Writing a plugin

Introduction

Converse.js has a plugin architecture based on pluggable.js and is itself composed out of plugins.

There are only a few files that are included in the default build of Converse which aren’t plugins.

An important one is converse-core.js, which is responsible for bootstrapping the plugin architecture, setting up and maintaining the connection to the XMPP server and declaring the public (window.converse) and protected (_converse.api) APIs.

The other non-plugin files all contain utility methods in src/utils and src/headless/utils.

As a general rule, any file in the ./src directory that starts with converse- is a plugin (with the exception of converse-core.js.

The plugin architecture lets you add new features or modify existing functionality in a modular and self-contained way, without having to change other files.

This ensures that plugins are fully optional (one of the design goals of Converse) and can be removed from the main build without breaking the app. For example, the converse-omemo, converse-rosterview, converse-dragresize, converse-minimize, converse-muc and converse-muc-views plugins can all be removed from the build without breaking the app.

To more deeply understand how the plugin architecture works, read the pluggable.js documentation and to understand its inner workings, refer to the annotated source code.

Advantages of plugins

Writing a plugin is the recommended way to customize or add new features to Converse.

The main benefit of plugins is that they allow for isolation of concerns (and features). From this benefit flows various 2nd order advantages, such as the ability to make smaller production builds (by excluding unused plugins) and an easier upgrade path by avoiding touching Converse’s internals.

Plugins are especially useful if you want to add proprietary modifications, since the Mozilla Public License version 2 doesn’t require you to open source your plugin files. Be aware that this doesn’t apply when you intend to use libsignal for OMEMO encryption because libsignal’s license is GPLv3 (and turns the entire app into a GPLv3 app).

Each plugin comes in its own file, and Converse’s plugin architecture, pluggable.js, provides you with the ability to “hook in” to the core code and other plugins.

Plugins enable developers to extend and override existing objects, functions and the Backbone models and views that make up Converse. You can also create new Backbone (or other) models and views.

Note

Trying out a plugin in JSFiddle

Because Converse consists only of JavaScript, HTML and CSS (with no backend code required like PHP, Python or Ruby) it runs fine in JSFiddle.

Here’s a Fiddle with a Converse plugin that calls alert once it gets initialized and also when a chat message gets rendered: https://jsfiddle.net/4drfaok0/15/

Note

Generating a plugin with Yeoman

The rest of this document explains how to write a plugin for Converse and ends with a documented example of a plugin.

There is a Yeoman code generator, called generator-conversejs, which you can use to generate plugin scaffolding/boilerplate that serves as a starting point and basis for writing your plugin.

Please refer to the generator-conversejs README for information on how to use it.

Registering a plugin

Plugins need to be registered (and whitelisted) before they can be loaded and initialized.

You register a Converse plugin by calling converse.plugins.add.

The plugin itself is a JavaScript object which usually has at least an initialize method, which gets called at the end of the converse.initialize method which is the top-level method that gets called by the website to configure and initialize Converse itself.

Here’s an example code snippet:

converse.plugins.add('myplugin', {

    initialize: function () {
        // This method gets called once converse.initialize has been called
        // and the plugin itself has been loaded.

        // Inside this method, you have access to the closured
        // _converse object as an attribute on "this".
        // E.g. this._converse
    },
});

Note

It’s important that converse.plugins.add is called before converse.initialize is called. Otherwise the plugin will never get registered and never get called.

Whitelisting of plugins

As of Converse 3.0.0 and higher, plugins need to be whitelisted before they can be used. This is because plugins have access to a powerful API. For example, they can read all messages and send messages on the user’s behalf.

To avoid malicious plugins being registered (i.e. by malware infected advertising networks) we now require whitelisting.

To whitelist a plugin simply means to specify whitelisted_plugins when you call converse.initialize.

If you’re adding a “core” plugin, which means a plugin that will be included in the default, open-source version of Converse, then you’ll instead whitelist the plugin by adding its name to the core_plugins array in ./src/headless/converse-core.js. or the WHITELISTED_PLUGINS array in ./src/converse.js.

Where you add it depends on whether your plugin is part of the headless build (which means it doesn’t contain any view code) or not.

Security and access to the inner workings

The globally available converse object, which exposes the API methods, such as initialize and plugins.add, is a wrapper that encloses and protects a sensitive inner object, named _converse (not the underscore prefix).

This inner _converse object contains all the Backbone models and views, as well as various other attributes and functions.

Within a plugin, you will have access to this internal “closured” _converse object, which is normally not exposed in the global variable scope.

The inner _converse object is made private in order to safely hide and encapsulate sensitive information and methods which should not be exposed to any 3rd-party scripts that might be running in the same page.

Accessing 3rd party libraries

Immediately inside the module shown above you can access 3rd party libraries (such dayjs and lodash) via the converse.env map.

The code for it could look something like this:

// Commonly used utilities and variables can be found under the "env"
// namespace of the "converse" global.
const { Backbone, Promise, Strophe, dayjs, sizzle, _, $build, $iq, $msg, $pres } = converse.env;

These dependencies are closured so that they don’t pollute the global namespace, that’s why you need to access them in such a way inside the module.

Overrides

Plugins can override core code or code from other plugins. You can specify overrides in the object passed to converse.plugins.add.

In an override you can still call the overridden function, by calling this.__super__.methodName.apply(this, arguments); where methodName is the name of the function or method you’re overriding.

The following code snippet provides an example of two different overrides:

overrides: {
    /* The *_converse* object has a method "onConnected".
     * You can override that method as follows:
     */
    onConnected: function () {
        // Overrides the onConnected method in Converse

        // Top-level functions in "overrides" are bound to the
        // inner "_converse" object.
        const _converse = this;

        // Your custom code can come here ...

        // You can access the original function being overridden
        // via the __super__ attribute.
        // Make sure to pass on the arguments supplied to this
        // function and also to apply the proper "this" object.
        _converse.__super__.onConnected.apply(this, arguments);

        // Your custom code can come here ...
    },

    /* On the XMPPStatus Backbone model is a method sendPresence.
     * We can override is as follows:
     */
    XMPPStatus: {
        sendPresence: function (type, status_message, jid) {
            // The "_converse" object is available via the __super__
            // attribute.
            const _converse = this.__super__._converse;

            // Custom code can come here ...

            // You can call the original overridden method, by
            // accessing it via the __super__ attribute.
            // When calling it, you need to apply the proper
            // context as reference by the "this" variable.
            this.__super__.sendPresence.apply(this, arguments);
        }
    }
}

Use the overrides feature with caution. It basically resorts to monkey patching which pollutes the call stack and can make your code fragile and prone to bugs when Converse gets updated. Too much use of overrides is therefore a “code smell” which should ideally be avoided.

A better approach is to listen to the events emitted by Converse, and to add your code in event handlers. This is however not always possible, in which case the overrides are a powerful tool.

Also, while it’s possible to add new methods to classes via the overrides feature, it’s better and more explicit to use composition with Object.assign.

For example:

function doSomething () {
    // Your code comes here
}
Object.assign(_converse.ChatBoxView.prototype, { doSomething });

Overriding a template

Converse uses various templates, loaded with lodash, to generate its HTML.

It’s not possible to override a template with the plugin’s overrides feature, instead you should configure a new path to your own template via your module bundler.

For example, with Webpack (which Converse uses internall), you can specify an alias for the template you want to override. This alias then points to your own custom template.

For example, in your webpack config file, you could add the following to the config object that gets exported:

module: {
    {
        test: /templates\/.*\.(html|svg)$/,
        use: [{
            loader: 'lodash-template-webpack-loader',
            options: {
                escape: /\{\{\{([\s\S]+?)\}\}\}/g,
                evaluate: /\{\[([\s\S]+?)\]\}/g,
                interpolate: /\{\{([\s\S]+?)\}\}/g,
                // By default, template places the values from your data in the
                // local scope via the with statement. However, you can specify
                // a single variable name with the variable setting. This can
                // significantly improve the speed at which a template is able
                // to render.
                variable: 'o',
                prependFilenameComment: __dirname
            }
        }]
    }
},
resolve: {
    extensions: ['.js'],
    modules: [
        path.join(__dirname, 'node_modules'),
        path.join(__dirname, 'node_modules/converse.js/src')
    ],
    alias: {
        'templates/profile_view.html$': path.resolve(__dirname, 'templates/profile_view.html')
    }
}

You’ll need to install lodash-template-webpack-loader.

Currently Converse uses a fork of lodash-template-webpack-loader.

To install it, you can add "lodash-template-webpack-loader": "jcbrand/lodash-template-webpack-loader" to your package.json’s devDependencies.

Plugin dependencies

When using overrides, the code that you want to override (which is either in converse-core or in other plugins), needs to be parsed already by the time your overrides are being parsed.

Additionally, when you register event or promise handlers in your plugin for events/promises that fire in other plugins, then you want those plugins to have been loaded before your plugin gets loaded.

To resolve this problem we have the dependencies Array attribute. With this you can specify those dependencies which need to be loaded before your plugin is loaded.

In some cases, you might want to depend on another plugin if it’s available, but don’t care when it’s not available. An example is the converse-dragresize plugin, which will add drag-resize handles to the headlines box (which shows messages of type headline) but doesn’t care when that particular plugin is not available.

If the strict_plugin_dependencies setting is set to false (which is its default value), then no error will be raised if the plugin is not found.

In this case, you can’t specify the plugin as a dependency in the define statement at the top of the plugin, since it might not always be available, which would cause require.js to throw an error.

Extending Converse’s configuration settings

Converse comes with various Configuration settings that can be used to modify its functionality and behavior.

All configuration settings have default values which can be overridden when converse.initialize (see converse.initialize) gets called.

Plugins often need their own additional configuration settings and you can add these settings with the _converse.api.settings.update method.

Exposing promises

Converse has a waitUntil API method which allows you to wait for various promises to resolve before executing a piece of code.

You can add new promises for your plugin by calling _converse.api.promises.add.

Generally, your plugin will then also be responsible for making sure these promises are resolved. You do this by calling _converse.api.trigger, which not only resolves the plugin but will also emit an event with the same name.

Dealing with asynchronicity

Due to the asynchronous nature of XMPP, many subroutines in Converse execute at different times and not necessarily in the same order.

In many cases, when you want to execute a piece of code in a plugin, you first want to make sure that the supporting data-structures that your code might rely on have been created and populated with data.

There are two ways of waiting for the right time before executing your code. You can either listen for certain events, or you can wait for promises to resolve.

For example, when you want to query the message archive between you and a friend, you would call this._converse.api.archive.query({'with': 'friend@example.org'});

However, simply calling this immediately in the initialize method of your plugin will not work, since the user is not logged in yet.

In this case, you should first listen for the connection event, and then do your query, like so:

converse.plugins.add('myplugin', {
    initialize: function () {
        const _converse = this._converse;

        _converse.api.listen.on('connected', function () {
            _converse.api.archive.query({'with': 'admin2@localhost'});
        });
    }
});

Another example is in the Bookmarks plugin (in src/converse-bookmarks.js). Before bookmarks can be fetched and shown to the user, we first have to wait until the “Rooms” panel of the ControlBox has been rendered and inserted into the DOM. Otherwise we have no place to show the bookmarks yet.

Therefore, there are the following lines of code in the initialize method of converse-bookmarks.js:

Promise.all([
    _converse.api.waitUntil('chatBoxesFetched'),
    _converse.api.waitUntil('roomsPanelRendered')
]).then(initBookmarks);

What this means, is that the plugin will wait until the chatBoxesFetched and roomsPanelRendered promises have been resolved before it calls the initBookmarks method (which is defined inside the plugin).

This way, we know that we have everything in place and set up correctly before fetching the bookmarks.

As yet another example, there is also the following code in the initialize method of the plugin:

_converse.api.listen.on('chatBoxOpened', function renderMinimizeButton (view) {
    // Inserts a "minimize" button in the chatview's header

    // Implementation code removed for brevity
    // ...
});

In this case, the plugin waits for the chatBoxOpened event, before it then calls renderMinimizeButton, which adds a new button to the chatbox (which enables you to minimize it).

Finding the right promises and/or events to listen to, can be a bit challenging, and sometimes it might be necessary to create new events or promises.

Please refer to the API documentation for an overview of what’s available to you. If you need new events or promises, then please open an issue or make a pull request on Github

A full example plugin

Below follows a documented example of a plugin. This is the same code that gets generated by generator-conversejs.

import converse from "@converse/headless/converse-core";

// Commonly used utilities and variables can be found under the "env"
// namespace of the "converse" global.
const { Backbone, Promise, Strophe, dayjs, sizzle, _, $build, $iq, $msg, $pres } = converse.env;

// The following line registers your plugin.
converse.plugins.add("myplugin", {

    /* Dependencies are other plugins which might be
     * overridden or relied upon, and therefore need to be loaded before
     * this plugin. They are "optional" because they might not be
     * available, in which case any overrides applicable to them will be
     * ignored.
     *
     * NB: These plugins need to have already been imported or loaded,
     * either in your plugin or somewhere else.
     *
     * It's possible to make these dependencies "non-optional".
     * If the setting "strict_plugin_dependencies" is set to true,
     * an error will be raised if the plugin is not found.
     */
    dependencies: [],

    /* Converse's plugin mechanism will call the initialize
     * method on any plugin (if it exists) as soon as the plugin has
     * been loaded.
     */
    initialize: function () {
        /* Inside this method, you have access to the private
         * `_converse` object.
         */
        const _converse = this._converse;
        _converse.log("The \"myplugin\" plugin is being initialized");

        /* From the `_converse` object you can get any configuration
         * options that the user might have passed in via
         * `converse.initialize`.
         *
         * You can also specify new configuration settings for this
         * plugin, or override the default values of existing
         * configuration settings. This is done like so:
        */
        _converse.api.settings.update({
            'initialize_message': 'Initializing myplugin!'
        });

        /* The user can then pass in values for the configuration
         * settings when `converse.initialize` gets called.
         * For example:
         *
         *      converse.initialize({
         *           "initialize_message": "My plugin has been initialized"
         *      });
         */
        alert(this._converse.initialize_message);

        /* Besides `_converse.api.settings.update`, there is also a
         * `_converse.api.promises.add` method, which allows you to
         * add new promises that your plugin is obligated to fulfill.
         *
         * This method takes a string or a list of strings which
         * represent the promise names:
         *
         *      _converse.api.promises.add('myPromise');
         *
         * Your plugin should then, when appropriate, resolve the
         * promise by calling `_converse.api.emit`, which will also
         * emit an event with the same name as the promise.
         * For example:
         *
         *      _converse.api.trigger('operationCompleted');
         *
         * Other plugins can then either listen for the event
         * `operationCompleted` like so:
         *
         *      _converse.api.listen.on('operationCompleted', function { ... });
         *
         * or they can wait for the promise to be fulfilled like so:
         *
         *      _converse.api.waitUntil('operationCompleted', function { ... });
         */
    },

    /* If you want to override some function or a Backbone model or
     * view defined elsewhere in Converse, then you do that under
     * the "overrides" namespace.
     */
    overrides: {
        /* For example, the private *_converse* object has a
         * method "onConnected". You can override that method as follows:
         */
        onConnected: function () {
            // Overrides the onConnected method in Converse

            // Top-level functions in "overrides" are bound to the
            // inner "_converse" object.
            const _converse = this;

            // Your custom code can come here ...

            // You can access the original function being overridden
            // via the __super__ attribute.
            // Make sure to pass on the arguments supplied to this
            // function and also to apply the proper "this" object.
            _converse.__super__.onConnected.apply(this, arguments);

            // Your custom code can come here ...
        },

        /* Override Converse's XMPPStatus Backbone model so that we can override the
         * function that sends out the presence stanza.
         */
        XMPPStatus: {
            sendPresence: function (type, status_message, jid) {
                // The "_converse" object is available via the __super__
                // attribute.
                const _converse = this.__super__._converse;

                // Custom code can come here ...

                // You can call the original overridden method, by
                // accessing it via the __super__ attribute.
                // When calling it, you need to apply the proper
                // context as reference by the "this" variable.
                this.__super__.sendPresence.apply(this, arguments);

                // Custom code can come here ...
            }
        }
    }
});