation: conversation,
    limit: 100,
    beforeTime: nil,
    order: nil,
    completion: { (messages, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Messages cannot be fetched. " +
                   "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
        }

        print ("Messages fetched")
})

Sending messages

A message in Skygear Chat is a SKYMessage record.

To send a text message, just create a SKYMessage and specify the body of your message. addMessage:toConversation:completion:.

let message = SKYMessage()
message.body = "Hello!"

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.addMessage(message,
    to: conversation) { (message, error) in
        if let err = error {
            print("Send message error: \(err.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }

        if message != nil {
            print("Send message successful")
        }
}

Plain Text

To send a text message, just create a SKYMessage and specify the body of your message.

Then you can use the addMessage:toConversation:completion: send a conversation (it works for both direct conversations or group conversations).

let message = SKYMessage()
message.body = "Hello!"

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.addMessage(message,
    to: conversation) { (message, error) in
        if let err = error {
            print("Send message error: \(err.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }

        if message != nil {
            print("Send message successful")
        }
}

Metadata

Besides the body of the message, you may wish to specify metadata in your message. For example, special format or color of your message.

metadata can contain a JSON format object

let message = SKYMessage()
    message.body = "Hello! See this photo!"
    message.metadata = {"text-color":"#ff0000"}

// Then send the message

Files

If you would like to send files via Skygear Chat, you can upload a file as SKYAsset.

guard let asset = SKYAsset(data: imageData) else {
    return
}

SKYContainer.default().uploadAsset(asset) { (uploadedAsset, error) in
    if error != nil {
        print ("Upload Asset failed. " +
               "Error:\(error.localizedDescription)")
        return
    }
    // Send the message after uploading the asset
}

Editing a message

You can edit a message with editMessage:withBody:completion:.

SKYContainer.default().editMessage(message, with: newMessageBody, completion: { (result, error) in
    if let err = error {
        print(err.localizedDescription)
        return
    }
    print("Message Updated.")
})

Deleting a message

You can delete a message with deleteMessage:inConversation:completion:.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.deleteMessage(message, in: conversation) { (conversation, error) in
    if let err = error {
        print(err.localizedDescription)
        return
    }
    print("Message Deleted.")
}

Subscribing to new messages

Subscribing to messages in a conversation

In order to get real time update of new messages, you can subscribe to a conversation with subscribeToMessagesInConversation:handler:

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.subscribeToMessages(
    in: conversation,
    handler: { (event, message) in
        print("Received message event")
})

Subscribing to messages in all conversations

Besides a specific conversation, you might want to get notified whenever there are new messages in any conversation you belong to.

You can subscribe to all messages in your own user channel with subscribeToUserChannelWithCompletion:

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.subscribeToUserChannelWithCompletion(
    completion: { (error) in
        print("Received message event")
})

Callback data

The callback passes a data object as follows:

{
  "record_type": "message",
  "event_type": "create",
  "record": recordObj,
  "original_record": nulll
}

The event_type may contain the following strings:

  • create - new message received from others, and it should be inserted to your conversation UI
  • update - when a message updated, or if the delivery or read status change (e.g. from delivered to some_read at message_status)
  • delete - when a message was deleted

Push notification

Sending push notifications to conversation participants

You can send the push notification to particular userIds and these can be retrieved by accessing the attribute participantsIds of SKYConversation.

let apsInfo = SKYAPSNotificationInfo()
apsInfo.alertBody = text

let info = SKYNotificationInfo()
info.apsNotificationInfo = apsInfo

let operation = SKYSendPushNotificationOperation(
    notificationInfo: info,
    userIDsToSend: conversation.participantIds)
operation?.sendCompletionHandler = { (userIds, error) in
    if error != nil {
        print("Error on sending push notification. " +
              "Error: \(error?.localizedDescription)")
        return
    }

    if let userIds = userIds {
        print ("Sent notifications to \(userIds.count)")
    }
}

SKYContainer.default().add(operation)

Receiving push notifications

Implement the handling of push notification in AppDelegate:

func application(_ application: UIApplication, didReceiveRemoteNotification
    userInfo: [AnyHashable : Any],
    fetchCompletionHandler completionHandler:
        @escaping (UIBackgroundFetchResult) -> Void) {
    let aps = userInfo["aps"] as! [String: AnyObject]
    print ("Received push notification: \(aps["alert"]?["body"])")
}

Receipt

Skygear Chat provides you with message receipt which includes status and timestamps information.

Message status

You can make use of the following receipt status to indicate your message status.

SKYMessageConversationStatus has 4 values.

Status Description
SKYChatReceiptStatusDelivering The message is being delivered, it is not yet received by the other party.
SKYChatReceiptStatusDelivered The message is delivered, but it is not read yet.
SKYChatReceiptStatusRead The message is delivered and read by some participants.
SKYMessageConversationStatusAllRead The message is delivered and read by all participants.

Subscribing to message status change

By subscribing to SKYChatReceiptStatus in a message, you can get the latest status of the message sent to other recipients.

switch (message.conversationStatus) {
    case .allRead:
        print ("Message read by all.")
    case .someRead:
        print ("Message read by some participants.")
    case .delivered:
        print ("Message delivered.")
    case .delivering:
        print ("Message is delivering.")
}

Marking messages as read

On the recipient client side, you need to update the message status if the message is read. For example, in viewDidAppear method of your message view controller.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.markReadMessages(messages,
    completion: { (error) in
        if error != nil {
            print("Error on marking messages as read. " +
                  "Error: \(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }
        print("Messages are marked as read")
})

Note: messages is an array of SKYMessage.

Message unread count

Conversation unread count

You can show the unread count for different conversations in the conversation list.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.fetchUnreadCount(
    conversation: conversation,
    completion: { (dict, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Unable to get the unread count. " +
                   "Error: \(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }
        if let unreadMessages = dict?["message"]?.intValue {
            print ("Unread count: \(unreadMessages)")
        }
})

Overall unread count

You may wish to show the overall unread count of all conversations in the badge value of your app.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.fetchTotalUnreadCount(
    completion: { (dict, error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Unable to get the total unread count. " +
                   "Error: \(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }
        if let unreadMessages = dict?["message"]?.intValue {
            print ("Total unread count: \(unreadMessages)")
        }
})

Resetting the unread count

The unread count can be reset by marking the messages as read.

Typing indicator

The SKYChatTypingEvent has these events:

You can make good use of these events to implement the typing indicator feature in your app.

Subscribing to typing indicator

Skygear Chat provides real-time update to typing indicators in a particular conversation.

subscribeToTypingIndicatorInConversation:handler:

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.subscribeToTypingIndicator(
    in: conversation,
    handler: { (indicator) in
        print("Receiving typing event")
})

Sending an User's typing status

To get typing status from other devices, you should always update your typing status to the server with subscribeToTypingIndicatorInConversation:handler:.

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.sendTypingIndicator(.begin, in: conversation)
SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.sendTypingIndicator(.pause, in: conversation)
SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.sendTypingIndicator(.finished, in: conversation)

Most app developers should call the method: sendTypingIndicator(_:in:at:completion:)

SKYContainer.default().chatExtension?.sendTypingIndicator(event,
    in: (conversation?conversation)!,
    at: Date()) { (error) in
        if error != nil {
            print ("Error on sending typing indicator. " +
                   "Error: \(error.localizedDescription)")
            return
        }
        print ("Sent typing indicator")
}

with the current date Date() in the at parameter.

User online

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Best practices

Caching message history locally

Skygear Chat does not cache message history in client device. You may consider to use the following libraries.