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How to Build a Mattermost Android app

At times, you may want to build your own Mattermost mobile app. The most common use cases are:

  • To white label the Mattermost mobile app.
  • To use your own deployment of the Mattermost Push Notification Service (always required if you are building your own version of the mobile app).

Build Preparations 

1. Package name and source files 

  • Ensure the package ID of the mobile app remains the same as the one in the original mattermost-mobile GitHub repository in com.mattermost.rnbeta.
  • Source files for the main package remain under the android/app/src/main/java/com/mattermost/rnbeta folder.

2. Generating a signing key 

As Android requires all apps to be digitally signed with a certificate before they can be installed building the Android app for distribution requires the release APK to be signed.

To generate the signed key, use keytool which comes with the JDK required to develop the Android app. (see Developer Setup).

$ keytool -genkey -v -keystore <my-release-key>.keystore -alias my-key-alias -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000

The above command prompts you for passwords for the keystore and key (make sure you use the same password for both), and asks you to provide the Distinguished Name fields for your key. It then generates the keystore as a file called <my-release-key>.keystore.

The keystore contains a single key, valid for 10000 days. The alias is a name that you will use later when signing your app, so remember to take a note of the alias.


Note:

  • Replace <my-release-key> with the filename you want to specify.
  • Remember to keep your keystore file private and never commit it to version control.

3. Create a new app in Google Play 

Create a new application using the Google Play console. If you already have an app registered in the Google Play console you can skip this step.

4. Setting up Gradle Variables 

Now that we have created the keystore file we can tell the build process to use that file:

  • Copy or move the my-release-key.keystore file under a directory that you can access. It can be in your home directory or anywhere in the file system.

  • Edit the gradle.properties file in your $HOME directory (e.g. $HOME/.gradle/gradle.properties), or create it if one does not exist, and add the following:

    MATTERMOST_RELEASE_STORE_FILE=/full/path/to/directory/containing/my-release-key.keystore
    MATTERMOST_RELEASE_KEY_ALIAS=my-key-alias
    MATTERMOST_RELEASE_PASSWORD=*****
    

Note:

  • Replace /full/path/to/directory/containing/my-release-key.keystore with the full path to the actual keystore file and ******** with the actual keystore password.
  • Back up your keystore and don’t forget the password.


Important:

Once you publish the app on the Play Store, the app needs to be signed with the same key every time you want to distriibute a new build. If you lose this key, you will need to republish your app under a different package id (losing all downloads and ratings).


5. Configure environment variables 

To make it easier to customize your build, we’ve defined a few environment variables that are going to be used by Fastlane during the build process.

Variable Description Default Required
COMMIT_CHANGES_TO_GIT Should the Fastlane script ensure that there are no changes to Git before building the app and that every change made during the build is committed back to Git.

Valid values are: true, false
false No
BRANCH_TO_BUILD Defines the Git branch that is going to be used for generating the build.

Make sure that, if this value is set, the branch it is set to exists.
$GIT_BRANCH No
GIT_LOCAL_BRANCH Defines the local branch to be created from BRANCH_TO_BUILD to ensure the base branch does not get any new commits on it.

Make sure a branch with this name does not yet exist in your local Git repository.
build No
RESET_GIT_BRANCH Defines if, once the build is done, the branch should be reset to the initial state before building and whether to also delete the branch created to build the app.

Valid values are: true, false
false No
VERSION_NUMBER Set the version of the app at build time to a specific value, rather than using the one set in the project. No
INCREMENT_VERSION_<br>NUMBER_MESSAGE Set the commit message when changing the app version number. Bump app version number to No
INCREMENT_BUILD_NUMBER Defines if the app build number should be incremented.

Valid values are: true, false
false No
BUILD_NUMBER Set the build number of the app at build time to a specific value, rather than incrementing the last build number. No
INCREMENT_BUILD_<br>NUMBER_MESSAGE Set the commit message when changing the app build number. Bump app build number to No
APP_NAME The name of the app as it is going to be shown on the device home screen. Mattermost Beta Yes
APP_SCHEME The URL naming scheme for the app as used in direct deep links to app content from outside the app. mattermost No
REPLACE_ASSETS Override the assets as described in White Labeling.

Valid values are: true, false
false No
MAIN_APP_IDENTIFIER The package identifier for the app. Yes
BUILD_FOR_RELEASE Defines if the app should be built in release mode.

Valid values are: true, false

Make sure you set this value to true if you plan to submit this app Google Play or distribute it in any other way.
false Yes
SEPARATE_APKS Build one APK per achitecture (armeabi-v7a, x86, arm64-v8a and x86_64) as well as a universal APK. The advantage is the size of the APK is reduced by about 4MB.

People will download the correct APK from the Play Store based on the CPU architecture of their device.
false Yes
SUBMIT_ANDROID_TO_<br>GOOGLE_PLAY Should the app be submitted to the Play Store once it finishes building, use along with SUPPLY_TRACK.

Valid values are: true, false
false Yes
SUPPLY_TRACK The track of the application to use when submitting the app to Google Play Store. Valid values are: alpha, beta, production

RIt is not recommended to submit the app to production. First try any of the other tracks and then promote your app using the Google Play console.
alpha Yes
SUPPLY_PACKAGE_NAME The package Id of your application, make sure it matches MAIN_APP_IDENTIFIER. Yes
SUPPLY_JSON_KEY The path to the service account json file used to authenticate with Google.

See the Supply documentation to learn more.
Yes

Note: To configure your variables create the file ./mattermost-mobile/fastlane/.env where .env is the filename. You can find the sample file env_vars_example here.


6. Google Services 

Replace the google-services.json file as instructed in the Android Push Notification Guide before you build the app.

Building the App 

Once all the previous steps are done, execute the following command from within the project’s directory:

$ npm run build:android

This will start the build process following the environment variables you’ve set. Once it finishes, it will create the .apk file(s) with the APP_NAME as the filename in the project’s root directory. If you have not set Fastlane to submit the app to the Play Store, you can use this file to manually publish and distribute the app.