Electron + React + Redux: sending events via ipc

While using electron and react for a menubar side project, I found a slight discrepancy in the rendering of processes between the ipcMain process (electron) and the react component lifecycle methods.

When clicking the menubar icon, I expected the main <App />'s componentDidMount method to fire every time. However, its not like refreshing a browser window. After the first time open it, app has already been mounted. Thus the event that is actually occurring lies in the electron thread.

menubar exposes a few helpful listeners that we can tap into:

var menubar = require('menubar')

var mb = menubar()

mb.on('ready', function() {  
  console.log('app is ready')
  // logs in the terminal
  // logs once, on app start
})

I wanted to fire an action every time the menubar was clicked and opened to refresh data in the view. Since componentDidMount doesn't fire, we need to facilitate communication between the electron main process and the renderer process. For this, we can use the menubar show event:

mb.on('show', function() {  
  console.log('show menubar');
  // logs every time the menubar is clicked/shown
});

Using the built in inter process communications (ipc) api proved to be unsuccessful after a few tries. After checking out a few projects I found the electron-rpc library which provides a thin wrapper over the api.

Setup is simple. In the main.js electron file you establish a "server" event emitter:

import Server from 'electron-rpc/server';

// Module to communicate to client window
const server = new Server();

// configure the emitter to communicate with the menubar client
mb.on('after-create-window', function() {  
  server.configure(mb.window.webContents)
});

// broadcast the event when the menubar is shown
mb.on('show', function() {  
  server.send('show', 'some arguments')
});

Now set up a listener in the client. I chose the top level index.js file where my main component is rendered inside the redux <Provider />.

import Client from 'electron-rpc/client';

// Initialize rpc communication
const client = new Client();

// redux store configuration
const store = configureStore(initialState);

ReactDOM.render(  
  <Provider store={store}>
    <App />
  </Provider>,
  document.getElementById('root')
);

client.on('show', (err, body) => {  
  // global listener for ipc event sent from main process
  // when menu bar is opened, fire requestStories() action
  store.dispatch(requestStories());
});

Now every time the menubar is opened, the requestStories() action is fired and any connected component will update accordingly if there is new data.

Firing an action outside of a component/props might seem unconventional in react land but I think its perfectly acceptable, and a clever way to tap in to the flexibility of redux.

Its easy to get caught up thinking solely in terms of bindActionCreators and mapDispatchToProps, but its important to remember you can import store from '../store anywhere in your application and have access to its methods such as store.dispatch() and store.getState().