Developer

Android Studio: A stable environment and a UI designer that knocks my socks off

William J. Francis shares his first impressions of making the jump from ADT Eclipse to Android Studio as his main development machine.

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Last weekend I finally migrated my main development machine from ADT Eclipse to Android Studio. It was a decision I did not come to lightly, and not because I've ever been a huge fan of Eclipse. In fact, I was quick to do some hands-on with the early access preview of Eclipse's replacement. The problem for me has been, writing code is how I make my living, and thus I was hesitant to invest my livelihood into a product that was (and still is) labeled as BETA.

The conundrum for a lot of old-school developers like me is that Android Studio has been in ALPHA/BETA limbo for nearly two years — the IDE was first announced in May 2013. Since then Google has stopped actively enhancing its Eclipse ADT solution. More importantly to me is that all of the Android Lollipop features my customers and I want are an afterthought for Eclipse ADT (if you can manage to get them to work at all).

So, knowing full well that Google managed to leave its Gmail service in beta for a whopping five years, I finally steeled up my nerves and made the jump to Android Studio.

It is too early for me to say Android Studio and the underlying IntelliJ IDEA that powers it is the "best IDE" I've worked with. I still struggle to find those sometimes awkward keyboard shortcuts I unintentionally learned using Eclipse for the last five years (though there is a feature that allows you to enable Eclipse hotkeys, I just don't want to prejudice my experience with IntelliJ based on bad habits I picked up from its predecessor).

I can share that Android Studio is quite stable. The full theme-ability makes it easy on the eyes. I'm not clicking the clean button a dozen times a day like I was with Eclipse. The new project wizard has a lot more options. The massively revamped and improved UI designer knocks my socks off. Oh yeah, and I can now follow along with the documentation concerning all the cool new things I can do with Lollipop without spending an hour on Stack Overflow reading about how people may or may not of figured out a workaround for Eclipse.

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I am told by my braver (and younger) compatriots that what I am seeing is just the shine. Android Studio's real power, and biggest learning curve, all centers around Gradle, a build automation environment. I've heard developers say it is the best of Ant and Maven rolled into one with some extra bells and whistles. I look forward to learning the ins-and-outs of this feature, and appreciate that it wasn't so tightly wound up into the product that I had to learn all its nuances before I could start being productive with Android Studio.

What does this mean for my TechRepublic column?

I will be publishing my tutorials and walk-thrus with Android Studio examples going forward. For those of you who are still using Eclipse exclusively, I appreciate where you are coming from, and the rest of us will be here waiting for you when you decide the time is right!

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About William J. Francis

William J Francis began programming computers at age eleven. Specializing in embedded and mobile platforms, he has more than 20 years of professional software engineering under his belt, including a four year stint in the US Army's Military Intellige...

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