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Visual Studio Now Supports Cross-Platform Mobile Development with Apache Cordova

Apache Cordova, the open source, multi-device mobile development platform, is now part of Microsoft's flagship development IDE, Visual Studio.

Announced as a preview at Microsoft's TechEd conference, the tooling is part of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2. The support for Apache Cordova will let developers target Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices by writing apps once with HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript and then having them natively compiled for individual platforms. This hybrid approach saves developers time by not making them create separate native apps, but allows access to native device resources such as cameras or accelerometers with little degradation in performance.

The news was the latest result of the Redmond software giant's efforts to open up and embrace other development technologies through its Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. subsidiary. "MS Open Tech contributed Windows device support to the Apache Cordova project, and is now also contributing to existing popular plugins as well as bringing new cross platform plugins to the community such as the WebSQL plugin for Cordova," said Olivier Bloch in a blog post yesterday.

The new Multi-Device Hybrid App project in Visual Studio
[Click on image for larger view.] The new Multi-Device Hybrid App project in Visual Studio
(source: Microsoft)

S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, provided more details on the Multi-Device Hybrid Apps preview tooling, which also can be used for Windows Store apps. "Project templates are available for both JavaScript and TypeScript, and provide a standard blank Cordova starter project," Somasegar said. "Developers can pick their HTML/JavaScript framework of choice, whether Backbone and jQuery UI, or AngularJS and Bootstrap, or WinJS."

Before becoming open source, Cordova was known as PhoneGap, and that product is still maintained by Adobe Systems Inc.

The new Apache Cordova tooling provides developers with Visual Studio code editing features such as IntelliSense and syntax highlighting. A Debug and Launch menu lets coders preview and test apps via the popular Apache Ripple simulator, a local emulator or an actual physical device hooked up to the dev machine. Microsoft provided sample "to-do" project samples for AngularJS, BackboneJS and WinJS.

Microsoft positioned the new Multi-Device Hybrid Apps extension as a complement to the recently announced Visual Studio support of Xamarin, another cross-platform dev tool that lets developers target iOS, Android and Windows OSes with C# code.

"Whether you want the flexibility of native apps powered by .NET and Xamarin, or the standards-based development provided by the Apache Cordova platform, Visual Studio will support your choice with an amazing development experience," said Somasegar.

The new tooling preview was welcomed by Jesse MacFadyen of Adobe, a core Apache contributor. "It is very exciting not only to welcome Visual Studio developers, but also to welcome first class tools to Apache Cordova," MacFadyen said. "This development is a great validation of the hard work of the MS Open Tech team and Apache Cordova contributors. We look forward to continuing this cool work with Microsoft's developers."

For more on the new tooling, other Visual Studio enhancements in Update 2 and other TechEd news, see Keith Ward's article on the Visual Studio Magazine site.

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