Chrome Extension PubSub



This tutorial builds the same Chrome extension popup as my Chrome Extension Content Script Stylesheet Isolation tutorial, but uses the chromeps pubsub module to make things easier. For more detailed information, I highly recommend looking through that tutorial.

You can get all the code for this tutorial from

Background Info

When writing chrome extensions with content scripts, you often find yourself doing a lot of message passing. If your content scripts include iframes, things get even more complicated because in order to communicate between the content scripts and their iframes, you have to ferry the messages back and forth using the background page. This can get messy very quickly. This tutorial serves as a simple but complete example of how to use chromeps to help with these issues.


To recap from the previous tutorial: we'll be creating a simple chrome extension that uses a content scripts with a popup that loads on every page the user opens. When the user clicks outside the popup it disappears. This demonstrates the different types of message passing mentioned above.

Install chromeps

Create a new empty directory for you extension and download chromeps.js into it. You can get it from

Create a new Chrome Extension

Add the following manifest.json:

  "manifest_version": 2,
  "name": "Chrome Extension PubSub",
  "description": "This extension demonstrates Content Script CSS Isolation with chromeps",
  "version": "1.0",
  "background" : {
    "scripts" : ["chromeps.js"]
  "content_scripts" : [
      "matches" : ["<all_urls>", "http://*/*", "https://*/*"],
      "css" : ["content.css"],
      "js" : ["chromeps.js", "content.js"]
  "web_accessible_resources" : ["popup.html"]

Notice that we are loading chromeps.js into the background page (for this example we actually don't have any other logic for the background page), and also loading it each time a content script is loaded, which in this case means any time the user opens a web page.

Add Content Script and Style

The manifest references several files that we will need to create. Let's start with content.js:

var iframe = document.createElement('iframe');
iframe.src = chrome.extension.getURL("popup.html");
iframe.className = 'css-isolation-popup';
iframe.frameBorder = 0;

chromeps.subscribe('commands', function(message) {
  if (message == 'hide_popup') { = 'none';

Here we're creating the iframe that will hold our popup. Try to make sure the className is something unique because this is the one style that may still interfere with the page the user visits. I'm using css-isolation-popup. That style comes from content.css, which is referenced in the manifest. Let's add it real quick:

.css-isolation-popup {
  position: fixed;
  top: 0px;
  left: 0px;
  width: 100%;
  height: 100%;

I'm basically just giving the popup free reign over the entire window. It's fine in my case because I have a shaded overlay that surrounds the actual popup. You might need to tweak this for your needs.

Note that we've used chromeps to subscribe to the "commands" topic, so our callback will be invoked any time a message on that topic is published anywhere in chrome.

Add Popup

Now let's add the actual popup files, popup.html and popup.js:

<!doctype html>

.overlay {
  position: fixed;
  top: 0%;
  left: 0%;
  width: 100%;
  height: 100%;
  background-color: black;
  z-index: 1000;
  opacity: .80;
.wrapper {
  position: fixed;
  top: 50%;
  left: 50%;
  width: 400px;
  height: 200px;
  margin-left: -200px;
  margin-top: -100px;
  text-align: center;
  z-index: 1100;

<div class='overlay'></div>
<div class='wrapper'>
  <h1>Click outside to hide</h1>
<script src='chromeps.js'></script>
<script src='popup.js'></script>


Mostly just styling. The overlay is a shaded region which will fill the window surrounding our small popup. The popup lives inside the wrapper.

We're sourcing popup.js from within popup.html. There's no need to add it in the manifest. We're also including chromeps.js.

var overlay = document.querySelector('.overlay');
overlay.addEventListener('click', function() {
  chromeps.publish('commands', 'hide_popup');

Here we're handling when the user clicks outside the popup, in the overlay region. When this happens we want to publish a signal to the content script to hide our iframe.


And that's it. If you compare this to the previous tutorial, you'll notice that we don't need to explicitly create a background page just for passing messages, since chromeps takes care of all the heavy lifting for us.

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