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Setup an Android development environment on Ubuntu

May 19, 2012 1 comment

Recently I’ve been involved in a project for developing an Android smartphone application. This is a new working field for me as I had never developed applications for mobile devices before. So it requires an important extra effort on my side (tons of things to learn). As I always do when I find myself turned into a newbie I’ve started to read documentation… and I’ve setup my development environment. For doing the setup I’ve followed the instructions found here. In theory it is an easy process. In practice it can be a little bit complicated so I decided to write this post. The setup described in this post has been tested on my Kubuntu Oneiric laptop.

First of all I’ve installed the openJDK implementation of the Java6 SDK:

$ sudo apt-get install openjdk

Other Java implementations have been discarded due to different reasons:

  • Java7 is not supported by Android
  • Java Oracle packages are not available on Ubuntu Oneiric official/partner repositories
  • the GNU Java compiler is not compatible with the Eclipse IDE so it is not an option if you plan to develop with Eclipse

The recommended IDE for developing Android applications is Eclipse because there is a plugin for integrating the Android SDK with it. The Ubuntu Eclipse package uses openJDK by default but it depends on the GNU Java compiler which, as I said, is not compatible with the Android SDK so I don’t now if it is a good idea to install Eclipse from the Ubuntu repos. Just in case I’ve downloaded Eclipse Classic (the version recommended by Android) from its website and installed it on the /opt/ folder. Installing Eclipse is trivial, just untar it and add the eclipse folder to your PATH.

Next I’ve installed the Android SDK Starter Package under /opt/. Again, the installation is trivial, just untar the package and add the android-sdk-yourplatform/tools and android-sdk-yourplatform/platform-tools folders to your PATH.

Once the Starter Package is installed one should execute the command

$ android &

which launches the Android SDK Manager, a tool included in the Starter Package. It is a graphical program, with a simple UI, that allows you to setup your SDK by downloading the essential packages for your development environment. In my case I’ve installed the following packages:

  • SDK Tools (latest version is required)
  • SDK Platform-tools (latest version is required)
  • SDK Platform (latest one is recommended)
  • Documentation for Android SDK

Additional packages that I’ve installed include the Google API, SDK Samples and the sources for Android SDK.

If you plan to publish your application, you will want to download additional SDK platforms corresponding to the Android platform versions on which you want the application to run.

Downloading those packages is sometimes a very slow process. If this problem hits you just cancel the installation and try again later (it is a simple workaround but it worked for me).

The last step is to install the Android Development Tool plugin for Eclipse. It must be done using the Update Manager feature of Eclipse as described here. The plugin configuration is very easy, just follow the wizard steps. At the end you will have an Android toolbar on your Eclipse main window. This new toolbar will contain buttons for launching the Android SDK Manager, managing Android Virtual Devices, etc.

Using this plugin is not mandatory but it seems to be highly recommended. If you don’t want to use it then you aren’t forced to use the Eclipse IDE.

That’s all. Now I’ve to see how it works and decide if I like it or I prefer to look for alternative environments. If you’re writing Android apps with a different development environment (for instance, not using Eclipse or not using an IDE at all) please, leave a comment.