16 Jun 2017

Using PhoneGap Plugins to Create a Splash Screen Part Two: Using PhoneGap Plugins

PhoneGap Plugins Logo
Part one of this blog series, Using PhoneGap Plugins to Create a Splash Screen Part One: Creating a Splash Screen discusses how to design splash screens for mobile applications. In this part of the series you will learn how to use PhoneGap plugins to apply the screen you created. PhoneGap provides a series of core plugins that help developers take advantage of a mobile device’s native features such as the camera or ability to vibrate. There are three places you can look for pre built plugins. You can search npm, git repositories or PhoneGap’s plugin repository. In this post you will be using a plugin from PhoneGap’s base repository, the splash screen plugin.

Plugins need to be implemented differently for each platform so you need to be sure to read into how to how apply the one you have selected correctly for the device you are working on. In this example you will be installing the splash screen plugin on an android device.

Step 1) Importing your Plugin

You will import the plugin that you have chosen into your config.xml file. You need to include the plugin name, spec, and source. The spec is your plugin version, your plugin will work without this, but it is highly recommended that you include the version. The source for plugins from the PhoneGap core where the splash screen is located will be “pgb”. The import script for the splash screen will look like this once all of the parameters are added:

<plugin name="cordova-plugin-splashscreen" spec="~4.0.2" source=”pgb” />

Some plugins require you to add in a reference to the javascript files. This is not the case with most PhoneGap core plugins like the splash screen plugin. If you are required to reference the files you will not be adding them into your project when you upload it on PhoneGap Build. The files will be automatically injected by PhoneGap and adding them in advance will cause problems with your build. Read the documentation for your plugin if you are using a different plugin, as mentioned before each one is different.

Step 2) Adding Your Platforms

Once you have loaded in your splash screen plugin you will need to specify the platforms you are targeting. In this example you are using Android. To do this you will add the following code to your config.xml file.

 <platform name="android"></platform>

If you would like to add in other platforms the format is the same. There is no limit on the number of platforms you can use.

Step 3) Add Your Screens

The step is to add in your splash screen files. If you read part one of this post you will be using the png files you created. Nest them into your platform tags. You will have one default screen and a landscape and portrait screen for each pixel density.

    <platform name="android">
        <splash src="splash.png" />
        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-port-ldpi.png" platform="android" density="port-ldpi" />
        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-port-mdpi.png" platform="android" density="port-mdpi" />
        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-port-hdpi.png" platform="android" density="port-hdpi" />
        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-port-xhdpi.png" platform="android" density="port-xhdpi" />

        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-land-ldpi.png" platform="android" density="land-ldpi" />
        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-land-mdpi.png" platform="android" density="land-mdpi" />
        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-land-hdpi.png" platform="android" density="land-hdpi"  />
        <splash src="res/screen/android/splash-land-xhdpi.png" platform="android" density="land-xhdpi"  />
    </platform>
Step 4) Customize Your Splash Screen with Preferences

Now it is time to customize your splash screen. The splash screen plugin gives you a few different preferences to work with. The following are a few examples that you can use.

SplashScreenDelay
The SplashScreenDelay lets you add a delay to the amount of time before the splash screen is hidden. This is set in milliseconds. It is useful when you want to expose users to your branding but your application has little or no loading time. This can also be set to 0 to force your screen to automatically hide.

 <preference name="SplashScreenDelay" value="3000" />

FadeSplashScreen and FadeSplashScreenDuration
FadeSplashScreen can be set to true to give your screen a fading effect as it transitions to the application. You can set how long this transition takes with fadeSplashScreenDuration, also set in milliseconds.

   <preference name="FadeSplashScreen" value="true"/>
   <preference name="FadeSplashScreenDuration" value="750"/>

ShowSplashScreenSpinner and SplashScreenSpinnerColor
Lastly you should add your spinner. You learned about the parts of a splash screen in the first part of this series. Now is when we add in our spinner. This is set with ShowSplashScreenSpinner. You can also change the color of your spinner to go along with your application by using SplashScreenSpinnerColor.

   <preference name="ShowSplashScreenSpinner" value="true"/>
   <preference name="SplashScreenSpinnerColor" value="#ffffff"/>

Step 5) Add the Splash Screen to your PhoneGap Project

Log into your PhoneGap Build account. Find the application project you were working on in the last post. Click on the Update code button and reload your project. Once you have done this click on Rebuild all. Download the new version of the project to your android device. Open up the application on your phone. You will notice you are now being greeted by your new splash screen!

Feel free to download the example Android APK installer here: http://office.realeyes.com/reblog-downloads/reRealEstate-splashScreen.apk

Share this
20 Apr 2017

Using Phonegap Plugins to Create a Splash Screen: Part One

A splash screen is a graphical element that appears when an app launches or is loading. The basic splash screen usually contains a logo, the application or brand name and a loading bar. Splash screens are more of a necessity for larger applications that take time to load. Having a user look at a blank screen while waiting for the app to load increases their perceived wait time. If you have a smaller application with less loading time, splash screens are a good opportunity to expose users to your logo and improve brand recognition .

 

The following is part one of a two part series on creating a splash screen for your mobile application. In this section you will learn about the elements included in a splash screen, how to design a splash screen, and the design files you will need to implement your design on an active mobile application.

 

If you have been following the RealEyes blog series on building mobile applications using Google Material and Cordova PhoneGap this post will continue to add to the real estate rating application you have been building. If you have not been following along, and would like to learn to build a mobile application using Cordova PhoneGap and Google Material the following are links to the previous posts:

If you have not been following the RealEyes blog series on building mobile applications using Google Material and Cordova PhoneGap this is still a great reference for improving your mobile application with a well designed splash screen.

 

Step 1) Knowing the Design Elements

The splash screen has two main objectives. The first objective of the splash screen is to let the user know that the application they are trying to launch is loading. The second objective is to give the user extra exposure to your brand. You are going to accomplish these goals with the two key elements of the splash screen, the loading bar and the brand logo. Google also suggests that you expose placeholder UI. Placeholder UI  includes core structural elements such as a status bar to give a smooth transition into the application. Extra elements that can be added into the splash screen is the brand or application name, brand slogan, the application version number and any other graphical elements that increase brand recognition. When choosing what to add to your splash screen remember to keep it simple, less is better.

Design Elements :

(Suggested)

  • Logo
  • Loading bar
  • Placeholder UI

(Optional)

  • Application name
  • Slogan
  • Version number

 

Below are some examples of splash screens:

 

 

Step 2) The Design Specs

When designing splash screens you need to account for different screen sizes as well as different orientations. Therefore every screen size qualifier should have two different images, one for landscape and a second for portrait. In the demo you are looking to create an app for an Android device. If you are building for other devices you can find the design specs here. All files should be in a png format.

 

 

Name DPI Portrait Landscape
XHDPI 320dpi 720px X 1280px 1280px X 720px
HDPI 240dpi 480px X 800px 800px X 480px
MDPI 160dpi 320px X 480px 480px X 320px
LDPI 120dpi 200px X 320px 320px X 200px

 

Step 3) Designing your Splash Screen

Now it is time to put it all together! You are going to build a simple splash screen for the real estate application you have been building over the last few posts. You will use the application logo (the design you are using for your icon), the app name (Real Estate Rater), and the color scheme from the app with a light texture. The placeholder UI and the load bar will be added and configured when the design is implemented in PhoneGap with your plugin. When you create your design you need to remember to use a vector image so you can easily recreate the image in multiple size files.

You now have a set of splash screens that are ready to be added to any android application! If you would like to learn how to implement your new design in a PhoneGap project using the splash screen plugin, look out for our next blog post: Using PhoneGap to Create Splash Screens: Part Two

Share this
11 Apr 2017

Creating a Product Icon for Your App with Material Design and PhoneGap

You and your team may have spent months developing a great application. Now it’s time to put it on the market for users to discover. In a large sea of apps you need to make a great first impression to stand out from the crowd. A well designed product icon will help you accomplish this. The product icon is the first and sometimes only part of your app a potential user will see. The icon you design needs to represent your app in a clean, eye catching fashion. It needs to give potential users an idea of what your app does while gaining their trust with a quality design.

In this post we will be showing you some guidelines to follow in order to create a well designed product icon. We will be using Google Material design standards along with PhoneGap to complete our project. If you have been following our blog we will be using the real estate reviewing app that we have been building over the last few posts Creating Cross Platform Mobile Applications with Cordova/PhoneGap and A Comparison of Material Design Frameworks. If you have not been following our blog you can still use this as a guide for creating an icon for your own project. Let’s get started!

 

Step 1) The Concept

First thing you need is a good concept. Your concept should represent your app simply. It should give the user an idea of what it does before they ever click on it.

This app is about rating and reviewing real estate so putting the shape of a house in the icon will associate the app with real estate. Adding a star will give some indication of the purpose of the app since users have become accustomed to the star rating system. These two shapes will give users a sense of what the app is about without ever opening it.

Step 2) The Design Specs

One you’ve established an exciting concept you may want to jump into creating it. First, however, you should look up the specs for the icon. You’ll need to create the same icon a few different times in multiple sizes in order to account for different screen pixel densities. This means your icon needs to be scalable and for that reason, using a vector graphic is highly recommended. The following is a chart of the naming conventions, dpi, and sizes for the Android icons that you would need to create.

xxxhdpi 640dpi 192px X 192px
xxhdpi 480dpi 144px X 144px
xhdpi 320dpi 96px X 96px
hdpi 240dpi 72px X 72px
mdpi 160dpi 48px X 48px

 

Step 3 ) Designing the Icon

Now that you know the sizes and naming conventions required, it’s time to start designing. For this, you can use Google Material’s guidelines to create the icon. These design guidelines are already implemented through the app via the Materialize framework. It is good practice to sync the design of the icon with the design of the app. After all, the icon is supposed to be a preview of the rest of the application.

 

As discussed in our post Initial Thoughts on Google Material Design Material design is based around the concept of digital design inspired by the physical world. The same concept is applied in product icon design. Product icons like most good design is based on a grid system that you can see below. Along with this grid system, a keyline grid to guide for pre-rendered base shapes is provided. You can use these guides when designing the icon.

The Grid and Keylines

Google Material Design - Grid and Keylines

 

Get Your Base Down

To start, add the base lines to the grid to form the outline of the icon design. Once you have a blueprint of what is being designed, start putting the pieces into place. First, fill in the background. In this example the main color in the application, teal, is being used. Remember to keep your color scheme consistent to what you are using in your app. The background will have two additional parts. The top of the icon will have what is called a ‘tinted edge’ this is the original color mixed with white. The bottom will have what is called a ‘shaded edge’. This is the background mixed with a darker color to give the appearance of depth to the icon. After the background is in place, color in the foreground.

This is the house shape using white for the foreground.
Icon step 1 - Teal Background and White House

Add Some Color
Next, add some spot color to the icon. This is a highlight on your icon using a small amount of a secondary color. We are going to use yellow on the star as the spot color.

Icon Step 2 - Spot Color - Yellow Star

Give the Icon Depth
Lastly, give the icon elements depth by adding shadows. Imagine a light source coming from the top left corner of the icon at a 45 degree angle. Add a soft shadow from the foreground onto the background to separate them.

Here is the final result.

Icon Step 3 - Adding Depth

Experiment
You can also try experimenting with different background shapes using the same guidelines. Have fun!

Icon Design Experimentation - Round Background

 

Step 4) Create and Name Your Icon Files

Use the chart in step 2 to create your icon files. Use the name in column 1 the dpi in column 2 and the width X height in column 3. Save your files as pngs. Once you have all of your files created, add them to the config.xml file in your PhoneGap app.

 

Step 5) Add the Icon to Your PhoneGap Project

Log into your PhoneGap Build account. Find the application project you were working on in the last post. Click on the Update code button and reload your project.

PhoneGap Build - Update Code

Once you have done this click on Rebuild all. You will see your icon replace the default PhoneGap icon in your project space. You now have a brand new product icon to represent your app! Feel free to download the example Android APK installer here: http://office.realeyes.com/reblog-downloads/reRealEstate.apk

Share this
05 Apr 2017

Creating Cross-platform Mobile Applications with Cordova / PhoneGap

PhoneGap Logo

In 1994 IBM released Simon, Simon is widely considered to be the first “smartphone” it was the first mobile device to use a touch screen and run apps. In the 90s and 2000s the mobile market has exploded with applications and devices, for developers this means needing to be able to develop apps for not only different size screens a but also for different platforms. Ideally it would be nice to find a cross-platform solution to write once and deploy “everywhere”. To account for different screen sizes we work with responsive design, where content moves fluidly to adapt to the size of the browser it is being viewed in.

 

Using responsive design works great for web applications, but what if we want to take our web application and  have it become a mobile application?  That is not as simple, to get our app to work on an Android device we need to rebuild it with the Android SDK, and then we need to build it again in Swift/Objective-C for IOS. Lucky for us there is an easy way to get the same responsive web app we built earlier to run as a mobile app on Android and IOS without having to rebuild it. Apache Cordova has created a technology that takes our HTML, CSS and JavaScript and transforms it into a mobile application that can be used across an array of different platforms.

 

In an earlier blog post we created a real estate rating application using different Google Material based design frameworks. Currently these applications are web apps and can be run off of your smartphone, but only through opening up your mobile browser and navigating to the page where the app is being hosted.

 

In this post, we will show you how to use Adobe’s PhoneGap – an open source distribution of Cordova – to simulate and build mobile apps using just HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

 

What you need to get started

  • A computer (We are using windows)
  • A mobile device  (We are using android)

 

Part 1 – Simulating and testing the application with Cordova PhoneGap

 

Step 1 ) Find a web application project to work with

First you will need to have a project to start with. You can either use one of your own web applications or you can clone the app we will be working with. We are going to be using our real estate app from an older blog post about using different UI frameworks. You can clone the project here.

Step 2) Install the PhoneGap Desktop Application

Now that we have our project we need to install the PhoneGap application on our computer. Click this link to download the desktop application.

Step 2) Install PhoneGap on your mobile device

On your mobile device you will need to install the free PhoneGap developer app. It is available on iTunes, Google Play and the Windows Phone Store.

 

Step 3 ) Create your app template and connect your devices

The next step is to create our app template. To do this open your PhoneGap desktopPhoneGap Mobile App Template app and click the add button on the menu. Select ‘Create new project’. Then select the blank project. There are also some other templates available for you to play with later on. Next, choose a folder on your file system in which to place the app. Give the app a name and ID click to create the project.

Now that you have your app template created open your mobile PhoneGap developer application. Replace the server address with the one highlighted in your PhoneGap desktop app and try to connect.

PhoneGap Mobile App Template - Server Address

If you can not connect try these steps to debug:

  • Check that you have the latest versions of the mobile PhoneGap developer app and PhoneGap desktop app (if you just downloaded them you should)
  • Make sure you do not have any firewalls blocking your connections
  • Check that your computer and phone are on the same wifi network

 

Step 4) Replace the template application code with your code

Go into the /www folder in your new template application. This is will be the root of your application code. You will notice that there is already an index file referencing the Cordova framework through a <script> tag:

<script type="text/javascript" src="cordova.js"></script>

You will want to copy your application files to the /www folder, open up your index.html, and add the Cordova <script> tag to your application. At this point you can save your index.html and you’ll be ready to test how well your app runs on a device.

Here’s a screenshot of what the demo-app-house-materialize project looks like with the Cordova script reference.

Adding Cordova Framework to Your Code

 

Step 5) View your app on different mobile devices

Select the play button to start the server for your application in the PhoneGap desktop app. You will now be able to connect to it via the PhoneGap developer app on your mobile device. When you click to connect in the PhoneGap developer app on your phone PhoneGap will wrap your HTML/JS/CSS application into a mobile friendly package. Then your application will be launched on your Android or iOS mobile device.

Step 6 ) Enhance, review, repeat

You can now enhance your app so that the mobile app looks as good as the web app looked. One example would be to modify the CSS file to make the container of the app 100% instead of a fixed pixel width.

 

Part 2 – Packaging our project as a mobile app

Step 1 ) Get started with PhoneGap Build

Go to:  PhoneGap BuildPhoneGap Build Logo

Click ‘get started’
Pick your plan (we are using the free plan)
Create an account and log in

 

Step 2) Uploading your project

Before you upload your app you will need to prep it. Whether the app is in a git repo or is uploaded as a zip file it will need an application descriptor config.xml file. We will go the zip file route:

  1. First, copy the config.xml from the PhoneGap project root to the /www folder that represents your “app”.
  2. Make sure all of the libraries, fonts, icons and frameworks you are using are also properly referenced and exist somewhere under your /www folder.
  3. Zip up the /www folder.

Now, to upload your app:

  1. Log into PhoneGap Build
  2. Click the ‘+ new app’ button
  3. Click the ‘Upload a .zip file’ button and select the zip file you created.

Once the zipfile is uploaded you will see a screen similar to the following screenshot.

PhoneGap Build - App Uploaded

 

Notice that in addition to building your app, you have the options to enable debugging and enable hydration. Debugging gives you access to a set of tools similar to the debugging tools available in your browser. Hydration helps with pushing code updates automatically.

If you want to generate the installation assets for each platform click the ‘Ready to build’ button. Doing this will result in the following screen.

PhoneGap Build - App Built

 

Step 3) Downloading your installers.

From the screen posted above you can see that by default you will have the ability to download builds for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Although you can immediately download install assets for Android and Windows Phone right after building, you will need to provide a signing key for iOS before you can create iOS builds. Here’s some info on that: http://docs.phonegap.com/phonegap-build/signing/ios/

We will download an Android APK installer. Click on the Android button and a browser download prompt will display. Choose a folder on your machine to save your APK.

 

Step 4) Run the app on your Android phone
  • On your Android device, go into your security settings. Turn on the option to allow installation of apps from unknown sources.
  • Through some means, e.g. email attachment, get the APK install file on your android device and open it.
  • When you open the file it will ask you if you want to install it and at that time choose yes.
  • Congratulations you’ve now converted your web application into a mobile application and it’s running on your mobile device!

 

If you would like to view our final Android project you can download the apk file.

Sources

Share this
27 Aug 2014

Debugging on Mobile with Weinre

There is no substitution for actually testing on the device. Between all the different iOS and Android configurations, not to mention the cloud of other manufacturers and OSes, you’re bound to discover some peculiar behavior that only occurs on the device. What to do?

read more
Share this
19 Feb 2014

A Quick Guide to Chrome's New Built-in Device Emulation

When you consider that over the past 5 years mobile devices have risen from 0.9% to over 15% of all internet traffic, it’s become increasingly important to make sure that there is at least a basic level of support for mobile users in anything you build. While there are new tools and technologies popping up daily to help make that easier, there are still an incredible number of challenges involved.

read more
Share this
26 Nov 2013

Working with Speech Recognition ANEs for Android

Adding speech recognition to a mobile application sounds like something that would be too difficult to be worth the while. Well, that may not necessarily be the case. If you’re building an AIR application for Android, there are some very easy ways to add in voice commands or speech recognition. If you want to take your app hands free, add in some richness, put in voice chat, or make a game with voice controls, speech recognition, check this post out.

read more
Share this
02 Oct 2013

Adobe AIR on Android – Reading Files from SDCard

Today, I ran into a use case where I needed to access a video file that had been saved by an external application to a subdirectory of the SDCard. At first I thought, hey, no problem, for that I have File.getRootDirectories(). Problem is, on Android…this doesn’t work too well.

read more
Share this
20 Mar 2011

© 2017 RealEyes Media, LLC. All rights reserved.