Setting up Web Sockets in the Web Browser

On the client side you can interact with Web Connection WebSockets via the \scripts\webconnection-websocket.js library which provides the core features for handling socket events and sending messages to and from a Web Socket.

What do you need

  • Web Sockets require an evergreen browser (no IE support)
  • Uses modern ES2016 JavaScript syntax
  • Requires Web Server that supports WebSockets
    (IIS 10, IIS Express 10, Server 2016+, Web Connection Web Server)

Setting up a Web Socket

The following is from the Web Socket Chat Sample application.

import {WebConnectionWebSocket} from '../scripts/web-connection-websocket.js'

// Create the Socket instance
var socket = new WebConnectionWebSocket();

// handle message object { action, message, groupId, userId } props
socket.onMessageHandler = (msg) => {
    // just for reference
    var action = message.action  // for routing
    var message = msg.message;   // string message
    var user = msg.userId;       // User that sent it
    var group = msg.groupId;     // Group that sent it
    // typically you can route on action
    if (action == "broadcastchatmessage") {
        var msg = message;   // plain text message
    else if(action == "initialmessages") {
        var msgs = JSON.parse(message);   // JSON message:  array of messages
    // recommend you 'route' any actions to separate methods to keep
    // this function from getting huge
// events when sockets are connected and closed
socket.onOpenHandler =(ev) => {    // optional 
socket.onCloseHandler = (ev) => {  // optional 

var group = $("#group").val(); // from input field
var user = $("#user").val();   // from input field

// this actually creates the socket 
// pass group/user if you need to differentiate recipients
// if you broadcast to all this is not needed
socket.tryConnect(true, groupId, userId);

The crux of this code is the socket.onMessageHandler which receives incoming Web Socket messages. The msg parameter is a Web Connection message object which looks like this:

    // a routing action that allows the server or 
    // client to differentiate messages
    action: action,

    // actual message string of what the Socket sent - can also be JSON
    message: message,

    // GroupId of sender (if available)
    groupId: groupId,
    // userId of sender (if available)
    userId: userId, 
    recipients: []

Based on an incoming message you typically use the action to determine how to handle the incoming message and message contains the actual message payload. The message can be plain text like in the Chat application, or it can be complex object serialized as JSON in which case you need to deserialize it with JSON.parse(msg.message).

Message Handling Example

This code basically provides the ability to handle incoming Web Socket requests. In the Chat example this corresponds to capturing a message that is broadcast to all users and displaying the message:

socket.onMessageHandler = (msg) => {        
    userId = userName$.val();
    if (msg.action == "broadcastchatmessage") {
        if (!msg && !msg.message)            
            return;  // empty - do nothing

        // grab the raw HTML of existing message
        var val = msgs$.html();

        var html = "<div class='message-wrapper'>";
        // if current user add special class to highlight
        if (userId == msg.userId)
            html = "<div class='message-wrapper this-user'>";

        // display the message header with the user Id of sender            
        html += "<p class='message-header'>--- <b>" + msg.userId + "</b>  <small>" + new Date().toLocaleTimeString().toLowerCase() + "</small> ---</p>";               
        // msg.message is just plain text
        html += msg.message;        
        html += "</div>";

        // and assign to Message area
        msgs$.html(val + html);

        // scroll to bottom
        setTimeout(() => {
            msgs$[0].scrollTop = 9999999999 
            highlightCode();   // highlight markdown code snippets
        }, 120);

Sending Messages from the Client

Clients also need to 'broadcast' messages to a Web Socket. In the chat application a user can type a message, which is then sent via the Web Socket to the Web Connection server, which then broadcasts the message to connected clients.

On the client side the WebConnectionSocket class also supports sending messages to the server, which looks like this:

btnSend$.on("click",function(e) {
    var userName = userName$.val();
    var group = group$.val();    
    var message = send$.val();

    // create a broadcast message object - with action and message
    var msg = socket.createBroadcastMessage("broadcastchatmessage", message);
    msg.userId = userName;
    msg.groupId = group;
    // specified group(s) to send to - if empty (goes to 'empty' group)
    if (group)
        msg.addRecipient(group, 'group')

And that pretty much handles the send operation. The key is socket.send(msg) where the msg is in the standard format shown above. You should use socket.createBroadcastMessage() which creates an object with the requisite properties and an addRecipient() method to filter the recipient list to a specific group or user(s).

Next: Server Side Web Socket Processing

See also

Handling Web Socket requests in Web Connection (Receive and Send) | How Web Sockets work | Web Sockets in Web Connection

© West Wind Technologies, 1996-2021 • Updated: 04/19/21
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