The Command-line Interface

This guide shows you how to create applications and deploy them to various native mobile platforms using the cordova command-line interface (CLI). This tool allows you to create new projects, build them on different platforms, and run them within an emulator. You can also use the CLI to initialize project code, after which you use various platforms' SDKs to develop them further.


Before running any command-line tools, you need to install SDKs for each platform you wish to target. (See the Platform Guides for more details.)

To add support or rebuild a project for any platform, you need to run the command-line interface from the same machine that supports the platform's SDK. The CLI supports the following combinations:

  • iOS (Mac)
  • Android (Mac, Linux)
  • BlackBerry 10 (Mac, Linux, Windows)
  • Windows Phone 7 (Windows)
  • Windows Phone 8 (Windows)

On the Mac, the command-line is available via the Terminal application. On the PC, it's available as Command Prompt under Accessories.

The more likely it is that you run the CLI from different machines, the more it makes sense to maintain a remote source code repository, whose assets you pull down to local working directories.

To install the cordova command-line tool, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install Node.js. Following installation, you should be able to invoke node or npm on your command line.

  2. Install the cordova utility. In Unix, prefixing the additional sudo command may be necessary to install development utilities in otherwise restricted directories:

     $ sudo npm install -g cordova

    The installation log may produce errors for any uninstalled platform SDKs. Following installation, you should be able to run cordova on the command line.

Create the App

Go to the directory where you maintain your source code, and run a command such as the following:

    $ cordova create hello com.example.hello HelloWorld

It may take some time for the command to complete, so be patient. Run the cordova -d to see information about progress.

The first argument specifies a hello directory to be generated for your project. Its www subdirectory houses your application's home page, along with various resources under css, js, and img, which follow common web development file-naming conventions. The config.xml file contains important metadata needed to generate and distribute the application.

The other two arguments are optional: the com.example.hello argument provides your project with a reverse domain-style identifier, and the HelloWorld provides the application's display text. You can edit both of these values later in the config.xml file.

Add Platforms

All subsequent commands need to be run within the project's directory, or any subdirectories within its scope:

    $ cd hello

Before you can build the project, you need to specify a set of target platforms. Your ability to run these commands depends on whether your machine supports each SDK, and whether you have already installed each SDK. Run any of these from a Mac:

    $ cordova platform add ios
    $ cordova platform add android
    $ cordova platform add blackberry10

Run any of these from a Windows machine, where wp refers to different versions of the Windows Phone operating system:

    $ cordova platform add wp7
    $ cordova platform add wp8
    $ cordova platform add android
    $ cordova platform add blackberry10

Run this to check your current set of platforms:

    $ cordova platforms ls

(Note the platform and platforms commands are synonymous.)

Run either of the following synonymous commands to remove a platform:

    $ cordova platform remove blackberry10
    $ cordova platform rm android

Running commands to add or remove platforms affects the contents of the project's platforms directory, where each specified platform appears as a subdirectory. The www source directory is reproduced within each platform's subdirectory, appearing for example in platforms/ios/www or platforms/android/assets/www. By default, each platform's configuration file is set up to be able to access all of Cordova's APIs.

If you wish, you can use an SDK at this point to open the project you created. However, any edits you make to the project within an SDK affect the derivative set of assets, not the original cross-platform source files. Use this approach if you simply want to initialize a project. (See the Platform Guides for information on how to develop applications within each SDK.) Read on if you wish to use command-line tools for the entire development cycle.

Build the App

By default, the cordova create script generates a skeletal web-based application whose home page is the project's www/index.html file. Edit this application however you want, but any initialization should be specified as part of the [deviceready](../../cordova/events/events.deviceready.html) event handler, referenced by default from www/js/index.js.

Run the following command to iteratively build the project:

    $ cordova build

This generates platform-specific code within the project's platforms subdirectory. You can optionally limit the scope of each build to specific platforms:

    $ cordova build ios

The cordova build command is a shorthand for the following, which in this example is also targeted to a single platform:

    $ cordova prepare ios
    $ cordova compile ios

In this case, once you run prepare, you can use Apple's Xcode SDK as an alternative to modify and compile the platform-specific code that Cordova generates within platforms/ios. You can use the same approach with other platforms' SDKs.

Test the App on an Emulator or Device

SDKs for mobile platforms often come bundled with emulators that execute a device image, so that you can launch the app from the home screen and see how it interacts with many platform features. Run a command such as the following to rebuild the app and view it within a specific platform's emulator:

    $ cordova emulate android

Some mobile platforms emulate a particular device by default, such as the iPhone for iOS projects. For other platforms, you may need to first associate a device with an emulator. (See the Platform Guides for details.) For example, you may first run the android command to launch the Android SDK, then run a particular device image, which launches it according to its default behavior:

Following up with the cordova emulate command refreshes the emulator image to display the latest application, which is now available for launch from the home screen:

Alternately, you can plug the handset into your computer and test the app directly:

    $ cordova run android

Before running this command, you need to set up the device for testing, following procedures that vary for each platform. In Android's case, you would have to enable a USB debugging option on the device, and perhaps add a USB driver depending on your development environmnent. See Platform Guides for details on each platform's requirements.

Add Features

When you build and view a new project, the default application that appears doesn't do very much. You can modify the app in many ways to take advantage of standard web technologies, but for the app to communicate closely with various device-level features, you need to add plugins that provide access to core Cordova APIs.

A plugin is a bit of add-on code that provides an interface to native components. You can design your own plugin interface, for example when designing a hybrid app that mixes a Cordova WebView with native components. (See Embedding WebViews and Plugin Development Guide for details.) More commonly, you would add a plugin to enable one of Cordova's basic device-level features detailed in the API Reference.

The cordova plugin add command requires you to specify the repository for the plugin code. Here are examples of features you might add:

  • Basic device information (Device API):

      $ cordova plugin add
  • Network Connection and Battery Events:

      $ cordova plugin add
      $ cordova plugin add
  • Accelerometer, Compass, and Geolocation:

      $ cordova plugin add
      $ cordova plugin add
      $ cordova plugin add
  • Camera, Media playback and Capture:

      $ cordova plugin add
      $ cordova plugin add
      $ cordova plugin add    
  • Access files on device or network (File API):

      $ cordova plugin add
      $ cordova plugin add
  • Notification via dialog box or vibration:

      $ cordova plugin add
      $ cordova plugin add
  • Contacts:

      $ cordova plugin add
  • Globalization:

      $ cordova plugin add
  • Splashscreen:

      $ cordova plugin add
  • Open new browser windows (InAppBrowser):

      $ cordova plugin add
  • Debug console:

      $ cordova plugin add

Use plugin ls (or plugin list, or plugin by itself) to view currently installed plugins. Each displays by its identifier:

    $ cordova plugin ls    # or 'plugin list'
    [ 'org.apache.cordova.core.console' ]

To remove a plugin, refer to it by the same identifier that appears in the listing. For example, here is how you would remove support for a debug console from a release version:

    $ cordova plugin rm org.apache.cordova.core.console        
    $ cordova plugin remove org.apache.cordova.core.console    # same

You can batch-remove or add plugins by specifying more than one argument for each command.

Customize Each Platform

While Cordova allows you to easily deploy an app for many different platforms, sometimes you need to add customizations. In that case, you don't want to modify the source files in various www directories within the top-level platforms directory, because they're regularly replaced with the top-level www directory's cross-platform source.

Instead, the top-level merges directory offers a place to specify assets to deploy on specific platforms. Each platform-specific subdirectory within merges mirrors the directory structure of the www source tree, allowing you to override or add files as needed. For example, here is how you might uses merges to boost the default font size for Android devices:

  • Edit the www/index.html file, adding a link to an additional CSS file, overrides.css in this case:

      <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="css/overrides.css" />
  • Optionally create an empty www/css/overrides.css file, which would apply for all non-Android builds, preventing a missing-file error.

  • Create a css subdirectory within merges/android, then add a corresponding overrides.css file. Specify CSS that overrides the 12-point default font size specified within www/css/index.css, for example:

      body { font-size:14px; }

When you rebuild the project, the Android version features the custom font size, while others remain unchanged.

You can also use merges to add files not present in the original www directory. For example, an app can incorporate a back button graphic into the iOS interface, stored in merges/ios/img/back_button.png, while the Android version can instead capture [backbutton](../../cordova/events/events.backbutton.html) events from the corresponding hardware button.

Updating Cordova

After installing the cordova utility, you can always update it to the latest version by running the following command:

    $ sudo npm update -g cordova

Use this syntax to install a specific version:

    $ sudo npm install -g cordova@3.0.0

Run cordova -v to see the currently running version. Run the npm info command for a longer listing that includes the current version along with other available version numbers:

    $ npm info cordova

Cordova 3.0 is the first version to support the command-line interface described in this section. If you are updating from a version prior to 3.0, you need to create a new project as described above, then copy the older application's assets into the top-level www directory. Where applicable, further details about upgrading to 3.0 are available in the Platform Guides. Once you upgrade to the cordova command-line interface and use npm update to stay current, the more time-consuming procedures described there are no longer relevant.