The Nuts and Bolts of Android Development

I always hear the same question asked in several ways. “Can I actually learn how to produce apps for Android?” “How hard is it to study Android programming?” “Where should I go to learn Android programming?” “I just bought a new Android device, and I feel so inspired! I have an idea for a new application, but where do I begin?”

Mobile application development is really hot these days, and Android is now out in front of the rest in the mobile app world. And if you have already read this far in this article, I’m assured it is because you have already been asking some different version of one of the questions listed above. Today you are lucky, because I have already been down this road, and I have one resounding response: “Positively! It is really feasible to become able to write Android applications, no matter your background, and the tools to study and develop with are free and simple to use!”

So let’s begin with the tools. The number one tool for Android programming is the Eclipse IDE (Integrated Development Environment). Eclipse is free, runs on many operating systems (including Windows and Linux), and is often upgraded to provide better performance in development. In addition, the Android Development Team from Google has provided the Android Development Toolkit (ADT) plugin for Eclipse that turns it into an Android mobile application fabrication powerhouse! It turns application compilation into a one-click task, provides custom editors for layout files and resources, and automates updates for the latest revisions of the Android SDK. Some developers find Eclipse a little quirky, or even buggy to use at times (myself included). For example, it won’t always recognize new resource files until you restart it, which is sometimes a pain. However, I always use Eclipse with the ADT plugin for all of my Android programming, and I suggest that you do the same thing.

You may always opt to use a different piece of software, and there are many out there. But a word of caution about IDEs: many Android IDEs claim to turn mobile programming into a “drag-and-drop” process, or permit Android programming in other languages besides Java. Is it easy to create mobile apps using these tools? Of course. Will they be alright apps? Maybe. But will they be great apps – apps that really exceed expectations and extend easily with new features as the Android mobile platform evolves? No. Mobile programming is just like any other task worth doing: do it correctly (in this case, do it the Android way) and you will always have better success.

Now on to the study part. This part will take much longer than just downloading a simple tool. Learning Android development is like studying any other foreign language (and that is what this is – just a foreign language, except a language that allows you to talk to a computer instead of another human). It will require persistence, and a lot of trial-and-error. A good portion of readers will quit, telling yourself that it isn’t worth it. That’s ok: the remainder of us will succeed in the Android app market in your absence! For those readers who don’t quit, you will find the process very rewarding in so many ways.

If you don’t understand Java, that is how you need to start. When I started learning Android I got a little frustrated, because I didn’t already understand Java beforehand. After spending a week on the basics of Java, I learned that I could read the code samples and understand the examples. So start there.

Next is the Android SDK itself. There are so many studying tutorials for Android available that I really don’t have the room to list them all in this post. But Google does, so search for it. Search for “Android app tutorial” and start with the tutorial that suits you the best. It is truly that easy. I would also suggest the Android lessons found in the Android SDK online documentation for all of your coding reference needs about the Android platform. And don’t forget those newsgroups! They are one of my favorite places to find instant help from real developers who enjoy helping new programmers.

Archie Spencer is an Android development veteran, and has been building mobile apps for Android since 2010. He invites you to continue your journey on the path to dominating the Android app market by checking out his new Android App Tutorial, designed specifically with new developers in mind.