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JSE 2011

Mobile ECM Apps

with Titanium and PhoneGap

Jan. 20 2011 - Stefane Fermigier - Nuxeo

Friday, January 21, 2011


• What? And why?

• How?
• Experience reports
• Future work

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why content-enabled
enterprise mobile apps?

Friday, January 21, 2011

• Open source ECM (Enterprise Content
Management) vendor, since 2000
• 50 people, in Paris, Boston and San Francisco
• Provides and supports a Java-based, modular,
extensible platform for ECM, as well as
Document Management, Digital Asset
Management and Case Management

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gartner: mobile apps and
tablets are HOT

Source: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=1871
Friday, January 21, 2011
Gartner again
(but emphasis is mine)
• “Enterprise apps will need to be designed for
the tablet;”

• “Delivering these apps gets complicated due to the

selection of platforms;”

• “Marketing will drive a lot of projects to utilize

tablets, but these devices can be used for
inspections, surveys, image capture,
documentation and training.”

• “The PC era is over. Think of mobile design


Friday, January 21, 2011

Technical limitations
• Limited screen size
• No keyboard; touch interface not a mouse either
• Limited computing power
• Limited network availability and bandwidth
• Limited content types
• Platforms proliferation!
• Etc.
Friday, January 21, 2011
New opportunities

• Just use your finger! (ex: Zosh)

• Geolocation
• Camera
• Ex: Barcode scanning
• Other sensors?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Don’t fight, but embrace
the constraints!
• Well defined (but per-platform) UI guidelines
• New standard to the rescue: HTML5
• Mobile-specific enhancements to CSS
• Local storage (file and DB)
• Offline mode
• ...
Friday, January 21, 2011
Technological options
Mobile apps or mobile web?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Our Focus: Smart Phones
and Tablets, for Enterprise apps

Friday, January 21, 2011

Web Apps vs. Native Apps

• Objective-C
• Java / Dalvik
vs. • C++
• .NET
• ...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Web Apps
• Multi-platform
• Depending on HTML5 support by your
platform vendor
• Easy deployment
• But: UI won’t look and feel “native”
• Users will know they are in a browser
• And: Limited access to device APIs
Friday, January 21, 2011
Native Apps

• Optimized for a single platform capabilities

• Optimal user experience

• Access to sensors and proprietary APIs

• Tempting business model (App Store)

• But: Need platform-specific training, longer
development time, too many platforms

Friday, January 21, 2011

Actually there are more options
Web Apps Native Apps
• Pure HTML (with ad- • Cross-platforms, “web
hoc CSS) oriented”, frameworks
• HTML “enhanced” • Cross-platforms,
with jQuery “native UI oriented”,
• One Page or SOFEA
web apps • “Pure” Native apps
Note: 4 out of 6 are JavaScript platforms
Friday, January 21, 2011
“Pure” HTML

• Classical web application made of pages,

with a bit of CSS to make them more
readable on a tiny screen
• Good enough for mobile web sites
• For any kind of web applications, we can
do better for a very tiny price

Friday, January 21, 2011

Example: mobile

Friday, January 21, 2011

“Enhanced” HTML
• HTML content delivered with AJAX requests
using “link hijacking” techniques (using usually a
bit of jQuery love)

• CSS and JS tricks to emulate native UI

• Libraries: iUI, jQTouch, jQuery Mobile...

• iUI: already mature, full-featured

• jQuery Mobile: recent project, focus on


Friday, January 21, 2011

1-page Web apps
• Applications built using the SOFEA paradigm
(Service-Oriented Front-End Architecture)

• Web assets (html, js, css...) are loaded only

once, then all interaction with server takes
place as web services (usually JSON RPC or
other “kinda restish” API)

• (Too?) Many frameworks, still immature: GWT,

Sencha Touch, SproutCore Mobile, Dojo, etc.

Friday, January 21, 2011

mobile gmail

Friday, January 21, 2011

• Embeds your web app into a custom-
built web browser
• Removes URL and bottom tab bars
• Extends the browser JS API with
platform-specific API
• Easiest transition from web app to native
• But you still get a web-like UI
• Open source community project
Friday, January 21, 2011
• Initially similar to PhoneGap (browser API
• Then refocussed on providing a JS-based API
to native UI and platform APIs
• 3 supported platforms: iOS, Android and
• Open source startup, raised 9 M$ of VC

Friday, January 21, 2011

“True” Native Apps
• Develop native APIs using vendor SDKs
• iOS: Objective-C / Cocoa Touch

• Android: “Java”

• BlackBerry: another Java (without “”)

• Symbian: C++

• Etc.

• Main problem: to many platforms, too little time :(

Friday, January 21, 2011

Experience report

Friday, January 21, 2011


• Write an (iPhone) app to browse and

interact with content managed by a Nuxeo
DM document management server
• Experiment with several technologies

Friday, January 21, 2011

• Initial target platform = iPhone

• Browse content on a Document Management


• Show content (including PDF, Office...) and


• Full text search

• Recently updated documents (“timeline”)

• Store contextual data on the iPhone

Friday, January 21, 2011

Initial design

Friday, January 21, 2011

4 technologies
• Native iPhone app (Objective-C + Cocoa
• Web App using jQuery Mobile
• 1-Page App using jQuery Mobile +
backbone.js (Web or PhoneGap)
• Portable app using Appcelerator Titanium

Friday, January 21, 2011

Objective-C: the results

• Took 2 days to learn the basics of Objective-

C, Cocoa Touch, XCode
• Took about 3 days for a very basic prototype
• Unstable, now abandoned
• Code still there: hg.nuxeo.org/mobile/iphone

Friday, January 21, 2011


Friday, January 21, 2011

Objective-C: the Good

• Learning a new language is intellectually

stimulating :)
• This is good old UNIX, you can use open
source libraries in C if you need
• Small ecosystem of open source libraries
around iOS

Friday, January 21, 2011

Objective-C: the Bad

• Learning a new language takes time, learning

a new IDE even more, and you don’t want to
switch from two IDEs too often
• Objective-C feels like I’m back in 1990
(explicit pointer and memory management)
• Only for iOS, as you would guess

Friday, January 21, 2011

jQuery Mobile: the results

• Took 1/2 a day to get a basic demo

(browsing, search) running
• Standard HTML pages generated on the
server, AJAX magic managed by the

Friday, January 21, 2011


Friday, January 21, 2011

jQuery Mobile: the Good

• Very easy to do on the server

• Fast turnaround thanks to Nuxeo
• Easiest deployment option (you don’t need
to deploy on the phones!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

jQuery Mobile: the Bad

• The browser’s forward/back buttons are in the

way, but you have to use them after looking at
a piece of content

• No easy way to develop a tab bar as in my

design (and there is already the browser tab bar
on the way)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Variant: as a 1-page app

• Exact same application, built as a 1-page app

using jQuery Mobile and backbone.js
• Only interaction with the server (after initial
assets loading) is via JSON-RPC
• HTML generated on the client (mustache.js)

Friday, January 21, 2011

And as a PhoneGap App
• It’s trivial to convert the whole app into a
native App using PhoneGap
• The browser URL bar and navigation buttons

• But now there is no way to come back from

a PDF or image view
• Have to rely on third-party PhoneGap plugins
or develop our own (-> back to native)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Appcelerator: the results
• Took about 1 day to learn how to use the
• Took about 3 days to create a reasonably
good looking, alpha-quality app
• 90% of the time spent on front-end, 10% on
back end (JSON REST API with WebEngine)
• Will probably take 2 or 3 more days to
make it App Store ready

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Appcelerator: the Good
• JavaScript much easier to learn than
• Specially when you already know
JavaScript ;) (or even Java)
• Productivity 2x to 5x higher that with native
Cocoa-Touch, slightly lower than SOFEA
• Multi-platform promise seems to work
Friday, January 21, 2011
Appcelerator: the bad
• “IDE” is quirky and unstable

• And not really an IDE actually!

• Might change with the Aptana acquisition

• No debugger, longer code/compile/deploy


• Slower than native

• Another layer of indirection

• Apple doesn’t want you to use it (resolved!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Conclusion of the

Friday, January 21, 2011

Native (Obj-C)
• Not worth of your time, unless you:
• Are (or have) a dedicated iOS developer
• Want to compete on design to make $$
on the App store
• Want to be the first to leverage newly
introduced iOS features
• ... which was not our focus
Friday, January 21, 2011
Mobile HTML (5)
• The fastest way to get a simple application up
and running (no App Store hassles)
• The most multi-platform approach
• But: Doesn’t provide users with a 100% native
look and specially feel
• Doesn’t give you access to all the local features
of the device
• Specially wrt document viewing
• Can be complemented with PhoneGap

Friday, January 21, 2011

• Gives you native look and feel and
platform access, with an original but
familiar API, at the price of slightly longer
development time than pure HTML
• Supports the platforms that make
business sense to us
• Not 100% bug-free, will always lag behind
native platform, slower than native

Friday, January 21, 2011

Additional insights
• JavaScript programming (API, not language) felt
initially very ≠ between HTML5 and Titanium

• But if you do two projects in parallel (HTML5

for maximal portability, Titanium for native
goodness) you can probably share some code

• Utility functions and low-level stuff

(network, models, preference...)

• And maybe some of the interaction stuff too

Friday, January 21, 2011

One more thing...

Friday, January 21, 2011

These apps have not been
(eventually) written in
JavaScript but in CoffeeScript

Friday, January 21, 2011

• Alternative syntax (syntactic sugar) for
JavaScript (only “the good parts”), inspired
by Ruby and Python
• Gives: classes, “->” notation, list
• Much (IMHO) easier to read than JS
• Semantically, it’s still JavaScript though
• Cons: no IDE nor debugger support
Friday, January 21, 2011
Code Sample

Friday, January 21, 2011

Conclusion and
Future Work

Friday, January 21, 2011

Generic document
browsing App
• New web mobile browsing module to be
added to Nuxeo Markeplace and Nuxeo DM
5.4.1 release
• Companion iOS App (based on Titanium)
currently under review on the App Store
• Work will continue to provide access to
more Nuxeo DM features, better
disconnected mode experience, etc.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Business-specific apps
• We’re ready to work with our customers
and partners on business-specific apps
• Choice between web apps and native
(Titanium) apps is up to the customer, and
will depend on features, devices used, etc.
• We intend to leverage our business API
(Content Automation) + develop a specific
framework to ease development

Friday, January 21, 2011

More info
• Watch http://blogs.nuxeo.com/
• Source code:
• https://bitbucket.org/sfermigier/nuxeo-
• https://github.com/sfermigier/nuxeo-

Friday, January 21, 2011