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PubNub Arduino Library

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This library allows your sketches to communicate with the PubNub cloud message passing system using any network hardware (chip/shield) that has a class compatible with Arduino de facto standard Client. Your application can receive (subscribe to) and send (publish) messages.

Copy-and-Paste-Ready Code!

See how easy it is to Publish and Subscribe!


void setup() {
    /* For debugging, set to speed of your choice */

    /* If you use some other HW, you need to do some other
       initialization of it here... */

    /* Start the Pubnub library by giving it a publish and subscribe
       keys */
    PubNub.begin(pubkey, subkey);

void loop() {
    /* Maintain DHCP lease. For other HW, you may need to do
       something else here, or maybe nothing at all. */

    /* Publish message. You could use `auto` here... */
    PubNonSubClient *pclient = PubNub.publish(pubchannel, "\"message\"");
    if (!pclient) return;
    PublishCracker cheez;
    /** You're mostly interested in `outcome()`, and,
        if it's "failed", then `description()`. 
    Serial.print("Outcome: "); Serial.print(cheez.outcome());
    Serial.print(' '); Serial.println(cheez.to_str(cheez.outcome()));
    Serial.print("description: "); Serial.println(cheez.description());
    Serial.print("timestamp: "); Serial.println(cheez.timestamp());
    Serial.print("state: "); Serial.print(cheez.state());
    Serial.print(' '); Serial.println(cheez.to_str(cheez.state()));

    /* Wait for news. */
    PubSubClient *sclient = PubNub.subscribe(subchannel);
    if (!sclient) return; // error
    String msg;
    SubscribeCracker ritz(sclient);
    while (!ritz.finished()) {
        if (msg.length() > 0) {
            Serial.print("Received: "); Serial.println(msg);


Upgrading from version 2

The publish() method now returns PubNub's "own" Client compatible class (that is, pointer to an object of said class). It used to return a pointer to the network client class used. In most cases, your sketch will continue to work, only in some special cases (like ESP32), where the implementation of the client class is not actually conforming to the "contract" of the Cient interface, will you need to update to make things work.

BTW, if you used auto instead of naming the class, there will be no need to update.

Same goes for history(), it now returns PubNub's own Client.

But, subscribe() does not need any update, it still returns PubSubClient*.

It is now recommended to use the higher level interface for parsing the response returned from PubNub, which is introduced in version 3.0.0. It is much easier to use. You can still use the "low level" interface, that is, the (only) one that was available in previous versions. So, while no upgrade is required, you will probably benefit from upgrading, in most cases.

Library Reference

bool PubNub.begin(char *publish_key, char *subscribe_key, char *origin)

To start using PubNub, use PubNub.begin(). This should be called after initializing your network hardware (like Ethernet.begin()).

Note that the string parameters are not copied; do not overwrite or free the memory where you stored the keys! (If you are passing string literals, don't worry about it.) Note that you should run only one of publish, subscribe and history requests each at once.

The origin parameter is optional, defaulting to "".

PubNonSubClient *publish(char *channel, char *message, int timeout)

Send a message (assumed to be well-formed JSON) to a given channel.

Returns NULL in case of error, otherwise a pointer to an instance of Client-compatible class that you can use to read the response to the publish command. If you don't care about the response, call client->stop() right away.

Since v2.1.0, if Pubnub responds with a HTTP status code indicating a failure, this will not return NULL. Of course, NULL will still be returned for other errors, mostly networking errors like DNS failure, connection failure, etc. If you care, you should check the HTTP status code class, like:

if (PubNub.get_last_http_status_code_class() != PubNub::http_scc_success) {
    Serial.print("Got HTTP status code error from PubNub, class: ");
    Serial.print((int)PubNub.get_last_http_status_code_class(), DEC);

The timeout parameter is optional, with a sensible default. See also a note about timeouts below.

To avoid parsing the response, you should use PublishCracker "on" the result of this member function.

PubSubClient *subscribe(char *channel, int timeout)

Listen for a message on a given channel. The function will block and return when message(s) arrive(s) (or timeout expires). NULL is returned in case of error. The return type is PubSubClient, which is Client compatible, but it also provides an extra convenience method wait_for_data() that allows you to wait for more data with sensible timeout.

Typically, you will run this function from loop() function to keep listening for messages indefinitely.

As a reply, if all goes well, you will get a JSON array with messages, e.g.:


and so on. Empty reply ([]) is also normal and your code must be able to handle that - it means no messages were pulished during a time(out) set on the PubNub side. Note that the reply specifically does not include the time token present in the raw reply from PubNub; it is filtered out by PubSubClient.

The timeout parameter is optional, with a sensible default. See also a note about timeouts below.

To avoid parsing the response, you should use SubscribeCracker "on" the result of this member function.

PubNonSubClient *history(char *channel, int limit, int timeout)

Receive list of the last messages published on the given channel. The limit argument is optional and defaults to 10. Keep in mind that PubNub network has its own limit, which was 100 at the time of this writing. Thus, even if you set limit to something higher than that (say 1000) you will not actually get that many messages.

The timeout parameter is optional, with sensible default. See also a note about timeouts below.

Message crackers

These are used to interpret/parse the response from Pubnub, so that you don't have to. Their interface is much easier to use than the "low level" (essentially Client) interface. This parsing is minimal and non-validating, mostly to "tell elements of the response apart", thus they are named "message crackers" (and not "parsers" or "interpreters"), which might make for an interesting piece of nostalgia to users familiar w/WinAPI.

Each API (publish, subscribe...) has its own class, because the format of the PubNub response is different. But, for some groups of classes (APIs), the user interface is essentially the same.


Just declare an object, call read_and_parse() on it and then use the "getters" to see the parts of the message:

  • outcome(): to see if the publish succeeded or not. For logging, use to_str() to get a string "representation" of the outcome.
  • description(): to get the description of the outcome as returned, in the response, by PubNub
  • timestamp(): to get the string of the timestamp (token) of the moment the publish was executed, as returned by PubNub. In general, this is seldom interesting.
  • state() to see if parsing is complete (done). For logging, use to_str() to get a string "representation" of the state.

If you want more control, you can read the response characters yourself and use handle() to pass them to the parser/cracker, (instead of using read_and_parse()).


Declare an object passing the PubSubClient you got from subscribe(). Then, until parsing is finished(), call get() to obtain the next message in the PubNub response. Keep in mind that one subscribe can yield more than one message in the response, as more than one message might have been published on the channel(s) you are subscribing to between two calls to subscribe().

If you want more control, you can read the characters of the response yourself and use handle() to pass them to the parser/cracker, (instead of using get()).

To read the timetoken that was returned in the PubNub response, use PubNub::server_timetoken(), as the timetoken is filtered by PubSubClient.


The usage is essentially the same as SubscribeCracker.

Debug logging

To enable debugg logging to the Arduino console, add


before #include <PubNub.h>


Since version 1.1.1, Pubnub SDK is part of the Arduino Library Manager and you can use it directly from Arduino IDE (v 1.6.8 or newer).

But, sometimes Arduino online repository for its Library manager takes time to update to new releases of Pubnub SDK, so, you might want to install it manually. To do so, download a release from Arduino SDK on Github and move the contents to your Arduino libraries directory (on Linux, default would be: ~/sketchbook/libraries/PubNub/) and restart your Arduino IDE. Try out the examples!

Keep in mind that if you both install the library via Arduino Library Manager and manually, and the versions mismatch, Arduino IDE will issue warnings like:

Invalid version found: x.y.z

Where x.y.z would be the version ID of the manually installed library. This is just a warning, the build and upload process is not impacted by this.

Supported Hardware

In general, the most widely available Arduino boards and shields are supported and tested. Any Arduino board that has networking hardware that supports a Client compatible class should work. In most cases, they are actually derived from Client, but there are some subtle differences in the base Client as implemented in various libraries.

Since version 3.3, several boards are automatically detected and you don't need to do anything special to use PubNub library on them. For others, you'll have to #define the Pubnub_BASE_CLIENT to the class that you use for networking on your board/shield that has the Client compatible interface before you #include <PubNub.h>.

The Arduino ecosystem features a multitude of platforms that have significant differences regarding their hardware capabilities. Keeping up with all of them is next to impossible.

If you find some Arduino board/shield that does provide an Client compatbile class and it doesn't work with Pubnub library, let us know and we'll make it work. In general, this means that it is not really compatible. Such was the case with ESP32 library.

Also, if you have some Arduino board/shield that doesn't provide an Client compatible class and you want to use Pubnub with it, please let us know.

Arduino Ethernet Shield

For this to work, all you need to do is to include the Ethernet Shield Arduino library and start your sketch with:

#include <EthernetClient>
#include <PubNub.h>

As EthernetClient is the default Pubnub_BASE_CLIENT.

Of course, you also need to initialize the shield and do any maintenance (like DHCP lease).

WiFi (Shield) Support

Whether you are using the older WiFi shield or the Arduino WiFi Shield 101, you will be using the WiFiClient class. Keep in mind that the WiFi101 library is used with other shields/boards (Arduino MKR1000, Adafruit Feather M0 WINC1500...) and that WiFiClient is the name of the client class for most Wifi hardware even if it uses another library.

So, for any WiFi101 compatible hardware, you would:

#include <WiFi101.h>
#define PubNub_BASE_CLIENT WiFiClient
#include <PubNub.h>

Of course, please keep in mind that you need to initialize your WiFi hardware, connect to a WiFi network and possibly do some maintenance, which is hardware specific. But, Pubnub SDK has nothing to do with that, it expects a working network. We provide examples for some HW.

ESP8266 and ESP32

ESP8266 and ESP32 are recognized since version 3.3 so can just:

#include <PubNub.h>

It will include ESP8266WiFi.h or WiFi.h (for ESP32) automatically.

In some (older) versions of ESP8266 support for Arduino, some of the (de-facto) standard library functions were missing. To use our own implementation of them, #define a macro constant before you include PubNub.h, like this:

#include <PubNub.h>


  • If you #include <PubNub.h>, it will define the global PubNub object in your code. Thus, you can't #include <Pubnub.h> in two or more different files in you project, but only in one file. In all other source files (if you have them) #include <PubNubDefs.h>, which doesn't define the global PubNub object. This shouldn't be much of an inconvenience, as most Arduino projects have only one file - the sketch itself.

  • We don't provide any SSL/TLS support, because of modest resource of most Arduino compatible boards. But, some shields/boards have SSL ("Secure") clients and you may succeed in using them instead of the non-secure clients (WiFiClientSecure instead of WiFiClient). But don't forget to PubNub.set_port(PubNub.tls_port).

  • We re-resolve the origin server IP address before each request. This means some slow-down for intensive communication, but we rather expect light traffic and very long-running sketches (days, months), where refreshing the IP address is quite desirable.

  • We let the users read replies at their leisure instead of returning an already preloaded string so that (a) they can do that in loop() code while taking care of other things as well (b) we don't waste precious RAM by pre-allocating buffers that are never needed.

  • The optional timeout parameter allows you to specify a timeout period after which the subscribe call shall be cancelled. Note that this timeout is applied only for reading response, not for connecting or sending data; use retransmission parameters of the network library to tune this. As a rule of thumb, timeout smaller than 30 seconds may still block longer with flaky network.

  • In general, there may be many issues with different shields and Arduino-compatible boards. A common issue is a firmware bug. Please look to the available info on your shield and board for troubleshooting.