programmatically install apache cordova plugins
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A command line tool to distribute and package plugins for use with Apache Cordova, nee PhoneGap.

This document defines tool usage and the plugin format specification. This is not an official document of the Apache Cordova project.

Design Goals

  • facilitate programmatic installation and manipulation of plugins
  • detail the dependencies and components of individual plugins
  • allow code reuse between different target platforms


Adding plugins:



plugman --platform android --project . --plugin ~/plugins/ChildBrowser

Removing plugins:

plugman --platform PLATFORM --project PROJECT-PATH --plugin PLUGIN-PATH|PLUGIN-GIT-URL|PLUGIN-NAME --remove


plugman --platform android --project . --plugin ~/plugins/ChildBrowser --remove

Listing plugins:

plugman --list

Supported Platforms

  • iOS
  • Android

Supported Plugins

Andrew Lunny's tamed plugins for ChildBrowser and PGSQLite will work but need to be massaged into the right format.


git clone
cd plugman
npm install -g

Plugin Directory Structure

A plugin is typically a combination of some web/www code, and some native code. However, plugins may have only one of these things - a plugin could be a single JavaScript, or some native code with no corresponding JavaScript.

Here is a sample plugin named foo with android and ios platforms support, and 2 www assets.

|- plugin.xml     # xml-based manifest
|- src/           # native source for each platform
|  |- android/ 
|  |  `-
|  `- ios/
|     |- CDVFoo.h
|     `- CDVFoo.m
`- www/
   |- foo.js
   `- foo.png 

plugin.xml Manifest Format

The plugin.xml file is an XML document in the plugins namespace - It contains a top-level plugin element defining the plugin, and children that define the structure of the plugin.

A sample plugin element:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<plugin xmlns=""

<plugin> element

The plugin element is the top-level element of the plugin manifest. It has the following attributes:

xmlns (required)

The plugin namespace - If the document contains XML from other namespaces - for example, tags to be added ot the AndroidManifest.xml file - those namespaces should also be included in the top-level element.

id (required)

A reverse-domain style identifier for the plugin - for example,

version (required)

A version number for the plugin, that matches the following major-minor-patch style regular expression:


Child elements

<engines> element

The child elements of the <engines> element specify versions of Apache Cordova-based frameworks that this plugin supports. An example:

    <engine name="cordova" version="1.7.0" />
    <engine name="cordova" version="1.8.1" />
    <engine name="worklight" version="1.0.0" />

Similarly to the version attribute for the <plugin> element, the version string specified should match a major-minor-patch string conforming to the regular expression:


Engine elements may also have fuzzy matches to avoid repetition, and reduce maintenance when the underlying platform is updated. A minimum of >, >=, < and <= should be supported by tools, such as:

    <engine name="cordova" version=">=1.7.0" />
    <engine name="cordova" version="<1.8.1" />

plugman will abort plugin installation if the target project does not meet the engine constraints.

<name> element

A human-readable name for the plugin. The text content of the element contains the name of the plugin. An example:


This element does not yet handle localization.

<asset> element

One or more elements listing the files or directories to be copied into a Cordova app's www directory. A couple of samples:

<!-- a single file, to be copied in the root directory -->
<asset src="www/foo.js" target="foo.js" />
<!-- a directory, also to be copied in the root directory -->
<asset src="www/foo" target="foo" />

All assets tags require both a src attribute and a target attribute.

src (required)

Where the file or directory is located in the plugin package, relative to the plugin.xml document.

target (required)

Where the file or directory should be located in the Cordova app, relative to the www directory.

Assets can be targeted to subdirectories - for instance:

<asset src="www/new-foo.js" target="js/experimental/foo.js" />

would create the js/experimental directory in the www directory, if not present, and then copy the file new-foo.js as foo.js into that directory.

If a file exists at the target location, tools based on this specification should stop the installation process and notify the user of the conflict.


Platform tags identify platforms that have associated native code. Tools using this specification can identify supported platforms and install the code into Cordova projects.

A sample platform tag:

<platform name="android">
<!-- android specific elements -->
<platform name="ios">
<!-- ios specific elements -->

name (required)

The name attribute identifies a platform as supported - it also associates the element's children with that platform.

Platform names should be all-lowercase. Platform names, as arbitrarily chosen, are listed:

  • android
  • ios


source-file elements identify executable source code that should be installed into a project. A couple of examples:

<!-- android -->
<source-file src="src/android/"
                target-dir="src/com/alunny/foo" />
<!-- ios -->
<source-file src="CDVFoo.m" />

As with assets, if a source-file would overwrite an existing file, tools should notify the user and stop, like, right away.

src (required)

Where the file is located, relative to the plugin.xml file.


A directory where the files should be copied into, relative to the root of the Cordova project.

In practice, this is most important for Java-based platforms, where a file in the package has be located under the directory com/alunny/foo. For platforms where the source directory is not important, plugin authors should omit this attribute.


Identifies an XML-based configuration file to be modified, where in that document the modification should take place, and what should be modified.

At this stage in the spec, the config-file element only allows for appending new children into an XML document. The children are XML literals that are the to be inserted in the target document.


<config-file target="AndroidManifest.xml" parent="/manifest/application">
    <activity android:name=""


The file to be modified, and the path relative to the root of the Cordova project.

If this file does not exist, the tool will exit.


An absolute XPath selector pointing to the parent of the elements to be added to the config file.


This is OUTDATED. Only applies to Cordova 2.2.0 and below). Use <config-file> tag (same as Android) for newer versions of Cordova.


<config-file target="config.xml" parent="/cordova/plugins">
     <plugin name="ChildBrowser"

Specifies a key and value to append to the correct AppInfo.plist file in an iOS Cordova project. Example:

<plugins-plist key="Foo"
               string="CDVFoo" />

This may be an implementation detail leaking through, and could be merged with the config-file element at some later point.

<resource-file> and <header-file>

Like source files, but specifically for platforms that distinguish between source files, headers, and resources (iOS)


<resource-file src="CDVFoo.bundle" />
<resource-file src="CDVFooViewController.xib" />
<header-file src="CDVFoo.h" />

This is probably an implementation detail leaking through, and future versions of this document will likely merge these elements with source-file.


Identifies a framework (usually part of the OS/platform) that the plugin depends on. Example:

<framework src="libsqlite3.dylib" />

plugman identifies the framework through the src attribute and attempts to add the framework to the Cordova project, in the correct fashion for a given platform.


In certain cases, a plugin may need to make configuration changes dependent on the target application. For example, to register for C2DM on Android, an app with package id com.alunny.message would need a permission like:


In cases like this (where the content inserted from the plugin.xml file is not known ahead of time), variables can be indicated by a dollar-sign and a series of capital letters, digits and underscores. For the above example, the plugin.xml file would include this tag:


plugman replaces variable references with the correct value, if specified, or the empty string otherwise. The value of the variable reference may be detected (in this case, from the AndroidManifest.xml file, or specified by the user of the tool; the exact process is dependent on the particular tool.

Certain variable names should be reserved - these are listed below.


The reverse-domain style unique identifier for the package - corresponding to the CFBundleIdentifier on iOS or the package attribute of the top-level manifest element in an AndroidManifest.xml file.

Project Directory Structure

TODO: show how the foo plugin example from above will have its files placed in a cordova project after running plugman


  • Andrew Lunny
  • Fil Maj
  • Mike Reinstein
  • Anis Kadri


Michael Brooks