Apache Cordova lets developers create Android apps from third-party WebViews

WebViews let developers code in HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS and access native OS functions

Help is on the horizon for mobile developers dealing with the nuances of the numerous Android OS versions in circulation -- at least if they're developing Web-style apps.

An upcoming upgrade to the open source Apache Cordova device APIs will accommodate third-party WebViews to help developers get their apps up and running on the various Android versions, says Joe Bowser, a primary lead at Adobe Systems for Cordova on Android. This support comes in version 4.0 of Cordova, which is expected later this year, with Intel's Crosswalk slated as the first WebView supported.

A WebView is Google's name for a container that encapsulates Web apps in Android: They use HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS for the app functionality and UI, then place them in an Android container to access native OS functions. Cordova is a standardized set of JavaScript libraries for iOS, Android, and other mobile operating systems so that developers can develop consistent Web apps for multiple platforms.

Backing for Mozilla's GeckoView Android library project is planned at some point as well, along with support for other third-party views. PhoneGap, Adobe's commercial companion to Cordova, will support the third-party WebViews.

"[Third-party WebViews] are platform-independent so that we no longer have to deal with issues between Android versions," said Bowser, who spoke Thursday at OSCON in Portland, Ore. An API will be provided so that these WebViews work like plug-ins, and Bowser mentioned it will support the recent Android OSes, such as KitKat, Jelly Bean, and Gingerbread.

Cordova provides a platform for building native mobile apps using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Besides Android, Cordova has been available for Apple iOS, BlackBerry, and Microsoft Windows Phone. Crosswalk, meanwhile, was built for HTML5 applications and features the Blink rendering engine. It offers modern browser features, device integration, and an API for modern extensions, and it leverages Google's Chromium browser project.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.