Preview: Google's tantalizing Mobile Chrome App SDK

Google's new Cordova-based toolchain lets you develop hybrid mobile apps from the same HTML, JavaScript, and CSS code as Chrome apps

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In Figure 1 above, at the left, we see the source code for a "Hello, InfoWorld" Mobile Chrome App in the Eclipse-based Android Developer Tools; at the right, we see it running in an Android emulator. A single project supports a Chrome Web app, an Android app, and an iOS app.

In Figure 2 above, at the left, we see the source code for the "Hello, InfoWorld" Mobile Chrome App in the Xcode IDE; at the right, we see it in an iOS simulator. So yes, it all works at a basic level.

Note that after editing the Web source code, in either IDE or any other editor, you need to run the cca prepare command to generate updated mobile code before it can be reflected in the emulator or simulator. Among other things, the cca prepare command copies the contents of the "www" project directory into the two platform-dependent directories platforms/android/assets/www and platforms/ios/www, copies the Cordova JavaScript files, and generates manifest JSON files.

Unfortunately, the cca prepare command messes up the flow for a developer who wants to "live" in one of the IDEs. If there is a way to incorporate this command into the build cycle automatically, I haven't yet found it -- although in principle it should be simple. Worse, when you run the cca prepare command, the IDEs don't automatically reload the updated manifests. They just complain that the manifests are out of sync and refuse to run the project until you manually force the synchronization.

Given that the Mobile Chrome Apps tool chain is currently billed as nothing more than a developer preview, these limitations are reasonable. At the same time, I'd love for it to have better IDE integration. I'm looking forward to the next version, but in its current state I wouldn't want to try to ship an app using it.

This story, "Preview: Google's tantalizing Mobile Chrome App SDK," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in application development and mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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