How to Program Apps for the Android

By Sue Smith

Android application development is challenging, but anyone can learn it. As with any programming task, it's best to learn the key skills involved one at a time and build on your knowledge incrementally. Initially, you need to create a development environment on your computer with all of the tools you need to get started. Setting up your environment typically is not difficult.

Step 1

Download and install the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment from the Eclipse Foundation website (see link in Resources). All of the official Android development tools and resources are aimed at developing in Eclipse, so this is the ideal environment to use.

Step 2

Download and install the latest Java Development Kit from the Java section on the Oracle website (see link in Resources), following the installation instructions on the site.

Step 3

Download and install the Android Software Development Kit into the Eclipse IDE. This resource contains the tools for developing Android apps. Visit the Android SDK download page on the official Android Developers Guide website (see link in Resources) and select the correct version for your operating system. In Eclipse, install the Android Developer Tools plugin by choosing "Select" and "Install New Software," then entering the following location in the Add Repository dialog box: "ADT Plugin" as the name and click "OK" to install the tool.

Step 4

Create a new project for each Android app you want to develop. Each time you create an Android project, you need to enter details of its application and package name, as well as which versions of the SDK you wish to target. You can create user-interface designs for your app user interfaces using the XML layout files within your projects. Create an Activity for each screen within your application, implementing your program logic in Java code.

Step 5

Enter the application version details for your Android projects in their Manifest files. Here you can add an incremental version number and name each time you upgrade an app. You can test and run your Android apps on your own Android devices while you are developing them. Within Eclipse, you can also use the Android Virtual Device Manager to run your apps on devices with hardware and software specifications of your choice.

Step 6

Sign your applications for release. To publish your apps on the Android Market, you need to sign them with a cryptographic key. You can use the Keytool utility to do this within Eclipse, using the ADT Export Wizard.

Step 7

Sign up for a Developer Account (see Resources) to be allowed to release your apps through the Android Market. Log in and upload new and upgraded apps through your Developer Console.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make use of the official resources on the Android Developers Guide. This contains lots of tips, guidelines and code samples.
  • Many technologies are involved in Android development, including Java, XML and sometimes SQL. Developing Android apps therefore requires a considerable commitment.