List of IDEs for Android App Development, Which is Best for You?

Eclipse Alternatives for Android Application Development

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is an all-in-one solution that allows an application (app) developer (a.k.a. programmer) to perform the software development cycle repeatedly and quickly. That cycle is to design, write (or code), compile, test, debug and package the app software. For Android app development Google currently supports two IDEs (but read on for a list of alternative IDEs and languages):

  1. Android Developer Tools (ADT) – http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html
  2. Android Studio – http://developer.android.com/sdk/installing/studio.html (in beta)

Both of these IDEs require the use of the Java computer language to write Apps. The first option uses the well established Eclipse IDE. The second option is based upon the IntelliJ IDE.

The Google IDEs and the Java language are not the only options for Android App development. Some developers might not need the power of Java or just don’t get on with C style languages. Some developers would like a single code base to support other platforms: Apple (iOS), Windows, Blackberry and the Web (HTML5). This is known as cross-platform development. Well there are plenty of alternatives to Google’s tools, see the following table for a list of Android app development IDE and computer language alternatives. Code can be written in different languages, like BASIC, HTML5 or Lua. Many of the alternatives are free to use, some open source, some restricted versions of paid for products. A few may not have a free version. Some will require the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) that comes with the Google tools to be installed. It is possible to install several IDEs onto the same computer to try them out.

List of Alternative Android App Development IDEs

Name Language C-P URL
AIDE (Android IDE) HTML5/C/C++ Yes http://www.android-ide.com/
Application Craft HTML5 Yes http://www.applicationcraft.com/
Basic4Android BASIC No http://www.basic4ppc.com/
Cordova HTML5 Yes https://cordova.apache.org/
Corona Lua Yes http://coronalabs.com/
Intel XDK HTML5 Yes https://software.intel.com/en-us/html5/tools
IntelliJIDEA Java No https://www.jetbrains.com/idea/features/android.html
Kivy Python Yes http://kivy.org/#home
MIT App Inventor Blocks Yes http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/
Monkey X BASIC Yes http://www.monkeycoder.co.nz/
MonoGame C# Yes http://www.monogame.net/
MoSync HTML5/C/C++ Yes http://www.mosync.com/
NS BASIC BASIC Yes https://www.nsbasic.com/
PhoneGap HTML5 Yes http://phonegap.com/
RAD Studio XE Object Pascal, C++ Yes http://www.embarcadero.com/
RFO Basic BASIC No http://laughton.com/basic/
RhoMobile Suite Ruby Yes http://www.motorolasolutions.com/US-EN/Business+Product+and+Services/Software+and+Applications/RhoMobile+Suite
Telerik HTML5 Yes http://www.telerik.com/platform#overview
Titanium JavaScript Yes http://www.appcelerator.com/titanium/titanium-sdk/
Xamarin C# Yes http://xamarin.com/

Table Notes:

  1. C-P, Cross-Platform, if No only Android supported, if Yes supports App production for other platforms (you will need to check if your required platform is supported).
  2. Language, HTML5 also includes the related technologies of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript.
  3. AIDE and RFO Basic allows code to be developed on the go on Android devices. The code can be packaged into full blown Apps.

Support for Android Programming

This above list of free and commercial IDEs for Android shows that other languages can be considered when wanting to develop apps. Some of these Android options provide cross platform development from the same app source code. (For some IDEs the Android SDK will need to be installed.) Purchased commercial Android development packages will come with varying degrees of support from the company and the user base. Open source and free packages will be supported by the user and development community, and sometimes paid for support is available. Forums are a useful source of answers for Android development issues.

Microsoft are developing Cordova support for Visual Studio, see Microsoft’s Multi-Device Hybrid Apps web page.

Android NDK

Google provides for free the Native Development Kit (NDK) that allows programming in C or C++, see the Android NDK page for more information. Use the NDK to optimise time critical portions of an App. Google does not recommend it for general App development.

Setting Up Google’s Android IDEs

If you need help installing Eclipse or Android Studio see our articles. For a quick Eclipse set up see:

For Android Studio set up see:

For a step-by-step set up of Eclipse see:

Please let us know of any other Android development options you come across. It would be interesting to hear of any App successes from using any of the above packages, drop us a line at dan@tekeye.biz.

Android Studio or Eclipse? Which IDE for Java Android App Developers

Eclipse or Android Studio or Both

The Google preferred Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Android App development is Eclipse. However, Google is currently working on a new IDE, Android Studio. Both IDE’s do the same job, allowing developers to create Apps for Android using Java and the Android Software Development Kit (SDK). If Eclipse has been used for many years to develop Apps why is Google now working on Android Studio. According to the Android Developers Blog

…it’s built with the needs of Android developers in mind.

Thus Google can have more control over the IDE and make it more specific to Android development. Eclipse is a big, well established, widely used IDE. Because Eclipse is used in many areas other than Android development some changes that Google may want to make cannot happen, this must be the reason for an Android specific IDE, and so Android Studio is the result.

Android Studio or Eclipse? Why not both for now.Android Studio is still under heavy development, still a beta product. Should it be therefore be used for Android development? Yes it can, just keep in mind that features can change, the interface can change and bugs will be present. Working in any modern IDE is reasonably similar. There is nothing stopping developers trying out both IDEs and seeing which they prefer. Eclipse and Android Studio can be installed to the same machine. Projects can be moved between the two IDEs. A lot of the functionality is similar, some things are done differently. After all it is a new product. The core of Android Studio is another popular IDE for Java development, IntelliJ, which provides a good basis for the new IDE.

It is likely that Android Studio will be the longer term choice by Google for Android App development. In the meantime there are thousands and thousands of resources dealing with App development in Eclipse. Therefore the sensible solution until Android Studio leads the way is to install both IDEs. They can both sit together on the same machine. Choose one for day-to-day development, but have the ability to run the other when needed. Therefore it isn’t Android Studio or Eclipse, it is Android Studio and Eclipse, at least until Android Studio is out of beta and lots more resources for it are on line.

Related Articles

The Android Development Options Article is Merged with a New Entry

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ADT Android Bundle to Quickly Setup Android Development

Start Writing Google Apps on Windows

If you want to write Android Applications (Apps) you need the right software. Google provides free access to this software for Windows, Apple Mac and Linux PCs. An App is a computer program and like all programs it needs designing, writing, compiling, testing and debugging. This is all done in an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). There are many IDEs from which to choose. This article deals with the IDE provided by Google in the ADT Bundle for Windows. So read on for tips and information on installing and running the ADT Android bundle.

Use the ADT Android Bundle For Android Apps

Apps are written in computer language. Google’s preferred language for Android is the widely used Java. A popular IDE for writing Java programs is called Eclipse, from the Eclipse Foundation. The Eclipse IDE can be installed on to most PCs, including Windows PCs. For Android App development the Eclipse IDE requires the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) and the Android Development Tools (ADT), both from Google. All of these (Eclipse, SDK and ADT) are available in a large zip file from the Android Developers web site, the ADT Bundle for Windows.

Alternative Android App Development Environments

The ADT Android bundle is not the only option from Google. Instead of using the large zip file, install Eclipse, the Android SDK and ADT in separate steps. Good for those who need more control over the installation. (See our article Setup Android Development on Windows.)

A new option from Google is the Android Studio. Studio is currently under development so is only available under a beta release and thus subject to change. Studio does not use the Eclipse IDE, it uses the IntelliJ IDEA environment thus giving you a choice of editors. To set up Android Studio see our article Android Studio Install for Windows Based PCs.

Apps can be programmed in computer languages other than Java, using IDEs from companies other than Google. See the last section of this article for alternatives to using Java.

Install Java JDK

Java is Google’s preferred language for App development. As such the Java runtime and development kit needs installing before the ADT Android bundle. Go to the Java download page at http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/index.html.

The Java Download Button

Select the Java download button and follow the instructions. Accept the license agreement and select the correct Windows installation EXE for your PC. (If unsure whether you are running 32-bit or 64-bit Windows use the System option in Control Panel. Under Basic Information the System type tells you if it is a 32-bit or 64-bit Operating System.) Run the Java installer to set up Java on your PC. See our article Installing Java on Windows (32-Bit or 64 Bit) if you need more help.

Download ADT Android Bundle

The Android SDK download page is at http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html. Click on the Download the SDK ADT Bundle for Windows button. Accept the Terms and Conditions displayed by clicking the check box. Choose either 32-bit or 64-bit to match your Windows installation.

Another Download the SDK ADT Bundle for Windows button is enabled. Click the button to save the adt-bundle-windows-x86-YYYYMMDD.zip (32-bit) or adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-YYYYMMDD.zip (64-bit) file to your PC. Where YYYYMMDD is the release date for the package. E.g. adt-bundle-windows-x86-20130717.zip is the 32-bit ADT Android bundle released on July 17th 2013.

Extract Zip File Contents to Install Eclipse IDE and Android SDK and Tools

All the contents in the zip download need to be extracted. This can be done with Windows Explorer, however, on Windows XP you may get errors copying the files using Explorer. If so use an archive tool, such as 7Zip, to extract all the ADT Android bundle files.

The Android Developers website recommends extracting to a “Development” directory under your normal home location. However, that means a lot of program files are stored with your normal work. Some Android developers extract to C:\Program Files (this is a protected directory and you made be asked for permission to copy here), other developers install to a directory on the root of C: or other hard drive, such as C:\Android or C:\Development. Since the zip file contains a root directory named after itself simply copy that directory to a hard drive root. For example the contents of adt-bundle-windows-x86-20130717.zip can be extracted to C:\adt-bundle-windows-x86-20130717.

Add a Shortcut to Eclipse to the Desktop

Eclipse ShortcutTo access the App development environment quickly add a shortcut to your PC desktop. Using Windows Explorer open the eclipse directory in the extracted contents. Bring up the context menu (usually right-click) on the eclipse.exe program and select Create shortcut. Drag and drop (move) the new shortcut onto the desktop.

Run It!

The ADT Android Bundle is now installed. Run the eclipse.exe program (you can use the shortcut if you created one). First time in you will be asked to contribute usage statistics to Google. Select Yes or No and press the Finish button.

Create an Android Virtual Device (AVD) using the AVD Manager. An AVD allows testing of Apps without the need to use a physical device. Use the toolbar icon or select Android Virtual Device Manager from the Window menu. See our article Set Up an Android Virtual Device for App Testing for further information.

To test on a physical Android device install the manufacturers driver. With the driver installed use a USB cable to connect the device to your PC. You will need to enable USB debugging in the device settings.

Test your ADT Android Bundle installation by creating a simple App. See our article Your First Android Hello World Java Program. If you installed the ADT bundle to a drive other than C: you may get issues trying to run an App on an AVD. See our article Windows Symbolic Links for Android Installations on the D: Drive for a solution.

ADT Android Bundle Install Summary

Here is a summary of installing the ADT Bundle for Windows:

  • Download and install the Java JDK.
  • Download the ADT Bundle for Windows zip file.
  • Extract the contents to your PC.
  • Run it! (eclipse.exe).

Other Android App Development Options

If you struggle developing in Java, with the Google recommended IDEs for App development, there are other options. See our post Android Development Options, Tools and IDEs. It lists alternative development packages and languages.

Visual Studio Express Requirements – Operating System

Visual Studio Express is the Free Version of Microsoft’s IDE

When writing software for Microsoft Windows based systems there are many free programming tools available, including the free Windows development tools provided by Microsoft themselves. Visual Studio is the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that Microsoft produces for programmers, a.k.a. developers, to write software for Windows. The free version of these development tools is called Visual Studio Express (VSE), the latest version is the 2013 release. The 2013 release coincides with the release of Windows 8.1 and replaces Visual Studio Express 2012.

The 2013 versions are aimed at users of the latest Windows operating systems, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012. For users still running Windows XP or Windows Vista (not including Starter Editions) then Visual Studio Express 2010 will be needed. There are several different versions of VSE 2013 for programmers, which target different uses. The Visual Studio Express requirements vary depending upon which version is used. The versions are for Web, Windows 8 Apps, Windows Desktop or Windows Phone. To move beyond those types of programs the Professional version and upwards of Visual Studio would be required, and these are paid for products. The Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 Express products can be accessed from this link.

Visual Studio Express 2013 System Requirements
Express 2013 Product Used To Develop Minimum Operating System Required for Installation
Express for Web Web sites and HTML5 applications Windows 7 SP1 (With IE 10)
Express for Windows Windows 8 Apps Windows 8.1
Express for Windows Desktop Windows Programs Windows 7 SP1 (With IE 10)
Express for Windows Phone Windows Phone Apps Windows 8

All current versions of VSE are available from this downloads page (scroll down to the Express products, just after the full product trial versions). There is also a version of Team Foundation Server (TFS), Microsoft’s source code and development management software. TFS Express is limited to 5 users (team members). VSE products require free registration to obtain a product key to use them beyond a 30 day trial period.

Displaying a Bitmap in Android

Use an ImageView to Show a Raster Graphic

Showing a bitmap image, such as a Portable Network Graphics (PNG) or JPEG file, in an Android application (App) is easy. In this tutorial we show you how. It is assumed you are programming in Java using the Android SDK from within the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE). For PC users starting out in Android Java development see Set Up Windows for Android Development to prepare your development environment.

The ImageView class can be used and pointed at a bitmap stored under one of the drawable folders in the res project folders. Let us start by creating a very basic App project that will contain the ImageView and bitmap to display. If you do not know how to create a basic Android project in Eclipse see the article Your First Android Program. With Eclipse open select the File menu then New and Android Application Project. In the New Android App wizard the fields are set as follows:

  • Application Name – Bitmap
  • Project Name – Bitmap
  • Package Name – biz.tekeye.bitmap
  • Build SDK – Android 4.1 (API 16)
  • Minimum Required SDK – API 3: Android 1.5 (Cupcake) – or the lowest one installed
  • Create custom launcher icon – unchecked
  • Mark this project as a library – unchecked
  • Create project in Workspace – checked

Simple Android App Screen Open in EclipsePress the Next button. Create Activity should be checked and BlankActivity selected. Press the Next button again. On the New Blank Activity screen leave the fields as default and press Finish. The Bitmap project will be created and the App’s initial screen will load in the graphical designer. Continue reading