Adobe Releases PhoneGap Developer App

Soon, devs will even be able to build a Windows Phone app on OS X.

Most .NET-focused developers use Visual Studio to build cross-platform mobile apps. But increasingly, there are new options available that don't rely on a Microsoft IDE.

The latest evidence of that came last week, when a new PhoneGap Developer App was released.

Adobe Systems Inc. last week introduced the new tool to streamline and speed up app previewing and testing with the open source PhoneGap cross-platform development software. Developers can now install PhoneGap Developer App and see their coding changes reflected instantly on a paired device.

"The PhoneGap Developer app aims to lower the barrier of entry to creating PhoneGap applications," said Michael Brooks in a blog post announcing the new tool. "You can now immediately preview your app on a device without installing platform SDKs, registering devices or even compiling code."

PhoneGap is a mobile development framework used to build apps with JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3 to target different platforms such as iOS (Apple), Android (Google) and Windows Phone (Microsoft), among several others. Developers create apps with a single codebase using the Web standards and these apps are wrapped in a WebView container and compiled for one of the native platforms. Without having to program in native code, developers can create hybrid apps that can access native device resources such as sensors, data and network status through standard API calls.

This hybrid approach is seen as an increasingly popular compromise between strict native development -- which offers the best performance but requires separate apps for different platforms -- and Web-based apps, which can run on multiple platforms but have limited access to native device resources and don't offer the same look and feel or performance as native apps. PhoneGap was originally developed by a company called Nitobi Software, which was acquired by Adobe in 2011. The technology was donated as an open source project to the Apache Software Foundation with the name Apache Cordova. Adobe continues to work on its distribution of Cordova -- using the original PhoneGap name -- and bundle it with other products and services, some targeting enterprise development.

Brooks said developers using the PhoneGap Developer App have access to the official PhoneGap APIs and can use the tool to target iOS and Android devices now, with the development team working on Windows Phone support. "You can even develop an iOS app on Windows -- and soon -- a Windows Phone app on OS X," Brooks said.

To use PhoneGap Developer App, developers need to install the PhoneGap command-line interface (CLI) desktop app and then the appropriate mobile app from the Apple App Store or from Google Play. Then a PhoneGap project is opened with the desktop CLI app and is paired with the mobile app by starting a server and accessing its IP address from a device. "Now that you have paired your devices, as you change the source code the mobile app will instantly show your latest changes," Adobe said. "With access to device APIs not available in Web browsers, you don't have to sacrifice the confidence that your app will work as you intended on the devices you are targeting."

Right now, Brooks emphasized, the PhoneGap Developer App has limited functionality because its future direction will be driven by user requests. "This allows us to release early, listen to your thoughts, and move in the direction that helps you the most," Brooks said, rather than devote a lot of work to features that might not end up being used by most developers.

Besides the already ongoing development to support Windows Phone 8, Brooks said the team is focusing on custom plug-in support, remote Web Inspector support and integration with PhoneGap Build. The latter is a cloud service offered by Adobe that compiles code for different platforms using the latest appropriate native SDKs, which lessens the burden of developers having to maintain these SDKs locally.

The PhoneGap Developer App and associated components are available on GitHub.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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