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BlackBerry 10 WebWorks SDK Refreshed

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Hopefully you aren’t getting tired of me yet, and I’m sure you are not tired of the updates to the BlackBerry® WebWorks™ SDK. We’ve just posted a new release, and it squarely falls in the high-value realm. While incremental, it empowers a significant feature of the BlackBerry WebWorks platform: custom API extensions. That’s right, like previous BlackBerry WebWorks platforms, you can now write your own extensions to enable native capabilities not yet exposed by the pre-packaged BlackBerry WebWorks APIs!

First, let’s quickly mention the other major item in this release: Now, when you build your application, you can pass a configuration file to bbwp.exe – the main command line tool for BlackBerry WebWorks – which will pass parameters on to the other downstream command line tools that bbwp.exe leverages. bbwp.exe is your main command line tool to create your applications for BlackBerry WebWorks: it will give you your .BAR file and even sign it for you. However, under the covers, it uses a couple of other command line tools that are part of the BlackBerry tool chain to perform these actions such as creating the .BAR and signing it. These other tools sometimes have parameters that are not exposed by bbwp.exe. With this release, we have provided a parameter (-p or –param) on bbwp.exe to provide a file on the bbwp.exe command line that you can use to pass on to the downstream tools any additional parameters you choose. It is a simple json structure that you can mark up. The main use case we hear quite often is providing the signing tool with proxy settings. Check out the params-example.json file in the root of your BlackBerry® 10 WebWorks SDK installation for an example. It contains the framework for providing parameters to the other two tools, the native packager that creates the .BAR, and the signing tool which signs the .BAR.

OK, now back to custom extensions. As a quick recap, BlackBerry WebWorks APIs are conceptually comprised of two different things: an API or service in the native platform, and a JavaScript® front-end to this native service. All of the APIs that are part of the official BlackBerry WebWorks SDK take advantage of this architecture and a system called jNext. jNext is what binds the JavaScript layer to the native layer. You can now build your own API extensions in exactly the same way we do.

To get started, you will first need to download our BlackBerry 10 Native SDK and configure it. This will give you access to all that the native environment offers. Go do that now and come back here for the next step.

All right, you’re back. Next step is to visit our GitHub Community API repo and download the sample BlackBerry 10 Native SDK project we have provided. This sample project is a working example of an extension that monitors memory usage on the device. Everything you need to create your own extension is modeled here. A full walk-through of the project and its components can be found in the README associated with the project in the GitHub repository, so check that out next, and get working on your extension.

Once you are done, I highly recommend that you check out our Community API repository, and seriously consider contributing your extension to the repository so that others can take advantage of your awesome work. To contribute the extension you will need to apply the ASL 2.0 license, and complete a few other administrative things, but then the whole BlackBerry WebWorks community can benefit.

One thing to bear in mind with your extension: we really didn’t want to hold back on releasing this feature to our community, but we do know that one thing will change in our next BlackBerry WebWorks SDK release. When you completed your extension, you would have had to create/modify a file called manifest.json. This file provided metadata regarding your extension. Moving forward, we will very likely model the format of this file after the CommonJS package.json file format (used by npm modules). This should not constitute very much refactoring, as the current file format is very concise, and the community alignment is valuable in itself.

OK, that’s it for this release. As always the team is working on some exciting stuff for the next release. I can’t wait for the next release! Until then, head over to our download page and our GitHub repo to start working on your custom extensions!

About Ken W

Ken is the Senior Product Manager for the WebWorks group at BlackBerry. He is responsible for WebWorks tooling and is heavily involved in the Open Source projects at github.com/blackberry and the Apache Cordova community. Ken has a particular interest in trying to bring the internal and external BlackBerry development communities closer together.

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