Apache Cordova app development setup guide

General guidelines and suggestions for quickly getting started with the development of Apache Cordova apps for either Android, iOS and Windows.

Apache Cordova logo phonegap

Choosing the right IDE for Cordova apps

Android Studio by Google

Not recommended. Android Studio features 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.

Apache NetBeans

The Apache NetBeans IDE 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 (signed) app builds.Apache NetBeans IDE with Cordova project

  • Powerful IDE that works with all cordova and cordova-android versions with minor tweaks
  • Easy to mantain and edit HTML, JS, CSS,  Java and other languages code
  • Can deploy apps directly to Android device and emulators
  • Regularly mantained and updated by the Apache Software Foundation

Microsoft Visual Studio with Tools for Apache Cordova

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

Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 with Tools for Apache Cordova

  • Can compile and debug Windows 10 / Universal apps with the cordova-windows platform
  • Incompatible with cordova@9, works relatively fine up to [email protected]
  • Incompatible with Android platform versions newer than [email protected]
  • Visual Studio 2015 seems to be less problematic than 2017 for Cordova apps
  • Visual Studio 2019 lacks the Cordova Toolset entirely
  • Outdated support for building iOS apps


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 Android SDK and emulators

Install Android SDK

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

The standalone Android SDK was removed in an effort from Google to impose its own Android Studio and render other IDEs obsolete. However, they’ve failed to add Cordova support into Android Studio, therefore other IDEs are still a better option for Cordova

Accept Android SDK License

Follow these steps to accept the Android SDK license agreement, otherwise you’ll get this error on build time: Failed to install the following Android SDK packages as some licences have not been accepted.

Add the Android path to your environment variables

Create an ANDROID_HOME System Variable with the path to your Android SDK, such as C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\android-sdk. You can use Rapid Environment Editor instead of the rudimentary Windows environment variable editor.

Updating the Android SDK emulators

Update the Android SDK emulators as explained in that post, otherwise you won’t be able to emulate Android 8 and newer devices due to an incompatibility with the previous version.

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. Please note that the required version depends on your Cordova CLI version. For Cordova CLI 10, the minimum required NodeJS version was raised to 10.x. For previous CLI versions you can use NodeJS 6.x.

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 Cordova, Node & Gradle versions

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]

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

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.


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