The FileThisConnect Minimal Site is a simple website that embeds an instance of the FileThisConnect web component element. Unlike the FileThis development tool that you used in the previous section, this website will be served from your own development machine, not from filethis.com. Because you'll have the site's source files, you'll be able to see just how simple the embedding is. Also, when you've finished, you'll have installed a number of development tools that you'll need in the final section.

True to its name, this website is "minimal" in that there is no support in it for creating a FileThis user account or user access token, as there was in the FileThisConnect development tool's fixture UI. You'll simply paste the code generated by the development tool into the site's main HTML file.

All of the FileThis web components, sub-components, demo and sample applications are available as open source in public GitHub repositories. The code for this website, named ft-connect-minimal-site, lives here. The instructions below will ask you to download a copy of it to your machine.

Development Environment Setup

There are a number of tools you'll need to install to support bootstrapping the ft-connect-minimal-site project and running it on your dev machine.

The following instructions assume you have a Unix-like shell environment, but should work without too much trouble on a Windows box, as well. Feedback about how to improve the instructions for the Windows platform is welcome.

Install the Node Package Manager

The Node Package Manager (NPM) makes it easy to download and install Javascript tools and libraries from the command line. We need it for just one reason: to install a tool called Bower, which is yet another package manager.

The easiest way to install the npm command line tool is to install the whole NodeJS package. You can get the installer from here.

Once it's installed, verify that the npm command is available in your terminal by running:

npm --version

and observing that you are given a version number.

Install Git

Bower uses Git to store the code and version tags associated with the packages that it manages. The git command line tool must be installed on your machine in order for it to work.

There are many ways to install Git on each platform. Follow this guide to decide the best way for you.

When you're done, verify that the git command is available in your terminal by running:

git --version

Install Bower

Next, we use NPM to install Bower. Run this command:

npm install -g bower

You should see some verbose progress information fly by as other packages that Bower depends on are installed, ending with some indication of success.

Verify that you have the bower command available in your terminal by running:

bower --version

Choose a webserver

In order to run the ft-connect-minimal-site app, you'll need to serve its project files so that your browser can render them. If you already have a favorite local webserver of some kind, you can skip this step. If you don't, here are some options:


BrowserSync is a personal favorite at FileThis and is highly recommended. Among several nifty features is one that automatically reloads the page when any served file changes —Make a change in your editor, save it, see the page rerender with the change.

Install with:

npm install -g browser-sync

and run with:

browser-sync start --config "bs-config.js" --server --port 3505

Note that if you want to the use the configuration options in the bs-config.js file, you will need to run this from inside your ft-connect-minimal-site project directory. If you don't use this file, you'll need to either define your own, or add configuration options to the command line.

You can take advantage of BrowserSync's automatic loading feature even if you choose to use your own webserver, or one of the options listed below by using its "proxy" feature.

browser-sync start --proxy localhost:8888 --config "bs-config.js" --server --port 3505

where "localhost:8888" is the URL of your webserver

Python 2.7+

Assuming you already have Python 2.7 installed, run with:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer 3505

Python 3.x

Assuming you already have Python 3 installed, run with:

python -m http.server 3505

Ruby 1.9.2+

Assuming you already have Ruby installed, run with:

ruby -run -ehttpd . -p3505

NodeJS static-server

Install with:

npm -g install static-server

and run with:

static-server --port 3505

PHP 5.4+

Assuming you already have PHP installed, run with:

php -S

Project setup

Now you're ready to download the ft-connect-minimal-site code to your development machine and install the libraries that the code depends on.

Get the project source code

Find a place for the project code to live on your filesystem and clone the remote repository using:

git clone git@github.com:filethis/ft-connect-minimal-site.git

Then move into the created project directory:

cd ft-connect-minimal-site

Install the project's library dependencies

Now we can use Bower to download and install all the other web component elements that the app uses, as well as the small runtime support library.

If you're curious, take a look at the list of dependencies in the bower.json file in the project directory. The bower command will read each of these in turn and pull down not only these dependencies, but any dependencies of the listed packages, recursively.

While still inside your ft-connect-minimal-site directory, install the dependencies by running:

bower install

You will see a lot of progress information go by. It should complete without error or interruption.

When done, take a look in your project directory and observe that it contains a new directory called bower_components. This new directory contains all the libraries that the project depends on.

Drop in the component

As mentioned above, this project does not provide any runtime support for either creating a FileThis user account, or for obtaining a user access token. You will need to paste literal values for both of these into the source code before running it.

Get an account ID and user access token

Open the FileThisConnect Development Tool application now and copy a valid FileThis account id and a user access token from it. You may want to create a fresh token so that it does not expire anytime soon.

Configure the account ID and user access token

In an editor, open the ./src/ft-connect-minimal-site.html file in your project directory. Locate the user-account-id attribute of the element and paste the account id string into its value. Locate the token attribute and paste the token string into its value. Save your changes.

About CORS

It may already have occurred to you to there is a potential problem here: Browsers prevent access to data from more than one domain in order to prevent cross-site script exploits. Our component is about to be loaded from your local file system (domain localhost), and it intends to make XMLHttpRequest ("AJAX") calls to the FileThis service, (domain filethis.com). Unless we do something special, your browser will happily load the component, and then simply refuse to make the HTTP requests to FileThis.

Fortunately, browser manufacturers have provided a way to make specific exceptions to the cross-domain restriction in a safe manner. They call this Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, or CORS, for short. In brief, it works like this:

  1. When the browser is asked to send an HTTP request to an origin other than the one from which the site was originally loaded, it first builds a "preflight" request that has the same URL and some of the same headers as the actual request.
  2. The browser sends its preflight request to the server using the OPTIONS HTTP verb.
  3. Upon receiving this OPTIONS request, the server reads the domain name and port from the request's ORIGIN header (http://localhost:3505, in our case) and looks this up in an internal whitelist table of some kind. If it finds a match, it responds with success to the OPTIONS request, returning a 200 result code. If it does not find a match, it returns with a non-200 response. We mention in passing that there are other request and response headers which further refine what the requestor is asking to do and, in turn, what server will allow.
  4. When it receives a 200 response to its OPTIONS preflight request, the browser then sends the original request, and things proceed normally.

To make things easier, the FileThis server has been preconfigured to include a CORS whitelist entry for any http or https URL that uses the localhost domain (on any port) so that developers can run our demo and sample applications out of the box.

You may be wondering how things are handled once you move your code from your development box (localhost) to your testing, staging, and production systems. The FileThisConnect component that you embed into your website will be served, along with all your other files, from your own domains. The FileThis server will need to have a CORS whitelist entry for your address —something like https://acme.com and https://staging.acme.com. We are working on an enhanced version of our partner console that will allow you to edit your own whitelist. Until then, please send us a list of your addresses and we will update your whitelist for you.

The Next Step

Now that you've brought up the minimal app on your development box, and have installed a number of development tools there, you're ready to move on to embedding the component into your website and starting to work on your back-end integration with FileThis. Please contact us on our Slack channel for further guidance.