Learning Some Android Development

Some brief notes on learning the fundamentals of the Android platform.

A 4 minute read

A month ago, my daughter Sophie was born! While I’ve been spending a ton of time enjoying life with Sarah and her, she does tend to take frequent naps. πŸ‘ΆπŸ’€ And… talking to a 1 month old doesn’t exactly scream (pun intended!) mental stimulation. 🧠 So I decided to spend some time learning the basics of Android development… because… why not? Believe it or not, up until now, I’ve never really delved into Java, either, so it was time to learn the basics of what seems to be the world’s most popular programming language, Java (even though I’d much prefer to learn Kotlin, but that will come later πŸ€“).

So what’s about to follow is just me jotting down some of my notes on what I’ve learned so far. πŸ“ This is very basic, but if you’re reading this as an Android dev, and see anything incorrect, please educate me! I’ve tried to nail down some of the most important concepts, and compile a list of what I still want to dig deeper into in the weeks and months to come. Hey, gotta start somewhere!

General Thoughts

  • Android development isn’t all that much dissimilar to iOS development in that there is a declarative view layer described through XMLs (although unlike storyboard and nibs, it seems like much less frowned upon to actually use them). Fragments and activities seem very similar to view controllers. Table views exist as recycler views (although I still need to learn more about these).
  • Android Studio vs Xcode. πŸ€œπŸ€› For as much as people shit on Xcode (including myself), overall I think I like Xcode better. πŸ™Š There is just too much cruft going on with Android Studio. A gazillion buttons in the menu bar… and a gazillion +1 menu options. I’m sure this is all fine and dandy for those who are used to IntelliJ, but I like the simplicity of Xcode. Sorry, not sorry.
  • I will say, though, some of the refactoring tools in Android Studio are quite impressive! πŸ‘πŸ‘ Importing a class with alt-enter (and compiler hints when an import is no longer needed) πŸ‘ Type a method name and then just alt-enter to create the method in the current class πŸ‘ Code completion in general! πŸ‘

Java

Rando thoughts…

  • Surprised at how simple it is. Unless I’m missing key parts, seems much simpler to learn than Objective-C. It’s very… intuitive! …from its access keywords to class initializers.
  • Anonymous Classes are pretty neat! Allows you to override a method without subclassing it.
  • JSONObject makes it super easy to work with JSON. Example.

Android

Some things I’ve found interesting or important when learning the basics…

  • Activities are the main entry point for a view. Most of the learning I’ve done so far relied heavily or activities as being 1:1 with each view, but I think fragments are more commonly used for this. Need to look into fragments a bit more and understand the activity lifecycle better.
  • Intents are used to pass data between activities. Example of name retrieved from an intent captured by a previous activity (MainActivity.java in this case).
  • Layouts all built in XML. Example.
  • Data binding seems cool - allows you to bind an object with a view. See this layout for an example.
  • Accessing views in code is done via findViewById() (if not using data binding). Example.
  • Making buttons work is as simple as setting an onclick listener.
  • R.java class is interesting - the key to making findViewById work. It’s a generated file with all IDs you assign in your layout (and strings, resources).
  • Find it funny you can add a link using HTML πŸ˜‚

Dig Deeper Into…

There is still much to learn! Here are some things I think might be valuable to dig a bit deeper into

  • Activity Lifecycle and Bundles
  • Fragments - I have a basic understanding here, but all of the content I’ve watched thus far primarily use activities. It seems fragments are the preferred way of doing things in Android, and while I understand these are basically a way to reuse views within an activity, I’m not quite sure how to set them up.
  • Layout types (constraint vs relative vs frame - same as iOS?)
  • LiveData
  • Recycler Views
  • Gradle (build system)

Resources

  • Guide to App Architecture - great resource shared by a friend that describes all the pieces to be used in a modern Android app.
  • Beginning Android
  • Example Project: Interactive Story - Basic stuff like moving between activities and setting up UI.
  • Example Project: Stormy - Hooking up a web API, storing data into models, binding view elements to data.

As mentioned at the top, feel free to leave any comments with corrections or suggestions on what I should look into a bit more to better learn Java and Android core concepts. Also leave any any courses, videos, or other recommended resources!

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