Getting Started with Android

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Ever since I purchased my HTC Desire in April 2010, I wanted to know more about how it did, well, what it did. I knew it was Java, but I didn’t know how it all came about. This article is for absolute beginners of the highest order so please don’t expect to come out the other side being a superstar.

What You’ll Need

  • Android Device
  • Computer, Mac OS X or Windows
  • Internet Connection
  • Patience

What You’ll Learn

  • Installing the Android SDK
  • Installing the Eclipse Java IDE
  • Configuring Eclipse and the SDK working together
  • Configuring your Android for development
  • How to take screenshots with ease
  • Where to from here?

Installing the SDK

Download the Android SDK from the Developers Website. When you’ve installed/extracted it remember where you put it.

Installing the Platform Tools

Open the folder where you installed the SDK, then go into the Tools folder and open Android. This will open the AVD Manager. Click on Available Packages, then choose either the entire repository, or get specific and simply select the SDK Platform Tools. If you install everything, this is where you need the patience, because it takes a while to download and install the entire repository.

Installing the Eclipse IDE

There are few choices in IDE, the most popular is Eclipse. You can download it from Eclipse. Google recommends Eclipse Classic, but either Eclipse for Java or Eclipse for RCP and RAP developers will work. Note that I have personally chosen the Java install.

Configuring Eclipse to work with the SDK

This needs to be followed quite closely, as it’s easy to go the wrong way. It also requires patience, because there’s a decent amount that you need to download. When downloaded, extract Eclipse and open the Eclipse application from that directory. Nominate where you want your workspace to be, personally, I just ran with the default.

Now we need the ADT Plugin for Eclipse. In Eclipse, go to Help » Install New Software. Put in “” and name it something obvious like ADT.

Once done, select Developer Tools and hit next. It will confirm the four items to be installed, DDMS (Dalvik Debug Monitor Service), Dev Tools, Hierarchy Viewer and Traceview. Hit Next, accept the license terms then Finish. When it’s done you’ll need to restart Eclipse.

The final step is pointing Eclipse to the Android SDK. Go into the Eclipse Preferences, ⌘, on OS X or Window » Preferences otherwise, Select Android on the left then browse to the SDK Folder.

Configuring your Android for Development

The easiest part. Go into Settings » Applications and check the USB Debugging box.

How to Take a Screenshot

Unline the iPhone where you just press two buttons, taking a screenshot on your Android is a lot more of a pain, and perhaps one of the reasons people go to the above lengths. Of course, you can always Root your device, but we will cover this later

Buried in the depths of where you installed the SDK in android-sdk-*/tools/ you’ll find an app named DDMS. From the Device menu choose Screen Capture. Save it. That’s it. It’s a lot of work to take a screenshot. I personally recommend rooting your phone and getting an app to do it.

Where to from here?

If you’ve made your way through the guide and want more, there are other ways to keep learning. Keeping checking in here on BuildMobile, follow us on Twitter, or Facebook, or subscribe to one of our RSS feeds. Or all of the above if that’s your cup of tea.

Buy a book. There’s a lot of great Android Development books available and printed material is a fantastic way to supplement online learning.

Get involved in the online communities

There’s a lot of Developer Groups that are probably operating near or in your area, so definitely consider going to an occasion. The people that regularly attend and organize these live and breathe their technology of choice. You’ll be able to make friends and learn a lot, and maybe even find a mentor.

Aaron OsteraasAaron Osteraas
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Aaron Osteraas is a Full Stack Engineer at Vintrace. He lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. In the early 2010s, he was the Managing Editor here at SitePoint.

Android TutorialsTutorials
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