Let's All Learn How to Develop an Android App, Part One

By Colin Polonowski on at

Those developers sure have it easy. Come up with an app idea; fiddle with a bit of code, and et voila, you're an app millionaire. Or something like that, right? Join us over the next few months as we take you through the basics of developing for Android.

From the initial set-up right through to seeing your app icon appear, we'll hold your hand as we skip through the pixellated daisy-dotted fields of learning together. I'm a professional developer but have never developed an app before, so this is new ground for me too.

Where possible, we'll explain the programming terminology being used, and also any strange acronyms that may leave you exclaiming "what the hell are you on about this week, Colin?!". If you do have any questions, leave them in the comments below and we'll do our best to answer them -- no question is too big or small when we're all on our ways to becoming APP MILLIONAIRES.


Getting Started

I'll be developing my app on a Windows 7 PC using a Samsung Galaxy Note II -- but you can use a Mac or Linux-based PC and any Android phone or tablet with very little hassle.

In terms of software, things again are pretty straightforward. Google provide an Android 'Software Development Kit' (SDK) which works with a number of Integrated Development Environments (IDE) including the popular Eclipse. They also handily provide an Android Development Tools (ADT) bundle which gives you Eclipse, the Android SDK and everything else you need to get up and running with Android development.

Once you've downloaded the ADT bundle and extracted it somewhere sensible, open up the SDK Manager file. We'll be developing our app for Jellybean so rather than install all of the code packages to support older iterations of the OS, we just need to check the appropriate options -- here we've selected all of the packages for Android 2.3.3 and up, along with the Android SDK Tools and Android SDK Platform-tools.

You'll also need to ensure your phone is set up for development. Right now this is as straightforward as ticking one box. Go to Settings > Developer Options and then scroll down to the Debugging section. Then just ensure the USB debugging option is checked; click OK, and you're locked and loaded...


What app?

That's it -- you're now set up to be the next app millionaire. But what to develop?

We like to think you're a pretty discerning bunch, so we thought "why not get the Giz readers to pick our project?" -- possibly a big mistake, but the future of this series is now in your hands. (Don't be too cruel, please.) We want your suggestions for apps we could realistically develop -- we'll pick the one we think is best (or most achievable!) and use that as the basis of our future articles. There are obviously a couple of guidelines...

1.) It has to be legal --- let's try and keep it tasteful too.
2.) It has to be reasonably simple -- this is a first app for all of us, not just me. We don't want to dive in head first and recreate Microsoft Office on a mobile device. OR DO WE... (No, we really don't.)

With that in mind, pop down to the comments section below and tell us what you think we should create...

Colin Polonowski is a developer at Giz UK's parent company Future Publishing, working across a number of their sites. He also runs The Digital Fix in his spare time.

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