Apache Cordova development setup

This post intents to provide the general guidelines to setup your environment to develop Apache Cordova apps for either Android or Windows.

Cordova Windows Setup

Choosing the right IDE for Cordova apps

Android Studio

Not recommended. Android Studio includes no Cordova-related support whatsoever, but this does not mean you cannot use it. However it will increase the complexity of your Cordova apps development rather than making it easier. You’ll need to use the CLI (command line interface) to build and deploy your apps manually.

NetBeans

The NetBeans IDE 8.2 includes sample getting started apps, however it must be tweaked to properly manage plugins. NetBeans is a powerful and intuitive IDE that makes it easier to manage Cordova apps, but you’ll still need to use the CLI anyway from time to time, such as to compile Release builds.

Visual Studio with Tools for Apache Cordova

Visual Studio up to 2017 feature the VS Tools for Apache Cordova toolset that adds support for creating, compiling and debugging Cordova apps for either Android and Windows really easy. 2017 features some drawbacks compared to VS 2015 in Cordova apps development.

Others

You may use some other IDE regardless of its lack of Cordova support. In this case you can compile, debug and deploy with the CLI commands, and use the IDE for Javascript, CSS, HTML and XML files editing only.

Installing the required stuff for Cordova

Install Android SDK

The last release of the standalone Android SDK installer is 24.4.1 and can be downloaded from:

The standalone SDK installer was deprecated and erased from the surface of Earth in a move by Google to impose its own Android Studio IDE and render other IDEs obsolete. However, they’ve failed to add Cordova support into Android Studio, therefore other IDEs are still a great choice in this case.

Updating the Android SDK emulators

Update the Android SDK emulators to version 27.3.8, otherwise you won’t be able to emulate Android 8 devices and newer:

Extract the contents from the ZIP file into your android-sdk/tools:

  • Windows: The ZIP file contains a tools folder that must be copied over your current android-sdk/tools folder.
  • MacOS: The ZIP contains an emulator folder that must be merged with your android-sdk/tools folder. Do not use the Apply to all folders option when copying contents from the ZIP to the tools dir

Download SDK and system images

Open the Android SDK Manager and download some SDKs and system images and tools like the ones shown here:

android sdk manager tools gui

Android SDK manager

Install NodeJS

Proceed to install NodeJS 6.x. Please note that installing a version newer (or older) than 6.x could result in build errors, depending on your Cordova CLI and cordova-android versions.

Install Gradle

To ensure plugins compatibility, install Gradle with the linked instructions. Your Gradle version selection depends on the Cordova CLI and cordova-android platform version used.

Install Cordova CLI

To install the latest Cordova version, open a command prompt and run:

npm install -g cordova

To install a previous version such as 9.0.0, use this command instead:

npm install -g [email protected]

After this process is ready your environment will be ready to start creating Apache Cordova apps with your preferred IDE and/or the command line interface.

Check components version

Below you can see the versions intalled for using Cordova 8.1.2 alongside Visual Studio 2015.

Cordova, Node, Gradle versions for Cordova 8.1.2

Add the cordova-android platform

To add the latest supported cordova-android platform, type this command:

cordova platform add android

To install a previous cordova-android version, make sure it’s compatible with the desired API first by checking the API levels table:

Cordova Android API levels supported

Cordova Android API levels supported

To install an older version such as cordova-android 6.4.0 (for Android API 16) use this command:

cordova platform add [email protected]

Warning for NetBeans IDE developers

The NetBeans IDE will require certain tweaking in order to avoid problems with the Cordova plugins. The built-in plugins manager will fail to install any plugin whatsoever, so you should avoid it by following these NetBeans-specific instructions.

Do not use the NetBeans Cordova Plugins manager

Do not use the NetBeans Cordova Plugins manager

Warning for Visual Studio IDE developers

Visual Studio 2015/2017 includes outdated Android SDK and Cordova CLI toolsets, but you can use your own SDK version by setting the ANDROID_HOME value to your external Android SDK previously installed:

Visual Studio configured to use an external Android SDK

By applying certain fixes shown here, you can use [email protected] alongside Visual Studio 2015/2017 to create, debug and deploy Android apps with the built-in VS commands.

In order to use [email protected] or newer with Visual Studio, you’ll have to apply the APK path changing fix, otherwise VS won’t find the generated APK. This problem was introduced by the Apache team changing cordova’s internal file structure constantly between versions, rather than using a persistent folder structure

Notice that Visual Studio 2019 does not include Cordova support at all because no toolset has been released for it.

How to debug your Cordova Android app