Plugin Development Guide

A plugin is a package of injected code that allows the Cordova webview within which the app renders to communicate with the native platform on which it runs. Plugins provide access to device and platform functionality that is ordinarily unavailable to web-based apps. All the main Cordova API features are implemented as plugins, and many others are available that enable features such as bar code scanners, NFC communication, or to tailor calendar interfaces. There is a registry of available plugins.

Plugins comprise a single JavaScript interface along with corresponding native code libraries for each supported platform. In essence this hides the various native code implementations behind a common JavaScript interface.

This section steps through a simple echo plugin that passes a string from JavaScript to the native platform and back, one that you can use as a model to build far more complex features. This section discusses the basic plugin structure and the outward-facing JavaScript interface. For each corresponding native interface, see the list at the end of this section.

In addition to these instructions, when preparing to write a plugin it is best to look over existing plugins for guidance.

Building a Plugin

Application developers use the CLI's plugin add command (discussed in The Command-Line Interface) to apply a plugin to a project. The argument to that command is the URL for a git repository containing the plugin code. This example implements Cordova's Device API:

    $ cordova plugin add

The plugin repository must feature a top-level plugin.xml manifest file. There are many ways to configure this file, details for which are available in the Plugin Specification. This abbreviated version of the Device plugin provides a simple example to use as a model:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <plugin xmlns=""
            id="cordova-plugin-device" version="0.2.3">
        <description>Cordova Device Plugin</description>
        <license>Apache 2.0</license>
        <js-module src="www/device.js" name="device">
            <clobbers target="device" />
        <platform name="ios">
            <config-file target="config.xml" parent="/*">
                <feature name="Device">
                    <param name="ios-package" value="CDVDevice"/>
            <header-file src="src/ios/CDVDevice.h" />
            <source-file src="src/ios/CDVDevice.m" />

The top-level plugin tag's id attribute uses the same reverse-domain format to identify the plugin package as the apps to they're added. The js-module tag specifies the path to the common JavaScript interface. The platform tag specifies a corresponding set of native code, for the ios platform in this case. The config-file tag encapsulates a feature tag that is injected into the platform-specific config.xml file to make the platform aware of the additional code library. The header-file and source-file tags specify the path to the library's component files.

Validating a Plugin

You can use the plugman utility to check whether the plugin installs correctly for each platform. Install plugman with the following node command:

    $ npm install -g plugman

You need an valid app source directory, such as the top-level www directory included in a default CLI-generated project as described in The Command-Line Interface. Make sure the app's index.html home page reference the name of the plugin's JavaScript interface, as if it were in the same source directory:

    <script src="myplugin.js"></script>

Then run a command such as the following to test whether iOS dependencies load properly:

     $ plugman install --platform ios --project /path/to/my/project/www --plugin /path/to/my/plugin

For details on plugman options, see Using Plugman to Manage Plugins. For information on how to actually debug plugins, see each platform's native interface listed at the bottom of this page.

The JavaScript Interface

The JavaScript provides the front-facing interface, making it perhaps the most important part of the plugin. You can structure your plugin's JavaScript however you like, but you need to call cordova.exec to communicate with the native platform, using the following syntax:

    cordova.exec(function(winParam) {},
                 function(error) {},
                 ["firstArgument", "secondArgument", 42, false]);

Here is how each parameter works:

  • function(winParam) {}: A success callback function. Assuming your exec call completes successfully, this function executes along with any parameters you pass to it.

  • function(error) {}: An error callback function. If the operation does not complete successfully, this function executes with an optional error parameter.

  • "service": The service name to call on the native side. This corresponds to a native class, for which more information is available in the native guides listed below.

  • "action": The action name to call on the native side. This generally corresponds to the native class method. See the native guides listed below.

  • [/* arguments */]: An array of arguments to pass into the native environment.

Sample JavaScript

This example shows one way to implement the plugin's JavaScript interface:

    window.echo = function(str, callback) {
        cordova.exec(callback, function(err) {
            callback('Nothing to echo.');
        }, "Echo", "echo", [str]);

In this example, the plugin attaches itself to the window object as the echo function, which plugin users would call as follows:

    window.echo("echome", function(echoValue) {
        alert(echoValue == "echome"); // should alert true.

Look at the last three arguments to the cordova.exec function. The first calls the Echo service, a class name. The second requests the echo action, a method within that class. The third is an array of arguments containing the echo string, which is the window.echo function's the first parameter.

The success callback passed into exec is simply a reference to the callback function window.echo takes. If the native platform fires the error callback, it simply calls the success callback and passes it a default string.

Native Interfaces

Once you define JavaScript for your plugin, you need to complement it with at least one native implementation. Details for each platform are listed below, and each builds on the simple Echo Plugin example above:

Publishing Plugins

Once you develop your plugin, you may want to publish and share it with the community. You can publish your plugin to any npmjs-based registry, but the recommended one is the NPM registry. Please read our publishing plugins to npm guide.

NOTE: Cordova plugin registry is moving to a read-only state. publish/ unpublish commands have been removed from plugman, so you'll need to use corresponding npm commands.

Other developers can install your plugin automatically using either plugman or the Cordova CLI. (For details on each development path, see Using Plugman to Manage Plugins and The Command-Line Interface.)

To publish a plugin to NPM registry you need to follow steps below:

  • create package.json file for your plugin:

    $ plugman createpackagejson /path/to/your/plugin
  • publish it:

    $ npm adduser # that is if you don't have an account yet
    $ npm publish /path/to/your/plugin

That is it!

Running plugman --help lists other available registry-based commands.