FirebaseUI for Realtime Database

FirebaseUI makes it simple to bind data from the Firebase Realtime Database to your app's UI.

Before using this library, you should be familiar with the following topics:

Data model

Imagine you have a chat app where each chat message is an item in the chats node of your database. In your app, you may represent a chat message like this:

public class Chat {
    private String mName;
    private String mMessage;
    private String mUid;

    public Chat() {}  // Needed for Firebase

    public Chat(String name, String message, String uid) {
        mName = name;
        mMessage = message;
        mUid = uid;
    }

    public String getName() { return mName; }

    public void setName(String name) { mName = name; }

    public String getMessage() { return mMessage; }

    public void setMessage(String message) { mMessage = message; }

    public String getUid() { return mUid; }

    public void setUid(String uid) { mUid = uid; }
}

A few things to note about this model class:

  • The getters and setters follow the JavaBean naming pattern which allows Firebase to map the data to field names (ex: getName() provides the name field).
  • The class has an empty constructor, which is required for Firebase's automatic data mapping.

For a properly constructed model class like the Chat class above, Firebase can perform automatic serialization in DatabaseReference#setValue() and automatic deserialization in DataSnapshot#getValue().

Querying

On the main screen of your app, you may want to show the 50 most recent chat messages. With Firebase you would use the following query:

Query query = FirebaseDatabase.getInstance()
        .getReference()
        .child("chats")
        .limitToLast(50);

To retrieve this data without FirebaseUI, you might use addChildEventListener to listen for live updates:

ChildEventListener childEventListener = new ChildEventListener() {
    @Override
    public void onChildAdded(DataSnapshot dataSnapshot, String previousChildName) {
        // ...
    }

    @Override
    public void onChildChanged(DataSnapshot dataSnapshot, String previousChildName) {
        // ...
    }

    @Override
    public void onChildRemoved(DataSnapshot dataSnapshot) {
        // ...
    }

    @Override
    public void onChildMoved(DataSnapshot dataSnapshot, String previousChildName) {
        // ...
    }

    @Override
    public void onCancelled(DatabaseError databaseError) {
        // ...
    }
};
query.addChildEventListener(childEventListener);

Using FirebaseUI to populate a RecyclerView

If you're displaying a list of data, you likely want to bind the Chat objects to a RecyclerView. This means implementing a custom RecyclerView.Adapter and coordinating updates with the ChildEventListener.

Fear not, FirebaseUI does all of this for you automatically!

Using the FirebaseRecyclerAdapter

The FirebaseRecyclerAdapter binds a Query to a RecyclerView. When data is added, removed, or changed these updates are automatically applied to your UI in real time.

First, configure the adapter by building FirebaseRecyclerOptions. In this case we will continue with our chat example:

 FirebaseRecyclerOptions<Chat> options =
                new FirebaseRecyclerOptions.Builder<Chat>()
                        .setQuery(query, Chat.class)
                        .build();

If you need to customize how your model class is parsed, you can use a custom SnapshotParser:

...setQuery(..., new SnapshotParser<Chat>() {
    @NonNull
    @Override
    public Chat parseSnapshot(@NonNull DataSnapshot snapshot) {
        return ...;
    }
});

Next create the FirebaseRecyclerAdapter object. You should already have a ViewHolder subclass for displaying each item. In this case we will use a custom ChatHolder class:

FirebaseRecyclerAdapter adapter = new FirebaseRecyclerAdapter<Chat, ChatHolder>(options) {
    @Override
    public ChatHolder onCreateViewHolder(ViewGroup parent, int viewType) {
        // Create a new instance of the ViewHolder, in this case we are using a custom
        // layout called R.layout.message for each item
        View view = LayoutInflater.from(parent.getContext())
                .inflate(R.layout.message, parent, false);

        return new ChatHolder(view);
    }

    @Override
    protected void onBindViewHolder(ChatHolder holder, int position, Chat model) {
        // Bind the Chat object to the ChatHolder
        // ...
    }
};

Finally attach the adapter to your RecyclerView with the RecyclerView#setAdapter() method. Don't forget to also set a LayoutManager!

FirebaseRecyclerAdapter lifecycle

Start/stop listening

The FirebaseRecyclerAdapter uses an event listener to monitor changes to the Firebase query. To begin listening for data, call the startListening() method. You may want to call this in your onStart() method. Make sure you have finished any authentication necessary to read the data before calling startListening() or your query will fail.

@Override
protected void onStart() {
    super.onStart();
    adapter.startListening();
}

Similarly, the stopListening() call removes the event listener and all data in the adapter. Call this method when the containing Activity or Fragment stops:

@Override
protected void onStop() {
    super.onStop();
    adapter.stopListening();
}

Automatic listening

If you don't want to manually start/stop listening you can use Android Architecture Components to automatically manage the lifecycle of the FirebaseRecyclerAdapter. Pass a LifecycleOwner to FirebaseRecyclerAdapter.Builder#setLifecycleOwner(...) and FirebaseUI will automatically start and stop listening in onStart() and onStop().

Data and error events

When using the FirebaseRecyclerAdapter you may want to perform some action every time data changes or when there is an error. To do this, override the onDataChanged() and onError() methods of the adapter:

FirebaseRecyclerAdapter adapter = new FirebaseRecyclerAdapter<Chat, ChatHolder>(options) {
    // ...

    @Override
    public void onDataChanged() {
        // Called each time there is a new data snapshot. You may want to use this method
        // to hide a loading spinner or check for the "no documents" state and update your UI.
        // ...
    }

    @Override
    public void onError(DatabaseError e) {
        // Called when there is an error getting data. You may want to update
        // your UI to display an error message to the user.
        // ...
    }
};

Using FirebaseUI to populate a ListView

ListView is the older, yet simpler way to handle lists of items. Using it is analogous to using a FirebaseRecyclerAdapter, but with FirebaseListAdapter instead and no ViewHolder:

FirebaseListOptions<Chat> options = new FirebaseListOptions.Builder<Chat>()
        .setQuery(query, Chat.class)
        .build();

FirebaseListAdapter<Chat> adapter = new FirebaseListAdapter<Chat>(options) {
    @Override
    protected void populateView(View v, Chat model, int position) {
        // Bind the Chat to the view
        // ...
    }
};

Using FirebaseUI with indexed data

If your data is properly indexed, change your adapter initialization to use setIndexedQuery():

// keyQuery - the Firebase location containing the list of keys to be found in dataRef
// dataRef - the Firebase location to watch for data changes. Each key found at
//           keyRef's location represents a list item.
FirebaseRecyclerOptions<Chat> options = new FirebaseRecyclerOptions.Builder<Chat>()
        .setIndexedQuery(keyQuery, dataRef, Chat.class)
        .build();

Where keyQuery is the location of your keys, and dataRef is the location of your data.

A note on ordering

The order in which you receive your data depends on the order from keyRef, not dataRef:

{
  "data": {
    // This order doesn't matter, the order is taken from keys/(user1 or user2).
    "3": true,
    "1": "some data",
    "2": 5
  },
  "keys": {
    // These two users have different orders for their data thanks to key side ordering.
    "user1": {
      "1": true,
      "2": true,
      "3": true
    },
    "user2": {
      "3": true,
      "2": true,
      "1": true
    }
  }
}