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Parse is alive and kicking, thanks to back4app and Parse Server

Updated on May 2, 2018
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Web Designer, iOS, Android mobile apps developer. From Italy with Love.

Parse Server overview

Parse Server is a powerful framework that come out from the discontinued Parse API service that was hosted on parse.com, owned by Facebook Inc.

It is an open-source API server and allows new developers to benefit from the powerful Parse client SDKs regardless of where their application logic and data is stored.

The Parse SDK allows you to send Push Notifications without building any external server, manage data with the Parse Dashboard (which is kinda working with a Microsoft Excel file), upload javascript files in a Cloud Code container and send verification emails to registered user.

Parse SDK is flexible and easy to use, its developers have provided a very well-written Guides based on the desired platform here: http://parseplatform.org/

It also offers a manual backup option, providing JSON files of your data. These backups could be imported in your Dashboard as well.

Whatever you're building, whatever problem you're solving, Parse can save you a whole lot of time getting started.

So can I still benefit Parse SDK?

Yes of course, because Parse Server is well maintained by lots of developers and updated every time an OS gets updated as well.

What the guys from Facebook stopped about Parse is only the hosting service on parse.com, they did not kill SDK, in fact most of the Parse developers switched the SDK into the Parse Server platform and made it available for self-hosting and open-source.

Anyway the process to get Parse Server hosted on your own server is a bit complicated and it’s not for free, because you will need to set an account on Heroku and so pay for used data traffic, so we’ve found the perfect solution to keep working with the awesome Parse SDK even after January 2017: back4app.com.

About back4app BaaS service

back4app is a great alternative for hosting your Parse apps for free. You as a developer don’t need to worry about rewriting the app using another API or learning how to use a new platform. To make things even easier for you to get started, the back4app team has created a migration feature that makes it very easy to get your Parse app running in the back{4}app BaaS.

This website offers a free generous plan to get started and for small businesses/developers with its STARTER pack:

• 1 GB Database Storage
• 5 GB File Storage
• 10 Requests/second
• 50 K Requests/month
• 1 Cloud Code Job

In case your app will get bigger and more audience then you may need to subscribe for a paid plan, just check out the Pricing table on back4app.


Easy setup and database creation

After creating an account on back4app, you'll be redirected to the dashboard where you can start creating your Parse apps.

Click on Build a new Parse App button and enter the info about your app, so its name and a description (optional).

Click Create to enter the dashboard of your brand new Parse app and get the details about it, like App Id, Client Key, host server, Master key, etc.

You will use those keys to configure your iOS, Android or web php applications and also setup an admin panel on Adminca


You may also watch this demo video to see how to create an App on back4app and manually add data in the Parse Dashboard:

The Apps Dashboard

The Apps Dashboard on back4app
The Apps Dashboard on back4app

Your back4app Apps Dashboard is where you manage all your Parse apps, create new ones, open their Dashboard - the database structure - edit their Features and the Billing fees in case you've subscribed for a paid plan.

Let's start by check out the Features of a Parse app, click on that button to enter a wide list of options for your application.

Core Settings

The Core Settings section is where you manage your keys, delete, transfer, clone or restart your app. If you click on DOCS then you'll be redirected to the official documentation of back4app, while if you select DASHBOARD your browser will open a new tab and load the Parse Dashboard relative to your application.

Let's explore the SERVER option, click on it and this is what you'll get:

Core Settings SERVER page
Core Settings SERVER page

This section is where you can copy all those keys you need to use in your iOS, Android or web application in order to run Parse SDK.

On the bottom of this page there are a few buttons to edit the details of your app, restart it, transfer it to another back4app owner - in case you sell your application to another developer - clone and delete your app.


Manage Parse Server

Manage Parse Server section
Manage Parse Server section

This is the section where you can change the Parse Server version. I always recommend to use the latest one, so click on SERVER and check the first option, you'll see a list of features about that PS version.

Select a Parse Server version
Select a Parse Server version

Collaborators

Click on SERVER to open the Parse Dashboard and get to the Collaborators section where you'll be able to add the email address of other developers you want to work with, or just need them to support your app and do customizations without giving them your back4app's login credentials.

Please note

Collaborators will have read/write access but cannot delete your app or add other collaborators.

Also, a Collaborator must have an account on back4app in order to be added to your list and perform actions on your dashboard.

Data Management

This section is just to quickly open your Parse Dashboard and manage your data - cells, columns, classes, push notifications, analytics, etc.

Parse Dashboard
Parse Dashboard

Parse Config

Same thing as above, click on DASHBOARD to quickly access your database and edit your data.



API console

This section is for you to play around with the Parse REST API and send a test query, it's a sort of playground where you can check JSON results of performed queries. Check the official Parse Platform guides to learn more about its REST API.

Logs

This is a useful section where you can see server, access and cloud code logs. It's important for debugging your application during development in case you're using Cloud Code.



Cloud Code

Cloud Code is where you hosts javascript files that will interact with your app.

For instance, if you need to send Push Notifications from your code, wether it's an iOS or Android project, you need to upload a main.js file with functions to handle Push Notifications.

Cloud Code console
Cloud Code console

I want to share a main.js file with you which hosts the code to send Push Notifications via an iOS and an Android App, please check the code below and use it as you wish:

// SEND PUSH NOTIFICATION
Parse.Cloud.define("push", function(request, response) {

  var user = request.user;
  var params = request.params;
  var someKey = params.someKey
  var data = params.data

  var recipientUser = new Parse.User();
  recipientUser.id = someKey;

  var pushQuery = new Parse.Query(Parse.Installation);
  pushQuery.equalTo("userID", someKey);


  Parse.Push.send({
    where: pushQuery, // Set our Installation query
    data: data
  }, { success: function() {
      console.log("#### PUSH OK");
  }, error: function(error) {
      console.log("#### PUSH ERROR" + error.message);
  }, useMasterKey: true});

  response.success('success');
});



// SEND PUSH NOTIFICATION FOR ANDROID
Parse.Cloud.define("pushAndroid", function(request, response) {

  var user = request.user;
  var params = request.params;
  var someKey = params.someKey
  var data = params.data

  var recipientUser = new Parse.User();
  recipientUser.id = someKey;

  var pushQuery = new Parse.Query(Parse.Installation);
  pushQuery.equalTo("userID", someKey);


  Parse.Push.send({
    where: pushQuery, // Set our Installation query
    data: {
       alert: data
    }  
}, { success: function() {
      console.log("#### PUSH OK");
  }, error: function(error) {
      console.log("#### PUSH ERROR" + error.message);
  }, useMasterKey: true});

  response.success('success');
});

Please note that the .js file you will upload to your Cloud Code container must be called main.js, otherwise it won't be read by the Parse SDK.

Command Line Tool

In this section you'll be able to read the documentation to learn how to interact with you Cloud Code from the terminal.


Background Jobs

A Background Job in Parse Cloud Code is simply a function that you can schedule to run at a certain time, written in javascript and uploaded to your Cloud Code container.

You can read the DOCS to learn more about background jobs and click on SERVER to schedule and run your own jobs.

Browse and Schedule your own background jobs
Browse and Schedule your own background jobs

Webhooks

In this section you can keep yourself informed on app events with Web Hooks. Click on DASHBOARD and create a Webhook based on the function you want to monitor. You can learn more about Webhooks here: http://blog.parse.com/announcements/introducing-cloud-code-webhooks/

Create a Webhook
Create a Webhook

Analytics

This is an important section for you to monitor the performance of your application, from the API request limit to the total calls your app sends to the server - such as queries or saving functions.

Analytics is useful to understand how your app goes especially if it's live on the App or Play Store, but even in case of a website with Parse PHP SDK.

Analytics console
Analytics console

Web Hosting

With this option you can create a webpage hosted on back4app.io, in case you don't want to build a website or a webpage to call Cloud Code functions.

Check the DOCS to know how to enable Web Hosting and click on SERVER to configure and activate your hosting.

Activate Web Hosting and Live Query
Activate Web Hosting and Live Query

Verification emails

In this section you can enable verification emails for user who sign up in your app. The server will send an automatic email with a link to click in order to sent the emailVerified field as True in your own Parse Dashboard, this is useful in case you want to allow users to use your application only if they verify their email address.

You can set the Reply-to address, the subject and body of your verification email and edit the details about the Password reset email as well.

Verify email and Password reset settings
Verify email and Password reset settings

Neumob

Neumob is the leader in app acceleration for a mobile-first world. App owners simply install a 2-line SDK into their mobile app, and all wireless traffic is accelerated by 30%-300%, anywhere in the world. The platform helps app owners maximize revenues and keep the users they’ve worked so hard to acquire.

Neumob has partnered with back4app to offer all customers up to 200 GB of FREE acceleration per month, per app.

Click on DOCS or the Neumob link to learn more about this app accelerator. Click SERVER to configure it.


Facebook Login

This is the section where you have to paste your own Facebook App ID in order to allow users to sign up/login with their Facebook accounts in your mobile apps.

Click on SERVER to enter the editor page and add your Facebook App ID. Check the DOCS to see how to implement Facebook login in your app.

Add your Facebook ID
Add your Facebook ID

Twitter Login

This is the section where you can configure your own Twitter Consumer Key and Secret which you should create on your Twitter developer account.

Check the DOCS for more info and click SERVER to add your keys to enable Twitter login for your app.

Setup Twitter login
Setup Twitter login

Android Push notification

If your Android app has GCM Push Notifications enabled then you need to click on SERVER and paste your own GCM Sender ID and API Key then click NEXT to allow back4app to handle Push Notifications in your mobile app.

Android Push Notification Setup
Android Push Notification Setup

iOS Push Notifications

If you're building an iOS app instead and want it to send/receive Push Notifications, you need to first generate your .p12 development and Production certificates for Push Notifications in your Apple Developer account and then click SERVER to upload both certificates and enable back4app to handle this service on your app.

Here's a tutorial about creating .p12 certificates for iOS: https://hubpages.com/technology/How-to-create-APN-Push-Notifications-certificates-on-iOS

Setup iOS Push Notifications
Setup iOS Push Notifications

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article, I just wanted to cover all the main features that Parse Server and back4app offer to help you build apps with a flexible, easy-to-use backend, better than spending hours on writing PHP files and configuring MySQL which involves a paid hosting to upload your files :)

Thanks for reading, don't forget to check out my other tutorials and my app templates on CodeCanyon as well!

© 2017 cubycode

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