At Google I/O today, Google released an early access preview version of an Android integrated development environment (IDE) based on IntelliJ IDEA. To its IntelliJ foundation, Android Studio adds an enhanced drag-and-drop GUI layout editor, Gradle-based build system, Lint tools, Android-focused wizards, and the ability to preview how apps look on different screen sizes.
Like Google App Inventor for Android, which Google released in 2010 and discontinued the next year — it’s now the MIT App Inventor — Android Studio offers a drag-and-drop GUI. Yet unlike the entry-level App Inventor, which is aimed at educators and others with limited requirements, Android Studio is a full-fledged IDE that should eventually replace the Android Development Tools (ADT) plugin for Eclipse, for mainstream app developers.
According to multiple reports from the Google I/O conference today in San Francisco, the crowd was especially responsive to Google’s demonstration of Android Studio’s emulator, which previews how apps look on different screen sizes. The emulator supports 3.7- to 10-inch devices and can show how text looks — and fits — in different languages. In addition a “live layout” function renders an app during real-time editing.
Major features of Android Studio are said to include:
- Gradle-based build system
- Android-specific refactoring and quick fixes
- Lint tools to catch performance, usability, version compatibility and other problems.
- ProGuard tools for shrinking, optimizing, and obfuscating code, plus new app-signing capabilities.
- Template-based wizards to create common Android designs and components.
- Rich layout editor with drag-and-drop UI components, preview layouts on multiple screen configurations, etc.
Google is using the open source community edition of Jetbrain’s Android-compatible IntelliJ IDEA, which is available in a variety of commercial versions as well. IntelliJ arrived around the same time as Eclipse, but has been overshadowed by it, and still trails considerably in the number of plugins available. Advocates claim IntelliJ IDEA is far easier to use than Eclipse, provides a better GUI builder tool, and supplies better code completion and inspection tools. Eclipse, on the other hand, not only has the plugin advantage, but is said to be better at multiproject support.
Typical IntelliJ IDEA screenshots
(click images to enlarge; source: Jetbrains)
Google told the audience in San Francisco that it had “big plans” for Android Studio, and that it will grow considerably. Future additions will include automating the process of adding support for services like Google Cloud Messaging, which Google today said would be integrated as part of Google Play Services.
In the same presentation that previewed Android Studio, Google showed off new Google Play Developer Console features. These include beta management, assistance for translation, and a referral tracking tool for tracking the effectiveness of each referral channel.
An early access v0.1 version of Android Studio is now available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. More information and downloads are available at Google’s Android Studio page, including tips on migrating from Eclipse and importing projects from Gradle or Ant builds. Also of interest, is the Jetbrains page with information on getting started with IntelliJ IDEA for Android.