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Migrating a Web App Using Cordova to Capacitor

There are several steps required to fully migrate a web app using Cordova over to Capacitor.

It’s recommended to work in a separate code branch when applying these changes.

Add Capacitor

Begin by opening your project in the terminal, then either follow the guides for adding Capacitor to a web app or adding Capacitor to an Ionic app.

Initialize your app with Capacitor. Some of the information you will be prompted for is available in the Cordova config.xml file:

  • The app name can be found within the <name> element.
  • The Bundle ID can be found in the id attribute of the root <widget> element.
npx cap init

Build your Web App

You must build your web project at least once before adding any native platforms.

npm run build

This ensures that the www folder that Capacitor has been automatically configured to use as the webDir in the Capacitor configuration file.

Add Platforms

Capacitor native platforms exist in their own top-level folders. Cordova’s are located under platforms/ios or platforms/android.

npx cap add ios
npx cap add android

Both android and ios folders at the root of the project are created. These are entirely separate native project artifacts that should be considered part of your app (i.e., check them into source control, edit them in their own IDEs, etc.). Additionally, any Cordova plugins found under dependencies in package.json are automatically installed by Capacitor into each new native project (minus any incompatible ones):

"dependencies": {
    "@ionic-native/camera": "^5.3.0",
    "@ionic-native/core": "^5.3.0",
    "@ionic-native/file": "^5.3.0",
    "cordova-android": "8.0.0",
    "cordova-ios": "5.0.0",
    "cordova-plugin-camera": "4.0.3",
    "cordova-plugin-file": "6.0.1",
}

Splash Screens and Icons

If you’ve previously created icon and splash screen images, they can be found in the top-level resources folder of your project. With those images in place, you can use the cordova-res tool to generate icons and splash screens for Capacitor-based iOS and Android projects.

First, install cordova-res:

npm install -g cordova-res

Next, run the following to regenerate the images and copy them into the native projects:

cordova-res ios --skip-config --copy
cordova-res android --skip-config --copy

Complete details here.

Migrate Plugins

Begin by auditing your existing Cordova plugins - it’s possible that you may be able to remove ones that are no longer needed.

Next, review all of Capacitor’s official plugins as well as community plugins. You may be able to switch to the Capacitor-equivalent Cordova plugin.

Some plugins may not match functionality entirely, but based on the features you need that may not matter.

Note that any plugins that are incompatible or cause build issues are automatically skipped.

Remove Cordova Plugin

After replacing a Cordova plugin with a Capacitor one (or simply removing it entirely), uninstall the plugin then run the sync command to remove the plugin code from a native project:

npm uninstall cordova-plugin-name
npx cap sync

Set Permissions

By default, the entire initial permissions requested for the latest version of Capacitor are set for you in the default native projects for both iOS and Android. However, you may need to apply additional permissions manually by mapping between plugin.xml and required settings on iOS and Android. Consult the iOS and Android configuration guides for info on how to configure each platform.

Cordova Plugin preferences

When npx cap init is run, Capacitor reads all the preferences in config.xml and ports them to the Capacitor configuration file. You can manually add more preferences to the cordova.preferences object.

{
  "cordova": {
    "preferences": {
      "DisableDeploy": "true",
      "CameraUsesGeolocation": "true"
    }
  }
}

Additional Fields from config.xml

You may be curious about how other elements from config.xml work in Capacitor apps.

The Author element can be configured in package.json, but is not used by Capacitor or within your app:

<author email="email@test.com" href="http://ionicframework.com/">Ionic Framework Team</author>

Most of the allow-intent values are either not used or there are configurable alternatives.

<allow-intent href="http://*/*" />
<allow-intent href="https://*/*" />
<allow-intent href="tel:*" />
<allow-intent href="sms:*" />
<allow-intent href="mailto:*" />
<allow-intent href="geo:*" />

iOS edit-config elements need to be configured in Info.plist.

<edit-config file="*-Info.plist" mode="merge" target="NSCameraUsageDescription">
    <string>Used to take photos</string>
</edit-config>

It’s impossible to cover every config.xml element available. However, most questions relating to “How do I configure X in Capacitor?” should be thought of as “How do I configure X in [platform] (iOS/Android)?” when searching online for answers.

Setting Scheme

When using Ionic with Cordova, your app uses cordova-plugin-ionic-webview by default, which on iOS uses ionic:// scheme for serving the content. Capacitor apps use capacitor:// as default scheme on iOS. This means that using a origin-binded Web API like LocalStorage, will result in a loss of data as the origin is different. This can be fixed by changing the scheme that is used for serving the content:

{
  "server": {
    "iosScheme": "ionic"
  }
}

Removing Cordova

Once you’ve tested that all migration changes have been applied and the app is working well, Cordova can be removed from the project. Delete config.xml as well as the platforms and plugins folders. Note that you don’t technically have to remove Cordova, since Capacitor works alongside it. In fact, if you plan to continue using Cordova plugins or think you may in the future, you can leave the Cordova assets where they are.

Next Steps

This is just the beginning of your Capacitor journey. Learn more about using Cordova plugins in a Capacitor project or more details on the Capacitor development workflow.

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