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Android Studio Cookbook
Android Studio Cookbook

Android Studio Cookbook: Design, test, and debug your apps using Android Studio

By Mike van Drongelen
$35.99 $9.99
Book Oct 2015 232 pages 1st Edition
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Android Studio Cookbook

Chapter 1. Welcome to Android Studio

In this chapter, we will cover some basic tasks related to Android Studio. While reading this and the other chapters, you will learn how to use Android Studio efficiently.

In this chapter, you will learn the following recipes:

  • Creating your first app called Hello Android Studio.

  • The use of Gradle build scripts

  • Testing your app with an emulator called Genymotion

  • Refactoring your code

Introduction


This chapter is an introduction to Android Studio and provides a helicopter view of the different tools that come with this Integrated Development Environment (IDE). In addition to this, some other important tools will be discussed here, such as Genymotion, the emulator that I highly recommend you to use to test your app on different kinds of devices.

Using Android Studio, you can create any app you like. Apps for phones, phablets, tablets, watches and other wearables, Google Glass, TV apps, and even auto apps.

If you already have mobile programming experience or even have worked with Android apps and Eclipse before and you want to discover how to create apps that take pictures, play media, work on any device, connect to a cloud, or anything else that you can think of, then this book is for you!

All recipes described in this book are based on Android Studio for Mac; however, it is not a problem at all if you are using Android Studio for Windows or Linux instead. The terminology is the same for all platforms. Just the screenshots provided with each recipe may look a little bit different, but I am pretty sure you can figure that out with a little effort. If there are any significant differences for Windows, I will let you know.

Reasons why we should use Android Studio

Android Studio is the recommended IDE to develop Android apps and is available for free for anyone who develops professional Android apps. Android Studio is based on the JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA software, which might explain why even the preview and beta versions of Android studio were already better than Eclipse and why many Android developers were using it as their IDE from the beginning.

The first stable build of Android Studio was released in December 2014 and has replaced Eclipse (with Android Development Tools) as the primary IDE for Android development. Now, with Android Studio, we do not just have a more stable and faster IDE, but it also comes with cool stuff such as Gradle, better refactoring methods, and a much better layout editor to name just a few of them.

Okay, I still have some weird issues every now and then (I guess that is what life as a mobile developer is all about sometimes) but I certainly do not feel the frustration that I had felt when I was working with Eclipse. If you are using Eclipse for plain Java development, it is just fine I guess; however, it does not play nicely with Android. If you have been using IntelliJ IDEA for Java development tasks before, then Android Studio will look pretty familiar to you.

Android Studio really brought back the fun of mobile development. If you are using Eclipse currently, then you should switch to Android Studio instantly! To see it for yourself, get it from https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html and start building cool apps using Android Studio right away.

Fragmentation

What has remained is the fragmentation challenge that you need to deal with when it comes to Android development. There are many devices running on many Android flavors and versions.

There are a lot of Android versions, resulting in fragmentation. Because of this, you cannot expect that all devices will run on the latest Android version. In fact, most do not. Many devices still run on Android 4.x (or even older versions), for example.

Here, you can see a table with all the relevant Android versions and distribution numbers. The numbers in this table indicate that if you decide to support Android 4.0 and later releases, you will reach 88.7 percent of all Android users. In this example, the numbers for Q2 2015 are shown, which explains why Android Marshmallow (6.0) is not being listed here. If you create a new project in Android Studio, you can get the actual numbers by clicking on a Help me Choose link in the Create New project wizard dialog, as we will find out in the next chapters.

Let's have a look at the following screenshot which describes the cumulative distribution of different Android platform version along with their API level:

In addition to software fragmentation, there is also a lot of hardware fragmentation that you should be aware of. Writing an Android app is not that hard but writing an app that functions well on any Android device actually is.

A good app should be able to run on as many different devices as possible. For example, think of an app that takes pictures. Android devices do have a camera or multiple ones or no camera at all. Depending on other functionalities that your app provides, you might need to worry about other things as well, such as whether a device is able to record sound or not.

I can imagine you want to reach an audience as large as possible so you should always ask yourself which of your app feature demands will or will not have to be mandatory. If a device does not have a camera, the user might not be able to take pictures, but should that really be a reason for not allowing the user to use the app at all?

The introduction of runtime permissions in Android Marshmallow (6.0) makes it even more important for you to provide some kind of a fallback functionality in your app. At least you need to explain why a particular functionality is not available in your app. For example, the user device does not support it or the user did not gave permission for it.

This book is going to help you deal with Android fragmentation and other issues.

Creating your first app called Hello Android Studio


After downloading Android Studio, install it and go through the setup wizards. The wizard checks for some requirements, whether the Java Development Kit (JDK) is available, and other important elements that the installation wizards guide you through.

Once the installation is complete, it is time to develop your first Android app using Android Studio, just to check whether everything has been installed correctly and works the way it should. It probably will be no surprise that this is where the Hello Android Studio recipe comes in.

Getting ready

To go through this recipe, you will need a running Android Studio IDE, an Android Software Development Kit (SDK), and an Android device. No other prerequisites are required.

How to do it...

Let's create our first Android app using Android Studio to check whether everything works fine with the help of the following steps:

  1. Start Android Studio. The Welcome to Android Studio dialog will be shown to you after a few seconds.

  2. Select the Start a new Android Studio project option. Then, the Configure your new project dialog appears.

  3. For Application name, enter HelloAndroidStudio; and for the Company domain field, enter packtpub.com (or use the domain name of your own company if you prefer to do so).

  4. Package names such as packtpub.com and helloandroidstudio are suggested and updated while you type. If you wish, you can edit the Project location before you click on the Next button.

  5. In the Target Android Devices dialog box, check the Phone and Tablet option. Leave the other options unchecked. We will create some of those other interesting targets, such as an Android Wear app, later. For the Minimum SDK, choose API 14. If that one is not (yet) available, click on any of the other available SDKs. We will install more SDKs later. Click on the Next button to continue.

  6. In the next dialog box, Add an activity to Mobile, choose the Blank Activity option and click on the Next button.

  7. The final dialog Customize the activity will be displayed after this. Leave all the values the way they are and click on the Finish button.

  8. Android Studio is now going to create this new app for you. After a while, the project view, a MainActivity class, and an activity_main.xml layout are displayed. If you change the perspective of the project view on the left-hand side of your Android Studio by clicking on the button, that displays the little green Android guy and the text that reads Android, from Android to Project, the layout will look a little bit more like you are used to, that is, if you have used Eclipse before.

  9. Double-click on the app folder to expand it. You will notice a file called the build.gradle file (note that this file also exists on the root level).

  10. Double-click on the build.gradle file to open it and have a look at the values for compileSdkVersion, minSdkVersion, and targetSdkVersion. By default, the compileSdkVersion value is always related to the latest (available) SDK. The value for minSdkVersion is the one that you have chosen in the Target Android devices dialog box.

    Note

    If you want, use a different SDK to compile against; you must change the value for compileSdkVersion. The version you choose might need to be installed first. If you are happy with the current configuration, go to step 14 right away.

  11. If you want to check which SDKs are installed, go the Tools option from the main menu and choose Android from the SDK Manager submenu.

  12. The Android SDK Manager dialog box displays which SDKs are installed. If you need to install a different SDK, you can check the elements you need and click on the Install n packages… button.

  13. After installing the SDKs that you need and having configured your build.gradle file, you can now run your app.

  14. If you are using a physical device for Android development, you need to unlock the developer options first. On your device, start the Settings app and go to the Device info option. (This option may be on the General tab or section or at another place, depending on the version and flavor of Android that your device is running on).

    Note

    If you do not have a real device, I strongly recommend you get one as soon as possible. To get started, you can use an emulator for now. You can use the emulator that comes with the Android SDK or you can read the recipe about Genymotion first to find out how to use emulated devices.

  15. In the Device Info view, scroll all the way down until you see the Build number option. Now, click seven (7) times on Build number to unlock (enable) the developer mode. (No, this is not a joke). You now have the developer's menu unlocked.

    Note

    On older Android versions (below 4.2), this step may be skipped, or if the developer options are already available as a menu item in the settings app, this step may be skipped.

  16. Now that you have got a new option in your Settings app, called Developer options, click on it and have a look at it. It is important that you enable the USB debugging option within this menu. In addition, you might want to enable or disable some of the other options.

  17. Connect your device and run your app from Android Studio by clicking on the green triangle next to the drop-down box that reads the app. Or, choose the Run... option from the Run menu. Then, the Choose Device dialog box appears. Your device should now appear in the list of the Choose a running device option. ( If your device does not appear in the list, reconnect your device).

  18. Click on the OK button. (For Windows, before you are able to connect your device, it is often necessary to install a driver first.)

  19. On your device, a dialog box may pop up, requiring you to accept the finger print. Choose Allow in order to continue.

The app is now being deployed on your device. If everything goes well, your new app is now shown on your device that says Hello world! Hurrah! I admit this is not really a very exciting app, but at least we know now that Android Studio and your device have been configured correctly.

How it works...

Android Studio will take care of the basic parts of your app setup. All you need to do is choose the target and minimal SDK for your app. Using the API level 14 (Android 4.0) is currently the best option, as this will allow your app to run on most Android devices.

The app will be compiled against the chosen (compile) SDK by Android Studio.

The app will be copied to your device. Having the USB debugging option enabled will help you troubleshoot any issues, as we will find out later.

The use of Gradle build scripts


Android Studio uses Gradle build scripts. It is a project automation tool and uses a Domain-specific Language (DSL) instead of the more common XML form to create the configuration of a project.

Projects come with a top-level build file and a build file for each module. These files are called build.gradle. Most of the time, it is only the build file for the app module that needs your attention.

Note

You may note that some properties that you could find in the Android manifest file previously, such as the target SDK and versioning properties, are now defined in a build file and should reside in the build file only.

A typical build.gradle file may look like this:

applylugin: 'com.android.application'
android {
  compileSdkVersion 21
  buildToolsVersion "21.0.0"
  defaultConfig {
  minSdkVersion 8
  targetSdkVersion 21
  versionCode 1
  versionName "0.1"
  } 
}
dependencies {
  compile fileTree(dir: 'libs', include: ['*.jar'])
}

The Gradle build system is not something that you need to worry too much about right now. In later recipes, we will see what the real power of it will be. The system is also designed to support complex scenarios that may be faced while creating Android applications, such as handling customized versions of the same app for various customers (build flavors) or creating multiple APK files for different device types or different Android OS versions.

For now, it is ok just to know that this is the place where we will define compileSdkVersion, targetSdkVersion, and minSdkVersion, just like we did in the manifest file previously in case you have been using Eclipse.

Also, this is the place where we define versionCode and versionName, which reflect the version of your app that is useful if someone is going to update the app you wrote.

Another interesting key element of the Gradle functionality is that of dependencies. Dependencies can be local or remote libraries and JAR files. The project depends on them in order to be able to compile and run. In the build.gradle file that you will find in the previous folder the app folder you will find the defined repository in which the libraries reside. jCenter is the default repository.

If for example you wish to add the Parse functionality, which is something that we will do in the recipes found in the next chapter, the following dependency declaration will add the local Parse library to your project:

dependencies {
compile fileTree(dir: 'libs', include: 'Parse-*.jar')compile project(':Parse-1.9.1')
}

Using external libraries has become much easier. For example, if you want to add UniversalImageLoader, a well-known library to load images from the Internet, or if you want to use the functionality from the Gson library, which basically is an object wrapper for JSON data, to your app, the following dependency declaration will make these libraries available to the project:

dependencies {
compile 'com.google.code.gson:gson:2.3+'
compile 'com.nostra13.universalimageloader:universal-image-loader:1.9.3'
}

There's more...

Some other Gradle concepts will be explained in the recipes of the next chapters. Gradle is a topic that one could write a book about on, and you can find many interesting in-depth tutorials on the Internet if you would like to know more about it.

See also

  • For more information about Gradle build scripts, refer to Chapter 2, Applications with a Cloud-based Backend

Testing your app with an emulator called Genymotion


The best way to test your app is by using a real device. The Android emulator is pretty slow and does not provide you with all the features that come with a real device, such as a camera and all kinds of sensors.

I can image that you do have just one or perhaps a few devices. With thousands of Android devices being available and many brands and models that run on a customized (for example, the Samsung devices) or a plain (like the Nexus devices) flavor of the Android OS and on any Android version that you can think of, testing on real devices only would become pretty expensive.

If, for example, you are creating an app that should run well on Android 2.3, Android 4.x, and Android 5.x, using emulated devices can be handy. Unfortunately, the default emulator is terribly slow. It takes ages to start Android on the emulator, and debugging can be very slow on it as well. To make the emulator a little bit faster, you could try to install Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM). There are some topics on the Internet that tell you how to do this; however, there is a much better solution, Genymotion.

Genymotion is a real, fast, and easy-to-use emulator and comes with many real-world device configurations. You can read more about Genymotion on its website at www.genymotion.com. It is available as a free or paid solution. The free one will be all right to start with.

Getting ready

Make sure you have Internet access and sufficient space on your hard drive. We will need to download both VirtualBox and Genymotion. After this, you are ready to create your first virtual device. Let the magic begin.

How to do it...

Let's install Genymotion to prepare Android Studio to work with smoothly running emulated devices:

  1. Both Oracle's VirtualBox and the Genymotion app need to be installed. This is because Genymotion virtualizes various Android operating systems using the virtualization techniques of Oracle Virtual Machine (VM) VirtualBox in the background. If you do not already have Oracle VM VirtualBox installed on your computer (or if you have a version of VirtualBox that is below 4.1.1 which is not compatible with Genymotion), you need to install it first.

    Download VirtualBox for OS X hosts (or for Windows) from the VirtualBox download page at https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads.

    Install VirtualBox, and after that, reboot your computer.

    Download Genymotion from its web page at https://www.genymotion.com/#!/download.

  2. Now, open and install the downloaded file.

  3. Run Genymotion. A dialog box then asks you whether you want to create a new device. Click on the Yes button to do so. Later, you can create additional devices by clicking on the + (plus) button on the main screen.

  4. Select the Android OS version from the drop-down list on the left-hand side of dialog box.

  5. Select a virtual device (brand and model) from the drop-down list on the center and click on the Next button.

  6. Name your device. It's recommended that you include both the device and the OS version in your device name so what you are testing on can be easily recognized when you want to use it later.

  7. Click on the Next button to confirm the name. Your virtual device will be created, and it will appear in the list on the main screen of Genymotion. Create as many virtual devices as you need.

  8. To run a virtual device, select it and click on the Play button. It will launch the Genymotion emulator so that you can use it together with Android Studio. When it is launched, you can unlock the device so that it is ready to use.

  9. If you hit the Run button in Android Studio again, you will notice that the running virtual device is shown in the list of available devices in the Choose Device dialog box. Just click on the OK button to let the magic begin. Your Android app will be launched on the emulator.

And it is running fast and smooth! Pretty cool, isn't it?

The following is an example of the main screen of Genymotion listing a couple of virtual devices that have been created:

There's more...

Genymotion comes with emulated front and/or backend cameras, depending on the chosen configuration. To enable them, click on the camera icon. A new dialog box appears in which you can change the slider to On and choose a real camera for the front and backend camera of your virtual device.

After selecting a camera, you can close the dialog box. A green checkbox will now appear next to the Camera button. Now, whenever an app needs to use a camera, it will use the selected camera, which in my case is the webcam on the laptop. To check whether this is working, choose the Camera app on the virtual device.

The paid version of Genymotion has additional features available, including emulated sensors such as GPS and accelerometers. If you like, you can check out the differences at https://www.genymotion.com/#!/store.

Remember that although using virtual devices for testing purposes works really great with Genymotion, it is important to always test it on multiple real devices. Some issues, in particular the ones that are related to memory management that we will see later in this book, are easy to reproduce on real devices, but may be somewhat harder to reproduce on virtual devices.

In addition to this, real devices are much more pixel perfect and some issues may appear only on a particular device so when it comes to see how the artwork looks, you are going to need a couple of them.

By the time your app is nearly complete, you might be interested in the (paid) services from Testdroid, a cloud-based service that allows to run (automated) tests on many real devices. Visit www.testdroid.com to learn more about this great service!

The following screenshot provides an example of the Hello Android Studio app running on a virtual Nexus 5 device using Genymotion:

Refactoring your code


Good software engineers refactor their work continuously. Names of methods and members should always indicate what they are doing. Since business requirements often change during the development process, in particular when agile methodologies come in, so do your apps.

If you choose the right names and stick to the rule that the length of methods must be limited to, well let's say, scrolling one page at most to view the whole method, often you do not need many comments to explain what your code is doing. If it is hard to come up with a good name for a particular method, then it is probably doing too much.

Since changing names could be scary, as it could break your code, developers often choose not to do so. Or, they decide to do it later. You save yourself a few minutes by doing so in advance. Your code could be hard to understand if some one else has a look at your code or if you have a look at your code one year later. Going through the code to find out what a method does can be very time consuming. A descriptive name for your method can solve this.

The good news is that using Android Studio, refactoring is painless and pretty easy. Just highlight the name of a member or method, right-click on it, and pick the Refactor item from the context menu that pops up.

In the Refactor submenu that appears when you choose the Refactor item, you will find many interesting options. The one option that you will use here and which you will be using the most is the Rename… option.

How to do it…

The following steps describe how to rename a method in the Refactor submenu:

  1. Highlight the name of the method you would like to rename.

  2. From the context menu, choose Refactor.

  3. From the submenu, choose Rename (or use the shortcut Shift + F6).

  4. Now, you can rename your method or member in place and apply the changes by hitting the Enter button. Android Studio provides you with some suggestions that you can accept or you can type the name you want.

    Tip

    If you repeat step 2 and 3, a dialog box appears in which you can edit the name. (Or use the shortcut Shift + F6 twice).

  5. Click on the Preview button to see what the effect of the renaming will be.

  6. At the bottom of your screen, a new view appears, which shows you the impact of the renaming in each file (class, resource, or otherwise).

  7. Click on the Do refactor button in that view to apply all the changes.

The following screenshot shows an example of an in-place refactoring (renaming).

How it works...

Android Studio will take care of renaming a method or member and any references to it everywhere in the project. This includes Java classes, layouts, drawables, and anything else that you can think of.

There are many other interesting options available from the Refactor menu that you can use. Some of them will be discussed in the next chapters in the recipes where they will come in handy.

Now, let's move on to the next chapter and build a real app, shall we?

See also

  • For more information about refactoring code, refer to Chapter 8, Improving qua lity.

Left arrow icon Right arrow icon

Key benefits

  • See what Material design is about and how to apply it your apps
  • Explore the possibilities to develop apps that works on any type of device
  • A step-by-step practical guide that will help you build improved applications, change their look, and debug them

Description

This book starts with an introduction of Android Studio and why you should use this IDE rather than Eclipse. Moving ahead, it teaches you to build a simple app that requires no backend setup but uses Google Cloud or Parse instead. After that, you will learn how to create an Android app that can send and receive text and images using Google Cloud or Parse as a backend. It explains the concepts of Material design and how to apply them to an Android app. Also, it shows you how to build an app that runs on an Android wear device. Later, it explains how to build an app that takes advantage of the latest Android SDK while still supporting older Android versions. It also demonstrates how the performance of an app can be improved and how memory management tools that come with the Android Studio IDE can help you achieve this. By the end of the book, you will be able to develop high quality apps with a minimum amount of effort using the Android Studio IDE.

What you will learn

Develop Android Studio applications using Genymotion Apply the concepts of Material design to your applications Use memory monitoring tools to tweak performance Build applications for Android Wearable Capture images, video, or audio within your Android app Use content providers to display data Build apps with a cloud-based backend Create media-related apps that will run on phones, phablets, tablets, and TVs

Product Details

Country selected

Publication date : Oct 30, 2015
Length 232 pages
Edition : 1st Edition
Language : English
ISBN-13 : 9781785286186
Vendor :
Google
Category :

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Product Details


Publication date : Oct 30, 2015
Length 232 pages
Edition : 1st Edition
Language : English
ISBN-13 : 9781785286186
Vendor :
Google
Category :

Table of Contents

17 Chapters
Android Studio Cookbook Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
Credits Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
About the Author Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
About the Reviewers Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
www.PacktPub.com Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
Preface Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
1. Welcome to Android Studio Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
2. Applications with a Cloud-based Backend Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
3. Material Design Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
4. Android Wear Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
5. Size Does Matter Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
6. Capture and Share Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
7. Content Providers and Observers Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
8. Improving Quality Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
9. Improving Performance Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
10. Beta Testing Your Apps Chevron down icon Chevron up icon
Index Chevron down icon Chevron up icon

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