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Android Apps with App Inventor: The Development Environment

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This chapter introduces you to working with App Inventor’s development environment. While becoming familiar with the individual work areas and functions of AI, you will have the opportunity to create your very first app project and be able to admire the result on your Android smartphone. In keeping with the customs of every good app development book for beginners, we will call our first project “HelloAndroidWorld,” even if AI is not a programming language in the classic sense.
This chapter is from the book

The design of the development environment, or integrated development environment (IDE), is crucial for a visual development language such as AI. In classic programming languages such as Java, C, and C++, the programming code can be entered with a simple text editor such as Notepad. In contrast, there is no such alternative for developing Android apps with AI—you must use the IDE offered by Google. Basic knowledge of how the AI IDE works and functions is, therefore, indispensable if you want to develop apps successfully. For that reason, this chapter introduces the details of the central interfaces Designer and Blocks Editor, explaining ways to use them, their functions and main tasks, and their interaction within the app development arena. You will also learn how to integrate your smartphone directly into the development work and environment to create visible results as quickly as possible. Of course, we will also address the potential pitfalls and occasional initial difficulties of the AI development environment, showing you efficient solutions for overcoming these problems.

Welcome to App Inventor!

Before starting to create your first app project with AI, you need to have the login data for accessing the AI Online platform. If you do not yet have these data yet, return to Chapter 1 and read the section on access data to find out how to get them. Depending on the AI platform used, you may not need to have your account activated explicitly by the provider, and you can probably access the AI platform and start developing apps immediately, even without a confirmation e-mail. Its receipt was necessary for accessing Google AI when it was in its closed beta phase (see Figure 2.1), and a similar confirmation is necessary for accessing MIT AI Experimental during its testing phase.

Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1. Historic activation message (no longer required!)

Of course, to successfully run AI, you also have to fulfill the system requirements described in Chapter 1, install the AI Setup Software, and enter the correct development settings on your smartphone. Connect your smartphone to your computer and confirm that it is being detected in “USB debugging” mode. Once all these requirements are met, you are ready to start the AI development environment and create your first small Android project.

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