I’ve been telling myself for a while now that I want to start building Android apps. Well, tonight I finally did it.
Google has a cool thing in Labs called the App Inventor–essentially a GUI for designing Android apps. It’s not the slickest thing in the world (yet), but it gets the job done for those who don’t want to dive straight into the code. I have a feeling Google worked really hard on just getting the functionality out there and didn’t worry so much about the look and feel of the thing. And technically, it’s still part of Google Labs. Originally, App Inventor was only available by request, but it says it’s now available to anyone who wants it, so you can click here to get started.
It helps if you’ve got an Android phone you can connect to your computer. When you’ve got everything set up properly, the changes you make with App Inventor show up immediately on your phone. If nothing else, it’s fun to type something on your computer, hit Enter, and watch it immediately appear on your Android device.
Designing the functionality behind buttons with the Block Editor isn’t the most intuitive, but after walking through a few tutorials (and with some previous Java knowledge), I found the concept of building events to be fairly simple. Even creating and setting (or allowing the user to set) global variables is pretty easy, as long as you’ve taken the time to name your variables.
All in all, I’m impressed with App Inventor. By the end of my hour-long adventure, I had successfully installed the software, connected my phone, and written several small apps based on the tutorials mentioned earlier. They’re not the most elaborate apps, but they’re great stepping stones for getting started with Android app development.