Google just made developing Android apps a bit easier. On Monday, the company released Android Studio 1.0, its integrated development environment (IDE) for Android.
IDEs, as the name suggests, integrate a variety of different developer tools into a single application to simplify the process of writing, managing, and building apps. Although many developers rely on text editors and command-line tools, IDEs can make development much easier.
Google provided Android developers with a preview version of Android Studio at its developer conference last year. The 1.0 release brings improvements suggested by beta users and general stability fixes. Android Studio can be thought of as Google's answer to Apple's Xcode.
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Android Studio might prove tempting for users of Eclipse, an open-source Java-based IDE that supports a variety of different programming languages through plugins. Studio is based on the IntelliJ IDEA Java IDE and tends to be more responsive and less demanding of computing power than Eclipse. It relies on a Gradle-based build system, which has been decoupled from the IDE itself. This means app builds can be done inside or outside the IDE and IDE updates don't affect builds. Eclipse uses Apache ANT.
Android Studio features a first-run setup wizard and code templates to make Android developers productive quickly. It also provides assistance when importing Android code from other applications. The IDE includes IntelliJ's code completion, refactoring, and code analysis tools, which seem to be slightly more favored by developers than similar tools in Eclipse.
One of the key features of Android Studio is its layout editor, which supports drag-and-drop interface creation. The interface of Android Studio itself has more visual appeal than Eclipse. Another worthwhile feature is the Translation Editor, which eases the burden of managing multiple files containing the translations of the text strings present in an app.
Android Studio has been integrated with Google Cloud Platform, enabling Android developers to create backend services very efficiently. Developers can configure Cloud Platform modules, endpoints, and push messaging from within the IDE. Eclipse offers similar capabilities through the Google Plugin for Eclipse.
Android Studio doesn't yet support Android's Native Development Kit (NDK), used by developers creating apps in C/C++.
Android developers that have spent a lot of time in Eclipse might be reluctant to switch to a new build tool chain. But Google says it has stopped development on the ADT Plugin for Eclipse, a move that might be rephrased as "migrate now."
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