iOS Plugins

A plugin is an Objective-C class that extends the CDVPlugin class.

Each plugin class must be registered as a <feature> tag in the config.xml file. It is through this mechanism that JavaScript's exec method's service parameter maps to an Objective-C class.

Plugin Class Mapping

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

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

This marshals a request from the UIWebView to the iOS native side, more or less boiling down to calling the action method on the service class, with the arguments passed in the args array.

Specifiy the plugin as a <feature> tag in your Cordova-iOS application's project's config.xml file.

<feature name="LocalStorage">
    <param name="ios-package" value="CDVLocalStorage" />

The feature name attribute should match what you use in the JavaScript exec call's service parameter, and the value attribute should match the name of the plugin's Objective-C class. <param name> should always be "ios-package". If you do not follow this setup, the plugin may compile but will not be reachable by Cordova.

Plugin Initialization and Lifetime

One instance of a plugin object is created for the life of each UIWebView. Plugins are not instantiated until they are first referenced by a call from JavaScript, unless <param> with an onload name attribute is set to "true" in config.xml. E.g.:

<feature name="Echo">
    <param name="ios-package" value="Echo" />
    <param name="onload" value="true" />

There is no designated initializer for plugins. Instead, plugins should use the pluginInitialize method for their start-up logic.

Plugins with long-running requests, background activity (e.g., playing media), listeners or internal state should implement the onReset method and stop or clean up those activities. This method is run when the UIWebView navigates to a new page or refreshes, which reloads the JavaScript.

Writing an iOS Cordova Plugin

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

What gets dispatched to the plugin via JavaScript's exec function gets passed into the corresponding Plugin class's action method. A plugin method has this signature:

- (void)myMethod:(CDVInvokedUrlCommand*)command
    CDVPluginResult* pluginResult = nil;
    NSString* myarg = [command.arguments objectAtIndex:0];

    if (myarg != nil) {
        pluginResult = [CDVPluginResult resultWithStatus:CDVCommandStatus_OK];
    } else {
        pluginResult = [CDVPluginResult resultWithStatus:CDVCommandStatus_ERROR messageAsString:@"Arg was null"];
    [self.commandDelegate sendPluginResult:pluginResult callbackId:command.callbackId];
  1. CDVInvokedUrlCommand.h

  2. CDVPluginResult.h

  3. CDVCommandDelegate.h

iOS CDVPluginResult message types

Using CDVPluginResult you can return a variety of result types back to your JavaScript callbacks, using class methods that look like:

+ (CDVPluginResult*)resultWithStatus:(CDVCommandStatus)statusOrdinal messageAs...

You can create String, Int, Double, Bool, Array, Dictionary, ArrayBuffer, and Multipart types. Or, don't attach any arguments (just send a status). Or, return an Error. You can even choose to not send any plugin result at all, in which case the callback does not fire.


  • messageAsArrayBuffer expects NSData* and converts to an ArrayBuffer for your JavaScript callback (and ArrayBuffers sent to a plugin from JavaScript are converted to NSData*).
  • messageAsMultipart expects an NSArray* containing any of the other supported types, and sends the whole array as the arguments to your JavaScript callback.
    • Quirk: this is not just syntactic sugar (though it is sweet). This way, all of the arguments are serialized or deserialized as necessary. E.g., it is safe to return NSData* as multipart, but not as Array/Dictionary.

Echo Plugin iOS Plugin

We would add the following to the project's config.xml file:

<feature name="Echo">
    <param name="ios-package" value="Echo" />

Then we would add the following files (Echo.h and Echo.m) to the Plugins folder inside our Cordova-iOS application folder:

/********* Echo.h Cordova Plugin Header *******/

#import <Cordova/CDV.h>

@interface Echo : CDVPlugin

- (void)echo:(CDVInvokedUrlCommand*)command;


/********* Echo.m Cordova Plugin Implementation *******/

#import "Echo.h"
#import <Cordova/CDV.h>

@implementation Echo

- (void)echo:(CDVInvokedUrlCommand*)command
    CDVPluginResult* pluginResult = nil;
    NSString* echo = [command.arguments objectAtIndex:0];

    if (echo != nil && [echo length] > 0) {
        pluginResult = [CDVPluginResult resultWithStatus:CDVCommandStatus_OK messageAsString:echo];
    } else {
        pluginResult = [CDVPluginResult resultWithStatus:CDVCommandStatus_ERROR];

    [self.commandDelegate sendPluginResult:pluginResult callbackId:command.callbackId];


Let's take a look at the code. At the top we have all of the necessary Cordova imports. Our class extends from CDVPlugin (very important).

This plugin only supports one action, the echo action. First, we grab the echo string using the objectAtIndex method on our args, telling it we want to get the 0th parameter in the arguments array. We do a bit of parameter checking: make sure it is not nil, and make sure it is not a zero-length string.

If it is, we return a PluginResult with an ERROR status. 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.

Finally, we send the result to self.commandDelegate, which executes the exec method's success or failure callbacks on the JavaScript side. If the success callback is called, it passes in the echo parameter.


Plugin methods are executed in the same thread as the UI. If your plugin requires a great deal of processing or requires a blocking call, you should use a background thread. For example:

- (void)myPluginMethod:(CDVInvokedUrlCommand*)command
    // Check command.arguments here.
    [self.commandDelegate runInBackground:^{
        NSString* payload = nil;
        // Some blocking logic...
        CDVPluginResult* pluginResult = [CDVPluginResult resultWithStatus:CDVCommandStatus_OK messageAsString:payload];
        // The sendPluginResult method is thread-safe.
        [self.commandDelegate sendPluginResult:pluginResult callbackId:command.callbackId];

Advanced Plugin Functionality

See other methods that you can override in:

For example, you can hook into the pause, resume, app terminate and handleOpenURL events.

Debugging Plugins

To debug the Objective-C side, you would use Xcode's built-in debugger. For JavaScript, on iOS 5.0 you can use Weinre, an Apache Cordova Project or iWebInspector, a third-party utility

For iOS 6, you would use Safari 6.0 to simply attach to your app running in the iOS 6 Simulator.

Common Pitfalls

  • Don't forget to add your plugin's mapping to config.xml. If you forget, an error is logged in the Xcode console.

  • Don't forget to add any hosts you connect to in the whitelist, as described in Domain Whitelist Guide. If you forget, an error is logged in the Xcode console.