Yes, you read that title correctly. Web development. On Android. I won’t suggest a smartphone is a good substitute for desktop coding, but it is possible to write and test code on the move. I’m composing this article in HTML on a tablet while sitting on a train on my way to the SitePoint meet-up in London.
In addition, a half-decent device could prevent you having to lug a heavy 17″ laptop to client presentations. As a bonus, battery life is often longer and smaller screens mean there are fewer distractions from email pings, Twitter updates and Facebook messages (I’ve been unusually productive on this journey!) Here are my favorite Android apps for web development. They all free and don’t bombard you with nagging ads…
Android has an accessible and recognizable file system but the stock file manager is limited. Solid Explorer is in beta, but it’s stunning.
The app offers:
- a 2-pane window for easier file moving
- multiple view settings, searching, sorting and bookmarking
- local and remote file access including root, networks, FTP, SFTP, and Dropbox (I prefer it to Dropbox’s own app)
- a basic but very quick text editor
Even if you’re not a web developer, Solid Explorer is a great app for anyone who needs to navigate the file system.
There are a number of code editors on the Android platform but I’ve not found any which beat 920 Text Editor.
- multiple file tabs
- configurable color coding
- session handling
It’s not as quick as Solid Explorer’s basic editor, but is much closer to your desktop IDE.
Android browsers are fairly minimal and do not provide developer tools. VT View Source is a novel app which is compatible with all browsers and permits you to view the underlying HTML. Once it’s installed, you simply need to ‘share’ the page URL — VT opens then downloads and displays the source. There are several dozen color themes although I’m yet to find one which looks good!…
There are a number of rudimentary Android solutions for running PHP and other server-side languages, but I struggled to find one which worked reliably. I’m sure someone, somewhere will create one soon.
We’ve all had those emergency moments when we need to connect to a remote MySQL database and don’t have a PC handy. OK, perhaps that’s stretching credibility a little, but MySQL Connect is a fine app which beats many desktop clients. It’s only a few hundred kB and you’ll never be caught short again.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with the standard Android keyboard or third-party alternatives. They’re just not designed for coding. Hacker’s keyboard provides a full 5-row desktop-like experience with multiple layouts and language options.
Bonus Apps! Android Browsers
The stock Android browser is great but, as a web developer, you need as many applications you can get your hands on. Go wild and install this lot…
Opera Mini has much the same engine as you’ll find on older mobiles and iOS.
Anyway, I’ve probably missed your favorite Android web development app. Let us know what you use…
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.