AWS Amplify Auth with React - complete tutorial


Borislav Hadzhiev

Thu Apr 22 202112 min read


Photo by Chaz McGregor

Updated on Thu Apr 22 2021

Amplify Auth with React - provisioned with AWS CDK #

We are going to implement Amplify (Cognito) Auth in a React.js application and provision the infrastructure using AWS CDK.

I have written a complete AWS Amplify authentication flow, including:

  • Login
  • Registration
  • Forgotten password
  • Change password
  • Change Email
  • Profile fields stored in cognito: First name, Last name, About, Avatar, Address, etc.
  • Custom Cognito Emails with a Lambda trigger
  • Join User to a Cognito Group on account confirmation
  • Avatar uploads to s3 using presigned post urls

For example the 3 sections of the user settings page look like:

profile section profile section 2 profile section 3

And the registration form looks like:


We are going to provision the following resources with our CDK stack:

  • Cognito User pool
  • Cognito User pool client
  • Cognito Identity pool
  • s3 bucket for storing user avatars
  • Lambda function for getting presigned urls from s3, so our frontend can upload avatars to s3
  • Api gateway with a /get-presigned-url-s3 endpoint which has a lambda proxy integration

This project is mostly intended to be used as a reference for when you have to implement Amplify and Cognito Auth in a react.js application. I've tried to (mostly) follow best practices.

Prerequisites #

  • Have the AWS CLI installed and configured.

Project set up #

  1. Clone the github repository

  2. Install the dependencies

cd aws-amplify-react-auth npm run setup
  1. Create the CDK stack
npm run cdk-create-stack
  1. If you open the AWS Console you should see the stack with the name amplify-react-auth-dev in your default region. If you are unsure which your default region is, open the src/cdk-exports-dev.json and look at the region property.

  2. Once the stack creation is complete, start the react application and open http://localhost:3000. Note: it's important that you run the react application on http://localhost:3000, because that's the url we've set up CORS for.

npm run dev

At this point you should have the application running on port http://localhost:3000.

Click on the profile icon at the top right corner and select Sign Up.

profile anon

After you sign up you'll get an email with an account activation link. Click on the link and you will be automatically logged in. Note: the way we're able to automatically log in after clicking on the link from the email is by storing the password the user entered during registration in local storage. After the user is logged in the local storage key is cleared.

Probably not the best idea for a real world project, but it does improve the user experience with auto sign in for demo purposes.

Once you're logged in you can click on the profile icon again and update any of the profile attributes, including the avatar.

At this point we have a complete auth flow with the following functionality:

  • Login
  • Registration
  • Forgotten password
  • Change password
  • Change Email
  • Profile fields stored in cognito: First name, Last name, About, Avatar, Address, etc.

Let's look at the implementation.

Backend Code #

The entry point of our CDK application is at backend/infra/app.ts. This is where we initialize our CDK stack:

new AmplifyReactStack(app, `${STACK_PREFIX}-dev`, { stackName: `${STACK_PREFIX}-dev`, env: { region: DEPLOY_REGION, }, tags: {env: 'dev'}, });

Let's take a look at the stack and the resources it provisions at backend/infra/amplify-react-stack.ts. We first have a Cognito User Pool:

const {userPool} = new UserPoolConstruct(this, 'userpool');

In short the User Pool is a directory where we store and manage users.

The User pool first defines a postAccountConfirmationTrigger lambda function, which simply adds the User to a group after their account has been confirmed. This is an optional step but it is a common scenario, so it's here for reference, in case someone needs it.

const postAccountConfirmationTrigger = new NodejsFunction( this, 'post-confirmation', { runtime: lambda.Runtime.NODEJS_14_X, memorySize: 1024, timeout: cdk.Duration.seconds(6), handler: 'main', entry: path.join( __dirname, '/../../../src/cognito-triggers/post-confirmation/index.ts', ), bundling: {externalModules: ['aws-sdk']}, }, );

Next we have a customMessagesTrigger, which is responsible for customizing the emails that cognito sends on user events, i.e. registration, forgotten password, etc:

const customMessagesTrigger = new NodejsFunction(this, 'custom-messages', { runtime: lambda.Runtime.NODEJS_14_X, memorySize: 1024, timeout: cdk.Duration.seconds(6), handler: 'main', entry: path.join( __dirname, '/../../../src/cognito-triggers/custom-messages/index.ts', ), environment: { FRONTEND_BASE_URL, }, bundling: {externalModules: ['aws-sdk']}, });

Lastly we have the Cognito User pool with all of the custom attributes specified, so that we can manage the information in the profile section:

this.userPool = new cognito.UserPool(this, 'userpool', { userPoolName: `${STACK_PREFIX}-${DEPLOY_ENVIRONMENT}`, selfSignUpEnabled: true, signInAliases: { email: true, }, autoVerify: { email: true, }, standardAttributes: { givenName: { required: true, mutable: true, }, familyName: { required: true, mutable: true, }, }, customAttributes: { bio: new cognito.StringAttribute({mutable: true}), country: new cognito.StringAttribute({mutable: true}), city: new cognito.StringAttribute({mutable: true}), isAdmin: new cognito.StringAttribute({mutable: true}), }, passwordPolicy: { minLength: 6, requireLowercase: true, requireDigits: false, requireUppercase: false, requireSymbols: false, }, accountRecovery: cognito.AccountRecovery.EMAIL_ONLY, lambdaTriggers: { postConfirmation: postAccountConfirmationTrigger, customMessage: customMessagesTrigger, }, });

Nothing special about the other configuration, but we have added 4 extra attributes to our cognito user object - bio, country, city and isAdmin.

Going back to our stack definition file at backend/infra/amplify-react-stack.ts we next define our User Pool Client.

const {userPoolClient} = new UserPoolClientConstruct(this, 'userpoolclient', { userPool, });

The User Pool client is a part of the User Pool and it allows unauthenticated API operations like registration, login, forgotten password. Let's take a look at the implementation at backend/infra/constructs/cognito/user-pool-client-construct.ts. We define which user attributes are to be read and written by the user. In our case the read and write attributes are the same with the exception of the isAdmin property which we have excluded from the write attributes, because we wouldn't want users to be able to update their isAdmin property:

const clientWriteAttributes = new cognito.ClientAttributes() .withStandardAttributes({ givenName: true, familyName: true, email: true, emailVerified: false, address: true, birthdate: true, gender: true, locale: true, middleName: true, fullname: true, nickname: true, phoneNumber: true, profilePicture: true, preferredUsername: true, profilePage: true, timezone: true, lastUpdateTime: true, website: true, }) .withCustomAttributes(...['bio', 'country', 'city']); // <-- without isAdmin

Going back to our stack definition file at backend/infra/amplify-react-stack.ts, we next define our Identity Pool:

const {identityPool} = new IdentityPoolConstruct(this, 'identitypool', { userPool, userPoolClient, });

The Identity Pool's purpose is to grant temporary credentials to authenticated and unauthenticated users to access AWS services.

In our identity pool at backend/infra/constructs/cognito/identity-pool-construct.ts, we define 3 different roles:

  • for Authenticated Users
  • for Anonymous Users
  • for Admins

In our case all these roles do is grant the default AWSLambdaBasicExecutionRole policy, but for a more full featured applications the permissions of the roles would differ.

Note that when specifying roles for an identity pool, we have to set an integer for precedence. The role of the group with the lowest precedence takes effect.

new cognito.CfnUserPoolGroup(this, 'users-group', { groupName: 'Users', userPoolId: userPool.userPoolId, description: 'The default group for authenticated users', precedence: 3, // the role of the group with the lowest precedence - 0 takes effect and is returned by cognito:preferred_role roleArn: isUserCognitoGroupRole.roleArn, });

In case your Cognito user is in multiple groups, the role with the lowest precedence would be set as the user's cognito:preferred_role.

Going back to our stack definition at backend/infra/amplify-react-stack.ts, we then define our API:

const {httpApi, httpApiCognitoAuthorizer} = new HttpApiConstruct( this, 'http-api', { userPool, userPoolClient, }, );

The purpose of the API in to route requests made from our frontend to the lambda that generates presigned urls for S3 uploads, so that we can store the avatars of our users.

Let's look at the implementation at backend/infra/constructs/apigateway/apigateway-construct.ts:

this.httpApi = new apiGateway.HttpApi(this, 'api', { description: `___${DEPLOY_ENVIRONMENT}___ Api for ${STACK_PREFIX}`, apiName: `${STACK_PREFIX}-api-${DEPLOY_ENVIRONMENT}`, corsPreflight: { allowHeaders: ['Content-Type', 'X-Amz-Date', 'Authorization', 'X-Api-Key'], allowMethods: [ apiGateway.CorsHttpMethod.OPTIONS, apiGateway.CorsHttpMethod.GET, apiGateway.CorsHttpMethod.POST, apiGateway.CorsHttpMethod.PUT, apiGateway.CorsHttpMethod.PATCH, apiGateway.CorsHttpMethod.DELETE, ], allowCredentials: true, allowOrigins: [FRONTEND_BASE_URL], }, }); const {userPool, userPoolClient} = props; this.httpApiCognitoAuthorizer = new apiGatewayAuthorizers.HttpUserPoolAuthorizer( { userPool, userPoolClient, identitySource: ['$request.header.Authorization'], }, );

The bulk of the API configuration are the CORS settings. Since our frontend is hosted on a different domain than our API, we have to set up CORS.

Note that we have also created an Authorizer for our api, which we'll later use to get the cognito identityId of the user who's making a request to update their avatar.

We need their identityId, because we'll be storing the files generated from each user under a specific path in our s3 bucket, so the files from one user don't interfere with the files from the others.

Going back to our stack definition at backend/infra/amplify-react-stack.ts, we then define the S3 bucket, that will store the user avatars:

const {s3Bucket} = new UploadsBucketConstruct(this, 's3-bucket'); // backend/infra/constructs/s3-construct.ts this.s3Bucket = new s3.Bucket(this, id, { cors: [ { allowedMethods: [ s3.HttpMethods.GET, s3.HttpMethods.POST, s3.HttpMethods.PUT, ], allowedOrigins: [FRONTEND_BASE_URL], allowedHeaders: ['*'], }, ], });

The only config we provide for the s3 bucket is CORS. Our frontend is hosted on http://localhost:3000 and the s3 bucket is hosted at, so we need to explicitly tell the S3 bucket to allow our frontend to upload avatars.

Next in our stack definition at backend/infra/amplify-react-stack.ts we define the lambda function which is responsible for generating the presigned s3 urls, which we're going to use on the frontend to upload files to s3:

const getPresignedUrlEndpoint = new EndpointConstruct( this, 'get-presigned-url-s3', { httpApi, authorizer: httpApiCognitoAuthorizer, methods: [apiGateway.HttpMethod.GET], routePath: '/get-presigned-url-s3', assetPath: 'get-presigned-url-s3/index.ts', environment: { ...defaultLambdaEnvVars, BUCKET_NAME: s3Bucket.bucketName, REGION: DEPLOY_REGION as string, }, }, ); s3Bucket.grantPut(getPresignedUrlEndpoint.lambda); s3Bucket.grantPutAcl(getPresignedUrlEndpoint.lambda);

We are defining a Lambda function and hooking it up to our API endpoint at /get-presigned-url-s3. Notice that we grant the function permissions to PUT objects in the s3 bucket and to modify the Access control list of the objects in the bucket. We are going to set the avatars of users to be with an acl of public-read so that all users on the internet can access the images.

At the endpoint construct at backend/infra/constructs/endpoint/endpoint-construct.ts we first define the lambda function:

import {NodejsFunction} from '@aws-cdk/aws-lambda-nodejs'; this.lambda = new NodejsFunction(this, id, { runtime: lambda.Runtime.NODEJS_14_X, memorySize: 1024, timeout: cdk.Duration.seconds(5), handler: 'main', entry: path.join(__dirname, `/../../../src/${assetPath}`), environment: environment && environment, layers: layers && layers, bundling: { minify: false, // modules already available in a layer should not be bundled externalModules: externalModules ? ['aws-sdk', ...externalModules] : ['aws-sdk'], }, logRetention: logs.RetentionDays.ONE_DAY, });

Notice that we use the aws-lambda-nodejs package, which uses esbuild under the hood, because we want to be able to write our lambda code using TypeScript.

Then we hook the lambda function to the API endpoint passing in the authorizer, which based on the Authorization token from the header will get the cognito user's identityId.

this.endpoint = httpApi.addRoutes({ path: routePath, methods, integration: new apiGatewayIntegrations.LambdaProxyIntegration({ handler: this.lambda, }), authorizer, });

Lastly we define some outputs, which will be written to a file, that will be accessed by our frontend - src/cdk-exports-dev.json. This is the file we use to store some of the identifiers of AWS services like the API url, s3 bucket name, AWS region, user pool id, etc.

The purpose to store these environment variables in a file is to keep the resource identifiers in sync between our frontend and backend:

new cdk.CfnOutput(this, 'userPoolId', { value: userPool.userPoolId, }); new cdk.CfnOutput(this, 'userPoolClientId', { value: userPoolClient.userPoolClientId, }); new cdk.CfnOutput(this, 'identityPoolId', { value: identityPool.ref, }); new cdk.CfnOutput(this, 'region', { value: cdk.Stack.of(this).region, }); new cdk.CfnOutput(this, 'apiUrl', { // eslint-disable-next-line @typescript-eslint/no-non-null-assertion value: httpApi.url!, }); new cdk.CfnOutput(this, 'bucketName', { value: s3Bucket.bucketName, });

And the command that spits out the src/cdk-exports-dev.json file is located in our backend/package.json:

{ "cdk-deploy": "npx cdk deploy amplify-react-auth-dev --outputs-file ../src/cdk-exports-dev.json" }

At this point we are done with provisioning the infrastructure. We are not going to cover the get-presigned-url-s3 lambda function because I have a detailed article on it and I don't want for this article to get too long.

Frontend Code #

For our frontend we have a next.js application. For our purposes this could have been a vanilla react.js project, but I find myself struggling with trying to customize create-react-app and I don't want to manage the webpack config myself, so next.js it is.

Other than developer experience next.js offers many other benefits like static site generation by default, intuitive server side rendering and so on, but for our little project, we don't need any of that.

Our home page is located at src/pages/home/home.tsx. We have a function component that renders some presentational content.

Next we're going to look at the registration page at src/pages/auth/register/register.tsx. Here we have our registration form with inputs for email, password, password confirmation, first name and last name.

For all of our components we have tried to separate the presentational and logic layer and we extract the logic into a hook, in this case the useRegister hook:

const { handleSubmit, register, formErrors, passwordRef, isError, error, isSuccess, isLoading, } = useRegister();

In our useRegister hook located in the same directory we use the react-hook-form library to manage the form inputs:

const { register, handleSubmit, watch, reset, errors: formErrors, } = useForm<FormInputs>();

And then call the AWS amplify APIs in our submit handler function:

const onSubmit: SubmitHandler<FormInputs> = async ({ email, givenName, familyName, password, }) => { await run(handleRegister()); async function handleRegister() { const result = await Auth.signUp({ username: email.trim(), password, attributes: { given_name: givenName.trim(), family_name: familyName.trim(), }, }); localStorage.setItem(TEMP_PWD_LOCALSTORAGE_KEY, password); reset(); return result; } };

That is the exact pattern we've followed for all of our authentication pages.

Notice that in order to log the user in automatically when they click the account activation link send to their email, we store the user's password temporarily in local storage.

This is not the best idea for a real world application, where you would at least use a hashing algorithm and not store it in plain text or use a cookie.

Next we're going to look at the Login page at src/pages/auth/login/login.tsx, which follows the same pattern as the registration page. We first call the useLogin hook, to get access to the form state:

const { handleSubmit, register, formErrors, isError, error, isLoading, } = useLogin();

Then we use our useNotification hook, which is returns the addNotification function. The addNotification function adds notification objects of type:

const {addNotification} = useNotification();
const exampleNotification = { type: 'SUCCESS', title: 'Registration successful!', description: "You've successfully filled out the form", };

These notifications are then stored in react context so we have access to them from every component in our application.

A common inconvenience with notifications when not stored in context is when your components unmount. You can't render a notification on an unmounted component so you have to keep lifting the notification state up and store it in components, where it doesn't make sense. So we just store the notification state in context and not worry about it.

The handling of the form submission is the same as any other page, in our useLogin hook we manage the form fields and in our submit handler we interact with the Amplify API.

Note that we store the user in our authContext located in src/context/auth/auth-context.ts. We store the user state in context, because we make use of it in multiple locations in our application, i.e. the navigation bar where we render the avatar of the user and the settings section where we store the profile information.

For a more featured application it would be very likely that we have content that only admin users or only authenticated users who belong to a certain group could access. By making use of react context we can always make the necessary check - if the user is of type X allow / disallow him to perform action Y.

The user state we store in context looks like:

export type AuthState = { isLoading: boolean; error: Error | undefined; isAuthenticated: boolean; isAuthenticating: boolean; user: User | undefined; userConfig: CognitoUser | undefined; };

Where the User object has attributes of the following types is:

export type User = { email: string; familyName: string; givenName: string; bio?: string; picture?: string; phoneNumber?: string; country?: string; city?: string; address?: string; isAdmin?: boolean; };

Conceptually all of the different pages in our application do the same thing:

  1. We collect user inputs
  2. We call an Amplify API to perform an action / persist user attributes on the user object

Our settings page, located at src/pages/settings/, is split into 3 sections:

  • personal section
  • profile section
  • security section

The flow for these 3 sections is the same:

  1. We collect user input
  2. We persist it on the user object by calling Auth.updateUserAttributes

This way we are able to collect the information we need for each user, i.e. shipping address, country, city, phone number, etc.

These user properties vary from application to application but once you add the custom attribute to the user object, collecting the data is the same.

Let's look at how we take care of updating the personal information section of our settings page at src/pages/settings/personal-information/use-update-personal-information.ts.

First we get the functions from react-hook-form which we then use to collect the form values:

const {register, handleSubmit, setValue} = useForm<PersonalInformationInputs>();

Next we set the form values based on the values for these attributes already present on the user object, to pre fill the information if they already have a country selected:

const setFormValues = useCallback(() => { setValue('phoneNumber', user?.phoneNumber); setValue('country', user?.country); setValue('city', user?.city); setValue('address', user?.address); }, [setValue, user?.address, user?.city, user?.country, user?.phoneNumber]);

Lastly in our submit handler we make a call to Auth.updateUserAttributes to persist the changes we've made on the user object and sync the Auth state for our application:

const onSubmit: SubmitHandler<PersonalInformationInputs> = ({ phoneNumber, address, city, country, }) => { run(saveProfileAttributes()); async function saveProfileAttributes() { const phoneNumberWithoutSpaces = phoneNumber.replace(/\s+/g, ''); const result = await Auth.updateUserAttributes(userConfig, { phone_number: phoneNumberWithoutSpaces, 'custom:country': country, 'custom:city': city, address, }); updateUserAttributes({ phoneNumber: phoneNumberWithoutSpaces, country, city, address, }); return result; } };

Cleanup #

You can delete the CDK stack by running:

npm run cdk-destroy

Note that in order to delete the s3 bucket, which stores the avatars, you first have to empty the bucket's contents and then you can delete it.

Conclusion #

This post and repository are mostly intended to be used as a quick reference for any issues you encounter when implementing Amplify auth.

It implements the entire flow of:

  • Login
  • Registration
  • Forgotten password
  • Change password
  • Change Email
  • Profile fields stored in cognito: First name, Last name, About, Avatar, Address, etc.

The majority of this functionality is something you'll have to implement if you work with Amplify Auth in a real world project. Having a quick look up for how to implement the flow can be quite a time saver.

You can contact me if you have any questions, recommendations, tips, etc.

Thank you for reading!

Further Reading #

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