Google Android Development Camp – Day 1

The following are the notes I’ve taken from the lectures and labs at my first day here at Google, London. This is a first draft and they are very brief, taken in quite a rush. The primary reason for my placing them here on my blog so they that they can be used by other people here with me at the camp.

Introduction

The android platform lauched in October 2008, it now has over 400 million devices registered. Currently, more than 1 million devices are registered each day. There are over 600, 000 applications in the Google Play store, this highlights the quality of the development tools but this also means that there is a lot of competition so applications need to be high quantity across the supported devices.

This diagram shows the Android Development Architecture

The main layers that I will be focusing on are the application layer and the application framework. The android platform makes use of Java Modeling Language (JML).

The lastest Android OS is nicknamed Jelly Bean (its 4.1).

The Android Development that takes place here in London includes youtube, Play Videos, Voice Search, Voice IMF and Chrome

Chrome is NOT a port of chromium. It was first released in February 2007. The current Chrome beta is based on chromium18.

The reason that applications looks difference to their web implementations is to make use of different user interaction methods (such as touch) and to work around limitations (such as screen size).

GMS- a set of applications separate from the OS but are communally shipped with the platform.

Environment & Ecosystem

Android is OpenSource, the development is lead by Google, which in-turn works with partners such as Sony. Initially, Google would do releases of new Android Platforms every few months, but they have now reduced it to yearly so that developers have more time to work on each platform. Each release of android is backwards compaterable. All of the phones that can use the Google Play store have passed some compatibility test, set out by Google.
Google Play has no approvable (unlike the Apple Store), in allows in application billing, licence verification and cloud messaging. More information can found develop.android.com/distribute
The applications made by Google such as Contacts and Calendar, make use of the same API that is available to developers.
The components of an application are Activates (UI elements) , Services (non-UI elements), Content Providers (databases of info) and Broadcast Recievers (talking to other applications).
The Intents “link” activities, services and receriver. They can be explicit or implicit. An Intent will consist of Actions, Categories, URI and extras. This allows you to make use of other applications for example, if you wanted to make an barcode scanner then you need to use the camera.
The Manifestio file is were you declare components, declere required features (such as camera) and required permissions. The required features and android versions can then be used to filter Google Play results so that it only show applications that the phone meets the requirements of.
A .apk is an Android application, all of the code of the application is stored in this one file. Each application runs in “Sandbox” and each application has its own userspace/directory that only it has access to.
The Android development tools support C++ as well as Java.
Tips to speed up the AVD: enable GPU acceleration and select x86 image, when using an x86 machine.
The android output logs can be view by logcat or in eclipse using the DDMS pospective.
All builds much be signed with a X.509 certificate
TIP: On the nexus 7, it seems that the default for applications is portrait not auto. this can be corrected by adding android:screenOrientation=”sensor’

UI Design & Development

More information on design for android is available at d.android.com/design.

The primary form of user interaction is touch so you need to consider factors such as the size of the users fingers. The design of the mobile applications must be intuative to a user on the go. The Android OS runs on 1000 difference devices so you need to consider factors like screen size or if the device has a keyboard.

Key Priniciples
– Pictures are faster than words
– Only show what you need to
– Make important things fast

Every OS has a different look and feel. The current system theme is called “Holo” visual language. You can vary holo to get dark (e.g. media apps), light (e.g. productiveity) or light with dark productivty bar.

UI Structure 

The structure of the android UI is (from the top down) the action bar (required), tabs (optional) and contents.

Action Bar

The action bar has 4 elements (from left to right):

  • Application icon & optional up control
  • View control (such as a page title and dropbox) – this woulds a bit like tabs, this shows where you are using the page title and then when you can go from there via the dropbox
  • Action buttons – typical examples include search, share, new, edit, sort
  • The action overflow – an extra dropbox for extra buttons, a typical example is settings

On smaller screens some action buttons get pushed onto overflow.
The action bar is automatically added on modern application and ActionBarSherlock can be used to achieve backwards compatibility.

You can customize the action bar with the .getActionBar().setDisplayoptions() method

Tabs

Tabs are available as part of the ActionBar API and usually can also be switched with gestures

Contents

The layout of the content is defined as a tree consisting of view groups (tree nodes) and views (tree leaves).

The layout of the content is most commonly defined in XML under res/layout

A view is an individual component such as button, text box or radio button. All views are rectanglar.

A view group is an ordered list of views and view groups. View groups can be divided into two categories: layouts and complex view groups. The key layouts are frame, linear, relative and grid. The key complex view groups are list views and scroll views

The action bar is not defined in XML or is includes as the contents.

The xml files defining the layout of a particular activity are located in res/layout. You can also specify the layout for a particular screen size or orientation. For example if you wanted to use a different layout the nexus 7 compatred to a typically android phone when you can put the XML files in layout-large. If there is no particular layout specified in res/layout-large then the layout in res/layout will be used automatically. Other files include res/layout-land and res/layout-large-land

The universal application binary will contain all resources and then the system choose at run time which resource to use.

A similar situation is true of the drawables, for example this is: drawable-xhdip  for extra high dots per pixel.

A really interesting and useful file type of drawables is “9 patch PGN” and it is well worth researching

The res/values/strings.xml file contains all string that will be displayed to the user, the purpose of this is so that the application can be quickly translated to other languages.

The string in this file can be referenced using R.string.hello in Java or @string/hello in XML, where hello is replaced by the name of the string.

You can access an icon, such as the system edit icon using android.R.drawable.ic_menu_edit  in Java.

dip stands for density independent pixel which means that if i create a button that 30 dip wide, then on whatever device the application is run on, then the physical size remains the same. This is useful for example when you want to ensure that a button will always be just large enough for the user to click on.

1 dip = 1 pixel at 160 dpi

The nexus 7, has 213 dpi, has a screen size of 1280 x 800 pixels or 960 x 600 dip.

The key drawable types are Bitmaps (.png), 9-patches (.9png) and state lists (.xml).

Look at the SDK for more information on how to draw 9 patches. 9 patches are density specified versions on an image that can be stretched.

State lines are used to specify then different graphics are used in different situations for example showing one graphic when button is pressed and another graphic for then the button is not pressed.

ASIDE: its vital to always give the user feedback

Styles can be specified in /res/values/styles.xml. With the file starting with

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