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.

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.

Support Library Samples in The Android SDK

How to Load and Run the Android Support Library Demos

This tutorial will show you how to load the samples provided with the Android SDK that demonstrate using the Android Support Library, some refer to it as Android Support Package or the Android Compatibility Package. The online Android developer documentation does not give enough detail on getting the Support Library demos running, this article covers that shortfall.

What is the Android Support Library?

The Android Operating System (OS) is updated regularly to add new features, support new devices and implement new ideas. This requires changes and additions to the Application Programming Interface (API). For Applications (Apps) to be widely used they need to run on devices with earlier APIs as well as devices that have the new features. To help developers achieve this Google provides a Support Library that allows some of the newer API features to be used on earlier devices.

For example when Android version 3.0 (Honeycomb, API 3.0) was released, to support tablet style devices, it provided the new Fragment class. The use of Fragments allows a User Interface (UI) to be divided into smaller sections allowing for improved App design when dealing with larger screens. A tablet App may have a screen composed of three Fragments, when that App is run on a device with a small screen the three Fragments may represent three separate screens. To run an App based on Fragments on a device with a version of Android lower that 3.0, i.e. API 10 or earlier, the Android Support Library is required. It has implementations of some of the new Android APIs to allow earlier devices to run code written for the new APIs, helping with an Apps backwards compatibility. (Note that this differs from Android Compatibility Mode which is what new devices use to run old Apps.)

Android Support Library Installation

Android Support Library InstallThe Android Support Library and compatibility samples are installed via the SDK Manager. If a full install of the Android SDK was done then in the Android SDK folder the compatibility files are in android-sdk/extras/android/compatibility. If the Android Support Library is not installed simply run SDK Manager (SDK Manager.exe on Windows). Open the Extras folder. Select Android Support Library then click the Install 1 package button (accepting the licence agreement).

The Android SDK has available two versions of the Support LIbrary:

  • android-support-v4.jar – Version 4 is for Apps aimed at Android Version 1.6 (Donut, API 4) and later.
  • android-support-v13.jar – Version 13 is for Apps aimed at Android 3.2 ( API 13) and later. Continue reading

Running an Android SDK Sample App

How to Load and Run a Sample Program from the Android SDK

The Android Robot LogoThe Android Software Development Kit (SDK) gets updated with new version platforms for each new release of the Operating System (OS). Each version platform can be loaded onto your development machine with SDK Manager.exe. There are available sample Applications (Apps) to showcase Android features and provide example code that allows developers to see how to use the Android Application Programming Interface (API).

Getting Hold of the Android Samples

Each SDK platform version provides Android sample source code project, however, they must be selected for installation on your development machine using the SDK Manager program. Run SDK Manager and wait for it to finish doing it’s checks. Expand the required Android Version folder to see and select the Samples for SDK option.

Exmaple Apps can be Loaded with the SDK Manager

Once the samples have been installed they will be found in the android-sdk/samples folder in the Android SDK’s install directory. (On Windows this may be under the Local Settings/Application Data folder, e.g. C:\Documents and Settings\John Doe\Local Settings\Application Data\Android, or wherever you chose to install it.) There will be a folder for each Android API version for which you chose to install the samples, called android-x where x is the API version.

Android SDK Samples

See our article Use Android SDK Samples for Guidance to see a list, and brief description, of the example Apps supplied with the various Android versions. Continue reading

SDK Manager not Working in Windows

A change in the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) Tools that took place between release 16 and release 17 means that on some Windows configurations the Android SDK Manager (SDK Manager.exe) does not run outside of Eclipse, that issue is discussed in this article. Occasionally the SDK Manager does not work for other reasons, in which case one possible solution is to manually update the SDK tools as discussed at the end of the article Keeping the Android SDK Updated. However, if SDK Manager (and other Android utilities) worked prior to release 17 of the SDK tools then read on. The article also discusses why recent Android SDKs fail to install on a Windows 64-bit system. Continue reading