NOTE: This blog post was originally hosted on the Motorola Developers (MOTODEV). site. That site is no longer online. I’ve made every attempt to preserve the original content with only formatting changes to fit this site.
One of the drawbacks of being a manager is I long for the days when I wasn’t a manager. This was when things were simple and I just had to worry about the code I wrote. At least that’s the way I remember life before Product Management. The MOTODEV tools team won’t let me submit code into production, so I have to keep my code skills up to date on my own.
I started writing an Android app late last year and I’ve been improving it every now and then. I started the project because I wanted to better understand how developers use our tools and what the pain points are. What came out of that experiment is a new laundry list of requirements for the dev team. I think they hope I give up development and stick to comedy in the future.
I’m here today to announce that the latest release of MOTODEV Studio is now available from the download site . I’m hoping that some of the requirements I came up with will make your jobs easier.
One Step Forward, One Step Back
I’m going to back up a step before going into the new features of MOTODEV Studio. I want to remind everyone that there are now 2 distinct ways to install MOTODEV Studio. How you work with the ADT plugins and the Android SDK will govern how you install the product. I’m going to paraphrase from my earlier MOTODEV Studio 4.0 announcement …
Do you always want the latest plugins and SDK tools the moment the Android tools team releases them?
If the answer to that question is “No”, then you should continue to install MOTODEV Studio the way you always have. Just download the install package from our web site or the Eclipse plugin archive and work the way you always have. Or choose “Update MOTODEV Studio” from the MOTODEV menu. The installer version of MOTODEV Studio is locked to a specific version of ADT (and by extension the Android SDK). When a new version of the plugins or SDK are released, we won’t support it until the next release of MOTODEV Studio.
If you answered “Yes” then you will need to install the “MOTODEV Core Plugins”. This package has no dependencies on ADT, yet it delivers much of the functionality of the full product. Using this package, you can update Eclipse and/or ADT independent of the MOTODEV plugins and everything should continue to work. You will notice that the locations of things will have moved to accommodate working inside the Java Perspective, but most of the functionality is still there. There is no installer for the core plugins–you download and install Eclipse separately and then install the MOTODEV plugins using Help>Eclipse Marketplace. For developers who are interested primarily in developing for Android, the new Eclipse for Mobile Developers package is configured to work with ADT and the MOTODEV core plugins.
Keys to the Kingdom
One of the things I felt was confusing when I was writing my app this spring was the way apps are signed before going into the Google Play store. The Android development process allows developers to create their keys and sign apps with those keys. This was a big change from the previous world we were used to with Java ME where a manufacturer or carrier would bless an app with a certificate from their central authority. We had some signing capabilities in MOTODEV Studio that we carried over from the Java ME days, but they really weren’t in tune with what Android developers needed.
We tore out the old signing view and created something new that works with multiple keystore formats and gives you a lot of options for managing keys and signing apps. This view and the way it works is compatible with the jarsigner process that is used by the ADT export wizard. In most cases, it is calling the same tools underneath, but we use context and serialization to make many of the workflows simpler.
After you’ve installed MOTODEV Studio 4.1, this view should be visible along the bottom of the workspace with the problems view, device manager, etc. Eclipse has difficulty dealing with new or changed views in existing workspaces, so if you do not see the view, you can manually add it with Window>Show View>Other. Another way to make it appear is to reset the perspective (if you use the MOTODEV Studio perspective) with Window>Reset Perspective.
This view provides the ability to back up your keystores and gives you a subtle reminder of the last time you backed up. I’ll bet many of you don’t do this often enough. If you were to lose your keystore, you wouldn’t be able to update your app on the Google Play store. Even more problematic is you would have to use a different signature in the new app’s manifest. Would your users be happy if they had to install a completely new version of the app, just because you changed the signing key? What if you had a paid app or one that dozens of other apps relied on? Even if you don’t use this feature, please back up your keystore today .
The Signing and Keys view is available in the full product of MOTODEV Studio, but it is not in the core plugins because it requires information from ADT.
Ring in the New
Every year, the Eclipse Foundation creates a coordinated release in late June. Last year, the code name for the release was called “Indigo” and this year it is “Juno”. In years past, the MOTODEV tools team has participated in the train by including the Sequoyah open source components. This year, we opted out, but we haven’t been quiet. Myself and several of the MOTODEV tools team created a new “Eclipse for Mobile Developers” package that anyone can use to create their mobile IDE. In fact, we used this package as the basis for MOTODEV Studio 4.1.
Google released new ADT plugins at the Google IO conference in late June. These plugins support the latest SDK tools and platforms for Jelly Bean and earlier. There were a few bugs reported in the plugins, so Google has released an update to version 20.0.1. MOTODEV Studio 4.1 contains these updated plugins.
NOTE: As we were pushing this release out, Google made another update of the ADT plugins to fix a critical bug. Our testing shows that this release works with MOTODEV Studio 4.1. If you need to update to get this patch, you are encouraged to do so using MOTODEV>Update MOTODEV Studio.
Ring out the Old
As a product manager or developer, it’s important to look at your product with a critical eye and see if it’s still relevant to your customers. This is true, no matter what the product and whether it’s free or costs money. Based on the download reports I get, more people are downloading MOTODEV Studio than ever before. This leads me to hope that we’re doing the right things, but without a critical eye, we might get complacent.
There have been quite a few features that MOTODEV Studio had in earlier times. For example the ability to download the SDK and platforms from the IDE. At some point, the Google plugins gained this ability, so our feature was no longer necessary. In a similar vein, the ability to download SDK addons for the emulator has been in our tools for a long time, but now the Android SDK Manager provides the same function. We’ve spent some time this release removing our overlapping features. Several of these features were grouped under the Download Components window, which is now gone from the MOTODEV menu.
One feature that overlaps in a way, but isn’t going away, is our App Validator. This static analysis tool does overlap in its function with the Android ‘lint’ tool, but lint does not do everything that App Validator does. At least not yet. We don’t want to compete with our friends at Google on tools, especially since all our tools are free, but we also see that this tool still has some usefulness. Use both tools to improve your apps and when the time comes, we will look to put App Validator out to pasture if it makes sense to do so.
The Fork in the Road
Where do we go from here? Now that the Google acquisition of Motorola is complete, we hope to have some intense discussions about tools. There’s nothing to announce at this time because we’re all still digging out from Google IO, summer vacations, and things like that. When we have some news for you on that front, I’ll let you know.
Until then, keep developing great apps. If you have problems with the tools or getting them installed, let us know on our discussion boards.
Thank you for using MOTODEV Studio