Android offers a ton of opportunities for developers: it is a versatile, open platform used by millions of users worldwide with a fantastically easy distribution platform to help reach a large audience. Fortunately,
There has never been a better time to create your own Android app!
Top Android developer tools
In this post, we’ll run down a selection of the best tools for Android development, from IDEs and game engines to emulators and design tools.
No list of Android development tools would be complete without Android Studio. This is the official IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for Android, making it the number one choice for the majority of developers looking to make basic apps in-keeping with Google’s Material Design and with access to all the advanced features of the platform.
The IDE is where any developer will spend most of their time: it acts as an editor for the chosen programming language (Android Studio supports Java, C++ and now Kotlin, though Java is the official language of Android), a compiler that can create APK files and a file system for arranging your project.
It also includes an XML editor and ‘design view’ for arranging elements on the screen. Android Studio offers an entire suite of additional tools too – some of which we’ll examine in this post – and thankfully most of this will now come bundled together as a single download. In fact,
The AVD Manager tool is bundled with Android Studio. AVD stands for ‘Android Virtual Device’, so essentially this is an emulator for running Android applications on your PC. This is useful because it means that you can test your apps quickly without having to constantly install them on physical devices.
More importantly, the AVD Manager allows you to create lots of different emulators with different screen sizes, specifications and versions of Android.
Android Device Monitor
Another built-in Android development tool, the Android Device Monitor allows you to monitor your device or virtual device during runtime and get access to information such as how many processes are running on what thread, network stats, the LogCat and more. It’s great for testing the performance of your apps and seeing what’s going on under them.
Android Debug Bridge
The ADB shell is a useful little command-line tool that you can use to communicate with or run commands on a connected Android device (virtual or physical).
It comes with Android Studio and for the most part, you won’t need to worry about it. Every now and then though, you’ll be following a tutorial and find you need to open it up. To do so, navigate to the platform-tools folder of your Android SDK installation or whichever folder adb.exe is located and open up a command line (Shift + RMB > Open Command Window Here).
Unity 3D is the first of our recommended Android developer tools that don’t come pre-installed with Android Studio. It is a game engine and IDE for cross-platform game development. Unity is easy to learn and comes with a large variety of features for game development.
B4A (or Basic for Android) is a lesser-known Android development tool from Anywhere Software, focused on ‘rapid’ development. As the name suggests, this is an IDE and interpreter that allows developers to create apps using the BASIC programming language.
For those that aren’t familiar with BASIC, it’s essentially a much simpler, procedural programming language that reads closer to regular English. Despite essentially being a one-man project,
You can do pretty much anything that you would do with Java, but a lot more quickly and with less boilerplate. Any performance penalty seems minimal.
That said, it’s still worth learning the official method for creating apps and especially if you hope to use specific libraries (though that said, Java libraries can be wrapped for Basic4Android). This is especially important if you ever hope to sell your IP to another publisher. Interested, then check out our full introduction to Basic4Android.