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Creating Offline-First Apps With Couchbase Sync Gateway

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Creating Offline-First Apps With Couchbase Sync Gateway

You can use Couchbase and its Sync Gateway as a communication tool for your frontend and backend. That allows you to make an offline app that syncs at a given request.

· Database Zone ·
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In this article, I’m going to propose an offline-first development using Couchbase as the communication tool between the backend and frontend.

While studying react-redux, something that I really liked is the Async Actions pattern where you have:


    type: 'FECH_POSTS_FAILURE', error: 'Oops' 

    type: 'FECH_POSTS_SUCCESS', response: 

After understanding a bit more about Couchbase and Couchbase Sync Gateway, it seems possible to apply this kind of pattern and let Couchbase deal with all the communication of the app and having a fully functional offline app. This pattern provides a very good user experience because you actually render the page based on the current status of the app.

How Does It Work?

Image title


The application itself never does any call to the backend. The only responsibility it has is to save states and render them. This way, it’s possible to have a fully functional app working offline.

Couchbase Lite/Sync Gateway

Couchbase Lite will be responsible for syncing the current state of the app to Couchbase Sync Gateway and retrieving new information once the document is updated in the backend.

Web Hooks

Once Couchbase Sync Gateway receives a document that matches the filter, it will do an HTTP call to the web app with the document it needs to update.

Web App

The Web App can do any kind of update like:

  • Creating a new task in a task queue
  • Retrieving data from an external API
  • Analyze some data/images (eg: OCR)

Hands On

To illustrate a bit how this concept works, I've developed a simple example where, once you save a specific document, the web application will dispatch a task that will get a random Star Wars character and update the document.

You can download all the code necessary to run an example of this solution.

The stack is composed by:

  • Web App – Flask
  • Task Queue – Celery + RabbitMQ
  • Sync Gateway (walrus mode)

To have it running, simple clone the git repo and run docker-compose:

git clone https://github.com/rafaelugolini/syncgateway_apiless_example

cd syncgateway_apiless_example

docker-compose up

Data Modeling

In this example, the key action is the primary source of the events. The document must be saved with:

{ "action": "person_request" }

To create a document curl, just use the following command

curl -H "Content-Type: application/json" -X POST -d '{"action":"person_request"}' http://localhost:4984/db/

Sync Gateway

In the configuration of the Sync Gateway, it's registered an event handler where for every document change with action == “person_request”, an API call will be made to the web app.

"event_handlers": {
    "document_changed": [
            "handler": "webhook",
            "url": "http://web_service:5000/person_request/",
            "filter": `function(doc) {
                if (doc.action == "person_request") {
                    return true;
                return false;

Web App

The web app is a simple Flask API that receives a POST with the information of the document and dispatches a task to Celery.

The task will query a random Star Wars person from https://swapi.co/ and update the document:


    "action": "person_success",

    "gender": "female",

    "height": "168",

    "mass": "55",

    "name": "Zam Wesell"




I developed a simple PouchDB client that will print all the documents from the Sync Gateway to the console. It basically runs this function every time there is a database change.

const getAllDocs = () => (
        include_docs: true,
        attachments: true,
    }).then((result) => {
        console.log('\x1Bc'); // this clears the console
        console.log(util.inspect(result.rows, false, null));
    }).catch((err) => {

You can get it from this Git repo.

yarn install
yarn start

couchbase ,offline web applications ,database ,tutorial ,sync gateway

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