PDF In-Depth

Cordova, Xamarin and PDF

December 01, 2017

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PDF is platform independent, and a well-worn veteran in the world of document exchange. That said, the delivery, display and usage environment has changed somewhat over the past 5 years. Fancy applications that perform all those useful tasks either on desktop, or on a website, are now being overrun by dedicated mobile apps (yes, drop the '-lications' to stay cool).

And viewed within these dedicated apps are bank statements, invoices, ebooks, receipts for purchases, the list goes on, and on and on. Guess the format - PDF!

Back in the desktop time, i.e. before your grandmother bought her first mobile phone, the app revolution started with web applications, written by, you guessed it, web developers. But it's now expected, and generally more suitable to provide a mobile app for direct installation on a device.

I'm told you can do this in one of at least two ways, 1) make use of the new crowd of mobile developers who can translate an app from one platform to another using something like Xamarin, or 2) a sleek web developer using Cordova, HTML-style.

These development environments use popular programming languages like C# and Javascript, as well as HTML5, to develop mobile apps for Android and iOS platforms. This means that Web developers can translate their web applications easily to mobile platforms simply through wrapping their web application in one of the environments.

Where does PDF fit in?

Well, as I would hope you know, a PDF file can be viewed on any platform or device and all things going well, it looks the same. A little different than the pass-the-parcel level of luck and reflow you get using Microsoft Word as a finished document.

What is Xamarin?

Xamarin allows developers to create cross-platform applications using C#. These applications can be created using Android, iOS, Windows and macOS. Using Xamarin, a team can start developing an app for Android or iOS on a Mac machine and easily swap files and projects to a Windows machine seamlessly.

What is Cordova?

Apache Cordova is an open source mobile application development framework. Depending on the platform of the device, developers can build apps for mobile devices using CSS3, HTML5 and JavaScript. Without needing to rely on platform-specific APIs (like Android, iOS or Windows) the hybrid app is neither a native mobile app nor a web-based app.

Why use Cordova or Xamarin?

Both environments have their advantages and disadvantages, but for small companies with limited budget or companies with limited staff resources, these environments can help them stay competitive within the marketplace.

2in1

Using Xamarin or Cordova to create an app means that you can write code in one language and the environment will translate it into another. This means using the majority of the same code for both Android and iOS implementation. This is called cross-platform app development. Any changes made to one app will be updated on the other app also (well, that's the theory, it's never quite THAT easy ;)). There are many advantages to using Cordova when developing a mobile app, especially when you have limited knowledge of PDF technology.

Limited Budget

Overall the cost for creating a mobile app on Cordova or Xamarin is a lot less (in fact, free for Xamarin) than creating a native app for Android and another for iOS. This is because implementation and updates are a lot faster since you are essentially developing on both platforms at the same time.

The Future

More and more businesses need to be able to support PDF viewing on mobile. Xamarin, Cordova and the PDF SDKs that support them offer a good way for small-to-medium size businesses to make that happen.

Now as for which framework, well, there are many reasons to choose between Xamarin and Cordova. Many developers prefer Xamarin when developing in .Net and on Mac. Developers prefer Cordova when using JS and where shared UIs between Android and iOS are needed.

If you're looking to go out and play with the big boys and girls, i.e. moving onto mobile devices, not just in the cloud, then why not play around with a PDF SDK, Xamarin and Cordova. With a fairly minimal amount of work, and a few PDF files, you can get a big return.

Why don't you give it a try?

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