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Plugin for Cordova that enables fully native-looking apps

branch: master
README.markdown

Cool Stuff Inside

Screenshots

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True Native Controls

True Native gives you access directly to the iOS native controls. If you choose, you can display parts of a UIWebView along with native controls, but True Native allows you to create a full app without ever using or displaying a UIWebView. Most iOS views/controls are already supported, and support for those that aren't should be easy to add.

Javascript Engine Choices

By choosing either the Example target or the Example iMonkey target, you can switch between using a UIWebView for javascript or SpiderMonkey (referred to throughout as SM), the javascript engine behind FireFox. SpiderMonkey support is provided by iMonkey which is maintained by Couchbase Labs.

SpiderMonkey Improvements

Using SpiderMonkey as the engine allows us to access internal interfaces of the javascript engine. This increased control is directly responsible for the following improvements:

  • Memory Usage The original motiviation for SpiderMonkey support was due to a memory leak I believe was occuring inside the UIWebView, but was fixed through migrating to SpiderMonkey. My hypothesis is that UIWebViews don't run their GC immediately upon receiving a memory warning. Because we can now manually invoke the GC for SM, we have control and can ensure this happens.

  • Bridge Design The javascript<->ObjC bridge has been greatly simplified due to being able to provide the javascript environment with methods that directly return values from the ObjC side. The performance has not been tuned or compared yet, but I suspect it is already better than a UIWebView. There are many avenues left for future improvement as well.

  • Stack Traces When exceptions happen, you get more accurate and detailed stack traces:

2012-03-23 19:25:31.707 True Native[39107:17003] twitter_demo.js:96:TypeError: imageAndTextCell.someMissingMethod is not a function
2012-03-23 19:25:31.708 True Native[39107:17003] Stack trace:
([object Object],[object Object])@twitter_demo.js:96
(-1,0,"18","construct")@writeJavascript:2067
(-1,0,"18")@writeJavascript:2071
@writeJavascript:1
Assertion failed: (false), function reportException, file /tmp/cordova-true-native/Classes/SMRuntime.mm, line 181.

You may notice two frames with a filename of writeJavascript. Frames like this can come from any writeJavascript call, but these particular ones are from the baked in javascript which is injected using writeJavascript. You can recognize these lines, in part, due to their high line number. You can find the javascript source in build/all.js after building the example..

UIWebView Debug Delegate

Through non-public interfaces, it's possible to report any exceptions that occur inside of a UIWebView. The exception detail is not as great as with SpiderMonkey, but it's better than nothing. The code is automatically excluded from non-DEBUG builds since it is not allowed on the app store (due to the use of the private interfaces). See the UIWebViewScriptDebugDelegate for more details.

Here is an example stack trace. This is the same exception as shown above:

2012-03-23 19:27:47.205 True Native[39323:17003] Exception - name: TypeError, sourceID: 148501056, value: <WebScriptObject: 0x8bbdc00>, filename: twitter_demo.js, 
Message: 'undefined' is not a function



Offending line:
  49:           constructCallback: function(rowEntry, row) {

As you can see, this is not so satisfying. It may be possible to make this more accurate, but I have not yet found a way, since nothing about this interface is documented.

CoffeeScript

All of the javascript is written in CoffeeScript. SCons is used as an external build tool to automatically compile the CoffeeScript to javascript as part of the XCode build process.

Baked In Javascript

Instead of requiring the user to include the plugins' javascript manually into their project, only one exec call is required at the beginning of the app's javascript execution to load the required javascript:

window.onDeviceReady = ->
  Cordova.exec(
    onTNReady, null, 'cordovatruenative.component', 'loadJavascript', [])

onTNReady = ->
  # Program starts here.

To accomplish this, SCons is used to base64 encode the javascript source and write out an Objective-C source file with a single string containing the base64-encoded javascript. Upon calling loadJavascript, the javascript is decoded and injected.

Other notable features

  • Facebook support This support is not complete, but allows for login using the Facebook SDK for iOS.

  • US City autocomplete This ruby script generates a JSON map of all US city names to their lat/long. The source data is a set of zipcodes with lat/long, so each city's lat/long is the mean of all its component zipcodes. This JSON is base64 encoded and linked in as well. The location autocomplete plugin loads the data into a Trie and serves up completions. The Instagram demo in the Example app makes use of this.

  • GridCell layout To help the layout of the controls and views, a GridCell layout engine is provide. See the example app and source code for more details.

  • Android support Full android support is planned as the next major feature, and work has begun here, but it has not quite reached feature party with the iOS version. The goal is to have full compatability between the two platforms with the same javascript code.

Example App

The example app has been submitted to the app store for review. I will post a link here once it is published. You can also build the app yourself:

Prerequesites

  1. scons
  2. coffee (coffee-script compiler)
  3. Cordova 1.5.0

The easiest way to get the prerequesites is to install Homebrew and then run the command brew install scons coffee-script.

How to Build and Run

  1. After any clone or pull (including the first time): git submodule update --init --recursive
  2. Open Example/Example.xcodeproj.
  3. Select the Example [iMonkey] > iPhone Simulator target. The target called Example uses the UIWebView and the target called Example iMonkey uses SpiderMonkey.
  4. Hit play/run.

How to Run the Tests

There aren't enough tests yet, but there are at least a few. Directions for how to run them are coming.

How to Create Your Own App

Directions coming. For now, copying the example app is a great start.

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