May 6, 2020 - Andrew Fontaine    

How to create Review Apps for Android with GitLab, fastlane, and Appetize.io

See how GitLab and Appetize.io can bring Review Apps to your Android project

This blog post is Unfiltered

In a previous look at GitLab and fastlane, we discussed how fastlane now automatically publishes the Gitter Android app to the Google Play Store, but at GitLab, we live on review apps, and review apps for Android applications didn't really exist… until Appetize.io came to our attention.

Just a simple extension of our existing .gitlab-ci.yml, we can utilize Appetize.io to spin up review apps of our Android application.

If you'd rather just skip to the end, you can see my MR to the Gitter Android project.

Setting up Fastlane

Fortunately for us, fastlane has integrated support for Appetize.io, so all that's needed to hit Appetize is the addition of a new lane:

diff --git a/fastlane/Fastfile b/fastlane/Fastfile
index eb47819..f013a86 100644
--- a/fastlane/Fastfile
+++ b/fastlane/Fastfile
@@ -32,6 +32,13 @@ platform :android do
     gradle(task: "test")
   end

+  desc 'Pushes the app to Appetize and updates a review app'
+  lane :review do
+    appetize(api_token: ENV['APPETIZE_TOKEN'],
+             path: 'app/build/outputs/apk/debug/app-debug.apk',
+             platform: 'android')
+  end
+
   desc "Submit a new Internal Build to Play Store"
   lane :internal do
     upload_to_play_store(track: 'internal', apk: 'app/build/outputs/apk/release/app-release.apk')

APPETIZE_TOKEN is an Appetize.io API token that can be generated on the Appetize API docs after signing up for an account. Once we add a new job and stage to our .gitlab-ci.yml, we will be able to deploy our APK to Appetize and run them in the browser!

diff --git a/.gitlab-ci.yml b/.gitlab-ci.yml
index d9863d7..e4d0ce3 100644
--- a/.gitlab-ci.yml
+++ b/.gitlab-ci.yml
@@ -5,6 +5,7 @@ stages:
   - environment
   - build
   - test
+  - review
   - internal
   - alpha
   - beta
@@ -81,6 +82,16 @@ buildRelease:
   environment:
     name: production

+deployReview:
+  stage: review
+  image: $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE:$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
+  script:
+    - bundle exec fastlane review
+  only:
+    - branches
+  except:
+    - master
+
 testDebug:
   image: $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE:$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
   stage: test

Great! Review apps will be deployed when branches other than master build. Unfortunately, there is no environment block, so there's nothing linking these deployed review apps to GitLab. Let's fix that next.

Dynamic Environment URLs

Previously, GitLab only liked environment URLs that used pre-existing CI variables (like $CI_COMMT_REF_NAME) in their definition. Since 12.9, however, a new way of defining environment urls with alternative variables exists.

By creating a dotenv file and submitting it as an artifact in our build, we can define custom variables to use in our environment's URL. As all Appetize.io app URLs take the pattern of https://appetize.io.app/$PUBLIC_KEY, where $PUBLIC_KEY is randomly generated when the app is created, we need to get the public key from the Appetize response in our Fastfile, and put it in a dotenv file.

diff --git a/fastlane/Fastfile b/fastlane/Fastfile
index 7b5f9d1..ae3867c 100644
--- a/fastlane/Fastfile
+++ b/fastlane/Fastfile
@@ -13,6 +13,13 @@
 # Uncomment the line if you want fastlane to automatically update itself
 # update_fastlane

+
+def update_deployment_url(pub_key)
+  File.open('../deploy.env', 'w') do |f|
+    f.write("APPETIZE_PUBLIC_KEY=#{pub_key}")
+  end
+end
+
 default_platform(:android)

 platform :android do
@@ -37,6 +44,7 @@ platform :android do
     appetize(api_token: ENV['APPETIZE_TOKEN'],
              path: 'app/build/outputs/apk/debug/app-debug.apk',
              platform: 'android')
+    update_deployment_url(lane_context[SharedValues::APPETIZE_PUBLIC_KEY])
   end

   desc "Submit a new Internal Build to Play Store"

We also need to add an environment block to our .gitlab-ci.yml to capture an environment name and URL.

diff --git a/.gitlab-ci.yml b/.gitlab-ci.yml
index f5a8648..c834077 100644
--- a/.gitlab-ci.yml
+++ b/.gitlab-ci.yml
@@ -85,12 +85,18 @@ buildCreateReleaseNotes:
 deployReview:
   stage: review
   image: $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE:$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
+  environment:
+    name: review/$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME
+    url: https://appetize.io/app/$APPETIZE_PUBLIC_KEY
   script:
     - bundle exec fastlane review
   only:
     - branches
   except:
     - master
+  artifacts:
+    reports:
+      dotenv: deploy.env

 testDebug:
   image: $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE:$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG

Once committed, pushed, and a pipeline runs, we should see our environment deployed!

Our first review environment

Optimizing Updates

After running with this for a bit, we realized that we were accidentally creating a new app on Appetize.io with every new build! Their docs specify how to update existing apps, so we went about seeing if we could smartly update existing environments.

Spoiler alert: We could.

First, we need to save the public key granted to us by Appetize.io somewhere. We decided to put it in a JSON file and save that as an artifact of the build. Fortunately, the Fastfile is just ruby, which allows us to quickly write it out to a file with a few lines of code, as well as attempt to fetch the artifact for the last build of the current branch.

diff --git a/fastlane/Fastfile b/fastlane/Fastfile
index ae3867c..61e9226 100644
--- a/fastlane/Fastfile
+++ b/fastlane/Fastfile
@@ -13,8 +13,32 @@
 # Uncomment the line if you want fastlane to automatically update itself
 # update_fastlane

+require 'net/http'
+require 'json'
+
+GITLAB_TOKEN = ENV['PRIVATE_TOKEN']
+PROJECT_ID = ENV['CI_PROJECT_ID']
+REF = ENV['CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME']
+JOB = ENV['CI_JOB_NAME']
+API_ROOT = ENV['CI_API_V4_URL']
+
+def public_key
+  uri = URI("#{API_ROOT}/projects/#{PROJECT_ID}/jobs/artifacts/#{REF}/raw/appetize-information.json?job=#{JOB}")
+  http = Net::HTTP.new(uri.host, uri.port)
+  http.use_ssl = true
+  req = Net::HTTP::Get.new(uri)
+  req['PRIVATE-TOKEN'] = GITLAB_TOKEN
+  response = http.request(req)
+  return '' if response.code.equal?('404')
+
+  appetize_info = JSON.parse(response.body)
+  appetize_info['publicKey']
+end

 def update_deployment_url(pub_key)
+  File.open('../appetize-information.json', 'w') do |f|
+    f.write(JSON.generate(publicKey: pub_key))
+  end
   File.open('../deploy.env', 'w') do |f|
     f.write("APPETIZE_PUBLIC_KEY=#{pub_key}")
   end
@@ -42,6 +66,7 @@ platform :android do
   desc 'Pushes the app to Appetize and updates a review app'
   lane :review do
     appetize(api_token: ENV['APPETIZE_TOKEN'],
+             public_key: public_key,
              path: 'app/build/outputs/apk/debug/app-debug.apk',
              platform: 'android')
     update_deployment_url(lane_context[SharedValues::APPETIZE_PUBLIC_KEY])

When we go to deploy our app to Appetize, we hit the Jobs API to see if we have a public key for this branch. If the API returns a 404, we know we are building a fresh branch and return an empty string, else we parse the JSON and return our public key. The Fastlane docs state the appetize action can take a public_key to update an existing app. Here, '' is considered the same as not providing a public key, so a new application is still deployed as we expect.

NOTE: If you've read the diff closely, you'll notice the usage of an environment variable called PRIVATE_TOKEN. This is a GitLab private token created with the read_api scope and injected into our build as an environment variable. This is required to authenticate with the GitLab API and fetch artifacts.

Once we update .gitlab-ci.yml to save the new appetize-information.json file as an artifact, later builds on the same branch will be smart and update the existing Appetize app!

diff --git a/.gitlab-ci.yml b/.gitlab-ci.yml
index c834077..54cf3f6 100644
--- a/.gitlab-ci.yml
+++ b/.gitlab-ci.yml
@@ -95,6 +95,8 @@ deployReview:
   except:
     - master
   artifacts:
+    paths:
+      - appetize-information.json
     reports:
       dotenv: deploy.env

Cleaning up

All that's left is to delete old apps from Appetize once we don't need them anymore. We can do that by leveraging on_stop and creating a stop job that will delete our app from Appetize.io

diff --git a/.gitlab-ci.yml b/.gitlab-ci.yml
index 54cf3f6..f6ecf7e 100644
--- a/.gitlab-ci.yml
+++ b/.gitlab-ci.yml
@@ -10,6 +10,7 @@ stages:
   - alpha
   - beta
   - production
+  - stop


 .updateContainerJob:
@@ -88,6 +89,7 @@ deployReview:
   environment:
     name: review/$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME
     url: https://appetize.io/app/$APPETIZE_PUBLIC_KEY
+    on_stop: stopReview
   script:
     - bundle exec fastlane review
   only:
@@ -100,6 +102,22 @@ deployReview:
     reports:
       dotenv: deploy.env

+stopReview:
+  stage: stop
+  environment:
+    name: review/$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME
+    action: stop
+  variables:
+    GIT_STRATEGY: none
+  when: manual
+  only:
+    - branches
+  except:
+    - master
+  script:
+    - apt-get -y update && apt-get -y upgrade && apt-get -y install jq curl
+    - curl --request DELETE https://$APPETIZE_TOKEN@api.appetize.io/v1/apps/`jq -r '.publicKey' < appetize-information.json`
+
 testDebug:
   image: $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE:$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
   stage: test

Once your MR is merged and your branch is deleted, the stopReview job runs, calling the DELETE endpoint of the Appetize.io API with the public key that is contained in appetize-information.json. We don't need to fetch appetize-information.json because the artifact is already present in our build context. This is because the stop stage happens after the review stage.

A merge request with a deployed review app

Conclusion

Thanks to some integration with fastlane and the addition of a couple environment variables, having the ability to create review apps for an Android project was surpsingly simple. GitLab's review apps are not just for web-based projects, even though it may take a little tinkering to get working. Appetize.io also supports iOS applications, so all mobile native applications can be turned into review apps. I would love to see this strategy be applied to a React Native project as well!

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