Team changes at Trigger.io

Trigger.io is now nearly 3 years old and publicly available since January 2012. We’re delighted with how it has grown from a useful product — 10,000 developers signed up, and millions of app builds — to become a profitable business as of September this year.

We’re proud of the self-sustaining community that has built up around Trigger.io, with several people making their livelihood building apps for clients on our platform, and contributions from the community on StackOverflow. Last week we open-sourced our native modules and can already see developers begin to contribute.

At this point, James and I have made the decision to step back from day-to-day work on Trigger.io, and for the company to bring in new blood. Antoine van Gelder, whom many of you already know, will take over day-to-day management and new development.

We’re delighted to have Antoine take this on and anticipate only positive changes for current and new customers — there is no change to the availability of the Trigger.io service, support or plans for new development. James and I will continue to be involved as directors working with Antoine to improve the company and product, although you’ll see less of us in day-to-day communications.

Antoine

 

We’ve worked with Antoine for almost as long as Trigger.io has been around. He was instrumental in getting the product to launch, working across our entire stack from the client SDKs, Toolkit, server-side logic and compile servers. In addition to his development work, he has also interacted with many customers through support and through the maintenance of our legacy browser add-on platform.

Not only that, but Antoine has broad experience running all aspects of software companies having built his own startup and run consulting companies in the past. He’s a keen advocate of standards, open source and creating great products that benefit with the world. All that — combined with his technical expertise, knowledge of the Trigger.io stack, and product philosophy — means we are supremely confident that he is the right person to take Trigger.io from here.

With our v2.1 release we felt the company and product are in great shape and could benefit from new inspiration, so the time is right to pull the trigger (pun intended). Anyone who has worked on the same product for several years will know that it can often benefit from a new perspective, so we’re confident that the plan we’ve put together with Antoine is a win all around.

The future

James and I delight in creating new products and businesses which is why we started Trigger.io. We love what we’ve built with Trigger.io but over the past year have also become excited about other projects.

Specifically — based on many shared interests — James, Tim, Connor, and I have decided to join Square. We’re super excited about Square’s prospects, their team, and the new projects that we can impact there. Making commerce easy — Square’s mission — is inspiring and has many facets. We hope to iterate fast and be able to share more of what we’re working on soon.

We’re delighted at being able to make this team change while having the Trigger.io product continue to improve and grow sustainably. It’s a situation that few startups are able to reach, and we owe it all to our amazing customers: thank you!

Please do reach out by emailing support@trigger.io with your questions.

Trigger.io Forge 2.1: open-source modules and collaborative development

Today, we’re really excited to announce version 2.1 of Trigger.io’s mobile development platform: Forge.

This version is hugely significant for us, as it marks a shift towards a more open, collaborative development approach on the platform. As part of this, Trigger.io is open-sourcing the native modules that we’ve developed.

Since we launched our native modules feature at the end of July, we’ve been blown away by our users’ enthusiasm for adding new native functionality to your Trigger.io apps. Already, there have been over 1300 updates to the almost 400 modules our users have been working on, including modules for Urban Airship, Apptentive and keyboard customisation:

Three 3rd party modules

With version 2.1, we’re doubling down on native modules by making it super-simple to publish, consume and collaborate on native modules. Changes include:

  • ability to publish modules into the Trigger.io module index
  • introduce concept of module namespaces, which allows independent developers to collaborate on one codebase
  • dependency declaration and resolution between modules, so you can rely on a library being present without inlining it
  • add changelists and documentation for your module

Open-source

We’ve wanted to open source our modules for a long time, but before now there hasn’t been much point because it would have been so hard for our users to take our code and set themselves up to develop on it.

With the changes described above, those restrictions are now gone, and we’re excited to announce that we are open-sourcing all of our own native modules under the 2-clause BSD license.

If you want to tweak the form or function of a Trigger.io-created native module (e.g. customising the gradient of our topbar module, or extending our file module to capture audio as well as video), you can clone our code from GitHub and make the changes you want in your own module.

You can keep that module un-published — meaning only you and your team-mates can use it — or you could publish the updated module so everyone benefits. Of course, we’ll always appreciate pull requests back to our repo so that we can update the original module when it makes sense!

Note that we’re not open-sourcing everything. Our cloud build service, toolchain, and the core of our platform will remain under wraps: this means you won’t be able to do local-only builds that don’t use our cloud build service. But we firmly believe that the huge usability, speed and collaboration benefits you get from using a cloud-based compiler easily make up for that.

How to get involved

If you’re an existing Trigger.io user, our v2.1 update is rolling out now and you’ll be prompted to update shortly. If you’re not at the stage of creating native modules just yet, note that v2.1 includes a small change to JavaScript behaviour documented in the release notes.

Otherwise, head across to our site to create an account, download our lightweight tooling, and get started on your first app.

The native module development process is covered in our documentation, and keep your eye on GitHub — we’ll be uploading and updating our module code there!

New feature roundup: iOS 7 and Android 4.4 support, new accelerometer and Apptentive modules

As well as a host of minor improvements and fixes which are documented in our module changelog, we’ve been hard at work on some big items.

Namely, support for new iOS and Android platform versions and two new modules: one developed by us, another by a 3rd party which we’re delighted to be able to offer.

Here are the details:

Apptentive: in-app feedback from your users

Apptentive provide SDKs for iOS and Android that enable you to get in-app feedback from your users.

Interacting with your users inside your app is immensely important to boost ratings – create conversations rather than critics and intercept negative feedback. So we’re really excited that they’ve created a Trigger.io module so you can use their SDK in your Trigger.io app:

This example shows how Apptentive can be used to solicit feedback. In addition, the Apptentive module provides:

  • App Store rating flow
  • Surveys
  • Custom user information tracking
  • Custom device data tracking

We’re excited for future updates by Apptentive and other SDK developers who integrate with Trigger.io.

Accelerometer module

By popular demand, we’ve created an accelerometer module. Here’s an example of how it can be used to detect whether the phone is laying flat:

iOS 7 and Android 4.4 support

We released support for iOS 7 in September as part of our v2.0.1 platform version, with several new module versions. You can read details of the changes here.

More recently, we were very excited about Android 4.4 (KitKat) which was released last week. Especially since this new version of Android will have its WebView powered by Chromium. That’s great news for developers since it means that, in Trigger.io apps built for Android 4.4, you can use:

To start building for Android 4.4, you will need to:

  1. Rebuild with our latest platform version – 2.0.4
  2. Update tabs module to 2.5
  3. Update ui module to 2.1

What’s next?

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to see our latest news and updates.

Sign up now to take advantage of these new features or get in touch with us at anytime at support@trigger.io.

Guest post – how CardSmith build for mobile using Trigger.io

This guest blog post was written by Scott McClure, developer at CardSmith, currently building the mobile version of their access, tracking, and verification application using Trigger.io. He also manages the build and release processes for the company. 

About the app

PockeTracker is a mobile application that allows users to verify admittance to facilities and events, take payments on location, and track attendance. It supports an offline mode and the ability to scan ID cards with magstripe, barcode, or contactless card readers. Version 3.0 of the application was redesigned from the ground up using Trigger.io.

Why Trigger.io?

We had several specific requirements for the tools needed to build the next generation of our mobile application.

  1. We wanted to write the majority of the code in a language everyone on the development team was familiar with.
  2. We needed to be able to target both iOS and Android platforms.
  3. If we were going to use a hybrid model approach we would still need direct access to the underlying OS. Direct access was particularly important because the application needed to integrate with several different magstripe, barcode, and contactless card scanners, and keyboard emulation would be insufficient to accomplish this. Also, we were going to need to support an offline mode with large amounts of data being cached locally. We felt for performance reasons that this should be implemented natively.
  4. Any tools required for building and packaging the application needed to integrate seamlessly into our current build process.

Trigger.io fit all of these requirements and we have been very pleased with the final results.

I’d like to share with you how we accomplished the last requirement to integrate with our current build process.

Build Process

For all of our applications, we rely on Subversion for source control and TeamCity for build management. With PockeTracker, we now also use the standalone build API provided by Trigger.io. Source code check-ins are automatically detected by TeamCity, then checked out by the build agent and sent via HTTP to the Trigger.io standalone build service.

We could have just as easily used the Trigger.io command line tools instead of the standalone API, but using the API gave us one less build agent dependency to maintain.

Currently, our build tasks include:

  1. Check out the latest source from the trunk
  2. Run our JavaScript modules through the Require.js optimizer
  3. Update the build number in the config.json file
  4. Zip the source folder
  5. Send the zip to the Trigger build service
  6. Monitor the build for a success or failure
  7. If successful, download the package and publish it

Checking out

This isn’t really a post about how to set up a TeamCity build configuration, but TeamCity makes it very easy to monitor a Subversion repository for changes and check out the updated source onto a build agent. It simply requires you point TeamCity to your repository, add your login information, and create a build process trigger.

Updating the build number

Once a change is detected and the source downloaded, we need to update the version number found in the config.json configuration file. Using a custom C# build runner plugin, and taking advantage of the JavaScriptSerializer class we are able to accomplish this fairly easily:

Zipping the source

Once the build number is updated, we use the NAnt runner to zip the contents of the ‘src’ folder:

Push, monitor, and download

Out last steps are to push the zip file to the Trigger standalone build service, monitor for a successful build, and download the package. Again, we used the C# build runner.

To push the zip file along with some configuration settings, we prepare a web request. Since we are currently only building for Android, we only need to include the required email, password, and ‘and_*’ fields.

Next we send the POST request and get the response:

If the response is OK, we periodically call the service with the ID that was supplied to monitor the build progress:

If the service returns a “SUCCESS” message, then we just grab the package URL and download it. Otherwise, we write the return message out to the console so the build log will show the reason for the failure:

The downloaded package is then published internally for acceptance testing.’

Closing thoughts

Of course, there are many improvements we would like to make to the process. Automating our QUnit tests for the main application and JUnit tests for each Android native module will be our next priority. Another priority will be to add in support for our iOS native modules once those are completed. I hope that this example of our experience with the Trigger.io standalone build API will help you with your own build processes.

Sign-up for Trigger.io now to get started with your mobile app. Questions? Email support@trigger.io anytime.

Introducing OpenForge: an open-source cross-platform browser add-on framework

Trigger.io makes it simple for web developers to create native mobile apps for iOS and Android using JavaScript. But early on in our company’s history we also created a cross-platform browser add-on framework for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer.

We are now open-sourcing that codebase, calling it OpenForge.

This codebase will be far from stale – development of the browser add-on framework will continue with a full-time maintainer who will also provide support. In open-sourcing the framework we have also provided the ability to build locally without reliance on Trigger.io infrastructure.

This will benefit customers that have already been building using our browser add-on tools, and make it possible for others to see, use and contribute to the codebase.

Codebase, docs and support

You can see the browser add-on platform code and tooling to build in this repo:
https://github.com/trigger-corp/browser-extensions

The README instructions give information on how to setup for local builds. The codebase is released under the BSD 3-part license which allows for unlimited commercial use. API docs are available here in Trigger.io’s legacy docs. In the future they may be hosted elsewhere but will be linked to from the README.

It is possible to get started using the framework for free, but as you get more serious you may want to get professional support to make sure your questions and issues are resolved, and any modifications you need are handled quickly. Antoine van Gelder at 7degrees is available to be contracted for this.

The history of OpenForge

OpenForge came out of the work that James Brady and I did with WebMynd where we built browser add-ons for search personalization that were downloaded more than 1.5M times.

We built a set of libraries for our own use to abstract away cross platform differences and realized that they could be useful to other developers. At the same time we saw the growth in Android and the problems that web developers faced in building for both that and iOS, and so Trigger.io was born.

The focus of Trigger.io has been on mobile platforms for a long time now, but at the start we also invested significantly in making our internal browser add-on libraries useful to others, and many of our team members contributed to that.

Initially our libraries were for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Antoine van Gelder came on board and wrote the Internet Explorer SDK from scratch. At the same time in summer 2011 Connor Dunn and James Brady re-wrote much of the Chrome and Firefox code to tidy up and improve what we’d used ourselves to be ready for more public release. I then brought the Safari SDK up to speed.

Since then Tim Monks has improved the tooling, with Connor and especially Antoine continuing to update the SDKs.

What’s next?

With this announcement, Trigger.io’s browser add-on business is now completely separate from mobile. On the mobile side, with the Forge v2 platform release, we’ve been able to iterate native modules faster and faster.

You can expect more new modules, improvements to existing ones and our build tooling soon. As always we’re eager to hear from you either about OpenForge for browser add-ons or Forge for native iOS, Android and mobile web. Just contact support@trigger.io with your feedback or questions.

Trying your Trigger.io app on iOS 7

It seems iOS 7 will be released sometime in the next couple of weeks, so today, we're pleased to share with you a preview of how your Trigger.io app will look and feel on the new OS.

To run your app on iOS 7, you'll need a device with the latest beta build on it, or an OS X machine with the Xcode 5 preview installed.

Until iOS 7 and Xcode 5 are out of beta, you'll need to manually select the right platform and module versions for full iOS 7 support. What you need to do is:

  1. update your app to use Trigger.io platform version v2.0.1 (you can do this in the App configuration section of the Toolkit)
  2. if you're using any of these modules, update them to use version 2.1 (you can do this in the public modules configuration section of the Toolkit):
  3. iOS 7 requires some different icon and launch images sizes: see the configuration section for those modules for what's required
  4. restart your Toolkit to see 7.0 in the dropdown of available iOS simulator versions, if necessary
  5. if using the 7.0 simulator, you need to move Xcode 5 preview into the default Xcode install location, e.g. something like:
    • sudo mv /Applications/Xcode.app /Applications/Xcode.app-old
    • sudo ln -s /Applications/Xcode5-DP5.app /Applications/Xcode.app

There are a few other iOS-specific updates we'll make to our modules over the next few weeks (in particular, enabling you to customise the behaviour and appearance of the status bar). In the meantime, if you find any problems with the updated platform or modules, get in touch!

Trigger.io v2.0 – create and re-use native mobile components

Trigger.io makes it simple for web developers to create native mobile apps for iOS and Android by using JavaScript to compose different native features.

Today we release our v2 platform which enables developers to create and re-use native modules provided by 3rd parties.

 

In the past if you wanted to add a native feature to your app that was not supported by existing Trigger.io Forge APIs, you would have to dive down into native code yourself or hire a contractor to do that. Trigger.io v2.0 is a big deal since developers can now make the native modules they’ve built on top of Trigger.io available for re-use.

Ultimately this means you’ll be able to select from a much broader range of native features – both the core APIs built by our team and others contributed by 3rd parties – and combine them with the best of HTML5.

You can see some examples on modules page right now:

We’ll be publishing several more in the coming weeks. If you have already built a Trigger.io plugin and would be interested in making it available to others as a module, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

The journey and v1 product

We launched Trigger.io last year because of the huge shift to mobile and our desire to help web developers navigate that. Our core community of developers grew fast. They told us that they loved our platform because of the super fast build / test cycle, fast native bridge, and rich API which includes native UI components and integrations with cloud services which is much broader than alternatives.

All of that is enabled by our Toolkit UI, command-line tools and unique Forge build technology.

Later Reload made the proposition to web developers even more compelling: update your app at web speed without needing to go through the App Store approval process. On top of the ROI benefits to being able to reuse web code and skills when you first build your app, Reload makes a Trigger.io-style hybrid mobile app better for the long-haul when you update your apps and manage their lifecycle.

But what if you need a native mobile feature that the Trigger.io Forge APIs don’t support? We want you to have the best possible development process without compromising on your your app features, so we enabled extensibility through plugins. Now we’ve taken that extensibility to another level.

What Trigger.io v2.0 means for developers

Our v2.0 platform is a big step forward, but if you’re already familiar with our platform, you’ll see our commitment to speed in the build process, native wrapper, and the broad range of APIs remains the same – our module ecosystem is an addition, not a major change to what you’re already using.

But now, web developers who are building mobile apps with Trigger.io will be able to access to a broader range of APIs including cloud service integrations and native UI components sooner. Because you’ll be able to use 3rd party developed modules as well as those built by our team here at Trigger.io.

Instead of contracting for services whenever you want a new new feature for your native app, you’ll be able to pick-up and integrate re-usable components.

For developers who are able to build natively, you can make re-usable components available through our platform so you don’t need to repeat your work for each new client engagement. While you can’t charge for individual modules right now, you can use our platform to get more customers for your services and support contracts. And in the future we’ll enable a rev-share so you can earn a passive income from your work.

What’s next?

If you’re building, or thinking about build mobile apps, you’re concerned about which platforms you should be supporting, the upcoming iOS7 release and figuring out the set of features you’ll need – we’re there for you. Please get in touch at support@trigger.io so we can try to help.

Our plan is to continue to focus on improving our tooling and making the build / test cycle as simple as possible. While building a high quality module ecosystem that gives you the broad range of features that you can compose in new and interesting ways.

Mobile development should be a pleasure. Right now it isn’t. We’re further along the path and are determined to help web developers get there.

 

New feature roundup: native confirm, loader and Android toasts UI, audio playback and new foreground camera module

You asked for more native UIs and we’ve delivered!

On top of that we’ve expanded on our native APIs by enhancing the media module for audio playback and adding a new foreground camera module for use with older Android versions where the file.getImage API doesn’t suffice.

We’ve had a much broader range of APIs in our core product than other hybrid platforms for a while – it’s not just about native features, but also UI components and cloud SDK integrations, as you can see from our features summary.

Here are the details:

Native confirm, loader and toast UIs

 

Available on both iOS and Android, we’ve added new native UI components in the notification module.

You can show and hide a native loader using forge.notification.showLoading and forge.notification.hideLoading:

You can prompt the user for confirmation using a customizable confirm UI with forge.notification.confirm:

“Toasts” are small temporary popups which are great for giving your user unobtrusive feedback as they use your app. We’re pleased to now offer a toast API for Android and iOS: forge.notification.toast.

These features make it easier than ever to make your Trigger.io look and feel native since you can use actual native UI components rather than working on mimicking them in HTML5.

Audio playback

Our media module has had a native video playback API for a while.

And although it’s possible to achieve audio playback using HTML5 <audio> or <video> tags we’ve had many requests for more control over the audio player than HTML5 on its own can offer. So we’ve introduced native audio player controls with the forge.media.createAudioPlayer API.

As well as the basic “play” method, the audio player has the usual “stop” and “pause” controls plus APIs to get the “duration”, “seek” a particular position in the track and listen for playback position changes with “positionChanged.addListener”.

Foreground camera module

Older Android versions can struggle with the memory requirements of the forge.file.getImage API which provides native camera access. To handle that, we’ve added a new foreground camera module to be used on Android only.

Unlike the file module this module displays the camera as part of your app. Although this means that the user will not have the option to select an image from the gallery, or perform advanced options such as zooming or changing other camera settings, on low memory devices this is a more reliable method of capturing a photo – it tends to be snappier too!

What’s next?

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to see our latest news and updates.

Sign up now to take advantage of these new features or get in touch with us at anytime at support@trigger.io.

Webinar: learn how to build native plugins for Android

Join James Brady, Trigger.io CTO on Tuesday, May 14 at 10am (Pacific time) for our second webinar covering native plugins. This webinar is open to all Trigger.io customers and free trial users.

Build native plugins for Android

Join us for a Webinar on May 14

Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/854875241

Details

Trigger.io co-founder and CTO, James Brady, demonstrates how to get started building a native plugin for Android.

There will be an opportunity to ask questions about your specific app, and the best one will earn the asker an exclusive Trigger.io t-shirt!

Title: Trigger.io Webinar: build native plugins for Android
Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM – 10:45 AM PDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements

PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®/iPad®/Android™ smartphone or tablet

New docs and search – switching away from Read The Docs

Last week we significantly revamped our docs and docs search. Which do you prefer, old or new?

As part of that switch, we migrated from away from Read The Docs to hosting them ourselves. Read The Docs is great but our requirements changed and we needed to move, and we think in the switch we’ve got a few immediate wins:

  • Unscientifically, our search function is much better, using elasticsearch rather than in-page JavaScript search
  • The look-and-feel of the docs is much more consistent with the rest of our web site
  • We made a couple of little macros to handle things like API method signatures – yes, Sphinx has these, but they’re tailored towards Python, not JavaScript, and we think our version is much better for our needs.

Background

When we first launched our Trigger.io Forge development platform, our documentation needs were pretty straightforward.

At the time, we only supported browser extensions, had a fairly limited number of “modules” (standardised cross-platform APIs to native features), and we were working on 2-4 week release schedule.

Read the Docs was a great tool for us at that time. It handled versioning for us, it meant there was one less thing for us to have to think about deploying and serving, and we already wrote a bunch of internal documentation in ReST: we started throwing new documentation at it and were happy for a good year or so.

After a while, however, the cracks started to show. Our codebase became much more modular and our release cycle accelerated, meaning it became a headache to keep our documentation in sync with our platform… We had to keep the documentation in a separate open-source repository from our private platform so that Read the Docs could consume from it… Read the Docs versioning only seems (seemed?) to work with branches on a git repo, but all of our other repos were mercurial… Using Sphinx to generate HTML from the ReST does let you create decent-looking output very quickly, but gets quite cumbersome when you want to step outside the normal workflow (adding extensions and including pre-built HTML for example)…

Preparing for Trigger 2.0 – “It’s not you: it’s me”

When we started working on a native plugin system for our platform, we knew things had to change. “It’s not you: it’s me”, we said to Read the Docs, and started converting our own documentation to Markdown, using pandoc for a first pass, then lots of manual touch-ups.

The thing is, we want the plugins our customers are writing to be properly documented, so that they can be effectively shared and used between and among teams and users. But, we can’t expect everyone to grasp the vagaries of ReST syntax, and the implicit assumption that Read the Docs projects are monolithic and homogeneous wasn’t really holding for us any more.

However, the benefits of having full control over how our docs are stored, processed and delivered are yet to be fully realised. We’re looking forward to being able to easily give our users per-module, per-version documentation, to easily tweak the appearance of all the docs to track our website, and maybe even include runnable examples for API methods.

Of course, taking control over our documentation like this has taken some effort. The biggest pieces were probably the conversion from ReST to Markdown (although pandoc did accelerate that quite a bit), and the generation of the navbar on the left side of our docs pages. But, once we had those in place, the clean, semantic HTML output from Markdown instantly looked pretty good with our Bootstrap styling. Integration of elasticsearch via Haystack was straightforward, and deployment just becomes a case of putting some HTML files in the right place.

The level of maturity in those ancillary libraries and tools has reached a point where NIH-ing your own documentation system may make a lot of sense: it did for us!

What’s next?

As the list of native modules keeps growing we ‘ll split that out from the core docs. But other than that we expect the basic docs structure and the way we host it to be stable for a while to come.

We’re always trying to improve the content and make it easier to discover. So if you have suggestions or feedback, please do get in touch at support@trigger.io. We’d love to hear from you!