Ionic UK Meetup – Dec Review

Last night I attended the Ionic UK meetup at Makers Academy in Aldgate. Some of the lovely folk from Adobe were there too, to talk to us about some of the things that are going on with them and Cordova. They were on a European tour that encapsulates dotjs, DevRelCon (which I’m sad to have missed), and a couple of local meetups in various countries.

I showed my true pro-meetup colours by pulling out my own bottle opener, following a frantic few moments stood around the beer bucket. I might even make my next t-shirt carry the slogan “I brought my own bottle opener”.

What’s new in PhoneGap & Cordova – Simon MacDonald

As a member of the Cordova Committee at Apache, Simon kicked us off with a brief history of PhoneGap and Cordova, and included this iconic (not Ionic) quote from Brian LeRoux;

PhoneGap is a Polyfill, and the ultimate purpose of PhoneGap is to cease to exist - Brian LeRoux

He went on to the core of his talk, which was on Adobe’s Creative SDK plugins. These are plugins that are able to hook into a users Adobe Creative Cloud account, using their SSO. Simon demoed their Image Editor plugin through the use of an Instagram style app where, following the capturing of a photo, the image was then edited and posted to his Creative Cloud account.

He also talked about Send to Desktop and the Asset Browser plugins, these too interact with a user’s Creative Cloud account, and will be becoming GA shortly.

As well as commenting on the incredibly popular Push plugin (latest version has iOS 10 and Android N support) and PhoneGap Dev, he also spoke on updates that are coming to Cordova itself. I’ve a feeling that a lot of these changes are really going to be received well by seasoned hybrid devs. There is a lot of alignment to the one of the de-facto methods of package management, npm (Node Package Manager). The changes include dropping the config.xml, in place of package.json, and also using the standard npm cache.

“PhoneGap is a Polyfill, and the ultimate purpose of PhoneGap is to cease to exist
– Brian LeRoux, 2012

There was a brief mention of Cordova Electron, too… this makes us very excited at MobileCaddy, especially following the post on Hybrid Desktop apps. If this excites you too, then check out some of the dev positions that we’re currently hiring for.

As of this wasn’t enough, on the horizon with cordova 7 is the promise of better documentation. And this linked in nicely to a request from Simon for contributions. As with most of OSS maintainers/core contributors, the request came in the form of something like “contribute code, but not just code, also documentation…. and definitely good issue tickets”.

More links and info can be found in Simon’s slides, and here’s a vid of a very similar talk he’s previously given.

Embedding PhoneGap in native Android apps – Anis Kadri

Up next was Anis to show off how you can easily add hybrid tech into a native Android app. To start though, he talked us through some of the benefits of hybrid development itself, though in front of a room full of Ionic devs his job was pretty easy. He did, however, mention a stat that blew my mind… there are nearly 1800 cordova plugins available.

He then kicked off his demo, firing up Android Studio and creating a brand new native Android app project. The new PhoneGap plugin was then installed and initialised, which gave him all the Cordova assets that we’re familiar with (config.xml, www dir, etc). He then made use of these by modifying his main.js class to extend cordovaActivity. When he then ran this project up, it loaded what looked like a normal Cordova app – you know, the old “Device is ready” screen. Mind = blown.

There are almost 1800 public cordova plugins available

As cool as this was, Anis then showed us how plugins could be installed from Android Studio, and then also how a webview could be added to an existing native app, giving a result where single views in the app utilised hybrid tech, whilst others relied on native code.

It can easily be seen that with this functionality in your toolbelt you can start to move chunks of your native apps to hybrid, thus removing platform-specific code. It allows devs to think of hybrid as not being a compromise (not that we do), but as a weapon in their armoury, truly meaning the right tool can be used for each job.


There weren’t any takers for the usual Showcase section of the night (perhaps this could be included on the agenda so folk know to prepare?), so I took this opportunity to quiz Simon and Anis (and the other Apacherians that were in attendance) about their views on the future of hybrid apps when it comes to the desktop environment. Sani kindly allowed me to pull an architecture diagram up on the projector, to help clarify my thinking.

Architecture diagram

It was great news to hear that they had been talking about this internally within the Cordova team, and that they’d actually had chats with Electron folk at github. Simon did add that there were no promises on anything, but it was indeed his view that it would be great for devs to write code once and it be run on Android, iOS, Electron, and as PWAs. He was in general agreement with the architecture I’d shown, and the split of responsibilities between Cordova plugins and (something like) Ionic Native. He also said it was their view to continue to align Cordova plugins’ APIs to those having a relative web API.

Ionic Round up

To close off Sani gave us a run down of his talk at the recent Angular Up conf, and that involved a pretty cool looking demo app called Telavivo. The app supports offline working via Service Workers, though sadly the demo-Gods were not on his side… he must have been a bad Dev that day.

His talk, and specifically the offline working through the use of Service Workers, gave rise to healthy debate, and questions about what to do for offline working with iOS (as they don’t currently support Service Workers). It’s a tricky situation, but one that we’ve overcome for enterprise through the adoption of MORE(s) Design, which has enabled us to truly transform the mobile experience for users.

Wrap Up

The Makers Academy, Aldgate, is a venue that well suits a meetup of the size of Ionic UK, and thanks must go to the sponsor(s) for the food and drinks (though I’m not sure who they were – I’ll update as I find out).

Thanks of course also go to Sani and Ryan for organising once again.

As for the talks, it was really great to hear from Simon and Anis; their experience and drive shone through and it makes me very happy to have folk like them in the community.

Useful Links

ngCordova – Contributing a Plugin Mock with Tests

One of our current projects covers creating a bespoke Salesforce mobile application for a large company in the tourism sector. One of their requirements was to have printing functionality from the app. Seeing as our MobileCaddy SDK provides a toolkit for building hybrid mobile applications for Salesforce we turned to the existing Cordova plugin ecosystem and came across the cordova-plugin-printer plugin. It is common place for the Salesforce consultancies that use our SDK to consume the Cordova plugins via the mightily handy ngCordova project, and luckily this printer plugin was already supported by the project.


Although this plugin, and the ngCordova interface, suited our needs (and worked well) part of the beauty of building hybrid apps is the ability to use common web development workflows, which include building and (doing a certain amount of) testing in the browser.  To do this many of the plugins on ngCordova also include mock instances that either interact with standard browsers capabilities or simply stub the calls. In the case of the cordova-plugin-printer though, this mock did not exist.

This post covers the steps we used to create a mock for the plugin and then create a PR for ngCordova, with the hope our code can be included in a future release. Giving back (even if in a small way) to open source source communities is one of the things we really enjoy. Through this post I hope that others may feel inspired and able to do the same. Creating fixes, patches and features are just small parts of developing software; interacting with an OS project can sometimes feel a bit daunting, but hopefully this post will help.

Getting setup to make our change

First up we need to make a fork of the ngCordova github repo, and I’ve assumed that you already have a github account. This fork is where we will do our development and run initial tests against. So next step is to clone this fork to your development environment.

Once we have our own clone of the project we need to create a branch to work on. In the case for the above (adding a mock for the printer plugin) I created a branch called feat/printerMock.

I also want to confirm that all unit tests for the project currently pass. If I did this after I started making my code changes it would be a bad idea as I wouldn’t know if I’d accidentally altered something. The ngCordova project comes with support for running karma unit tests via gulp. All tests can be run with the following command;

Running this initially gave me the following errors, it seems my project’s development environment isn’t quite ready yet

Looking at the project’s directory I can see that we have a package.json and a bower.jsonand so it seems I need to install some packages and dependencies. These can be installed with the following two commands.

From the output of these commands I can see that a whole host of things, including angular, has been installed into my project’s directory… so I run the gulp karma command again. This time all looks good; at the time of writing there were 269 unit tests, and all passed so I was happy to continue.

Adding the Printer Mock

The plugins’ code can be found in the src/plugins directory. And looking at the printer.js file I see a simple interface with just two functions exposed, isAvailable and print. These are the functions I want to create a mock for. First up I create a new file in the src/mocks directory called printer.js (to match the real one). My first skeleton file looks like this;

Add a test for our mock

Next up I create a test spec for this new mock, this is a file called printer.spec.js that I put in the test/mocks directory. This test spec will contain a couple of basic tests to check my mock implementation.

The skeleton file for the test spec looks like this; it’s very basic, and at present doesn’t do anything much other than describe a test block and ready it for use in testing the ngCordovaMocks module.

Following the beforeEach block I now add another describe block that will contain my specific printer plugin tests. This itself contains another beforeEach that injects the cordovaPrinter factory seen in our skeleton mock above. Our spec now looks like this;

If we run gulp karma again now we can see that we still have the same number of tests running and passing… and we’re now ready to add to that.

Firstly let’s add a test to cover the isAvailable function. We know from the code in ngCordova (and the original plugin) that this returns a JavaScript promise resolving to a boolean value, so let’s write a test for this, bearing in mind that our mock code will always return true. The following is the test for that, and this follows the beforeEach block in our nested describe block that we added above.

We are ready to run our gulp karma again, and this time the result shows and extra test has run, but failed;

But this failure is good right… we haven’t written our code yet.

Add our mock code

For our isAvailable call we know we need to return boolean and in our mock’s case this will always be true. To implement this we add the following into our mock’s return block, so that it looks like this;

If we run our gulp karma again to kick off the tests we should see that our new test is now passing. Grab yourself a glass of your favourite beverage to celebrate.

Using the same TDD(ish) approach we can then add the extra test and code for the print function. In fact a slightly better workflow here is to run gulp karma-watch. This will set a watch running on both our source and test specs and will re-run the unit tests when it spots a change to either.

The finished code for the mock and mock test spec are here

Creating the PR

Now that we’re happy with the mock and test code we are ready to create a PR. The ngCordova project actually requires that the project is built prior to submission. The following step performs the build steps that outputs the concatenated and minified versions of the distributable ngCordova modules, and we need to include these in our PR.

Once this is run we should see that we have, as well as our 2 new files, updated files within the dist directory exist. This can be seen by running a git status command.

Now commit the changes and push to your fork of the project on github. If you now view your new branch on github you should see a “compare and create pull request” button. Click this and (at present) select the dev-next branch as the target.

And that’s it, PR created. And in the ngCordova project’s case a travis job will automatically be kicked off causing the unit tests to be run, and we should see these all pass (including our 2 new ones).

The PR mentioned in this post can be found here.

Please don’t feel that contributing to open source projects is a daunting task, only suitable for ninja, guru, unicorn, blah blah developers… get stuck in and have a go.

Our next PR?

Well perhaps we should raise a documentation PR to add the above steps to the on the ngCordova repo?