Unified Cordova npm save & restore Proposal

  • Status: In Progress


Existing save/restore functionality

  1. cordova plugin add/rm PLUGINNAME||gitURL||localPlugin --save

  2. cordova platform add/rm Platform||gitURL||localPath --save

  3. cordova platform/plugin save

  4. autosave for platforms and plugins (didn't test, not documented)

  5. cordova prepare restores missing plugins and platforms based on config.xml


  • Support saving and restoring plugins/platforms in package.json.
  • config.xml is used preferences, package.json is used for saving & restoring.
  • Introduce a new cordova key in package.json that stores an array of saved platforms and a plugins object containing saved plugins. The cordova key will also store plugin variables, with the key being the plugin name and the value being an object that contains the variable information. The cordova key is required for restoring.


    "dependencies": {
        "cordova-plugin-device": "^1.1.3",
        "cordova-android": "^5.2.2",
        "cordova-ios": "https://github.com/apache/cordova-ios"
    //new cordova key
    "cordova": {
        "platforms": ["andoid","ios"],
        "plugins": {
          //store plugin variables if present
          "cordova-plugin-facebook4": {"APP_ID":"123456", "APP_NAME":"myApp"},
          "cordova-plugin-device": {}
  • --save should save to package.json as well as config.xml. This is already possible with cordova-fetch. cordova plugin/platform add/rm --save --fetch will update config.xml and package.json if it exists. The --fetch flag allows us to pass the --save flag down to our npm install PLUGIN/PLATFORM command. Plugins and platforms get added as regular dependencies in package.json this way. The plan is to make --fetch default in cordova@7.
  • cordova plugin/platform add/rm --save will add/rm the plugin/platform to the new cordova key. If your plugin has variables, they will also be added/removed to the cordova key in this step.
  • restoring: Look in both config.xml and package.json for plugin and platform dependencies. Use cordova key from package.json to restore. Restoring currently happens on a prepare. Restoring may become its own command in cordova@7. Read the proposal for that here.
  • autosave: remove functionality. Have docs telling users they can set autosave in npm config if they want it. npm config set save=true. cordova-fetch will use system npm, so this should work, but we will have to test it.
  • cordova platform/plugin save: Adds existing, unsaved platforms/plugins to package.json. Edits need to be made to the cordova key and dependencies key.

My plan is to add the new save/restore package.json logic alongside the existing config.xml logic. If your project has a package.json, it will start saving to it as well as config.xml.


  • cordova plugin fetching logic will still be respected. If you don't specify a plugin version, the proper version based on cordovaDependencies will be fetched.
  • cordova platform fetching logic will stay intact. cordova will grab the pinned platform version unless a different version is specified.
  • cordova plugin dependency resolution will work as it currently does. This includes making sure a plugin doesn't install twice.

New Requirements

  • Need to create a easy way to migrate config.xml saved platforms and plugins into package.json. I'm thinking this happens during the restore phase. Alternatively, we could create a new command to do it (cordova install). In the PR, this is done during the restore phase (prepare)
  • Automatically add package.json to existing cordova projects which don't have it. This would happen in prepare. cordova@7 feature.
  • After cordova prepare, the restore code will make platforms and plugins in package.json and config.xml match. The two files should contain the same information. In case of conflicts (say between spec or plugin variables), package.json wins.


  • Running npm install on your projects will fetch the dependencies in package.json, but a cordova prepare (restore) will be needed to install them to your cordova project.
  • Running npm install cordova-plugin-device will fetch the plugin, but won't install it. cordova plugin add cordova-plugin-device --save will still be required. Same goes for platforms. Positive is, the plugin/platform will already be fetched.
  • cordova git subdirectories syntax will not be supported anymore for adding plugins. Ex: http://cordova.apache.org/docs/en/latest/reference/cordova-cli/index.html#plugin-spec
  • If you add a plugin/platform with the --save --fetch flags, the spec will be saved as ^4.2.0 vs ~4.2.0. This means we are telling our users it is safe to do minor plugin and platform updates when they have to restore. Our current policy has been to only allow patch updates. This is due to us letting npm handle the install under the hood.
  • If you add a plugin/platform with --fetch and then later want to restore the platform/plugin, you will have to use the --fetch flag. cordova prepare --fetch. This is because --fetch uses npm under the hood which saves gitURL + fileURL specs differently than how we have traditionally saved them in config.xml. If you try to restore platforms/plugins that were added via --fetch from gitURLs or fileURLs, and don‘t use --fetch, an error is expected. Original specs from config.xml don’t have any problems working with --fetch for restore.

Future goals

  • Cordova@8 will drop save/restore support from config.xml and only use package.json. This should give ample time to downstreams and IDEs to prepare.



  1. Remove technical debt. We would remove a bunch of code in regards to managing our depenendencies and instead rely on npm to do the work.
  2. Update to a more modern/expected system for users to manage their dependencies
  3. We are going to add a package.json. Having a package.json may also encourage users to use other node modules in their development.