Moodle Mobile development using Chrome or Chromium

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Chromium or Google Chrome browser are the recommended tools for Moodle Mobile development. But remember that if you are going to use functions provided by Phonegap you should use the Android SDK or iOs developer tools.

Note: This page is a work-in-progress. Feedback and suggested improvements are welcome. Please join the discussion on moodle.org or use the page comments.


Differences between Chromium and Google Chrome

Google Chrome is the Chromium open source project built, packaged, and distributed by Google. We can say that Chromium is Google Chrome without the "Google" add-ons

See https://code.google.com/p/chromium/wiki/ChromiumBrowserVsGoogleChrome for more information

We recommend to use Chromium instead Google Chrome

Advantages and disadvantages of using Chromium/Google Chrome

Main advantages

  • Quick development
  • DOM inspector
  • Network monitor
  • Database (local storage) inspector
  • Emulation options

Disadvantages

  • You can't test/develop using Phonegap APIs and Plugins
  • If you use custom Phonegap code (including plugins) you will need to edit the mm.cordova.js for "emulate" those APIs in a browser
  • You will always need to test in a real device and emulator prior to a production release
  • You will need to verify that your CSS/layout works the same in an Android/iOs device

Installation

Install the “Chromium” browser just downloading it from https://download-chromium.appspot.com/

In order to be able to access any domain via AJAX from the local file:/// protocol, you must run Chromium or Google Chrome in Unsafe mode adding this param:

--allow-file-access-from-files --disable-web-security --user-data-dir

NOTE: Since Moodle 3.0 an onwards this shouldn't be necessary since the Web Service layer supports CORS requests.

IMPORTANT: I strongly recommend you create a new link or application launch called "Chrome Unsafe" and use it only for testing the app. Better if you only use this browser for development

How to open the browser:

"Path to chrome\chrome.exe" --allow-file-access-from-files --disable-web-security --user-data-dir

or in Mac (you can use Automator for creating an app bundle)

open -a "Google Chrome" --args --allow-file-access-from-files --disable-web-security --user-data-dir

or for Chromium

open -a /Applications/Chromium.app --args --allow-file-access-from-files --disable-web-security --user-data-dir

In Mac you can use Automator for creating a launching app

Now, you can open the application running:

ionic serve --browser chromium 

it should open a new tab in the current Chromium instance with the app, (remember that you have to open first the Chromium so it's started with all the additional arguments).

If the ionic serve command open a new browser window, you should copy the URL and then paste it in the Chromium instance you opened using the command shell.

Sites for testing

You can test the application using existing sites configured to have the Mobile services enabled.

Real test site: If you type "student" or "teacher" in the "Site URL" field and then tap on "Add site" the app will connect to http://school.demo.moodle.net. This site is reset every hour so you may find unexpected behaviors

Browser Settings

moodlemobile developer.png

You should develop always with the "Developer tools" panel open, you can open that panel with F12 (cmd + alt + i in Mac) or "Developer tools" in the Tools menu.

moodlemobile options.png
Once opened, click on the wheel top-right corner to see the General options, you must Disable the cache there (this setting will work only if you have the Developer tools panel open)

You can dock or undock into a separate window the developer panel using the "Dock" option just at the right of the settings wheel, you can move the developer panel to your right and resize the main browser window to emulate a Mobile device

Inspecting and changing the DOM

Using the "Elements" option you can manipulate the DOM:

  • Add/modify style to elements
  • Delete elements
  • Move elements
  • Inject HTML code

You have complete information here: https://developer.chrome.com/devtools/index

And also a free interactive course here: https://www.codeschool.com/courses/discover-devtools

Monitor XHR (ajax) requests

moodlemobile network.png

With the network panel you can check and filter all the HTTP request send from the app to your Moodle server.

You can preserve the log in the navigation, filter by type of requests and also see complete information of all the requests made to the server where is hosted your Moodle installation.

You can also identify with resources takes long to load




Console, log and errors

moodlemobile log.png

The console panel is used for displaying the app log and errors, you can also configure Chrome for displaying there XHR requests

In order to view the app log, you need first to enable Logging in the app (Options / Developers / Enable logging)

You can use the console also for executing javascript commands, the console has access to the complete MM global object so you can call from there to core APIs functions of the app

Browsing the data base

moodlemobile localstorage.png

The Mobile app stores information in the local HTML5 IndexedDB

You can inspect the local database in the Resources tab.





File system

moodlemobile filesystem.png

The first time you open the browser with the special flags you will see a couple of warnings, one asking you to accept to store information.

You have to "Accept" that warning because it means that you will be able to emulate the device file system using the browser.

For example, you will be able to download files to the browser storage (like the user profiles images, any resource in the course, etc..)

You can browse the files stored in the application going to Settings > About and clicking the Filesystem root link.

Emulating devices

moodlemobile emulation.png

You can emulate mobile devices changing orientation, resolution, geo-location, touch events... It's not recommended to use de "Emulation Device" option because it just changes the user-agent and you could get some fails because of the jQuery Swipe library.

The best option to test with the browser is just rescaling the window to get a new viewport size or use the screen settings in the "Emulation" screen.

See also

Chrome Developer Tools help