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Getting started with Socket.io: Adding Real Time Events to your Node.js Express App

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 5.34.37 PM

In a previous post, I explained how to monitor phone calls sent with the Twilio API in real time using call progress events. These allow you to set up a webhook url to receive a request whenever the status of your phone calls change.

The real time updates of call progress events provide us with a great opportunity to play around with websockets. In this post I am going to show you how to extend an already existing Express app to add real time communication between the client and server. We will be turning the Express server from my previous post into the backend of a dashboard for monitoring calls in real time using socket.io.

Setting everything up

You are going to need to have have Node.js and npm installed. At the time of writing this blog post, I have Node v4.0 and npm v2.10.1 installed.

You will also need to create a Twilio account and purchase a phone number with Voice capabilities. You can get through this post using a trial account, but you will have to verify each phone number that you make calls to with the API. Upgrading your account will allow you to make calls without verifying the phone number first.

If you did not follow through the previous blog post, you can get the code for the back end that we are adding websocket functionality to from this GitHub repository.

Set it up locally by entering the following commands into your terminal. You may have to enter your GitHub credentials:

git clone https://github.com/sagnew/CallStatusDashboard.git
cd CallStatusDashboard/
git checkout backend-express-app
npm install

Now install Socket.io:

npm install socket.io --save

Getting started with Socket.io

Socket.io is a websocket library for adding bi-directional, event-based communication between your server and client. This allows us to receive and emit events in real time whenever our data changes. This is awesome because we can always have everything up to date by emitting an event to the client whenever our server receives an update to its /events webhook url.

Let’s get started by making a new directory called views for our HTML and a directory called static for our client side JavaScript.

mkdir views && mkdir static

Open the index.js file and make the following changes to allow our app to serve static content and to log whenever a socket connection is made:

"use strict";
const express = require('express');
const bodyParser = require('body-parser');
const twilio = require('twilio');

const app = express();

// Run server to listen on port 3000.
const server = app.listen(3000, () => {
  console.log('listening on *:3000');
});

const io = require('socket.io')(server);

app.use(bodyParser.urlencoded({ extended: false } ));
app.use(express.static('static'));

// Set socket.io listeners.
io.on('connection', (socket) => {
  console.log('a user connected');

  socket.on('disconnect', () => {
    console.log('user disconnected');
  });
});

// Set Express routes.
app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  res.sendFile(__dirname + '/views/index.html');
});

app.post('/events', (req, res) => {
  let to = req.body.to;
  let fromNumber = req.body.from;
  let callStatus = req.body.CallStatus;
  let callSid = req.body.callSid;

  console.log(to, fromNumber, callStatus, callSid);
  res.send('Event received');
});

app.post('/voice', (req, res) => {
  // Generate a TwiML response
  let twiml = new twilio.twiml.VoiceResponse();
  // Talk in a robot voice over the phone.
  twiml.say('Call progress events are rad');
  // Set the response type as XML.
  res.header('Content-Type', 'text/xml');
  // Send the TwiML as the response.
  res.send(twiml.toString());
});

We can hop over to the client side now to write code to connect to Socket.io.

Create a new file called client.js to the static directory with the following line of code:

var socket = io();

To finish things off, we need to include this JavaScript code in some HTML. We will add the client.js file as well as a link to the cdn hosting the socket.io code. Create a file called index.html and add the following:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <title>Hello World</title>
</head>
<body>
  <div id="phone-calls"></div>
  <script src="https://cdn.socket.io/socket.io-1.3.5.js"></script>
  <script src="client.js"></script>
</body>
</html>

Now we can check to see if everything is working by running our server and visiting our dashboard page at http://localhost:3000 to see if anything is logged to the console:

node index.js

SocketIOTest.gif

Adding real time server-client communication to our app

Let’s modify our call status events route to emit an event with Socket.io whenever we receive an update from Twilio. We will want to emit an object with all of the relevant data from the request for the call progress event.

For now let’s just use the phone numbers that the call was made to and from, the status of the call and a call SID to use as a unique identifier for each phone call.

Go back to editing your index.js file and add the following code to your /events route:

"use strict";
const express = require('express');
const bodyParser = require('body-parser');
const twilio = require('twilio');

const app = express();

// Run server to listen on port 3000.
const server = app.listen(3000, () => {
  console.log('listening on *:3000');
});

const io = require('socket.io')(server);

app.use(bodyParser.urlencoded({ extended: false } ));
app.use(express.static('static'));

// Set socket.io listeners.
io.on('connection', (socket) => {
  console.log('a user connected');

  socket.on('disconnect', () => {
    console.log('user disconnected');
  });
});

// Set Express routes.
app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  res.sendFile(__dirname + '/views/index.html');
});

app.post('/events', (req, res) => {
  let to = req.body.to;
  let fromNumber = req.body.from;
  let callStatus = req.body.CallStatus;
  let callSid = req.body.callSid;

  io.emit('call progress event', { to, fromNumber, callStatus, callSid });

  console.log(to, from, callStatus, callSid);
  res.send('Event received');
});

app.post('/voice', (req, res) => {
  // Generate a TwiML response
  let twiml = new twilio.twiml.VoiceResponse();
  // Talk in a robot voice over the phone.
  twiml.say('Call progress events are rad');
  // Set the response type as XML.
  res.header('Content-Type', 'text/xml');
  // Send the TwiML as the response.
  res.send(twiml.toString());
});

We have to make one last change before everything works. Hop back over to our client.js script in the static directory and log events that we receive from the server:

var socket = io();

socket.on('call progress event', function(call){
  // Create a list item to add to the page.
  var li = document.createElement('li');

  // Create an element for each piece of data in the phone call object.
  var callSid = document.createElement('h4');
  var to = document.createElement('h4');
  var fromNumber = document.createElement('h4');
  var callStatus = document.createElement('h4');

  // Set the display text for each element.
  callSid.textContent = 'Call SID: ' + call.callSid;
  to.textContent = 'To: ' + call.to;
  fromNumber.textContent = 'From: ' + call.fromNumber;
  callStatus.textContent = 'Call Status: ' + call.callStatus;

  // Append each line of text to our phone call list item.
  li.appendChild(callSid);
  li.appendChild(to);
  li.appendChild(fromNumber);
  li.appendChild(callStatus);

  // Append the new object to the #phone-calls div.
  document.getElementById('phone-calls').appendChild(li);
});

Now whenever a call update is received, we will log it to the console both on the server and on the client. Pull out your phone and give your Twilio number a call while viewing the dashboard page in order to see how this code works.

SocketIOWorking.gif

Ready for more?

You were able to add basic Socket.io events to your app and should be set up to use this for more complex tasks. Try checking out Socket.io’s docs and their cool demos to see other stuff you can do with web sockets.

If you’re interested in finishing this up and building a front end for our dashboard app with ReactJS, stay tuned for future blog posts.

I’d love to see what cool things you build. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

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