Cordova development on Windows for iOS

| | August 5, 2015

I’m a longtime Windows desktop developer (25+ years) who has been doing native Blackberry 10 mobile development for 18 months. For my next app I have to hit as many mobile platforms as possible and have decided on Cordova (NOT PhoneGap) for the job.

I have successfully built and deployed a test app on Blackberry 10 and Android with the Cordova CLI. Now I need to get the workflow for iOS figured out before I start actually coding the real app so I can test on all platforms as I go along. I have OSX Mavericks running in a VMware VM from Windows 8.1 and have Xcode installed on OSX. I’m only slightly knowledgeable in OSX, but I know that I must use it to build for iOS. What I’m trying to figure out is how much duplication of effort I have to expend within OSX to build for iOS. I suspect the challenges would be the same if I was using a physical Mac to package and test for iOS so hopefully there are others out there who have figured out the cleanest way to do this.

Can I use Cordova on Windows to create the iOS project and source or do I have to create a duplicate project platform using Cordova on the Mac and keep duplicate source code there too? If I can do all that from Windows, do I just copy it over to Mavericks after every Cordova build and use Xcode to package and run it in an emulator? If anyone out there is running OSX in a VM for this like I am, is it possible to map a host path into OSX so I don’t have to recreate the platform source at all after I build it from Windows? I’m assuming there is not way to automate the whole thing from Windows Cordova like there is for the Android and Blackberry platforms, am I wrong?

My desire is to do ALL coding in Windows and only use Maverick for the final bundling for iOS. After 25 years of pro development I’m not used to being a complete newbie and I’m not crazy about it. LOL

One Response to “Cordova development on Windows for iOS”

    1. Learn Mac OS X. I know you feel out of sorts in this environment, but honestly — it’s not that difficult. In fact, I made the transition from Windows 7 rather than upgrading to Windows 8, and I was comfortable very quickly. (Far more comfortable than I am with a Windows 8 laptop others in my family use.)

    2. Remember that Mac OS X is a Unix underneath (BSD). This means that if you are in any way familiar with Linux or Unix but are put off by working with the Mac GUI, you can almost always fall back to the terminal. (In my not-so-humble opinion, Mac OS X makes for a very nice *nix machine!)

    3. Your VM should be able to share drives across the network, just like it would if it were a real machine (Apple supports SMB reasonably well). This way both environments could point to the same Cordova project without having to worry about copies. (You can copy the projects around, but it would be easier, in my opinion, just to share across the network. Less risk of accidentally doing something stupid.)

    4. The only things that require a Mac are:

      • Creation of certificates / provisioning profiles (and there are ways around this on Windows, but it is not supported)
      • Submission to the app store
      • Remote debugging using Safari (You can use Weinre to come close, but it doesn’t support breakpoints and such)
      • Local compilation of your code (and there are other toolchains available that do this on other OSes, but again, not supported by Cordova).
      • Running the app in a simulator
    5. The above means that you can develop your app on Windows and only run to the VM for compilation / submission. With the advent of the Phonegap Developer app (http://app.phonegap.com), you can skip the (re)build step during development and testing as well (as long as you use only core plugins).

      Note: I know you indicate you are using Cordova and NOT PhoneGap. What’s nice is that, ATM, the Phonegap Developer App works just fine with Cordova projects (whereas PG Build often requires config.xml to be moved and plugins to be handled differently). It does require the PhoneGap CLI to be installed. As long as you are using core plugins, it definitely saves time by eliminating the rebuild steps.

    6. The Cordova project can be created on any platform — but I know there was a time when adding the iOS platform to your project (cordova platform add ios) would check that all pre-reqs were met, but I’m not sure if that is still the case. It can’t hurt to try. But if it is required, use a network share and add the platform on the VM. Keep in mind that the platforms should be thought of as build artifacts — your app code should live in the root www, which doesn’t depend on the added platforms.

    7. Do not rely on the iOS Simulator to tell you anything about how the app works or performs on a real device. The simulator has all the power of your desktop (processor speed, memory, etc.) and lacks many on-device features as well. I suspect the visual performance of the iOS Simulator will be horrid, since it will rely on the GPU as routed through the VM. (Frankly, it’s not always great on a real Mac.) You really, really, really must have a real device to test on. (Again, the PhoneGap Developer App can ease the pain of repeat deployments for testing.)

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