electron-firebase

Electron-Firebase is a quickstart framework for building cross-platform cloud-connected desktop applications using Electron and Firebase. With a few configuration settings you can include a complete authentication workflow into your app that can use email/password, phone number, google, facebook, or many other identity providers.

Electron-Firebase is unusual in being both an NPM module and an example application, and it spans both worlds of the Browser JavaScript environment and the host node.js environment. As such, it will install several folders and files into the root of the NPM application that form the example application, which you are encouraged to modify for your own purposes.

What Electron-Firebase provides for you

  • An authentication workflow within an application context for many identity providers, including phone and email
  • Authentication persistence, so that a user can launch your app at any time without signing in again
  • Security and privacy throughout the authentication sign-in and persistence processes
  • True cross-platform cloud-connected application building across MacOS, Windows, and Linux
  • Methods for communication between the Electron Browser and Main processes
  • Authorized user access to database and cloud storage with Firebase security rules
  • API access to Firebase Cloud Storage, which is not supported in node.js
  • Firebase Cloud Storage listing and searching capability
  • Persistence of window positions on the screen automagically when the user changes them
  • An example application for a quick start in writing your own application
  • Please, please, please modify the splash page (/pages/splashpage.html) before releasing your own application

Opinionated

The design of Electron-Firebase is specifically opinionated in a few key areas:

  • The integration between Electron and Firebase should be sufficiently complete that a developer can install this framework and quickly get started writing an application
  • The Electron Main Process is where most Firebase access should happen since that has access to all of the node.js APIs and operating system. The exception being the firebaseui authentication workflow which has to execute in the Browser (Electron "Renderer" process).
  • Access to the Firebase database and storage should enforce authorization so that your app can only perform operations in the context of the signed-in user and application.
  • Communication between the Browser and Main processes must be secured when the Browser content contains foreign content or private information, such as the firebaseui workflow.

NOT opinionated

Electron-Firebase is specifically not opinionated in these areas:

  • There is no application build and packaging process since there are multiple ways to accomplish this.
  • There is no preferred UI framework. The example app uses Bootstrap in a minimal way.
  • The Firebase API and capability set continues to expand, such as crash analytics, performance monitoring, and so on. Electron-Firebase does not integrate Firebase any further than the application foundation of authentication, database, and storage.

Platform support

Electron-Firebase has been tested on:

  • Ubuntu Linux 20.04.1 LTS (Focal Fossa)
  • Apple Mac OS 10.15.5 (Catalina)
  • Microsoft Windows 10 Home version 1903

Installation Process Overview

Although Electron-Firebase is an NPM module, there is some preparation to complete before it can be installed. This process may appear complicated because it involes setting up a Cloud service (Firebase) and establishing trust relationships with various identity providers. This is work that needs to be done for any kind of cloud connected application, but once configured, Electron-Firebase automates much of the rest. The sequence of operations is important, and no steps are optional. The process should be identical for any platform that you are using, excepting the text editor and terminal that you use.

Create a Firebase project

  • Go to [Firebase] and create an account if you do not already have one
  • From the Firebase Console, create a new Firebase project
  • From the Project Overview, make sure that you have the Blaze Plan selected

Enable Firebase Custom Tokens

Electron-Firebase uses Custom Tokens to help manage the authentication process, where the Service Account ID method will be used. To enable this capability, you must grant the "Service Account Token Creator" IAM role to your project's service account as follows.

  • Open the IAM and Admin Page in the Google Cloud Platform Console.
  • Select your project and click "Continue".
  • Click the edit icon corresponding to the service account you wish to update.
  • Click on "Add Another Role".
  • Type "Service Account Token Creator" into the search filter, and select it from the results.
  • Click "Save" to confirm the role grant.

Enable the IAM API

  • Go to Google Console IAM API Dashboard
  • Select your project
  • If the Activation Status is not "Enabled" then click on "Enable API" It may take a few minutes for this status to be propagated to your project.

Setup Identity Providers

configure facebook https://developers.facebook.com/apps/ Products --> Settings --> Client OAuth Settings paste: Valid OAuth Redirect URIs --> Save Changes

Electron-Firebase Module Installation

# initialize your project
mkdir <your-project>
cd <your-project>
npm init

# install the electron-firebase framework and example application
npm install electron-firebase

Edit firebase-config.json parameters

It is highly recommended that you add firebase-config.json to your .gitignore file. It contains project-specific information that you do not want to check in with the app, nor should it be packaged when building your app.

  • Edit ./config/firebase-config.json using your favorite text editor, preferably one based on Electron
  • Open the Firebase Console and select your project

Be very careful when cutting/pasting values, as things will certainly not work if there are any errors or JSON syntax violation.

Firebase project settings

  • Click on the configuration gear next to Project Overview and select Project Settings
  • Scroll down to Firebase SDK snippet and select Config
  • Cut and paste the following fields carefully into the ./config/firebase-config.json file:
    • "apiKey"
    • "authDomain"
    • "databaseURL"
    • "projectId"
    • "storageBucket"
    • "messagingSenderId"
    • "appId"

Firebase hosting URL

  • Select Develop 🠊 Hosting
  • Under your project Domain, right click on the firebaseapp.com link, else create your Custom Domain
  • Paste the hosting URL to
    • "hostingUrl"

Service account

  • Select Project Settings 🠊 Service accounts
  • Under Firebase service account, copy the entire string ending with gserviceaccount.com
  • Paste the service account to:
    • "serviceAccountId"
  • Save your changes to the ./config/firebase-config.json file.

Deploy security rules and cloud functions

The following command will deploy Firebase rules and cloud functions to the Firebase Cloud. These are critical for authentication and authorization to function properly. The deploy process needs to run only once for your project, or subsequently if the security rules or cloud functions are ever modified. These files are administrative and should not bundled with your application.

npm run deploy

Add authorized domain

  • Open the Firebase Console and select your project
  • Select Authentication 🠊 Sign-in Method
  • Scroll down to Authorized Domains
  • Click Add Domain
  • Enter localhost and click Add

Setup identity providers

Firebase Authentication uses industry standards like OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect to support popular federated identity providers like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and many more. In order for your app to have authentication options such as "Sign in with Facebook", each identity provider needs to know about your app, and your app needs to know something about each identity provider that you would like to support. The following instructions use Facebook as an example. The other identity providers will have very similar processes but will differ in some details.

Create an "app" in the identity provider

  • Go to Facebook for Developers
  • Create a developer account if you don't have one, else just sign in with your developer credentials
  • Click on My Apps
  • Click Add a New App
  • Click For Everything Else
  • Enter the App Display Name but you should make this the same as the application name that you present to users
  • Enter App Contact Email
  • Click Create App ID
  • On the Add a Product page, select Facebook Login Setup button
  • On the Quickstart page, select Web option
  • Fill in the Tell Us about Your Website URL and save; take no other action on the Web page
  • Leave this page up for the next few instructions

Configure the identity provider in Firebase

  • Open the Firebase Console and select your project
  • Click Authentication
  • Click Sign-in Method
  • Click on the Facebook entry and select Enable
  • Leave this page up for the next few instructions

Exchange App ID and Secret

  • Back on the Facebook for Developers page, select Settings 🠊 Basic
  • Select the App ID information and copy
  • Return to the Firebase Console page, Facebook selected
  • Paste the App ID in the identity provider Sign-in Method dialog
  • Back on the Facebook for Developers page, select Show by the App Secret
  • Select the App Secret information and copy
  • Return to the Firebase Console page, Sign-in Method dialog
  • Paste the APP Secret but leave this dialog open for the next step

Enter the redirect URL at the identity provider

  • Return to the Firebase Console page, Sign-in Method dialog
  • Copy the contents of the OAuth redirect URI and click Save
  • Back on the Facebook for Developers page
  • Select left menu Facebook Login 🠊 Settings
  • Paste the redirect URI under Valid OAuth Redirect URIs
  • Click Save Changes

Modify app-config.json "providers"

  • Open the ./config/app-config.json file with your favorite text editor
  • Add "facebook.com" to the providers list
  • Repeat the entire setup process for any other identity providers that you wish to support
  • Possible values are
    • password
    • phone
    • google.com
    • facebook.com
    • twitter.com
    • github.com
    • apple.com
    • microsoft.com
    • yahoo.com

The example application

The npm install process copies an example application to your project folder. This application generates some data sets based on the user's authentication profile, and allows the user to view that information in the Firestore database or Firebase Cloud Storage.

Start the example application

To run the example application:

npm start

Example application files and structure

The example application installs the following folders and files, which you are free to modify. When performing a subsequent npm install, any modified example application files will not be overwritten, so if you want to get the newest version before an update you should change the names of the modified files.

  • /config - configuration files for your application
  • /functions - functions to be deployed to the Firebase Cloud
  • /pages - top-level web server folder for HTML pages accessible to the Browser
  • /scripts - top-level web server folder for JavaScript modules to the Browser
  • main.js - the example application main file and overall program structure
  • answerBrowser.js - app support file, functions that export APIs used by the Browser
  • setupApp.js - app support file that generates example data sets on startup

The app-config.json file

A number of parameters may be modified in the ./config/app-config.json file. Changing some of them could cause your application to stop working if they are not coordinated with application code changes.

debugMode

Set this value to true to enable debug mode: some log messages will be visible, network calls with be logged, and Browser windows will be opened in developer/debug mode.

webapp

You can leave an existing file in place, and employ a new file, by changing the page path parameters.

webFolders

Electron-Firebase operates a TLS web server within the Main node.js process that hosts APIs that the Browser can access. This is "static" web content, meaning that referencing one of these pages will not run a dynamic script on the web server.

apis

These entries are localhost URLs that the Browser uses to make API requests to the Main process. You shouldn't modify these, but it's a way to keep consistent API definitions between the Browser and Main processes.

logout

There are really two levels of sign-in and two levels of sign-out - the Firebase application, and the identity provider. The Firebase signout process does not handle the identity provider level, so these URLs are provided as a way to perform a "deep logout".

providers

This list determines which choices for identity provider will be presented to the user. So this list must be modified to match the set of identity providers to be supported by your application.

API documentation

Typical usage of the APIs:

const fbe = require('firebase-electron')
fbe.auth.initializeFirebase()
API Description
mainapp Higher-level functions for quickly building your app.
auth Authentication workflow for Google Firebase.
firestore Interface to the Firestore Database in the security context of the authenticated user.
fbstorage Interface to Google Cloud Storage in the security context of the authenticated user.
file Functions for local file I/O. All functions are synchronous.
applib Collection of utilities for JSON, objects, and events.
local Functions that use the localStorage capability in a BrowserWindow.
server A local webserver for secure communication with a BrowserWindow.
fbwindow Open and manage Electron BrowserWindow instances.