6. React app setup

Now that we have a basic idea of how Eyre works, we can begin working on our React app front-end.

Create React app

Node.js must be installed, and can be downloaded from their website. With that installed, we'll have the npm package manager available and its utility binaries like npx to help set up our project. The first thing we'll do is create a project using the create-landscape-app template with the following command:

npx @urbit/create-landscape-app
✔ What should we call your application? … journal
✔ What URL do you use to access Urbit? …

We can then open our new directory:

cd journal/ui

Its contents should look something like this:

├── index.html
├── package.json
├── package-lock.json
├── postcss.config.js
├── tailwind.config.js
├── vite.config.js
└── src

Install dependencies

Inside our React app directory, let's install the NPM packages used by our project:

npm i

This command will install the Urbit interface package (i.e. @urbit/http-api) and all the other packages used by our React application. When building from scratch with create-landscape-app, this includes a number of useful development libraries that enable automatic refresh on file edits (i.e. vite and @vitejs/plugin-react-refresh) and simple page styling (i.e. tailwindcss). The remainder of this tutorial will focus primarily on how the Urbit interface package is used to communicate with a live ship from within a React application.

Basic app setup

With all the basics now in place, we can begin work on the app itself. For this simple demonstration, we'll be working just with the src/app.jsx file, which contains the rendering logic for our React application. Before we look at the full front-end source for our journal app, let's first review the simpler default code provided by create-landscape-app to cover some Urbit API and React basics.

Urbit API setup

First, let's open up src/app.jsx and look at the import statements at the top of this file:

import React, { useEffect, useState } from 'react';
import Urbit from '@urbit/http-api';
import { scryCharges } from '@urbit/api';
import { AppTile } from './components/AppTile';

The first two of these statements are very common in Urbit React applications; the first imports the React library and a few of its important functions (to be covered in a moment) and the second imports the Urbit class, which will be used subsequently to enable browser-to-ship communication.

Next, the code sets up the Urbit API object as a global variable, which allows the browser-to-ship connection to be established exactly once when the page is first being loaded:

const api = new Urbit('', '', window.desk);
api.ship = window.ship;

The first statement creates a new instance of the Urbit class we imported from @urbit/http-api, and saves it to the api variable. The Urbit class constructor takes three arguments: url, code, and desk, of which only url is mandatory.

  • url is the URL of the ship we want to talk to. Since our React app will be served by the ship, we can just leave it as an empty '' string and let Urbit use root-relative paths.
  • code is the web login code for authentication. Since the user will already have logged in, we can also leave it as an empty '' string.
  • desk is only necessary if we want to run threads through Eyre. This example doesn't submit any such requests, but the desk is set anyway for demonstration purposes.

The second statement sets the ship name in our Urbit instance. Eyre requires the ship name be specified in all requests; if we don't set it, Eyre will reject all the messages we send. Fortunately, create-landscape-app handles this detail by automatically initializing the active ship's name to the variable window.ship, so we just set api.ship to this value.

While not referenced in the create-landscape-app default code, the Urbit class has three additional callbacks that can be set: onOpen, onRetry, and onError. These callbacks are fired when the state of our channel connection changes:

  • onOpen is called when a connection is established.
  • onRetry is called when a channel connection has been interrupted (such as by network issues) and the Urbit object is trying to reconnect. Reconnection will be attempted up to three times: immediately, after 750ms, and after 3000ms.
  • onError is called with an Error message once all retries have failed, or otherwise when a fatal error occurs.

We'll look at how we can use these callbacks in the next section. Note that it's not mandatory to set these callbacks, but leaving connection problems unhandled is usually a bad idea.

React app setup

Finally, let's take a quick look at the React rendering logic for our application. React rendering occurs within components, which are defined either as classes (e.g. class A extends Component { /* ... */ }) or functions (e.g. function A() { /* ... */ }). While recent React versions support both styles, the latter "modern" style is preferred and used by most Urbit React applications.

Our code defines a few components, but we'll just focus on the primary component for this tutorial; this component is defined as a functional component named App:

export function App() {
/* ... */

As is common for React components, the first thing we'll define in our App component is its state. In React, modifying a component's state causes it to be re-rendered, so state variables should be carefully chosen to constitute all "display-affecting" values. In modern React, component state is defined using the useState() hook, which returns a pair of [stateVariable, setStateVariableFunction]. Since our default create-landscape-app code just displays the list of apps installed on a ship, it only needs to store this list as its state:

const [apps, setApps] = useState();

With the state established, we now define the code responsible for populating this state. The canonical way to grab data from an external service/system in React is to use the useEffect() hook. This function takes two arguments: (1) the callback function for loading the external data and (2) a list of all state variables dependencies, which will cause re-invocations of the first argument when modified. Our app just needs to load the list of apps on our ship (called charges) once, so its useEffect() invocation is simple:

useEffect(() => {
async function init() {
const charges = (await api.scry(scryCharges)).initial;
}, []);

The last step is to return the HTML that will be used to render our component in the browser. This HTML must adhere to the syntactic rules of JSX, which allow for greater flexibility through extensions like embedded JavaScript (contained in curly brace enclosures). Our component renders each app it found when scrying our ship as a tile accompanied by its title and description:

Click to expand

return (
<main className="flex items-center justify-center min-h-screen">
<div className="max-w-md space-y-6 py-20">
<h1 className="text-3xl font-bold">Welcome to hut</h1>
<p>Here&apos;s your urbit&apos;s installed apps:</p>
{apps && (
<ul className="space-y-4">
{Object.entries(apps).map(([desk, app]) => (
<li key={desk} className="flex items-center space-x-3 text-sm leading-tight">
<AppTile {...app} />
<div className="flex-1 text-black">
<strong>{app.title || desk}</strong>
{app.info && <p>{app.info}</p>}

With this brief primer complete, we'll take a closer look at our journal application's front-end and how it utilizes the Urbit HTTP API in the next section.