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Using Firebase With AngularJS

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Firebase is a great technology that allows us to create web apps without any server-side programming, so that development becomes quicker and easier. In this article I will show you how to use it along with AngularJS to achieve the best developer and user experience possible.

What's so great about using Firebase with AngularJS? Well, if you look at how both of the technologies are made, there's your answer. Bidirectional data binding from AngularJS works exceptionally well with Firebase's "Don't just save data. Sync it." philosophy.

Development is quick, and the user experience is great—they just type something and it's already saved and available to the other connected users.


Step 1: Setting Up the Database

Let's start by creating a database. If you don't have an account yet, create one (you can sign in with GitHub!). Then log in and create an app by filling in the form and clicking the button.

Since we will be using a Facebook login further down the road, you will have to provide your Facebook app's details (that is, the app ID and the app secret) in your database's options. Click on the "Manage" button under your Firebase app name and go to the "Simple Login" tab, then enter the requested information and check "Enabled".

You will also have to configure your Facebook app to make it work. The whole process is pretty quick and is described on the Firebase website.


Step 2: Setting Up an Angular App

Let's start by creating a base HTML and JavaScript for our app. We will be creating a simple chat application that will allow users to log in using Facebook.

Create an HTML file and put this markup inside:

As you can see, it contains a few scripts that we need. Of course it includes firebase.js and angular.js, and we also need firebase-simple-login.js for the Facebook authentication. angularfire.min.js contains the AngularFire module, which greatly simplifies working with Firebase.

Now create the angular.app.js file, in which we will put our application logic. Let's start by declaring the main module, simpleChat:

As you can see, the only dependency is the firebase module from AngularFire.


Step 3: Simple Login

Now let's create the code that will allow users to log in with Facebook. Since our app is so small, we will only have one controller in there: MessagesCtrl.

The $firebase function will allow us to connect to the Firebase database, and $firebaseSimpleLogin will manage the login stuff.

We will need a Firebase instance, so let's create it:

Of course replace 'your-unique-url' with your database's URL. Now prepare the login object using $firebaseSimpleLogin and the ref we just created:

And that's pretty much it for getting the login status. If the user is logged in, the $scope.loginObj.user variable will contain an object with the user's data; otherwise, it will be null.

Now add a <div> with our controller and a button to let the user sign in to the body of your page:

We used the ngHide directive to hide the button when the user is logged in. Now the $scope.login() method will just call a method with the same name on the $scope.loginObj:

The only parameter we used is the name of the provider used to log the user in. You can test your app now, and the login button should disappear when you log in.


Step 4: Displaying the Messages

As you may expect, this will also be pretty easy. First let's prepare the HTML. We will use ngRepeat to loop through all messages and display them:

Now we have to update the controller. Create the obj variable that will hold the object returned from Firebase:

The $asObject() method converts the whole reference to a Javascript object with a few useful methods. The one we will use is called .$bindTo() and will allow us to create a three-way binding (Firebase-AngularJS-DOM):

We put $scope as the first parameter, and a property's name as the second. The object we are binding will appear in $scope under this name (as $scope.data in this example).

And that is all you need to display the messages! Of course, unless you've put something in the messages array in your database, you will not see anything if you run your app now.


Step 5: Sending Messages

This one will be even quicker. Let's add an input to our controller's div, so that our users can type in messages:

The input's value will be bound to the $scope.newMessage.text variable, and its keyup event will fire the $scope.handleKeyup() callback. Note that we passed $event as the parameter, since we need to check if the user pressed Enter.

Let's define the $scope.handleKeyup() function:

First, we check if the Enter key was pressed:

If so, we add the user's display name to the $scope.newMessage object, update the $scope.data.messages array, and reset the $scope.newMessage object:

You also have to initialize the $scope.newMessage object:

That's it - ppen your app in two browsers (so that you can use two Facebook accounts) and try it out! As usual, please leave any questions, comments, and general feedback in the form below.

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