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Android Development
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Developing In Other IDEs

The recommended way to develop an Android application is to use Eclipse with the ADT plugin. The ADT plugin provides editing, building, debugging, and .apk packaging and signing functionality integrated right into the IDE.

However, if you'd rather develop your application in another IDE, such as IntelliJ, or in a basic editor, such as Emacs, you can do that instead. The SDK includes all the tools you need to set up an Android project, build it, debug it and then package it for distribution. This document is your guide to using these tools.

Essential Tools

When developing in IDEs or editors other than Eclipse, you'll require familiarity with the following Android SDK tools:

android
To create/update Android projects and to create/move/delete AVDs.
Android Emulator
To run your Android applications on an emulated Android platform.
Android Debug Bridge
To interface with your emulator or connected device (install apps, shell the device, issue commands, etc.).

In addition to the above tools, included with the SDK, you'll use the following open source and third-party tools:

Ant
To compile and build your Android project into an installable .apk file.
Keytool
To generate a keystore and private key, used to sign your .apk file.
Jarsigner (or similar signing tool)
To sign your .apk file with a private key generated by keytool.

In the topics that follow, you'll be introduced to each of these tools as necessary. For more advanced operations, please read the respective documentation for each tool.

Creating an Android Project

To create an Android project, you must use the android tool. When you create a new project with android, it will generate a project directory with some default application files, stub files, configuration files and a build file.

Creating a new Project

If you're starting a new project, use the android create project command to generate all the necessary files and folders.

To create a new Android project, open a command-line, navigate to the tools/ directory of your SDK and run:

android create project \
--target <targetID> \
--path /path/to/your/project \
--activity <your_activity_name> \
--package <your_package_namespace>
  • target is the "build target" for your application. It corresponds to an Android platform library (including any add-ons, such as Google APIs) that you would like to build your project against. To see a list of available targets and their corresponding IDs, execute: android list targets.
  • path is the location of your project directory. If the directory does not exist, it will be created for you.
  • activity is the name for your Activity class. This class file will be created for you inside <path_to_your_project>/src/<your_package_namespace_path>/.
  • package is the package namespace for your project, following the same rules as for packages in the Java programming language.

Here's an example:

android create project \
--target 1 \
--path ./myProject \
--activity MyActivity \
--package com.example.myproject

The tool generates the following files and directories:

  • AndroidManifest.xml - The application manifest file, synced to the specified Activity class for the project.
  • build.xml - Build file for Ant.
  • default.properties - Properties for the build system. Do not modify this file.
  • build.properties - Customizable properties for the build system. You can edit this file to overried default build settings used by Ant.
  • src/your/package/namespace/ActivityName.java - The Activity class you specified during project creation.
  • bin/ - Output directory for the build script.
  • gen/ - Holds Ant-generated files, such as R.java.
  • libs/ - Holds private libraries.
  • res/ - Holds project resources.
  • src/ - Holds source code.
  • tests/ - Holds a duplicate of all-of-the-above, for testing purposes.

Once you've created your project, you're ready to begin development. You can move your project folder wherever you want for development, but keep in mind that you must use the Android Debug Bridge (adb) — located in the SDK tools/ directory — to send your application to the emulator (discussed later). So you need access between your project solution and the tools/ folder.

Note: You should refrain from moving the location of the SDK directory, because this will break the build scripts. (They will need to be manually updated to reflect the new SDK location before they will work again.)

Updating a project

If you're upgrading a project from an older version of the Android SDK or want to create a new project from existing code, use the android update project command to update the project to the new development environment. You can also use this command to revise the build target of an existing project (with the --target option). The android tool will generate any files and folders (listed in the previous section) that are either missing or need to be updated, as needed for the Android project.

To update an existing Android project, open a command-line and navigate to the tools/ directory of your SDK. Now run:

android update project --target <targetID> --path path/to/your/project/
  • target is the "build target" for your application. It corresponds to an Android platform library (including any add-ons, such as Google APIs) that you would like to build your project against. To see a list of available targets and their corresponding IDs, execute: android list targets.
  • path is the location of your project directory.

Here's an example:

android update project --target 2 --path ./myProject

Preparing to Sign Your Application

As you begin developing Android applications, understand that all Android applications must be digitally signed before the system will install them on an emulator or device. There are two ways to do this: with a debug key (for immediate testing on an emulator or development device) or with a private key (for application distribution).

The Android build tools help you get started by automatically signing your .apk files with a debug key at build time. This means that you can compile your application and install it on the emulator without having to generate your own private key. However, please note that if you intend to publish your application, you must sign the application with your own private key, rather than the debug key generated by the SDK tools.

Please read Signing Your Applications, which provides a thorough guide to application signing on Android and what it means to you as an Android application developer.

Building Your Application

There are two ways to build your application: one for testing/debugging your application — debug mode — and one for building your final package for release — release mode. As described in the previous section, your application must be signed before it can be installed on an emulator or device.

Whether you're building in debug mode or release mode, you need to use the Ant tool to compile and build your project. This will create the .apk file that is installed onto the emulator or device. When you build in debug mode, the .apk file is automatically signed by the SDK tools with a debug key, so it's instantly ready for installation (but only onto an emulator or attached development device). When you build in release mode, the .apk file is unsigned, so you must manually sign it with your own private key, using Keytool and Jarsigner.

It's important that you read and understand Signing Your Applications, particularly once you're ready to release your application and share it with end-users. That document describes the procedure for generating a private key and then using it to sign your .apk file. If you're just getting started, however, you can quickly run your applications on an emulator or your own development device by building in debug mode.

If you don't have Ant, you can obtain it from the Apache Ant home page. Install it and make sure it is in your executable PATH. Before calling Ant, you need to declare the JAVA_HOME environment variable to specify the path to where the JDK is installed.

Note: When installing JDK on Windows, the default is to install in the "Program Files" directory. This location will cause ant to fail, because of the space. To fix the problem, you can specify the JAVA_HOME variable like this: set JAVA_HOME=c:\Prora~1\Java\. The easiest solution, however, is to install JDK in a non-space directory, for example: c:\java\jdk1.6.0_02.

Building in debug mode

For immediate application testing and debugging, you can build your application in debug mode and immediately install it on an emulator. In debug mode, the build tools automatically sign your application with a debug key. However, you can (and should) also test your application in release mode. Debug mode simply allows you to run your application without manually signing the application.

To build in debug mode:

  1. Open a command-line and navigate to the root of your project directory.
  2. Use Ant to compile your project in debug mode:
    ant debug

    This creates your Android application .apk file inside the project bin/ directory, named <your_DefaultActivity_name>-debug.apk. The file is already signed with the debug key.

Each time you change a source file or resource, you must run Ant again in order to package up the latest version of the application.

To install and run your application on an emulator, see the following section about Running Your Application.

Building in release mode

When you're ready to release and distribute your application to end-users, you must build your application in release mode. Once you have built in release mode, it's a good idea to perform additional testing and debugging with the final .apk.

To build in release mode:

  1. Open a command-line and navigate to the root of your project directory.
  2. Use Ant to compile your project in release mode:
    ant release

    This creates your Android application .apk file inside the project bin/ directory, named <your_DefaultActivity_name>.apk.

    Note: The .apk file is unsigned at this point. You can't install it on an emulator or device until you sign it with your private key.

Because release mode builds your application unsigned, your next step is to sign it with your private key, in order to distribute it to end-users. To complete this procedure, read Signing Your Applications.

Once you have signed your application with a private key, you can install it on an emulator or device as discussed in the following section about Running Your Application. You can also try installing it onto a device from a web server. Simply upload the signed APK to a web site, then load the .apk URL in your Android web browser to download the application and begin installation. (On your device, be sure you have enabled Settings > Applications > Unknown sources.)

Running Your Application

Unless you'll be running your application on device hardware, you need to launch an emulator upon which you will install your application. An instance of the Android emulator runs a specific Android platform with specific device configuration settings. The platform and configuration is defined with an Android Virtual Device (AVD). So before you can launch your emulator, you must define an AVD.

If you'll be running your application on device hardware, please read about Developing On a Device instead.

  1. Create an AVD
    1. Open a command-line and navigate to your SDK package's tools/ directory.
    2. First, you need to select a "deployment target." To view available targets, execute:
      android list targets

      This will output a list of available Android targets, such as:

      id:1
          Name: Android 1.1
          Type: platform
          API level: 2
          Skins: HVGA (default), HVGA-L, HVGA-P, QVGA-L, QVGA-P
      id:2
          Name: Android 1.5
          Type: platform
          API level: 3
          Skins: HVGA (default), HVGA-L, HVGA-P, QVGA-L, QVGA-P
      

      Find the target that matches the Android platform upon which you'd like to run your application. Note the integer value of the id — you'll use this in the next step.

    3. Create a new AVD using your selected deployment target:
      android create avd --name <your_avd_name> --target <targetID>
    4. Next, you'll be asked whether you'd like to create a custom hardware profile. If you respond "yes," you'll be presented with a series of prompts to define various aspects of the device hardware (leave entries blank to use default values, which are shown in brackets). Otherwise, press return to use all default values ("no" is the default).
  2. Launch an emulator
  3. From your SDK's tools/ directory, launch an emulator using an existing AVD (created above):

    emulator -avd <your_avd_name>

    An instance of the emulator will now launch, running the target and configuration defined by your AVD.

  4. Install your application

    From your SDK's tools/ directory, install the .apk on the emulator:

    adb install /path/to/your/application.apk

    If there is more than one emulator running, you must specify the emulator upon which to install the application, by its serial number, with the -s option. For example:

    adb -s emulator-5554 install /my/project/path/myapp.apk
  5. Open your application

    In the emulator, open the list of available applications to find and open your application.

If you don't see your application on the emulator. Try restarting the emulator (with the same AVD). Sometimes when you install an Activity for the first time, it won't show up in the application launcher or be accessible by other applications. This is because the package manager usually examines manifests completely only on emulator startup.

Tip: If you have only one emulator running, you can build your application and install it on the emulator in one simple step. Navigate to the root of your project directory and use Ant to compile the project with install mode: ant install. This will build your application, sign it with the debug key, and install it on the currently running emulator. If there is more than one emulator currently running when using the install command, it will fail — it can't select between the multiple emulators.

For more information on the tools used above, please see the following documents:

Attaching a Debugger to Your Application

This section describes how to display debug information on the screen (such as CPU usage), as well as how to hook up your IDE to debug running applications on the emulator.

Attaching a debugger is automated using the Eclipse plugin, but you can configure other IDEs to listen on a debugging port to receive debugging information:

  1. Start the Dalvik Debug Monitor Server (DDMS) tool, which acts as a port forwarding service between your IDE and the emulator.
  2. Set optional debugging configurations on your emulator, such as blocking application startup for an Activity until a debugger is attached. Note that many of these debugging options can be used without DDMS, such as displaying CPU usage or screen refresh rate on the emulator.
  3. Configure your IDE to attach to port 8700 for debugging. Read about Configuring Your IDE to Attach to the Debugging Port.
Android Development
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