First Steps with Android

In the last few days I started out with some android development. Here are some things learned so far developing my first app:

  • The Android Tutorials are a great starting point, though i only followed through with the HelloWorld Tutorial. In retrospect I should have looked at the Notepad Tutorial a little closer because it explains important concepts (namely activities/intents).
  • http://www.anddev.org/ is a useful source for tutorials and code snippets
  • It’s still java but a completely different API, so you often have to look for classes and methods via code completion oder in examples to get things done.
  • Downloading: Can be done with the included HTTP Client library. Unfortuantely Android still uses an old version of the HTTP Client though, which made it hard to find documentation (e.g. how to set authentication credentials). Additionally you shoudn’t forget to declare the INTERNET-permissions in your application manifest.
  • Storing and retrieving Files looks fairly easy (getDir(), getCacheDir()-Methods are there) at first sight but you have to unerstand the Android filesystem security model if you don’t want to spend hours with debugging. The before mentoined methods use internal storage where each application stores it’s data independently. Public read/write (e.g. file exchange with other applications) is only possible when you store your content with the specific method openFileOutput(). The external SD card on the other hand can be openly accessed with the regular Java File API.
  • XML Parsing: I started out with the sax parser but since my XML file was pretty complex I ditched it and downloaded dom4j which has a really easy to use API. Unfortunately it adds at least 200KB of final app size. I now realized I could have gone with the regular DOM parser which has a decent API. I’ll have to reevaluate this later – maybe the end user responsiveness does require the faster streaming parser approach (sax).
  • UI design: Declarative XML based looks powerful and well thought out but I mostly stuck to tutorial layout for now. This is an area I still have to get into.

Ok, that’s it for now. Android is turning out to be a great plattform – exciting times.

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