public interface MobileDevelopment
In general, a Smart GWT application written with complete ignorance of mobile development will still be highly usable on tablet or handset-sized touch devices. This topic explains all the automatic behaviors that make this possible, and the few areas developers need to consider in order to optimize the mobile experience, the most important being:
accessibility reasons), this section discusses options for controlling drag scrolling vs dragging of data
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Many Smart GWT components automatically change their behavior and/or appearance when used with touch devices in general, or tablets and handsets specifically. There are too many adaptations to comprehensively list, but some of the more obvious behaviors are listed below:
ComboBoxItemcontrols automatically fill the entire screen or a major portion of the screen when activated, and add a control to dismiss the full-screen interface. See
Menucomponents likewise fill the entire screen or a major portion, and offer submenu navigation via a slide-in animation and back button instead of displaying the origin menu and submenu simultaneously
Calendareliminates the tabs normally used to switch between Day, Week and Month view, instead using device pivot to switch between Day and Week views and offering a compact link to Month view
edge-based resizing, and many other controls.
SpinnerItemswitches to side-by-side +/- controls instead of the very small, vertically stacked +/- control typical of desktop interfaces
AdaptiveMenucan either display menu items inline, or in a drop-down, or mix the two modes according to available space.
In addition to automatic behavior, Smart GWT offers Adaptive Layout whereby a
member may be designed to render itself at multiple possible sizes, in order to fit
into the amount of space available in the Layout. Unlike simply indicating a flexible size
on a member, setting an adaptive width or height indicates that the member has two (or more)
different ways of rendering itself with different discrete sizes, but does not
have the ability to use every additional available pixel.
Mobile and touch devices support "touch events" that correspond to finger actions on the screen. By default, Smart GWT simply sends touch events to UI components as normal mouse events. Specifically:
Components that normally show scrollbars on desktop browsers will, by default, hide scrollbars and allow scrolling via finger dragging instead.
If you are using drag and drop features such as
obviously conflicts with using finger drags for scrolling. There are two options:
falseon the component. Scrollbars will be shown, and finger drags will no longer cause scrolling, so that finger drags can now be used for the drag and drop operation configured on the component
Accessibilityviolation if drag and drop is the sole way to trigger an operation (keyboard-only users cannot use drag and drop), and also because scrollbars are not usually found in touch interfaces.
If your application is not required to be keyboard accessible, and you prefer to show
scrollbars and use finger drags for normal drag operations, you can use
Canvas.disableTouchScrollingForDrag to make this choice system-wide or on a
If you have designed a screen for desktop use and it is too wide to fit on a handset or tablet-sized screen, there are several possible strategies:
SplitPane: any time you have two or more panes where a choice in one pane decides what is displayed in the other. See the "SplitPane" section further down for details
DynamicFormthat has 3 columns of input fields, as long as the form itself or some parent has
overflow:"auto"set, horizontal touch scrolling will be available to reach fields that initially render offscreen. Most of the time, there is already an
overflow:"auto"parent component as a result of default framework behaviors or application settings that also make sense for desktop mode, so nothing needs to be done.
However, consider whether scrolling is already in use for other purposes: if you have a grid plus an adjacent component to the right, if the adjacent component is entirely offscreen, attempting touch scrollng on the grid will just scroll the grid as such and won't reveal the adjacent component. In this kind of situation, you can:
SplitPaneas described above, a grid with something adjacent is frequently a good candidate for conversion to
useTouchScrollingto false. This is another way to give the user a place they can touch in order to scroll the both the grid and adjacent component together
FlowLayoutcan automatically take two side-by-side elements and switch them to vertical stacking when the screen is narrow
SplitPane component implements the common
pattern of rendering
two or three panes simultaneously on desktop machines and on tablets in landscape
orientation, while switching to showing a single pane for handset-sized devices or tablets
in portrait orientation.
SplitPane anywhere you have two or more panes in your application where a
choice in one pane decides what is displayed in the other pane. For example, you may have a
list of Records where details of a single selected Record are shown next to the list. A
SplitPane is well-suited to this interface since it provides automatic "Back"
navigation and a place to show the title of the selected record when only the detail view is
Note that you do not need to use a
SplitPane as your top-level component
containing the whole application, and it does makes sense to use multiple
SplitPane components in a single application. For example, your top-level
container component might be a
TabSet, and a
SplitPane would be used to manage
components in tabs which normally show 2 panes side-by-side on desktop browsers.
In most cases Smart GWT will correctly detect the device running your application, and set
For any uncommon device for which these variables are not set correctly, you can use
to override the auto-detected settings. If you use these APIs, call them before
creating or drawing any Smart GWT components or using any other Smart GWT APIs.
Note that the various automatic behaviors triggered by flags on the
Browser class can
be overriden at a fine-grained level on individual components. For example,
SplitPane will use 2-pane display when a tablet is
detected, however, for a
particularly large, high-resolution tablet device, you could instead use 3-pane display by
We recommend using either the Tahoe, Twilight, Stratus or Obsidian skins for applications that support mobile (or a custom skin based on one of these skins). These skins make maximum use of CSS3 to minimize the number of images that need to be loaded and the number of DOM elements used to create components.
We also do not recommend attempting to mimic the native UI of each particular mobile platform, because:
Safari in iOS 7.0 will automatically hide and show browser toolbars as the user scrolls around a normal web page, pivots, or touches near edges of the screen. This creates serious problems for web applications, partly because notifications are not reliably fired when toolbars are shown and hidden, and partly because it introduces "dead zones" where an application cannot place interactive controls, since touching there shows browser toolbars instead.
iOS 7.1 introduces a "minimal-ui" setting on the viewport
meta tag which
eliminates most of these problems, by requiring that the user specifically touch the
URL bar to reveal browser toolbars. Even with this setting, the top 20px of space in
landscape orientation only is still a "dead zone".
Smart GWT automatically uses the minimal-ui setting whenever iOS is detected, and also
defaultPageSpace to 20px in
landscape orientation to avoid components
being placed in the dead zone. These default behaviors can be disabled by defining the
isc_useMinimalUI global variable with the value
false before the
framework is loaded:
Whether minimal-ui is used or not, it is recommend to place some kind of non-interactive
widget or content in the dead zones created by browser toolbars, for example, a
showing your company name or application name. When using
defaultPageSpace to have
all components avoid a dead zone at the top of the page, you can set
leavePageSpace:0 to allow
individual components to place
themselves in a dead zone.
When a Smart GWT application loads, by default a viewport <meta> tag is added to the
page which, on touch devices, fixes the page zoom to 100% and disables the pinch-zoom gesture.
This is usually the expected behavior of a touch-enabled web application because it makes
the application look and feel more like a native app. This default setting can be disabled
by defining the
isc_useDefaultViewport global variable with the value
false before the framework is loaded:
When orientation changes, this is treated identically to resizing the browser on a desktop machine. If you've already created a UI that fills the browser and makes good use of available screen space for desktop browsers, the same behaviors will automatically apply when your application runs on mobile devices and the device is pivoted.
If you want to build specialized interfaces that respond to device orientation, the
Page.getOrientation() API may be used to
determine the current orientation of the
the page orientationChange event
will fire whenever the
user rotates the screen allowing applications or components to directly respond to the user
pivoting their device.
Generally, all that's required to launch native mobile apps is to create an ordinary HTML
<a> tag) with a special prefix for the URL specified in the
href attribute. For example, the following HTML link will place a call when
the user finger-taps it:
<a href="tel:8675309">Call Jenny</a>You can provide HTML like this as
HTMLFlow.contents. Or use a field of
type:"link"to cause various
DataBoundComponentsto render a DataSourceField value as a clickable URL.
The URL prefixes that are valid for iOS are documented at Apple.com. Typically, the same prefixes also work for Android, Windows Phone and others.
TextItem.browserInputType can be set to various values such as "email" or "tel"
(telephone number) to hint to mobile devices to use a different software keyboard with
specialized keys appropriate for entering certain types of data values.
When the first modern smartphones were released, it was necessary to use tiny, mobile-specific frameworks to get adequate performance for mobile web applications.
The situation is now completely different: through a combination of hardware improvements, optimizations in mobile browsers and vastly improved network speeds, typical mobile devices are easily able to run applications built with full-featured web platforms like Smart GWT. For an application that supports both desktop and mobile interfaces, the worst case scenario for platform performance is often not a mobile phone, but an older desktop machine running Internet Explorer.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of out-of-date advice on the web about mobile web development that still advises using ultra-light, feature-poor frameworks for performance reasons. Carefully consider the source and recency of any such advice - the reality is that using such feature-poor frameworks means you will under-deliver with both your desktop and mobile interfaces.
For more background on choosing the right technologies for mobile and desktop web applications, see the Mobile Strategy Page at smartclient.com.
Smart GWT applications support "offline" operation (continuing to work without network access).
Permanent caching of resources such as .js, .css files and images are handled via the standard HTML5 Manifest - just list all the static files your application needs in a manifest file and mobile browsers will cache those resources.
The end result is that you can bookmark a Smart GWT application to a phone's home screen and use it offline with cached data, much like an installed native application.
Via "packaging" technologies such as PhoneGap/Cordova and Titanium, a Smart GWT web application can be packaged as an installable native application that can be delivered via the "App Store" for the target mobile platform. Applications packaged in this way have access to phone-specific data and services such as contacts stored on the phone, or the ability to invoke the device's camera.
PhoneGap has good support for native device APIs as noted here.
Titanium has similar support. There are differences between the two environments and how they
expose their APIs, though both provide Xcode-compatible projects that can be compiled and run
from the Xcode IDE.
Integration with Titanium and
Integration with PhoneGap
for more information.