Friday, April 29, 2011

Using Google App Inventor to Create Android applications

Google App Inventor is a clever application that allows point-and-click creation of simple Android applications. Itself built using the Google App Engine, App Inventor is a web application that communicates with some local Java components to build and deploy to your connected phone or an emulator

In order to work with app inventor, you'll need to make sure you have Java running and download the the software for your platform (Linux, Mac, and Windows are all supported).  Once you start the software and connect to, you can create a project.  Within the design environment, you can place controls on a drawing surface and configure their basic properties.

The control available include the basic input and interaction controls you would expect, but in addition, there are controls for animation, and media playback as well as controls for sensor input.  One of the more interesting control types is the LEGO MINSTORMS group of controls.  These controls allow you to interact remotely with sensors and motors and open the door to some intriguing physical computing opportunities.

Opening the blocks editor, allows you to connect the components with logic by dragging and dropping blocks of logic and connecting them with corresponding snap-ins.

To test your application, you can connect your phone or start the emulator and click the connect to device button.

Google App Inventor is a clever bit of programming and opens up avenues for simple application development, but it does have it's limitations.  Currently, app inventor apps are restricted to a single screen and the connectivity to remote servers is limited to the TinyWebDB component.  The good news is that even with its limitations, the app inventor gives would-be developers a great deal of access to the capabilities of their Android devices.

Next Up: Using native SDKs

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