Developing a Plugin on Android

Developing a Plugin on Android

Writing a plugin requires an understanding of the architecture of Cordova-Android. Cordova-Android consists of an Android WebView with hooks attached to it. These plugins are represented as class mappings in the config.xml file.

A plugin will consist of at least a single Java class that extends the Plugin class. A plugin must have a method called execute that must return a PluginResult object. In addition to this, there is a best practice that the plugin should handle pause and resume events, and should handle message passing between plugins.

Plugin Class Mapping

The JavaScript portion of a plugin always uses the cordova.exec method as follows:

exec(<successFunction>, <failFunction>, <service>, <action>, [<args>]);

This will marshal a request from the WebView to the Android native side, more or less boiling down to calling the action method on the service class, with the arguments passed in the args Array.

Whether you distribute your plugin as Java file or as a JAR of its own, the plugin must be added to the config.xml file in your Cordova-Android application's res/xml/ folder.

<plugin name="<service_name>" value="<full_name_including_namespace>"/>

The service name should match what you use in the JavaScript exec call, and the value will be the full name of the Java class including the namespace. Without this added, the plugin may compile but will not be reachable by Cordova.

Writing an Android Java Plugin

We have JavaScript to fire off a plugin request to the native side. We have the Android Java plugin mapped properly via the config.xml file. So what does the final Android Java Plugin class look like?

What gets dispatched to the plugin via JavaScript's exec function gets passed into the Plugin class's execute method. Most execute implementations look like this:

public PluginResult execute(String action, JSONArray args, String callbackId) {
    PluginResult.Status status = PluginResult.Status.OK;
    String result = "";

    try {
        if (action.equals("beep")) {
            this.beep(args.getLong(0));
        }
        return new PluginResult(status, result);
    } catch (JSONException e) {
        return new PluginResult(PluginResult.Status.JSON_EXCEPTION);
    }
}

Essentially we compare the value of the action parameter, and dispatch the request off to a (private) method in the class, optionally passing some of the parameters to the method.

When catching exceptions and returning errors, it's important that the error we return to JavaScript match the Java exception as much as possible, for clarity.

Echo Plugin Android Plugin

We would add the following to our config.xml:

<plugin name="Echo" value="org.apache.cordova.plugin.Echo" />

Then we would add the following file to src/org/apache/cordova/plugin/Echo.java inside our Cordova-Android application:

package org.apache.cordova.plugin;

import org.apache.cordova.api.Plugin;
import org.apache.cordova.api.PluginResult;
import org.json.JSONArray;
import org.json.JSONException;
import org.json.JSONObject;

/**
 * This class echoes a string called from JavaScript.
 */
public class App extends Plugin {

    /**
     * Executes the request and returns PluginResult.
     *
     * @param action        The action to execute.
     * @param args          JSONArry of arguments for the plugin.
     * @param callbackId    The callback id used when calling back into JavaScript.
     * @return              A PluginResult object with a status and message.
     */
    public PluginResult execute(String action, JSONArray args, String callbackId) {
        try {
            if (action.equals("echo")) {
                String echo = args.getString(0); 
                if (echo != null && echo.length() > 0) { 
                    return new PluginResult(PluginResult.Status.OK, echo);
                } else {
                    return new PluginResult(PluginResult.Status.ERROR);
                }
            } else {
                return new PluginResult(PluginResult.Status.INVALID_ACTION);
            }
        } catch (JSONException e) {
            return new PluginResult(PluginResult.Status.JSON_EXCEPTION);
        }
    }
}

Let's take a look at the code. At the top we have all of the necessary Cordova imports. Our class extends from Plugin - very important. The one method that the Plugin interface demands is the execute method. The method first compares against action: this plugin only supports one action, the echo action. Any other action will return a PluginResult with a status of INVALID_ACTION - this will translate into an error callback invocation on the JavaScript side. Next, we grab the echo string using the getString method on our args, telling it we want to get the 0th parameter in the parameter array. We do a bit of parameter checking: make sure it is not null, and make sure it is not a zero-length string. If it is, we return a PluginResult with an ERROR status (which, by now, you should now will invoke the error callback). If all of those checks pass, then we return a PluginResult with an OK status, and pass in the echo string we received in the first place as a parameter. This will finally translate into a success callback invocation on the JavaScript side. It will also pass the echo parameter as a parameter into the JavaScript success callback function.

Debugging Plugins

Eclipse can be used to debug an Android project, and the plugins can be debugged if the Java source is included in the project. Only the latest version of the Android Dev Tools is known to allow source code attachment to JAR dependencies, this is not fully supported at this time.

Common Pitfalls