Building a Tabris.js App

Tabris.js utilizes Apache Cordova to build and package apps. Apps can be built without any local setup using the free online build service on To build an app on your local machine, you need to setup developer tools like Xcode or the Android SDK. The following features are supported by the two different build types.

  Build Service Local Build
Building iOS Apps
Building Android Apps
Integrate Cordova Plugins
Cordova Build Hooks
Custom Project Structure
Own Build Scripts  
Using own build hardware  
Other SCMs than Git  

Note: The online build service is free for public GitHub repositories. To built from a private repository, you need a developer account. To build an app locally you need a pro account.

Project Layout

To prepare your project for the build, you have to create a subdirectory named cordova that contains the build configuration. The layout of a Tabris.js project might look like this:

|- cordova/
    |- config.xml
|- src/
    |- <.js files>
|- test/
    |- <.spec.js files>
|- package.json
|- .tabrisignore

The config.xml

The minimal build configuration you need is a config.xml file that describes your app. The config.xml contains information like the id of your app, its version, icons and splash screens. The format of the config.xml is the same as a standard Cordova config.xml file. A minimal example config could look like this:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
<widget id="" version="1.0.0">
    A sample Tabris.js application.
  <author email="" href="">
    Tabris.js Team

The .tabrisignore file

The build service packages the contents of your project into the app. You can exclude certain files or directories that are not required in the packaged app, such as tests or developer documentation. Files and directories to be ignored by the build can be listed in a file named .tabrisignore. The format of this ignore file follows the same rules as a .gitignore file.

Note: The .tabrisignore file is only relevant for the build service. In a local build, you have to manage the packaged files yourself (see below).

Build Service offers a free online build service for Tabris.js apps. After signing in you can create an app in the “My Apps” section by clicking “Create App”. Now you can select your GitHub repository in the list of repositories (if it’s not visible you may need to press the “synchronize” button). Users on the Developer plan can also use self hosted Git repositories. Create an App After you have selected your repository it’s going to be validated. The validation checks if the selected repository contains a valid Tabris.js project layout. If you have a valid project structure and config.xml, your app should become valid shortly. If it’s invalid, the site will tell you what went wrong. In this case please follow the instructions displayed. Valid App After your app has become valid, you are ready to execute the first build. Just select the newly created app and click the “Start Android Build” button. A few minutes later you will get an Android .apk file which is ready to be installed on your device. But what about iOS, production builds and signing? All these things can be configured using the “Settings”.

Note: The build service installs the dependencies specified in your package.json from npm (except devDependencies). As a result, you don’t have to put the node_modules folder under version control.


App Settings

  • Repository URL: This is the URL of your git repository. If you’re using the free build, it should point to a public GitHub repository. Users who are on the Developer plan can also use private GitHub repositories and custom repository locations.
  • SSH Private Key: A SSH private key to access your repository. Only relevant for git repositories which are not hosted on GitHub.
  • Branch: The git branch to build from. The default value is master. If you want to build from a feature branch, you may specify the branch here.
  • App Directory: The directory within your repository that contains your Tabris.js app. The value must be relative to the repository root.
  • iOS Signing Key: iOS apps can not be deployed to a mobile device without being signed. If you want to build an iOS app you need an Apple Developer account and provide the certificate together with the provisioning profile. A very good tutorial on how to get these files can be found in the Phonegap Build documentation.
  • Android Signing Key: Android apps needs to be signed with a certificate only if you want to deploy them to Google Play. You can find a very good tutorial in the Phonegap Build documentation as well.
  • Tabris.js Version: The Tabris.js client version to use in the app. In contrast to the “tabris” dependency to your package.json which defines the version of the JavaScript module, this setting defines the version of the native client that will interpret your JavaScript code. In most cases, the value latest is good enough here. But if you want to stick to a fixed Tabris.js version you can configure it here.
  • Debug: Enables the debug mode. If set to ON, your app will be built including debug symbols and it will be packaged into the Tabris.js developer app to make development easier. This allows you to use all the benefits like the developer console or the reload also with your own app. Please be aware that debug versions can not be submitted to the app stores. Debug OFF means your app will be built to be ready for release: no developer app, no console, no reload. Only your JavaScript code is executed.

Adding Plugins

To add a set of Apache Cordova Plugins you only need to add them to the config.xml. The online build supports the <gap:plugin /> tag that you might already know from Phonegap Build. This tag allows you to add plugins using an ID, an HTTP or a git URL. A sample config.xml including two Cordova plugins could look like this:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
  <gap:plugin name="" />
  <gap:plugin name="org.apache.cordova.dialogs" />

Please Note: You need to include the gap XML namespace in the root element of your config.xml file, as seen in the example above.

Local Build

You can build Tabris.js apps on your local machine using the Cordova command line interface.


If you’re targeting iOS you will need MacOS, while Android apps can be build on any OS that is supported by the Android SDK.

You also need a Cordova installation. Follow the Cordova Installation Guide and install the latest Cordova version on your system.

The Cordova CLI expects a standard directory layout. That is, the config.xml is required at the root of the project and a www folder must exist which contains your actual Tabris.js app.

|- config.xml
|- www
    |-- package.json
    |-- app.js

This directory structure can easily be created using the cordova create command as described in the Cordova CLI Guide. After creating the project you will have a typical Cordova project layout including the www directory. The default content which was created automatically is not needed and can be deleted.

Adding Tabris.js platforms

Tabris.js ships two custom Cordova platforms. This includes platforms for iOS and Android. Visit the Tabris.js download page and download the platform of your choice.

Please Note: Local builds are a Pro feature. If you don’t see the download you are probably not on a Pro plan.

Extract the content of the downloaded archive and add the platform to your project using the cordova platform add command. You need to append the path to the download platform. E.g.:

cordova platform add /Users/Me/Downloads/tabris-ios
cordova platform add /Users/Me/Downloads/tabris-android

or for Windows users:

cordova platform add c:\MyDownloads\tabris-ios
cordova platform add c:\MyDownloads\tabris-android

Integrate Cordova Plugins

You can integrate all available Cordova Plugins using the cordova plugin add command. Read the Cordova Plugin Installation Guide for a detailed description of this command.

An example of adding the Cordova Camera Plugin will result in this command:

cordova plugin add

Important: You can install all available Cordova Plugins. Most of the Plugins will work out of the box but not all. This is because Tabris.js uses a native UI and no HTML5. As a result all Plugins that manipulate the DOM will not work.

The Application Code

The code of a Cordova Application is placed in the www directory. This is where you need to place your Tabris.js project files (package.json, node_modules folder, and all your own modules and resources).

Building/Running an App

To run an app, use the cordova run command as described in the Cordova Emulator and Device Guide.

Building an app is just as simple. Use the cordova build command as described in the Cordova Build Guide.


In addition to the settings described in the Cordova config.xml Guide, Tabris.js also takes the following modified/additional config.xml attributes into account. These attributes apply to both, the online and the local build.


The optional <content> element defines the app’s starting page in ordinary Cordova apps. In Tabris.js you can use it to define the location of the package.json file within the www folder. E.g. <content src="mySubFolder/package.json"/>


Tabris.js accepts the following custom preferences:

Name Allowed Values Default Value Description
EnableDeveloperConsole true/false false Enables/Disables the Tabris.js Developer Console.
UseStrictSSL true/false true Activate/Deactivate SSL certificate validation on XHR. When disabled self signed SSL certificates are accepted. Should be enabled in production.

Android specific preferences

Name Value
Theme <ul><li></li><li></li><li> (Default)</ul> In addition to these three bundled themes, a reference to any other Android theme can be specified (must be a fully qualified name).