Visual Studio and Cordova: Create Cross Platform Apps Using Your Favorite IDE

The Microsoft Open Technologies team announced the support for Cordova tools in Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 during Tech-Ed US. If you have been building cross platform apps using Apache Cordova, you would know that it is a great tool for leveraging your existing skills and assets in HTML5 and JavaScript, and then use them to package the assets for building native apps in Android, iOS, and Windows Store/Phone.

You can download the Cordova tools for Visual Studio here. An important pre-requisite to note is that it will run only on Windows 8.1. The multi-device hybrid apps that you create using the tools support the following platforms:

  1. Android version 4+
  2. iOS 6 and iOS 7
  3. Windows 8+ Store
  4. Windows 8+ Phone

Once you install the tool, the additional dependencies will automatically be downloaded to support debugging and running the apps from within Visual Studio for various devices. Some of the significant dependencies are:

  1. Node.js
  2. Android SDK
  3. Apache Ant
  4. Java SDK
  5. SQLLite
  6. Apple iTunes

For Android apps, you can use the Ripple emulator to run the app for devices of various form factors. For iOS apps, you need to run Visual Studio from a Mac with support for Xcode 5.1. The tools, however, provide a remote agent that can be used to configure a remote Mac to allow you to remote debug. To set up the remote agent, you need to first install the ios-sim node module and then start the build server with the allowEmulate option set to true. In Visual Studio, you need to configure the port and address of the remote build server using the Multi-Device Hybrid Apps in general settings under Options.

You are now all set to create your first Cordova project. You will find the project template under JavaScript to create a new blank Cordova project. You will find that the default solution structure has been organized into folders to store the CSS files, Scripts and Images. In addition, there will be a folder called Res to store the platform specific assets and certificates. There will also be a folder called Merges to add platform specific code.

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