Vert.x 3 real time web apps

One of the in­ter­est­ing fea­tures of Vert.x is the SockJS event bus bridge. This piece of soft­ware al­lows ex­ter­nal ap­pli­ca­tions to com­mu­ni­cate with Vert.x event bus using Web­sock­ets and if your browser does not sup­port it then it grace­fully de­grades to pool­ing AJAX calls.

Web­Sock­ets bring a new level of in­ter­ac­tion to the web, they re­ally bring real time to web ap­pli­ca­tions due to the fact that its com­mu­ni­ca­tion model is bi-​directional in con­trast to the tra­di­tional HTTP model where a client can ini­ti­ate a data re­quest to a server but not the other way around.

In this small post I will demon­strate how you can cre­ate a sim­ple col­lab­o­ra­tive draw­ing app. The idea is sim­ple, all users that open the app will be be pre­sented with a empty can­vas and what they draw or is drawn on other can­vas is shared in real time on their screen.

For the sake of sim­plic­ity and mak­ing this post light there is no se­cu­rity in­volved so, every­one is free to lis­ten to what is being drawn, how­ever the ex­ter­nal ap­pli­ca­tion has lim­ited read write ac­cess to a sin­gle ad­dress on Vert.x event bus, en­sur­ing that other ser­vices run­ning on the clus­ter will not be ex­posed.

This is what you should ex­pect to see:


Bootstrap a project

If you fol­lowed the pre­vi­ous se­ries on Vert.x de­vel­op­ment, you saw that Java and Maven were the main topic, since Vert.x is poly­glot I will focus on JavaScript and NPM as my pro­gram­ming lan­guage and pack­age man­age­ment tool.

With NPM start by cre­at­ing a package.json, in order to do this we should run:

npm init

This will present a se­lec­tion of ques­tions and in the end you should have a basic package.json file. This con­fig­u­ra­tion is very basic so you need to add a de­pen­dency to Vert.x so you can run the ap­pli­ca­tion. You can add it to the dependencies prop­erty and it should look more or less like this:

  "name": "draw",
  "private": true,
  "dependencies": {
    "vertx3-full": "3.0.0-1"
  "scripts": {
    "start": "vertx run server.js"
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "main": "server.js",
  "devDependencies": {},
  "author": "",
  "license": "ISC",
  "description": "A Real Time Drawing App"

If you do not know why there is the de­pen­dency on vertx3-full or why the added scripts prop­erty please check the older blog post about it.

Project Structure

This post has no pref­er­ence over project struc­ture, so if you do not agree with the struc­ture used here feel free to use what you feel best. For this ex­am­ple I will keep it to:

├── package.json
├── server.js
└── webroot
  ├── assets
  │   └── js
  │     ├── script.js
  │     └── vertxbus.js
  └── index.html

3 directories, 5 files

As you can imag­ine server.js will be our Vert.x ap­pli­ca­tion and every­thing under webroot will be the client ap­pli­ca­tion.

The client ap­pli­ca­tion is not re­ally Vert.x spe­cific and could in the­ory be used by any other frame­work so I will go lightly over its code.

Client Application

Our ap­pli­ca­tion main entry point is as one can ex­pect index.html. In the index file de­fine the fol­low­ing HTML:

<!DOCTYPE html>
  <meta charset="utf-8"/>
  <title>Real time drawing App</title>
  <!--[if lt IE 9]>
  <script src=""></script>

<canvas id="paper" width="1900" height="1000">
  Your browser needs to support canvas for this to work!

<!-- JavaScript includes. -->
<script src=""></script>
<script src="//"></script>
<script src='assets/js/vertxbus.js'></script>
<script src="assets/js/script.js"></script>


As I pre­vi­ously wrote, the idea is to keep it as sim­ple as pos­si­ble so it is all about hav­ing a can­vas el­e­ment and a ap­pli­ca­tion main script script.js. All the rest are files served by CDNs that pro­vide com­mon web ap­pli­ca­tion li­braries such as jQuery, HTML5 shim for older browsers, SockJS client and vertxbus bridge.

The main code is on script.js file:

$(function () {

  // This demo depends on the canvas element
  if (!('getContext' in document.createElement('canvas'))) {
    alert('Sorry, it looks like your browser does not support canvas!');
    return false;

  var doc = $(document),
    canvas = $('#paper'),
    ctx = canvas[0].getContext('2d');

  // Generate an unique ID
  var id = Math.round($.now() * Math.random());

  // A flag for drawing activity
  var drawing = false;

  var clients = {};
  // create a event bus bridge to the server that served this file
  var eb = new vertx.EventBus(
      window.location.protocol + '//' + window.location.hostname + ':' + window.location.port + '/eventbus');

  eb.onopen = function () {
    // listen to draw events
    eb.registerHandler('draw', function (data) {
      // Is the user drawing?
      if (data.drawing && clients[]) {

        // Draw a line on the canvas. clients[] holds
        // the previous position of this user's mouse pointer

        drawLine(clients[].x, clients[].y, data.x, data.y);

      // Saving the current client state
      clients[] = data;
      clients[].updated = $.now();

  var prev = {};

  canvas.on('mousedown', function (e) {
    drawing = true;
    prev.x = e.pageX;
    prev.y = e.pageY;

  doc.bind('mouseup mouseleave', function () {
    drawing = false;

  var lastEmit = $.now();

  doc.on('mousemove', function (e) {
    if ($.now() - lastEmit > 30) {
      eb.publish('draw', {
        'x': e.pageX,
        'y': e.pageY,
        'drawing': drawing,
        'id': id
      lastEmit = $.now();

    // Draw a line for the current user's movement, as it is
    // not received in the eventbus

    if (drawing) {

      drawLine(prev.x, prev.y, e.pageX, e.pageY);

      prev.x = e.pageX;
      prev.y = e.pageY;

  // Remove inactive clients after 10 seconds of inactivity
  setInterval(function () {

    for (var ident in clients) {
      if (clients.hasOwnProperty(ident)) {
        if ($.now() - clients[ident].updated > 10000) {
          // Last update was more than 10 seconds ago.
          // This user has probably closed the page
          delete clients[ident];

  }, 10000);

  function drawLine(fromx, fromy, tox, toy) {
    ctx.moveTo(fromx, fromy);
    ctx.lineTo(tox, toy);


The most im­por­tant part in this code is all the code re­lated to eb. The vari­able eb is our bridge to the event bus, Start by cre­at­ing a bridge using the vertx.EventBus ob­ject and de­fine where to con­nect, using the de­tails of the cur­rent win­dow lo­ca­tion.

Then add a onopen lis­tener that will sub­scribe to the ad­dress draw on the event bus so it can lis­ten to all mes­sages re­gard­ing draw­ing and per­form the draw­ing ac­tions. Since lis­ten­ing is not enough I also add a mouse lis­tener to the doc­u­ment so when it moves it pub­lishes events to the draw ad­dress.

Note that I am using publish and not send, the rea­son should be ob­vi­ous, I want every­one to know this users mouse move­ments, I am not in­ter­ested on send­ing the events to just a sin­gle user. You can see now that if you want to have a draw­ing app in a one on one user basis then in­stead of publish() you should use send().

Server Application

The server code is quite straight for­ward, all you need is:

var Router = require("vertx-web-js/router");
var SockJSHandler = require("vertx-web-js/sock_js_handler");
var StaticHandler = require("vertx-web-js/static_handler");

var router = Router.router(vertx);

// Allow outbound traffic to the draw address

var options = {
  "outboundPermitteds" : [{"address" : "draw"}],
  "inboundPermitteds" :  [{"address" : "draw"}]


// Serve the static resources


We start with the usual im­ports, we im­port a ref­er­ence to the Router ob­ject and a cou­ple of helper han­dlers SockJSHandler and StaticHandler. As their names should tell you one han­dler will be re­spon­si­ble to han­dle all SockJS data and the other all HTTP file serv­ing re­quests.

We then add then to a router and start a HTTP server that will han­dle all in­com­ing re­quest using the han­dler ac­cept func­tion. Fi­nally we lis­ten on port 8080 and we are ready.

Note that there is a op­tions ob­ject where a cou­ple of prop­er­ties are de­fined outbound/inbound per­mit­ted ad­dresses. With­out this con­fig­u­ra­tion the ex­ter­nal ap­pli­ca­tion will not be al­lowed to con­nect to the vert.x bus, in fact the de­fault con­fig­u­ra­tion of the Sock­JSHan­dler is deny all. So you must spec­ify ex­plic­itly which ad­dress are al­lowed to re­ceive mes­sages from SockJS and which ones are al­lowed to send/pub­lish to SockJS.

Now you can start your ap­pli­ca­tion, don’t for­get to in­stall the de­pen­den­cies for the first time:

npm install

And then run the ap­pli­ca­tion:

npm start

If you now open 2 browser win­dows you will be able to draw nice pic­tures and see the draw­ing show­ing in “real time” on the other win­dow, if you then draw on the sec­ond you should get the mir­ror ef­fect on the first win­dow.

Have fun!

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