Usually, application development involves programming and in case of Android one has to program in Java. This tool, App Inventor, on the other hand doesn’t require you to program. Using this tool you can create applications for Android without writing a line of code!
How can an app be created without writing the code? The answer lies in another question: What does the code do in an app?
The code does two things:
- Defining components i.e. defining things like widget, Button, Label, TinyDB, screen arrangement, notifications etc. Components can also be called objects or instances.
- Defining and controlling the behavior of these defined components.
App Inventor achieves the above two objectives without any programming. In App Inventor you can define the components and their behavior visually through a user interface.
App Inventor has a Designer and a Blocks Editor. The Designer defines all sorts of components and the Blocks Editor defines the behavior of these components.
Let me quickly take you through the Setup Process and the Development Environment of App Inventor.
The App Inventor is a web-based tool and works on all major browsers. Therefore the setup is very minimal. Following are the basic requirements for running App Inventor:
- Contemporary operating systems and browsers.
- Java Run Time Environment 1.6 (i.e. Java 6).
- App Inventor Extras Software: Installer/Package is available on the home page of App Inventor. One can easily download and install it.
- USB Connectivity with USB Debugging enabled: The setup requires you to have USB Debugging enabled in your phone and a working USB connectivity. To achieve the same you need to install drivers for your phone. The Extras Software package includes drivers of a few common Android devices and after installing the same you might not need to install the drivers manually. If this doesn’t work, you can manually install the drivers by using the CD you got along with your phone.
I found the setup pretty easy. I was able to get App Inventor working very quickly.
After completing the setup you can quickly test your setup. Create an empty project and then clicking the Connect to Phone from the Blocks Editor should launch the stub application on your phone.
It has two parts Designer and Blocks Editor. Designer defines the look and feel of your application. You can drag and drop the objects (buttons, textBox, media, sensors etc) from the palette to the screen and arrange them as desired. All this is done visually.
After completing the design you can open the Blocks Editor from the Designer. In the Blocks Editor window you can define the behavior of the components which you added previously. In this window, you will have various types of Blocks associated with the components e.g. OrientationChanged-block of OrientationSensor-component, the block where you can do call your other blocks to get the notification when the orientation changes.
This was a quick introduction of App Inventor. And in the next part of this post I will explain how to create a simple application for Android using the App Inventor.