Getting started with Apache Cordova
Apache Cordova, or PhoneGap, is a cross-platform HTML5 app development framework. It allows creation of offline HTML5 and hybrid applications. This post recounts my brief experience getting started with Apache Cordova. It is relevant for Android and iOS, and assumes you are developing on a Mac.
Grab the Node installer for Mac and install it. You’ll need it for installing Cordova. The cordova command line utility is based on Node.
After Node has been installed, use npm to install Cordova
sudo npm -g install cordova
cordova --version to check the version of Cordova. In my case it’s currently
Create HTML5 app
A new Cordova HTML5 app can be created as follows
cordova create myapp com.mycompany.MyApp MyApp
A new folder called myapp is created, and the HTML5 resources are created under myapp/www.
Create platform-specific apps
An iOS app to build and deploy the HTML5 app can be created thus
cordova platform add ios
You’ll require Xcode, download it from the Mac App Store if you don’t have it installed. The command above does not work with the preview release of Xcode 5.0, I had no problem with Xcode 4.6. Cordova will create platform-specific files for iOS under myapp/platforms/ios, including a Xcode project to build and deploy the native application. The project opens and builds with the preview version of Xcode 5.
Cordova also copies the HTML5 app from myapp/www to platforms/ios/www. Remember to add the latter folder to .gitignore if you use Git for version control.
To create an application to deploy on Android
cordova platform add android
You’ll need to have Android SDK in PATH. Since I use Android Studio, here’s how I modified my PATH variable
export PATH=$PATH:/Applications/Android\ Studio.app/sdk/tools:/Applications/Android\ Studio.app/sdk/platform-tools
The Android project structure under myapp/platforms/android does not work with Android Studio, but builds with
ant. Eclipse ADT can be used to migrate the project to Gradle and Android Studio. A Gradle based build setup is under consideration but may not happen soon.
Build and test platform-specific apps
The iOS app can be built and deployed using the Xcode project under myapp/platforms/ios.
To build the android app run ant under myapp/platforms/android
Deploy using adb
adb install -r bin/MyApp-debug.apk
Iterate and build
Every time you change the app in myapp/www, you’ll need to run
cordova prepare ios cordova prepare android
Then, perform the platform-specific build steps described earlier.
The performance on iPhone 4S with iOS 7 is quite acceptable. It not as smooth on a Samsung Galaxy S3 (Android 4.2.2). Lesser Android Smartphones may struggle.