node-red-contrib-uibuilder 0.2.0

An experimental node for Node-RED to create web UI's. - ALPHA only, not ready for use.

npm install node-red-contrib-uibuilder

An EXPERIMENTAL Node-RED web user interface builder.

Designed as an experimental alternative to the Node-RED Dashboard. Be warned that this project is currently very much alpha quality. It should pretty much work but only in a limited way. See the Known Issues and To Do sections below for what might not yet be working.

The idea is to allow users to use their own html/css/js/etc code to define a UI on a specific URL that is defined in Node-RED by this node. Also to easily allow loading of external front-end libraries.

Eventually, you will be able to "compile" src files using webpack from a button in the nodes config. That will let you using all manner of frameworks such as Vue, REACT, Foundation, etc.

The final evolution will be to provide configuration nodes to let you define framework or html/css/js files in Node-RED itself so that you won't need access to the servers file system at all.

This is rather the opposite of Node-RED's Dashboard. Whereas that is designed to make it very easy to create a UI but trades that off with some limitations, this is designed to let you do anything you can think of with any framework but at the trade off of greater complexity and a need to write your own front-end code.

Out of the box

Out of the box, you get a simple index.html template with matching css & JavaScript. These are in the module's src folder (currently), copy them to the instance src folder if you want to override them.

JQuery is used in the default JavaScript to give dynamic updates to the web page. If all you need to do is some simple dynamic updates of the page, JQuery is likely enough.

Any msg sent to the node is forwarded directly to the front-end and is available in the global msg variable as it would be in Node-RED, use the msgSend function to send a message back to Node-RED that will be passed downstream from the node.

You will want to change the front-end code to match your requirements since, by default, it displays some rough dynamic information using JQuery and reflects any recieved messages back to Node-RED (including control messages).

Just make a copy of the index.html and index.js files from the mast src folder to the local src folder. See the Preference Tree and other sections below for how to find these.


  • A single node is used to define an end-point (by its URL path).
  • The node can be included in flows as many times as you like - but each instance must have a unique URL path name.
  • Each node instance gets its own Socket.IO namespace matching the URL path setting.
    Note that Socket.IO will efficiently share sockets while keeping traffic separated by namespace.
  • The node's module contains default html, JavaScript and CSS files that are used as master templates.
  • On deployment of the first instance, a new folder is created within your Node-RED user directory (typically ~/.node-red) with a fixed name of uibuilder.
  • On deployment of any new instance, a new sub-folder within uibuilder is created. The name is the same as the URL path specified in the node instance's settings. (defaults to uibuilder). src and dist sub-folders are also created.
  • If the dist folder contains an index.html file, the dist folder will be used, otherwise the src folder will be used.
  • Any resource (html, css, js, image, etc) placed within the dist/src sub-folder is available to the browser client. The default URL would be http://localhost:1880/uibuilder (where the path is set as per the point above).
  • Any resource in the dist/src sub-folder that has the same name as resources in other resource paths (such as the master resource path) will be given preference - see Preference Tree below.
  • Any msg sent to a node instance is sent through to the UI via Socket.IO. If topic is set in settings and not in the msg, the version from settings will be added.
    NOTE that this may present security and/or performance issues. In particular, you should remove msg.res and msg.req objects as they are both very large and often contain circular references.
  • Users can install front-end libraries using npm into their userDir folder. If using the src sub-folder, these can be accessed in front-end code via the "vendor" path, see below. The list of user libraries made available is given via Node-RED's settings.js file in uibuilder.userVendorPackages (Eventually, also via the nodes settings).
  • Eventually, a link to webpack will be provided to enable packing/compiling of src code to dist. This will enable front-end code to use non-native libraries such as JSX, ES6, Foundation, etc.

Preference Tree

The uibuilder node adds a number of statically served web resource locations (physical file-system locations) to the URL path (default /uibuilder) defined. It is up to the user to ensure that file/folder names do not clash.

The order of preference is as follows:

  1. The dist folder within the node instance URL setting (default: uibuilder, default physical location: ~/.node-red/uibuilder/uibuilder/dist)

    only added if index.html exists in this folder

  2. The src folder within the node instance URL setting (default: uibuilder, default physical location: ~/.node-red/uibuilder/uibuilder/src)

    only added if index.html DOES NOT exist in the dist folder

    In this case, an optional node configuration variable (uibuilder.userVendorPackages) is used to provide a list of package names that will be added to the vendor sub-path of the URL so that users can install their own front-end libraries. This is only added when not using the dist folder as that is expected to have all of the vendor code compiled together using webpack.

  3. The node installations dist folder (default physical location: ~/.node-red/node_modules/node-red-contrib-uibuilder/nodes/dist)

    only added if index.html exists in this folder

  4. The node installations src folder (default physical location: ~/.node-red/node_modules/node-red-contrib-uibuilder/nodes/src)

    only added if index.html DOES NOT exist in the dist folder

    In this case, the vendor subpath will be available with some pre-installed vendor packages. Currently normalize.css and jquery.

In addition, this node uses the httpNodeMiddleware Node-RED setting allowing for ExpressJS middleware to be used. For example, implementing user security.

Front-end path summary

Front-end files in ~/.node-red/node_modules/node-red-contrib-uibuilder/nodes/src/ may use the url paths:

  • [/<httpNodeRoot>]/<url>/ - for most things
    e.g. <script src="index.js"></script>
  • vendor - for things like normalize.css & JQuery and other front-end libraries installed using npm either by this module or as packages in your userDir
    e.g. <link rel="stylesheet" href="vendor/normalize.css/normalize.css">
  • <script src="/uibuilder/"></script> - for
    The static /uibuilder prefix is used here to ensure all instances of clients for this node use the same, correct, instance of

Physical file/folder location summary

Folders and files for resources on the device running Node-RED are:

  • <userDir>/uibuilder/<url>/src/ - local source files for front-end use (e.g. html, js, css)
  • <userDir>/uibuilder/<url>/dist/ - local compiled files for front-end use
  • <userDir>/node_modules/node-red-contrib-uibuilder/nodes/src/ - this modules source files for front-end use (e.g. html, js, css)
  • <userDir>/node_modules/node-red-contrib-uibuilder/nodes/dist/ - this modules compiled files for front-end use
  • <userDir>/node_modules/<package-name> - when included via the uibuilder.userVendorPackages global setting (in settings.js).
    Note that each package will have its own folder structure that you will need to understand in order to use the package in the browser. These are often poorly documented.

Known Issues

  • Socket.IO is not yet secured! Do not use over the Internet unless you really don't care about the data you are passing back and forth.
  • Workaround applied: Client tries to reconnect with increasing timeouts. On redeploy, existing clients do not reconnect, page has to be reloaded. Works if NR is restarted.
  • Uniqueness of the URL is not validated for multiple instances, could cause some "interesting" effects!
  • Currently, when you send a msg to a node instance, the msg is sent to all front-end clients connected to that url. There is, as yet, no way to send to a single front-end client.
  • Currently the forward setting does nothing.
  • Currently, it doesn't appear possible to remove routes from Express v4 dynamically.
    Some get removed and some don't, it's about the best I can do unless someone has a better idea. This means that you get redundant routes when you redeploy the node instance. Doesn't affect running but probably uses memory.

To Do

  • Add validation to url setting
    Allow A-Z, a-z, 0-9, _, - and / only. Limit to 50 characters (maybe less)
  • Allow websocket messages to an individual front-end instance by including the socket ID in the output msg
  • Implement forward input to output
  • Add safety validation checks to msg before allowing it to be sent/recieved to/from front-end
  • Add integrated ExpressJS security to Socket.IO
  • Process httpNodeAuth
  • Add FE code to enable easier integration with user-supplied function on receipt of msg. Maybe a global fn name or msg.prototype?
  • Tidy front-end JS code to make integration easier
  • Use webpack to "compile" resources into distribution folders upon (re)deployment - allowing for the use of more resource types such as: less/scss; UI frameworks such as Bootstrap, Foundation, Material UI; jsx or other dynamic templating; front-end frameworks such as VueJS, Angular or REACT.
  • Add ability to create resources from the Node-RED admin UI - currently all resources have to be created in the file system
  • Copy template files to local override folder if not already existing?
  • (Maybe compile template resources to dist folder?)
  • Add a check for new file changes in local src folder
    For now, will rely on users creating .recompile flag file in local src folder. (not yet implemented)
  • Add additional standard front-end libraries such as: RiotJS (lightweight UI library, REACT-like but only 10k), Tachyons.IO (Lightweight style library, responsive, accessible, modular, readable, performant, 14k)



  • Fixed incorrect app.use logic which meant that the tree order was incorrect. Also improved app.use removal though still not perfect, seems to be a limitation of ExpressJS v4


  • Add logic to client to start retrying to connect after server closedown
  • Final code and text tidying ready for wider use


  • Add control msgs from server to client on closedown of server (e.g. for redeploy)
  • Add topic to node config
  • Add userVendorPackages to node config


  • Simply dynamic front-end code using JQuery. Fixed typo's in docs. Fixed auto-respond test messages. Add path to Socket.IO to make sure the client loads the right version from the server.


  • Initial release to npm. Socket.IO namespace working, src/dist folders available and working. Only the most basic front-end template included.


See the package.json file. Currently:


Run the following command in your Node-RED user directory (typically ~/.node-red):

npm install node-red-contrib-uibuilder

Run Node-RED and add an instance of the UI Builder node. Set the required URL path and deploy.

The UI should then be available at the chosen path. The default would normally be http://localhost:1880/uibuilder (if default Node-RED and node settings are used).

Node Instance Settings

Each instance of the uibuilder node has the following settings available.

name (optional)

Only used in the Node-RED admin UI.

topic (optional)

Only used if an inbound msg does not contain a topic attribute. Passed on to client UI upon receipt of a msg.

url (required, default = 'uibuilder')

The path used to access the user interface that this node builds. So on localhost, if none of the port nor https nor httpRoot settings are defined (in Node-RED's settings.js file), the URL of the default interface would be http://localhost:1880/uibuilder

It is up to the flow author to ensure that no duplicate names are used, the node does not check or enforce uniqueness.

Forward recieved messages direct to output? (default = false)

Forward's a copy of every recieved message direct to the output. Adds the topic from the above setting if one isn't present in the msg.

Note that this may result in multiple output messages if your front-end code also auto-sends inbound messages.

Use resources in custom folder? (default = true)

Will add the folders either from <userDir>/uibuider/<url>/dist or from <userDir>/uibuider/<url>/src. Also adds any vendor modules if specified in settings.js under the uibuilder.userVendorPackages setting.

userVendorPackages (optional)

A list of npm package names (as they appear in node_modules) that the node will make available to front-end code under the uibuilder/vendor path.

All instances of this node will also use the uibuilder.userVendorPackages attribute of settings.js unless defined in the node's settings.

debug (optional, defalt=false)

Only available using the uibuilder.debug attribute of settings.js. Set to true to output additional debugging information.

Discussions and suggestions

Use the Node-RED google group for general discussion about this node. Or use the GitHub issues log for raising issues or contributing suggestions and enhancements.


If you would like to contribute to this node, you can contact Totally Information via GitHub or raise a request in the GitHub issues log.


Node Info

Version: 0.2.0
Updated 2 weeks, 3 days ago
License: Apache-2.0


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