Microsoft Releases Cordova Tools Extension for Visual Studio Code

Microsoft's Visual studio Code lightweight text editor adds the Apache Cordova mobile development framework to its list of supported platforms.

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Microsoft announced support for Apache Cordova development in its Visual Studio Code lightweight text editor.

With the Visual Studio Code Cordova Tools Extension, developers can debug hybrid apps, find Cordova-specific commands in the Command Palette, and use IntelliSense to browse objects, functions and parameters.

"You can use it with both 'stock' versions of the Apache Cordova framework and downstream frameworks like Ionic, Onsen, PhoneGap and SAP Fiori Mobile Client," said Ryan Salva, principal program manager on the Visual Studio Client Tools team, in a blog post on the new extension. "Because they all use the same Cordova build systems and core runtime, the TACO extension is adaptable to the JavaScript framework of your choice."

TACO is the Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova. Apache Cordova is a popular mobile application development framework originally created by Nitobi. Adobe Systems purchased Nitobi in 2011, rebranded it as PhoneGap and later released an open-source version of the software called Apache Cordova. Apache Cordova enables software programmers to build applications for mobile devices using JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3, instead of relying on platform-specific APIs like those in Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

"Thousands of developers already use Visual Studio's Tools for Apache Cordova—affectionately abbreviated as 'TACO'—to build mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows using a shared JavaScript codebase," Salva said. "Within the IDE, TACO provides everything you need to install and configure the native SDKs, preview your app, debug on emulators and devices, and even manage continuous integration/deployment via Visual Studio Team Services."

Ryan said developers can even use Visual Studio Code on a project created with the full Visual Studio IDE. "For example, imagine creating a Cordova project using Ionic templates with Visual Studio on a Windows machine, then opening it on an OS X or Linux machine using Visual Studio Code—making some edits—then continuing your work in the Visual Studio IDE," he said.

Visual Studio Code and Cordova Tools currently support debugging apps on emulators, simulators and tethered devices for Android and iOS.

Visual Studio Code is a free, lightweight, cross-platform code editor for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. It includes many of the familiar features of Visual Studio, such as IntelliSense, peek, code navigation and debugging, but it centers on being a keyboard-centric editor. It supports a wide range of languages with enhanced support for Node.js and ASP.NET 5.

"What’s interesting about VS Code and Microsoft’s tools in general is the speed at which the team is iterating," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC. "Code is a strategic new lightweight IDE or editor from Microsoft and it is particularly well suited for multi-platform workflows and technologies. Supporting Cordova development is important in that it is an important approach for app dev today where the hybrid apps are developed with Web technologies and use the WebView module in the runtime of the app. A large number of dev tools use this kind of hybrid approach especially for enterprise mobility."

Microsoft introduced Visual Studio Code in preview at its Build 2015 conference in San Francisco last year.

"Visual Studio Code is a neat tool and something they totally needed to do," said Miguel de Icaza, chief technology officer at Xamarin, a close Microsoft partner in the tools space. "This is a boost for server-side Web app development and ASP.NET. Most Web developers aren't using Visual Studio, so this is a way to appeal to them."

Meanwhile, Jules Kramer, technical program manager for Angular at Google, said her team built Angular 2—the latest version of the popular open-source JavaScript framework—in collaboration with Microsoft, using Microsoft's TypeScript and Visual Studio Code offerings.

"Many of the Google devs on the Angular core team use Visual Studio Code because it lets them work better together," Kramer said. "The code readability and navigation features of the code editor help them be more productive and refactor code faster. As an open-source framework, Angular is contributed to by hundreds if not thousands of people around the world. Angular simply would not be what it is today without that collaboration—especially with Microsoft."