Video icon 64
Learning to code? Skill up faster with our practical video courses. Start your free trial today.
Advertisement

Creating an Android "Hello World" Application with PhoneGap

by

PhoneGap is an open source platform that allows you to create cross-platform mobile applications with HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. In order to interact with device hardware, PhoneGap provides a JavaScript API that will interface with features such as the on-board camera, GPS, and accelerometer. Even though PhoneGap is great for developing cross-platform applications, the code for developing applications while targetting one platform or another will vary. One of the greatest differences to overcome is the required software requirements. This tutorial will provide an in-depth review of setting up your development environment for Android, and will build a simple "Hello World" app.

PhoneGap Requirements for Android Development

Java JDK

You will need to install the Java Development Kit (JDK). Follow the official instructions for setting this up.

Android SDK

You will also need the Android Software Development Kit. When you install the SDK, you will need to set the the android-sdk-<os>/tools for your user PATH variable.

System Properties

Eclipse

You will need to download and install Eclipse if you don't already have it on your machine.

Eclipse ADT Plugin

You will need to also install the ADT plugin for Eclipse. ADT (Android Development tools) is a plugin of eclipse which provide a complete IDE for developing Android application. ADT lets you create new Android projects, and it lets you create Android projects from existing source (this is the way we will open our PhoneGap app for android on eclipse). Using ADT you can also debug an android application. As ADT is well integrated with android SDK running the app from the IDE directly launches the android emulator.

To install ADT click on "install new software" in your Eclipse’s help window and enter the following site to work with: http://dl-ssl.google.com/android/eclipse/. Then follow the wizard presented to install ADT.

ADT Screen

Android Platforms and Components

Once you have ADT installed, you will need to install the Android platform and other components. To do that, go to menu option window->Android DK and AVD manager and select the platform and API level. Android api 2.2 is latest at the time of writing this article.

ADT Configuration

Apache Ant

If you don’t have apache ant installed you can download it from http://ant.apache.org/bindownload.cgi. To install it you will just extract the downloaded Zip file and set the bin folder in the ant directory in you PATH variable.

Ruby

If you don't have Ruby installed, you can download it from this free installer. Once installed, add the Ruby/bin path into your account's PATH variables.

PhoneGap Framework

Of course, you will also need the PhoneGap Framework itself.

PhoneGap-Android Download

Creating Your Development Workspace

Environment Variables Check:

The following paths should be set in you account's PATH variable:

  • your_system_path/jdk/bin
  • your_system_path/android-sdk/tools
  • your_system_path/ruby/bin
  • your_system_path/apache-ant/bin

Apart from these, you will need to set the following variables also:

  • JAVA_HOME – path of your JDK directory
  • ANT_HOME – path of you apache-ant directory
  • ANDROID_HOME – path to your android SDK directory.

To create a workspace for your PhoneGap app on android, go to the “phonegap-android” folder on the command prompt or terminal:

ruby ./droidgap "[android_sdk_path]" [name] [package_name] "[www]" "[path]"
  • android_sdk_path: Where you installed the SDK
  • name: The name to give the new application.
  • package_name: The name you want to give to your application.
  • www: The folder from where you want to copy the files of your PhoneGap app.
  • path: The application workspace for your project.

Once you run the command and if everything goes correct messages as shown below will be seen:

PhoneGap Command Line Android

The above should create a complete workspace for your PhoneGap Android app.

Workflow

Setup Your Project in Eclipse

Once this is done, this workspace can be opened in eclipse. In eclipse choose new project and then choose Android Project.

Create Android Eclipse Project

Next select "create project from existing source" and give the project a name as shown below.

Configure an Android Eclipse Project

If you try to build and run the project in Eclipse you will get a build error. This is because you have not added the external library (phonegap.jar) which is created in the libs folder of your workspace.

Remove Build Errors

To add that external library right click on the project an select Build Path-> Add external archive and then select the phonegap.jar in your libs folder.

Remove Build Errors 2

If all goes well, this should remove all the build errors in your project. Now try to run your project in the emulator. You should see the screen below. This is because you have not added any PhoneGap HTML or JavaScript files in your project.

Running the Hello World App

In the assets/www folder of the workspace, there will already be a file called phonegap.js. In that folder create a file called index.html with the following code:


<!DOCTYPE HTML>

<html>

  <head>

    <meta name="viewport" content="width=320; user-scalable=no" />

    <meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

    <title>PhoneGap Android App</title>

              <script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8" src="phonegap.js"></script>       

              <script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8">

                        var showMessageBox = function() {

                             navigator.notification.alert("Hello World of PhoneGap");

                        }

                        function init(){

                             document.addEventListener("deviceready", showMessageBox, true);               

                        }

  </script>

  </head>

  <body onload="init();"  >

  </body>

</html>

In the code the line:

<script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8" src="phonegap.js"></script>

includes the phonegap.js file which lets you call native API’s of android. On the load of the body the init function registers the function showMessageBox on the PhoneGap event deviceready which is triggered when phonegap has done the processing to initialized everything for your program so that it can call the PhoneGap API's. The showMessageBox function calls the PhoneGap API navigator.notification.alert which displays the messagebox on screen. Running the app after adding the index.html and refreshing the project in Eclipse you will see the following screen:

Making it an Alert

Now let's add some more functionality to our app. The following code creates a text box to enter the name of the person and a button when clicked displays a message box:

<!DOCTYPE HTML>

<html>

  <head>

    <meta name="viewport" content="width=320; user-scalable=no" />

    <meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

    <title>PhoneGap</title>

             

              <script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8" src="phonegap.js"></script>       

              <script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8">

              var displayHello = function() {

                        var name =      document.getElementById("firstname").value;

                        navigator.notification.alert("name" + name);

            }

   </script>

  </head>

  <body onload="init();" id="bdy" >

            <div id="txt">

            <input   type="text" name="firstname" id="firstname" />

            </div>

            <div id ="btn">

    <a href="#" class="btn" onclick="displayHello();">Say Hello</a>

            </div>

        </div>

  </body>

</html>

In the following line of code we have created a text box where you can enter your name.

<input   type="text" name="firstname" id="firstname" />

In the line

     <a href="#" class="btn" onclick="displayHello();">Say Hello</a>

We have created a link which on click calls the function displayHello which fetches the value from the text box and displays a message box saying hello to the name entered by the user.

Custom Alert Text
Final Preview

The GUI shown above does not have any styling to it. You can beautify the display and add colors to it using a CSS file. Create a master.css in your assets\www folder with the following code:

#bdy

{

            background:#F0F0F0;

}

 

#btn a{

            border: 1px solid #555;

            -webkit-border-radius: 5px;

            border-radius: 5px;

            text-align:center;

            display:block;

            float:left;

            background:#6600CC;

            width:308px;

            color:#FFF;

            font-size:1.1em;

            text-decoration:none;

            padding:1.2em 0;

            margin:3px 0px 3px 5px;

}

 
#txt{

            border: 1px solid #555;

            -webkit-border-radius: 5px;

            border-radius: 5px;

            text-align:center;

            display:block;

            float:left;

            background:#00FFCC;

            width:308px;

            color:#9ab;

            font-size:1.1em;

            text-decoration:none;

            padding:1.2em 0;

            margin:3px 0px 3px 5px;
}

In your index.html add the following line before in your head tags to link to master.css:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="master.css" type="text/css" media="screen" title="no title" charset="utf-8">

Now if you run the app you should see a screen like the following:

Final Preview

Conclusion

To create a PhoneGap app on Android, a lot of different software has to work together. This could mean that you could have trouble setting up the complete environment to create a PhoneGap app on Android. However, once all the software is in place, you can easily create PhoneGap apps using open web standards like HTML, JavaScript, CSS and PhoneGap's own API’s to perform device hardware specific processing. This saves you the trouble of learning the native language for Android programming and still has much of the power of custom, native built Android apps.

Advertisement