Emmanuel Etukudo I am a full-stack developer with more than five years of experience, with a preference for JavaScript, Node.js, Go, React, Redux, and MongoDB.

Build a chat app with react-native-gifted-chat

10 min read 2990

React Native Gifted Chat

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 8 March 2022 to reflect the latest version of Firestore and include new Firebase SDK APIs.

As the demand for real-time communication grows, developers are looking for easy ways to add reliable communication channels to mobile apps. In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to build mobile chat apps for both iOS and Android in React Native using react-native-gifted-chat, a chat UI designed to empower app developers to build cross-platform chat apps.

To follow along with this tutorial, you’ll need:

  • Working knowledge of CSS, HTML, and Javascript ES6
  • Node.js and Watchman installed on your development machine
  • iOS Simulator or Android Emulator for testing
  • A code editor installed in your development machine
  • Working knowledge of React and React Native

Contents

Let’s get started!

React-native-gifted-chat props

Let’s take a look at a few of the built-in props we’ll use to create our application:

  • messages (array) displays messages
  • text (string), the type of input text. Default is undefined
  • isTyping (bool) handles the typing indicator state. Default is false
  • timeFormat (string) determines time format. Default is LT
  • dateFormat (string) determines date format. Default is ll
  • placeholder (text), the placeholder for an empty text field. Default is Type a message...
  • user (object), the credentials of the user sending the message, i.e., {_id, name, avatar}
  • messageIdGenerator (function) generates an id for each new message. Default is UUID V4

You can explore other props in the documentation.

Installing react-native-gifted-chat

Let’s start by setting up a new React Native app. Open your terminal, navigate into your working directory, and run the command below to initialize a new React Native app:

npx react-native init GiftedChatApp

Once setup is complete, navigate into the GiftedChatApp directory and run the command below to install the required dependencies:

cd GiftedChatApp && npm install @react-navigation/native @react-navigation/stack react-native-gifted-chat react-native-reanimated react-native-gesture-handler react-native-screens react-native-safe-area-context @react-native-community/masked-view react-native-vector-icons

The command above will install React Navigation, react-native-gifted-chat, and the other required dependencies in your project. If you have everything set up correctly, your app should look like the screenshot below once you run it with npx react-native run-ios or npx react-native run-android:

react-native-gifted-chat dependencies

We made a custom demo for .
No really. Click here to check it out.

Building the login screen

Before we begin building the login screen, let’s update our code to make App.js allow screen navigation. Open App.js, then copy and paste the code below:

import React from 'react';
import { createStackNavigator } from '@react-navigation/stack'
import { NavigationContainer } from '@react-navigation/native';
import LoginScreen from './screens/Login';

const Stack = createStackNavigator();

const App = () => {
  return (
    <NavigationContainer>
      <Stack.Navigator >
        <Stack.Screen name='Login' component={LoginScreen} />
      </Stack.Navigator>
    </NavigationContainer>
  );
};

export default App;

Let’s install one final dependency. React Native Elements is a UI toolkit that allows you to easily create form elements and icons. To install React Native Elements, run the code below in your terminal:

npm install react-native-elements

Next, navigate into your project directory, create a new folder named screens, create a new file named Login.js, then copy and paste the code below in Login.js:

import React, { useState } from 'react';
import { View, StyleSheet } from 'react-native'
import { Input, Button } from 'react-native-elements';
import Icon from 'react-native-vector-icons/FontAwesome';

const Login = ({navigation}) => {
    const [email, setEmail] = useState('');
    const [password, setPassword] = useState('');

    return (
        <View style={styles.container}>
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your email'
                label='Email'
                leftIcon={{ type: 'material', name: 'email' }}
                value={email}
                onChangeText={text => setEmail(text)}
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your password'
                label='Password'
                leftIcon={{ type: 'material', name: 'lock' }}
                value={password}
                onChangeText={text => setPassword(text)}
                secureTextEntry
            />
            <Button title='sign in' style={styles.button} />
            <Button title='register' style={styles.button} />
        </View>
    )
}
const styles = StyleSheet.create({
    container: {
        flex: 1,
        alignItems: 'center',
        padding: 10,
        marginTop: 100,
    },
    button: {
        width: 370,
        marginTop: 10
    }
});

export default Login;

In the code block above, we imported the useState() Hook, created two states to store email and password fields, created the login input fields using React Native Elements, and finally added styles.

Now, run npx react-native run-ios or npx react-native run-android, and your app should look like the image below:

Install React Native Elements Gifted Chat

Building the registration screen

Now, let’s build a registration screen to add new users to our application.

Navigate into the screens folder, create a new file named Register.js, then copy and paste the code below:

import React, { useState } from 'react';
import { View, StyleSheet } from 'react-native'
import { Input, Button } from 'react-native-elements';

const Register = () => {
    const [name, setName] = useState('');
    const [email, setEmail] = useState('');
    const [password, setPassword] = useState('');
    const [avatar, setAvatar] = useState('');

    return (
        <View style={styles.container}>
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your name'
                label='Name'
                value={name}
                onChangeText={text => setName(text)}
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your email'
                label='Email'
                value={email}
                onChangeText={text => setEmail(text)}
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your password'
                label='Password'
                value={password} onChangeText={text => setPassword(text)}
                secureTextEntry
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your image url'
                label='Profile Picture'
                value = {avatar}
                onChangeText={text => setAvatar(text)}
            />
            <Button title='register' style={styles.button} />
        </View>
    )
}
const styles = StyleSheet.create({
    container: {
        flex: 1,
        alignItems: 'center',
        padding: 10,
        marginTop: 100,
    },
    button: {
        width: 370,
        marginTop: 10
    }
});

export default Register;

Setting up Firebase for React Native

Now that you are done building the login and registration screens, let’s add Firebase to our application to authenticate users.

Install Firebase by running the code below:

npm install --save firebase

The above command will install the latest Firebase web SDK version. In this tutorial, we will use the Firebase v.9 modular library. Now, head to the Firebase website and create a new project called Gifted Chat App:

Firebase Project New React Native Project

Next, we’ll add a web app to the Firebase project we just created. Create a new file called firebase.js in the root directory of the project. Copy the firebaseConfig credentials from the screen below:

Firebase Config Credentials Add Web App

Replace the credentials currently in firebaseConfig with your project’s unique details:

import { initializeApp, getApp } from 'firebase/app';
import { initializeFirestore } from 'firebase/firestore';
import { getAuth } from 'firebase/auth';

const firebaseConfig = {
  apiKey: 'your_api_key',
  authDomain: 'your_auth_domain',
  projectId: 'your_project_id',
  storageBucket: 'your_storage_bucket',
  messagingSenderId: 'your_messaging_sender_id',
  appId: 'your_app_id',
  measurementId: 'your_measurement_id' // optional
};

const app = initializeApp(firebaseConfig);

const auth = getAuth(app);
const db = initializeFirestore(app, {experimentalForceLongPolling: true});

export { db, auth };

The above module initializes a Firebase app and Firestore database connection. It also returns the initialized Firestore connection instance as db and the authentication instance as auth .

Authenticating a user with Firebase

Let’s enable user authentication through Firebase using email and password. Click authentication from the sidebar menu of the Firebase console and select Email/Password.

Next, select enable and save:

Add Authentication Firebase

Now that the Firebase setup and configuration are complete, let’s update the Register.js file to authenticate a new user.

First, add the following Firebase-related imports:

import { auth } from '../firebase';
import { createUserWithEmailAndPassword, updateProfile } from 'firebase/auth';

Copy the code below and place it above the return keyword of the Register function:

const register = () => {
  createUserWithEmailAndPassword(auth, email, password)
    .then((userCredential) => {
        // Registered
        const user = userCredential.user;
        updateProfile(user, {
            displayName: name,
            photoURL: avatar ? avatar : 'https://gravatar.com/avatar/94d45dbdba988afacf30d916e7aaad69?s=200&d=mp&r=x',
        })
        .then(() => {
            alert('Registered, please login.');
        })
        .catch((error) => {
            alert(error.message);
        })
    })
    .catch((error) => {
        const errorCode = error.code;
        const errorMessage = error.message;
        alert(errorMessage);
    });
}

First, we imported the auth object from the firebase.js file we created earlier. Next, we created a register function and passed the auth object, new user’s email, and password to the createUserWithEmailAndPassword method. Finally, we updated the user’s credentials with name and avatar.

Next, we’ll pass the register function to the register button with the onPress handler:

<Button title='register' onPress={register} style={styles.button} />

Here the complete source code of the Register.js file after the above changes:

import React, { useState } from 'react';
import { View, StyleSheet } from 'react-native'
import { Input, Button } from 'react-native-elements';
import { auth } from '../firebase';
import { createUserWithEmailAndPassword, updateProfile } from 'firebase/auth';

const Register = () => {
    const [name, setName] = useState('');
    const [email, setEmail] = useState('');
    const [password, setPassword] = useState('');
    const [avatar, setAvatar] = useState('');

    const register = () => {
      createUserWithEmailAndPassword(auth, email, password)
        .then((userCredential) => {
            // Registered
            const user = userCredential.user;
            updateProfile(user, {
                displayName: name,
                photoURL: avatar ? avatar : 'https://gravatar.com/avatar/94d45dbdba988afacf30d916e7aaad69?s=200&d=mp&r=x',
            })
            .then(() => {
              alert('Registered, please login.');
            })
            .catch((error) => {
                alert(error.message);
            })
        })
        .catch((error) => {
            const errorCode = error.code;
            const errorMessage = error.message;
            alert(errorMessage);
        });
    }

    return (
        <View style={styles.container}>
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your name'
                label='Name'
                value={name}
                onChangeText={text => setName(text)}
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your email'
                label='Email'
                value={email}
                onChangeText={text => setEmail(text)}
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your password'
                label='Password'
                value={password} onChangeText={text => setPassword(text)}
                secureTextEntry
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your image url'
                label='Profile Picture'
                value = {avatar}
                onChangeText={text => setAvatar(text)}
            />
            <Button title='register' onPress={register} style={styles.button} />
        </View>
    )
}
const styles = StyleSheet.create({
    container: {
        flex: 1,
        alignItems: 'center',
        padding: 10,
        marginTop: 100,
    },
    button: {
        width: 370,
        marginTop: 10
    }
});

export default Register;

Next, add the registration screen to the navigation stack by updating the App.js file, as shown in the following code:

import React from 'react';
import {
  StyleSheet,
} from 'react-native';

import { createStackNavigator } from '@react-navigation/stack'
import { NavigationContainer } from '@react-navigation/native';
import LoginScreen from './screens/Login';
import RegisterScreen from './screens/Register';

const Stack = createStackNavigator();

const App = () => {
  return (
    <NavigationContainer>
      <Stack.Navigator >
        <Stack.Screen name='Login' component={LoginScreen} />
        <Stack.Screen name='Register' component={RegisterScreen} />
      </Stack.Navigator>
    </NavigationContainer>
  );
};

export default App;

Also, we need to add a navigation action from the login screen to the register screen, so add the following code to the Login.js file:

import React, { useState } from 'react';
import { View, StyleSheet } from 'react-native'
import { Input, Button } from 'react-native-elements';
import Icon from 'react-native-vector-icons/FontAwesome';

const Login = ({navigation}) => {
    const [email, setEmail] = useState('');
    const [password, setPassword] = useState('');

    const openRegisterScreen = () => {
      navigation.navigate('Register');
    };

    return (
        <View style={styles.container}>
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your email'
                label='Email'
                leftIcon={{ type: 'material', name: 'email' }}
                value={email}
                onChangeText={text => setEmail(text)}
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your password'
                label='Password'
                leftIcon={{ type: 'material', name: 'lock' }}
                value={password}
                onChangeText={text => setPassword(text)}
                secureTextEntry
            />
            <Button title='sign in' style={styles.button} />
            <Button title="register" style={styles.button} onPress={openRegisterScreen} />
        </View>
    )
}
const styles = StyleSheet.create({
    container: {
        flex: 1,
        alignItems: 'center',
        padding: 10,
        marginTop: 100,
    },
    button: {
        width: 370,
        marginTop: 10
    }
});

export default Login;

Now, you can register a new user from your app and list them in your Firebase console:

Register New User Firebase

Building the chat screen

Next, we’ll build the chat screen, where we’ll redirect users after a successful login.
Create a new file called Chat.js in the screens directory.

To create a basic chat app, copy and paste the code below into the file:

import React, { useEffect, useCallback, useState, useLayoutEffect } from 'react';
import { View, Text, StyleSheet, TouchableOpacity } from 'react-native';
import { Avatar } from 'react-native-elements';
import { auth, db } from '../firebase';
import { signOut } from 'firebase/auth';
import { GiftedChat } from 'react-native-gifted-chat';

const Chat = ({ navigation }) => {
    const [messages, setMessages] = useState([]);
    const signOutNow = () => {
        signOut(auth).then(() => {
            // Sign-out successful.
            navigation.replace('Login');
        }).catch((error) => {
            // An error happened.
        });
    }
    useLayoutEffect(() => {
        navigation.setOptions({
            headerLeft: () => (
                <View style={{ marginLeft: 20 }}>
                    <Avatar
                        rounded
                        source={{
                            uri: auth?.currentUser?.photoURL,
                        }}
                    />
                </View>
            ),
            headerRight: () => (
                <TouchableOpacity style={{
                    marginRight: 10
                }}
                    onPress={signOutNow}
                >
                    <Text>logout</Text>
                </TouchableOpacity>
            )
        })
    }, [navigation]);

    useEffect(() => {
        setMessages([
            {
                _id: 1,
                text: 'Hello developer',
                createdAt: new Date(),
                user: {
                    _id: 2,
                    name: 'React Native',
                    avatar: 'https://placeimg.com/140/140/any',
                },
            },
        ])
    }, []);
    const onSend = useCallback((messages = []) => {
        setMessages(previousMessages => GiftedChat.append(previousMessages, messages))
    }, []);
    return (
        <GiftedChat
            messages={messages}
            showAvatarForEveryMessage={true}
            onSend={messages => onSend(messages)}
            user={{
                _id: auth?.currentUser?.email,
                name: auth?.currentUser?.displayName,
                avatar: auth?.currentUser?.photoURL
            }}
        />
    );
}

export default Chat;

With the Firebase auth object, we created the messages state and a function to handle a user logging out. Next, we created a basic navigation effect by wrapping the header nav with a useLayoutEffect.

With the useEffect Hook, we created a dummy message, which we mounted onto the GiftedChat component. The user prop on the GiftedChat component refers to the user who is currently logged in, in this case it’s you.

We need to implement the login feature to open the chat screen, so replace the current login screen source with the following code to complete the Firebase authentication.

import React, { useState } from 'react';
import { View, StyleSheet } from 'react-native'
import { Input, Button } from 'react-native-elements';
import { auth } from '../firebase';
import { signInWithEmailAndPassword } from 'firebase/auth';
import Icon from 'react-native-vector-icons/FontAwesome';

const Login = ({navigation}) => {
    const [email, setEmail] = useState('');
    const [password, setPassword] = useState('');

    const openRegisterScreen = () => {
      navigation.navigate('Register');
    };

    const signin = () => {
      signInWithEmailAndPassword(auth, email, password)
        .then((userCredential) => {
          navigation.navigate('Chat');
        })
        .catch((error) => {
          const errorCode = error.code;
          const errorMessage = error.message;
          alert(errorMessage);
        });
    };

    return (
        <View style={styles.container}>
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your email'
                label='Email'
                leftIcon={{ type: 'material', name: 'email' }}
                value={email}
                onChangeText={text => setEmail(text)}
            />
            <Input
                placeholder='Enter your password'
                label='Password'
                leftIcon={{ type: 'material', name: 'lock' }}
                value={password}
                onChangeText={text => setPassword(text)}
                secureTextEntry
            />
            <Button title="sign in" style={styles.button} onPress={signin} />
            <Button title="register" style={styles.button} onPress={openRegisterScreen} />
        </View>
    )
}
const styles = StyleSheet.create({
    container: {
        flex: 1,
        alignItems: 'center',
        padding: 10,
        marginTop: 100,
    },
    button: {
        width: 370,
        marginTop: 10
    }
});

export default Login;

Next, we need to add the chat screen component to the navigation stack. Complete the main application screen implementation by replacing the App.js source file content with the following code:

import React from 'react';
import {
  StyleSheet,
} from 'react-native';

import { createStackNavigator } from '@react-navigation/stack'
import { NavigationContainer } from '@react-navigation/native';
import LoginScreen from './screens/Login';
import RegisterScreen from './screens/Register';
import ChatScreen from './screens/Chat';

const Stack = createStackNavigator();

const App = () => {
  return (
    <NavigationContainer>
      <Stack.Navigator >
        <Stack.Screen name='Login' component={LoginScreen} />
        <Stack.Screen name='Register' component={RegisterScreen} />
        <Stack.Screen name='Chat' component={ChatScreen} />
      </Stack.Navigator>
    </NavigationContainer>
  );
};

export default App;

Now, your app should look like the screenshot below after you log in with a correct user name and password:

React Native Gifted Chat Dummy Message

Currently, the messages in our chat app aren’t stored anywhere. To store messages in firestore, we’ll modify the onSend function:

const onSend = useCallback((messages = []) => {
    setMessages(previousMessages => GiftedChat.append(previousMessages, messages))
    const { _id, createdAt, text, user,} = messages[0]

    addDoc(collection(db, 'chats'), { _id, createdAt,  text, user });
}, []);

The above code snippet needs the following new imports:

import { collection, addDoc } from 'firebase/firestore';

Also, make sure to add relevant permissions to the Firestore console for development requirements. For example, the following configuration allows all logged users to read/write the entire database:

rules_version = '2';
service cloud.firestore {
  match /databases/{database}/documents {
    match /{document=**} {
      allow read, write: if request.auth != null;
    }
  }
}

To retrieve old messages from firestore, we’ll make a call to the database using the useLayoutEffect. Copy and paste the code below inside the existing useLayoutEffect hook callback to load old messages on the chat screen:

const q = query(collection(db, 'chats'), orderBy('createdAt', 'desc'));
const unsubscribe = onSnapshot(q, (snapshot) => setMessages(
    snapshot.docs.map(doc => ({
        _id: doc.data()._id,
        createdAt: doc.data().createdAt.toDate(),
        text: doc.data().text,
        user: doc.data().user,
    }))
));

return () => {
  unsubscribe();
};

Check the complete Chat.js source code with the remote Firestore-based real-time messaging support:

import React, { useCallback, useState, useLayoutEffect } from 'react';
import { View, Text, StyleSheet, TouchableOpacity } from 'react-native';
import { Avatar } from 'react-native-elements';
import { auth, db } from '../firebase';
import { signOut } from 'firebase/auth';
import { collection, addDoc, getDocs, query, orderBy, onSnapshot } from 'firebase/firestore';
import { GiftedChat } from 'react-native-gifted-chat';

const Chat = ({ navigation }) => {
    const [messages, setMessages] = useState([]);
    const signOutNow = () => {
        signOut(auth).then(() => {
            // Sign-out successful.
            navigation.replace('Login');
        }).catch((error) => {
            // An error happened.
        });
    }
    useLayoutEffect(() => {
        navigation.setOptions({
            headerLeft: () => (
                <View style={{ marginLeft: 20 }}>
                    <Avatar
                        rounded
                        source={{
                            uri: auth?.currentUser?.photoURL,
                        }}
                    />
                </View>
            ),
            headerRight: () => (
                <TouchableOpacity style={{
                    marginRight: 10
                }}
                    onPress={signOutNow}
                >
                    <Text>logout</Text>
                </TouchableOpacity>
            )
        })

        const q = query(collection(db, 'chats'), orderBy('createdAt', 'desc'));
        const unsubscribe = onSnapshot(q, (snapshot) => setMessages(
            snapshot.docs.map(doc => ({
                _id: doc.data()._id,
                createdAt: doc.data().createdAt.toDate(),
                text: doc.data().text,
                user: doc.data().user,
            }))
        ));

        return () => {
          unsubscribe();
        };

    }, [navigation]);

    const onSend = useCallback((messages = []) => {
        const { _id, createdAt, text, user,} = messages[0]

        addDoc(collection(db, 'chats'), { _id, createdAt,  text, user });
    }, []);

    return (
        <GiftedChat
            messages={messages}
            showAvatarForEveryMessage={true}
            onSend={messages => onSend(messages)}
            user={{
                _id: auth?.currentUser?.email,
                name: auth?.currentUser?.displayName,
                avatar: auth?.currentUser?.photoURL
            }}
        />
    );
}

export default Chat;

Note that we are only using one setMessages function call inside the onSnapshot listener to avoid unwanted multiple state changes. Try two debug application instances on the simulator/emulator and a real physical device to test the real-time messaging application.

Conclusion

Now, you know how to build a standard chat application with cross-platform compatibility using React Native and Firebase! Our application allows us to chat between multiple devices with an unlimited number of users. You can extend this application further by adding chat sounds, emoji support, themes, typing indicator animations, touchable links, offline notifications, offline message persistence, and various other modern chat app features.

React-native-gifted-chat is a great tool for implementing chat in React Native, helping you to improve communication within your application. You can read more about react-native-gifted-chat and Firebase authentication in the official docs. Also, you can learn more Firebase SDK features from the official Firebase JavaScript API reference.

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Emmanuel Etukudo I am a full-stack developer with more than five years of experience, with a preference for JavaScript, Node.js, Go, React, Redux, and MongoDB.

4 Replies to “Build a chat app with react-native-gifted-chat”

  1. Just want to point out, at the time when this article was published (August 27, 2021) this is already outdated. It uses the syntax for Firestore 8.x and not 9.x which is modular.

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