Matrix SDK for React Javascript
JavaScript Shell
Latest commit a9256b0 Jan 16, 2017 @dbkr dbkr v0.8.5


This is a react-based SDK for inserting a Matrix chat/voip client into a web page.

This package provides the React components needed to build a Matrix web client using React. It is not useable in isolation, and instead must must be used from a 'skin'. A skin provides:

  • Customised implementations of presentation components.
  • Custom CSS
  • The containing application
  • Zero or more 'modules' containing non-UI functionality

WARNING: As of July 2016, the skinning abstraction is broken due to rapid development of matrix-react-sdk to meet the needs of Riot (codenamed Vector), the first app to be built on top of the SDK ( Right now matrix-react-sdk depends on some functionality from riot-web (e.g. CSS), and matrix-react-sdk contains some Riot specific behaviour (grep for 'vector'). This layering will be fixed asap once Riot development has stabilised, but for now we do not advise trying to create new skins for matrix-react-sdk until the layers are clearly separated again.

In the interim, vector-im/riot-web and matrix-org/matrix-react-sdk should be considered as a single project (for instance, matrix-react-sdk bugs are currently filed against vector-im/riot-web rather than this project).

Developer Guide

Platform Targets:

All code lands on the develop branch - master is only used for stable releases. Please file PRs against develop!!

Please follow the standard Matrix contributor's guide:

Please follow the Matrix JS/React code style as per:

Whilst the layering separation between matrix-react-sdk and Riot is broken (as of July 2016), code should be committed as follows:

React components in matrix-react-sdk are come in two different flavours: 'structures' and 'views'. Structures are stateful components which handle the more complicated business logic of the app, delegating their actual presentation rendering to stateless 'view' components. For instance, the RoomView component that orchestrates the act of visualising the contents of a given Matrix chat room tracks lots of state for its child components which it passes into them for visual rendering via props.

Good separation between the components is maintained by adopting various best practices that anyone working with the SDK needs to be be aware of and uphold:

  • Components are named with upper camel case (e.g. views/rooms/EventTile.js)

  • They are organised in a typically two-level hierarchy - first whether the component is a view or a structure, and then a broad functional grouping (e.g. 'rooms' here)

  • After creating a new component you must run npm run reskindex to regenerate the component-index.js for the SDK (used in future for skinning)

  • The view's CSS file MUST have the same name (e.g. view/rooms/MessageTile.css). CSS for matrix-react-sdk currently resides in

  • Per-view CSS is optional - it could choose to inherit all its styling from the context of the rest of the app, although this is unusual for any but structural components (lacking presentation logic) and the simplest view components.

  • The view MUST only refer to the CSS rules defined in its own CSS file. 'Stealing' styling information from other components (including parents) is not cool, as it breaks the independence of the components.

  • CSS classes are named with an app-specific namespacing prefix to try to avoid CSS collisions. The base skin shipped by with the matrix-react-sdk uses the naming prefix "mx_". A company called Yoyodyne Inc might use a prefix like "yy_" for its app-specific classes.

  • CSS classes use upper camel case when they describe React components - e.g. .mx_MessageTile is the selector for the CSS applied to a MessageTile view.

  • CSS classes for DOM elements within a view which aren't components are named by appending a lower camel case identifier to the view's class name - e.g. .mx_MessageTile_randomDiv is how you'd name the class of an arbitrary div within the MessageTile view.

  • We deliberately use vanilla CSS 3.0 to avoid adding any more magic dependencies into the mix than we already have. App developers are welcome to use whatever floats their boat however. In future we'll start using css-next to pull in features like CSS variable support.

  • The CSS for a component can override the rules for child components. For instance, .mx_RoomList .mx_RoomTile {} would be the selector to override styles of RoomTiles when viewed in the context of a RoomList view. Overrides must be scoped to the View's CSS class - i.e. don't just define .mx_RoomTile {} in RoomList.css - only RoomTile.css is allowed to define its own CSS. Instead, say .mx_RoomList .mx_RoomTile {} to scope the override only to the context of RoomList views. N.B. overrides should be relatively rare as in general CSS inheritence should be enough.

  • Components should render only within the bounding box of their outermost DOM element. Page-absolute positioning and negative CSS margins and similar are generally not cool and stop the component from being reused easily in different places.

Originally matrix-react-sdk followed the Atomic design pattern as per to try to encourage a modular architecture. However, we found that the grouping of components into atoms/molecules/organisms made them harder to find relative to a functional split, and didn't emphasise the distinction between 'structural' and 'view' components, so we backed away from it.

Github Issues

All issues should be filed under for now.

OUTDATED: To Create Your Own Skin

This is ALL LIES currently, as skinning is currently broken - see the WARNING section at the top of this readme.

Skins are modules are exported from such a package in the lib directory. lib/skins contains one directory per-skin, named after the skin, and the modules directory contains modules as their javascript files.

A basic skin is provided in the matrix-react-skin package. This also contains a minimal application that instantiates the basic skin making a working matrix client.

You can use matrix-react-sdk directly, but to do this you would have to provide 'views' for each UI component. To get started quickly, use matrix-react-skin.

To actually change the look of a skin, you can create a base skin (which does not use views from any other skin) or you can make a derived skin. Note that derived skins are currently experimental: for example, the CSS from the skins it is based on will not be automatically included.

To make a skin, create React classes for any custom components you wish to add in a skin within src/skins/<skin name>. These can be based off the files in views in the matrix-react-skin package, modifying the require() statement appropriately.

If you make a derived skin, you only need copy the files you wish to customise.

Once you've made all your view files, you need to make a skinfo.json. This contains all the metadata for a skin. This is a JSON file with, currently, a single key, 'baseSkin'. Set this to the empty string if your skin is a base skin, or for a derived skin, set it to the path of your base skin's skinfo.json file, as you would use in a require call.

Now you have the basis of a skin, you need to generate a skindex.json file. The reskindex.js tool in matrix-react-sdk does this for you. It is suggested that you add an npm script to run this, as in matrix-react-skin.

For more specific detail on any of these steps, look at matrix-react-skin.

Alternative instructions:

  • Create a new NPM project. Be sure to directly depend on react, (otherwise you can end up with two copies of react).
  • Create an index.js file that sets up react. Add require statements for React and matrix-react-sdk. Load a skin using the 'loadSkin' method on the SDK and call Render. This can be a skin provided by a separate package or a skin in the same package.
  • Add a way to build your project: we suggest copying the scripts block from matrix-react-skin (which uses babel and webpack). You could use different tools but remember that at least the skins and modules of your project should end up in plain (ie. non ES6, non JSX) javascript in the lib directory at the end of the build process, as well as any packaging that you might do.
  • Create an index.html file pulling in your compiled javascript and the CSS bundle from the skin you use. For now, you'll also need to manually import CSS from any skins that your skin inherts from.