For a couple years now, I’ve had a hankering to build an Android App for funzies and a couple times attempted to get started. Each time however, I got stymied by not being able to simply install the base set of tools needed to begin work. You see, often enough, ‘getting started’ tutorials in the development world assume you know what they heck they’re talking about when they start throwing around TLA’s (three letter accronyms). I’ve run into basic gaps that get me stuck, frustrated and have me move on to something more fruitful.
At this year’s Google I/O, one of the highlights was a new set of development tools for Android Apps. Now that there was a new set of tools, I thought I’d give the installation process another try and this time I was successful. Here’s the steps I took to get the new Android Studio up and running on my Widows 7 PC.
Basic Development Terms
Some basic definitions to help you out.
- API – Application Programming Interface – in the android world, these are the different versions of android. While we typically call things by their code name (i.e., gingerbread, ice cream sandwich, jelly bean). In actuality, each version has a number associated with it. When creating apps, you tell your app what minimum and what target version of android to work on.
- APK – Application Package File – file format / package used to combine all the files needed for an Android App.
- AVD – Android Virtual Device – test device that can run on your computer that allows you to click through and test your app.
- JDK – Java Developer Kit – bunch of software and code libraries that need to be installed to allow other software to run on your computer.
- SDK – Software Developer Kit – the set of tools and code that companies distribute to help people build apps and software.
- XML – Extensible Markup Language – language used to define all sorts of stuff within your app like Layout, etc.
The new Android Studio software package includes lots of stuff that got real developers really happy. This got me happy because I found the previous SDK confusing and was hoping this would make my goal of making an app easier! This release however is targeted at developers who most likely already are building apps so I found there were a couple gaps I needed to overcome.
Getting Java Installed
In order to run the new Android Studio software, you’re going to need to have Java stuff installed on your machine. This is more than whatever browser java plug-in you might have. I find the Oracle/Java site a nightmare to understand and am often overcome w/ fear when I see a list of like 30 potential packages to download. Head over here: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jdk7-downloads-1880260.html and download the “Windows x64” version. I’m on Windows 7 and it worked for me. When installing it, don’t make any fancy changes, just go with the defaults.
Installing Android Studio
Download it from this page: http://developer.android.com/sdk/installing/studio.html. Good thing is that there are a bunch of instructions. The video below also has some good tips.
One thing to note is that I had to add a new system variable like it says on the install instructions. I followed the instructions exactly and it worked just fine. Start menu > Computer > System Properties > Advanced System Properties. Then open Advanced tab > Environment Variables and add a new system variable JAVA_HOME that points to your JDK folder, for example C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.7.0_21.
Starting a Project
I followed the video above and the tutorial for the previous Eclipse based Android SDK to setup my first instance/app.
Previewing Your App – Device Emulation
The last hurdle I needed to overcome was getting the new set of tools to emulate an android device. You can hook up real devices, but I haven’t got that far yet. I wanted to see the test app I created in a device emulated on my Win 7 pc. After getting some errors when attempting to see the app on a Nexus 7 device, I checked out Managing AVDs with AVD Manager which got me pointed in the right direction. Be sure to set the RAM size lower than default to get it to launch. My PC has plenty of RAM but there was a notice to not set above like 768MB which worked for me. The cool thing about these emulators is that they basically run a full version of Android right in a window on your computer. So when testing things out, be sure to give it some time to boot up just like you need to do when booting up a real device.
I’m going to run through the Building Your First App and see if I can’t get something a little more complex than Hello World up and running!