Monday, May 7, 2012

Code. On the Move

... a.k.a "How I was made to eat the humble pie".

Two years back, when tablet computers were re-born, I was super-excited. I thought that finally the PC can be dispensed with. However this joy was short-lived as I soon realized that tablets were primarily data-consumption devices; and data creation is pretty difficult on them.

That, and the fact that there was nothing in there for a developer. I mean, how can you cram Eclipse on to that small screen, right?

That is why when I saw this question on StackOverflow, I laughed and laughed. I showed it to a friend, and we both laughed. The title of the question was:

Is it possible to develop for Android on Android?

Yeah, right. Hahahaha. We scoffed and ridiculed right until we saw one of the answers, which pointed us to AIDE. And then, we stopped laughing.

AIDE is an actual complete IDE which you can use to develop Android apps on an Android device. Make sure you read that again. Now, when I first saw it, I was mighty skeptical. I mean, C'mon now! No kidding.

I decided to do a critical analysis of this little app claiming to be an IDE, and found every one of my questions being answered by the features list. The conversation went like this:

What use is an IDE that doesn't provide syntax highlighting, eh?

But AIDE does have syntax highlighting. In Java, in XML, and everywhere you would expect.

But surely, it doesn't provide completion suggestions. Aha!

Sure does. You can configure the number of characters to type before code completion kicks in.

But then I'm sure its impossible to compile the Java code! (Triumphant expression)

Not at all. AIDE comes with a Java compiler.

How about pointing out errors as you type?

Yup. AIDE has that; plus suggestion for correction.

Ok. You can compile Java, but how will you compile the resource files; and how will you generate the APK? (Nail-in-the-coffin)

Simple. AIDE uses the open source implementations of dx and other tools from AOSP. And yes, AIDE generates a complete, signed APK.

(By this time, I'm feeling the cockiness drain out) Ok, that's cool; but this is still a useless app. Think about it - how many people are really going to code an entire app on an Android phone?

That's where GitHub and DropBox integration come in. AIDE will probably be used more as an edit-on-the-go rather than code-from-scratch-on-the-go environment. So, write your code on your traditional PC. Upload it to GitHub or Dropbox - and you're good to go.

But, aren't these project structures incompatible?

Nope. AIDE projects are fully compatible with Eclipse projects.


10 MB at last count.

By this time, I had installed the app on a Samsung Galaxy S Captivate and given it a good spin. The verdict was unanimous: AIDE is a brilliant app. I was forced to eat the humble pie (and I was glad to do it!).

Hats off to AIDE.They have come out with an app that I never imagined would be possible. Hail Innovation!