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React Native Comes to Ubuntu Developers

Canonical Ltd. announced that its Ubuntu Linux distribution now supports React Native, the new-age, open source, JavaScript-based technology used to create native iOS and Android mobile apps.

In fitting with React Native's Web-based roots, its support on Ubuntu was announced by the Webapps team at Canonical in a blog post last Friday.

"We are happy to announce that along with our HTML5 application support, it is now possible to develop React Native applications on the Ubuntu platform," says the post by Justin McPherson. "You can port existing iOS or Android React Native applications, or you can start a new application leveraging your web-dev skills."

McPherson noted the similarities of React Native and its Web precursor, React.js: a declarative programming model, strong component system and a focus on building app UIs. The native technology, he said, was good for developers conversant in React.js building native mobile apps when "you need just that bit more performance, or to be able to work with native UI components directly, but working in a less familiar environment might not be a good use of time."

Along with HTML5, McPherson noted that Ubuntu -- widely cited as one of the more popular Linux distros -- also supports building cross-platform mobile apps with Apache Cordova, which also uses HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Cordova, though, provides a more traditional cross-platform approach leveraging one codebase to create native apps for multiple platforms, as opposed to the "learn once, write anywhere" philosophy espoused by React Native creator Facebook. In that scheme, developers learn the workings of React Native and put those same skills to use in creating separate native apps.

Also in that scheme, iOS has always ranked first and foremost at Facebook, which says it relies on the community to support the Windows and Linux sides of things. Canonical has answered that call.

"The Ubuntu support includes the ability to generate packages," McPherson said. "Managed by the React Native CLI, building a snap is as easy as 'react-native package-ubuntu --snap'. It's also possible to build a click package for Ubuntu devices; meaning React Native Ubuntu apps are store-ready from the start."

Canonical provided more information on Ubuntu's new support of React Native in an article published yesterday on its Ubuntu Insights site, written by Richard Collins.

"One especially interesting context for React Native Ubuntu app development is convergence," Collins said. "Ubuntu on devices today supports a full range of displays, interfaces and inputs. So a React Native app ported to Ubuntu will also work on converged devices running a full Ubuntu PC interface. This gives the app a new set of user contexts since it is now used alongside typical desktop apps as well as mobile apps. Ubuntu dynamically scales the app to the display, provides it with its own windowed environment so your app is visible and running on displays where multiple apps are in use at the same time, with both touch friendly and pointer window controls. Ubuntu works with React Native so the application easily 'reacts' to converged environments."

Canonical's React Native source code can be found on the GitHub repository.

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About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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