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Getting Started

This section provides a high level overview of the library setup, core components, and how they fit together. It's a great starting point and you can follow along in your code editor. For a complete, step-by-step guide in terms setting up a React project or instructions on creating specific files, see our React Chat tutorial.

Your First App with Stream Chat React#

Before starting, make sure you have installed stream-chat-react (and stream-chat), as directed in the Installation section.

The below example is all the code you need to launch a fully functioning chat experience. The Chat and Channel components are React context providers that pass a variety of values to their children, including UI components, stateful data, and action handler functions.

const App = () => (  <Chat client={client}>    <Channel channel={channel}>      <Window>        <ChannelHeader />        <MessageList />        <MessageInput />      </Window>      <Thread />    </Channel>  </Chat>);

Creating a Chat Client#

To communicate with the Stream Chat API, create an instance of Stream Chat client with your API key and pass via props into the Chat component. To generate an API key, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial on our website.

Initialize the Stream Chat client:

import { StreamChat } from 'stream-chat';
const client = new StreamChat('your_api_key');
<Chat client={client}>{/** children of Chat component*/}</Chat>;

Connecting a User#

Tokens are used to authenticate a user. Typically, you send this token from your backend to your front end when a user logs in. See the Tokens & Authentication documentation to learn more about creating tokens. For our purposes here, we will assume you have created and retrieved a userToken.

To connect a user, call the connectUser method on your client instance with the user object and userToken provided as arguments. Connect the user directly after instantiating the client to establish a websocket connection with the Stream Chat API. Once the connection has been opened, your client instance will begin receiving events from the API.

client.connectUser(  {    id: 'dave-matthews',    name: 'Dave Matthews',  },  userToken,);

Creating a Channel#

Channels are at the core of Stream Chat. Within a channel you send/receive messages and interact with other users. Once a channel object has been initialized, the Channel component consumes the object and renders your chat app's functionality.

By default, the Stream Chat API provides support for five different channel types of varying use cases. A channel type is required when creating a channel and dictates the available features and permissions. The defaults include:

  • messaging
  • livestream
  • team
  • gaming
  • commerce

You can also create custom channel types and define your own permission sets.

To create an instance of a channel, call the channel method on your client instance. This method takes the following parameters:

  • channel type
  • channel ID (optional, will be auto-generated by the backend if not supplied)
  • channel data
const channel ='messaging', {  image: 'dave.png',  name: 'Create a Messaging Channel',  members: ['dave-matthews', 'trey-anastasio'],  // option to add custom fields});

Setting Up the UI Components#

Now that we have a client instance, a connected user, and a channel, it's time to look at the core components involved in building a fully functioning chat application.


The Chat component is a React Context provider that wraps the entire Stream Chat application. It provides the ChatContext to its children, which includes the StreamChat client instance. All other components within the library must be nested as children of Chat to maintain proper functionality.

The client instance can be accesses with our custom context hook:

const { client } = useChatContext();


The Channel component is a React Context provider that wraps all of the logic, functionality, and UI for an individual chat channel. It provides five separate contexts to its children:


The ChannelList component renders a list of channels and provides a preview for each. Though the ChannelList is essential in many chat apps, it isn't a required piece of the library. If a ChannelList component is used, a channel object should not be placed as a prop on the Channel component, as the ChannelList handles channel setting internally.

const App = () => (  <Chat client={client}>    <ChannelList />    <Channel>      <Window>        <ChannelHeader />        <MessageList />        <MessageInput />      </Window>      <Thread />    </Channel>  </Chat>);


The Window component handles width changes in the main channel to ensure a seamless user experience when opening and closing a Thread.


The ChannelHeader displays pertinent information regarding the currently active channel, including image and title.


The MessageList component renders a list of messages and consumes the various contexts setup from Channel. This component accepts a wide variety of optional props for customization needs.


The MessageInput component is a React Context provider that wraps all of the logic, functionality, and UI for the message input displayed in a channel. It provides the MessageInputContext to its children.


The Thread component renders a list of replies tied to a single parent message in a channel's main message list. A Thread maintains its own state and renders its own MessageList and MessageInput components.


In addition to the above referenced UI components, client instantiation, and user connection, you need little other code to get a fully functioning chat application up and running. See below for an example of the complete code.

import React, { useEffect, useState } from 'react';import { StreamChat } from 'stream-chat';import {  Chat,  Channel,  ChannelHeader,  ChannelList,  MessageList,  MessageInput,  Thread,  Window,} from 'stream-chat-react';import '@stream-io/stream-chat-css/dist/css/index.css';
const filters = { type: 'messaging' };const options = { state: true, presence: true, limit: 10 };const sort = { last_message_at: -1 };
const App = () => {  const [client, setClient] = useState(null);
  useEffect(() => {    const newClient = new StreamChat('your_api_key');
    const handleConnectionChange = ({ online = false }) => {      if (!online) return console.log('connection lost');      setClient(newClient);    };
    newClient.on('connection.changed', handleConnectionChange);
    newClient.connectUser(      {        id: 'dave-matthews',        name: 'Dave Matthews',      },      'your_user_token',    );
    return () => {'connection.changed', handleConnectionChange);      newClient.disconnectUser().then(() => console.log('connection closed'));    };  }, []);
  if (!client) return null;
  return (    <Chat client={client}>      <ChannelList filters={filters} sort={sort} options={options} />      <Channel>        <Window>          <ChannelHeader />          <MessageList />          <MessageInput />        </Window>        <Thread />      </Channel>    </Chat>  );};
export default App;

With a basic chat app up and running with our default UI, it's time to take a deep dive into each individual component in the library.

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