Play Store, the official Android app store, hosts about 3 million Android apps for now. More than 80% of smartphones in the world run on Android. These are huge numbers with a clear message hidden within — Android app development would fast-forward your career to new heights.
Besides fetching you highly paid jobs, being an Android app developer lets you unleash your creativity and solve practical problems faced by Android users across the world.
Learning Java is pivotal to Android app development. I have been a Java programmer for years and in this article, I am sharing a plan to help you learn it in a systematic yet fun way.
Being a successful Android developer needs familiarization with different knowledge areas. Your app idea would be best executed when you learn all of them steadily by taking one step at a time to avoid being overwhelmed. I recommend the following road map, followed by plenty of practice to utilize your time effectively.
These are the basics that you must learn before you get to Android app development. Focus on learning object-oriented programming so that you are able to divide your program into modules and write reusable code.
Java is a universal choice for programmers looking for a robust, easy-to-use coding language with cross-platform capabilities.
You can break it down into six different parts and focus on learning one at a time:
- Java Collections
- Exception Handling
- Input/Output Streams
- Java Multithreading
Libraries are great time-savers. They allow you to call upon a pre-written set of instructions and implement commonly used functionalities without having to code it from scratch.
Testing Libraries such as JUnit and PowerMock Mockito save you writing long fragments of code to unit test your program. These are particularly recommended for Test-Driven Development (TDD) where the creation of tests ahead of actually writing the code of your application drives the pace of development. You would be using Java testing libraries throughout your career and I urge you to get accustomed to these early.
It is an Android developer’s toolbox. It is the only constant in your Android app development journey, as you would likely be using many programming languages and IDEs in your career.
Once you write your Java code for developing an Android app, you need a way to execute it on Android devices and utilize the full potential of the Android Operating System. This is where the SDK comes in — it is the complete package containing documentation, libraries, code samples, and processes that you can integrate into your application.
The SDK also has emulators for Android, that you can invoke to see how your code would perform on an actual Android device.
You will need to master working with databases even for writing entry-level Java programs for Android. Applications need to store data in tables and retrieve it as and when required, subject to required conditions. Structured Query Language (SQL) is the last piece in your Java app development puzzle. There are many variants of SQL, but SQLite is the one that is used on Android devices. Pay special attention to it, as it would complete a solid foundation on which you can build your Java programming career.
Now it is time for you to apply all your learnings to practice and build confidence. It is OK if you do not feel confident enough to start writing codes — practicing is the only way to build your programming skills and test them out. Pick up small tasks and write programs to solve them. Do not let mistakes set you back, as even the most experienced programmers make it. Learn from your mistakes, set them right, and move on to more difficult problems.
Later in the article, I’ve included some online resources you could refer to for learning and practice.
As I mentioned earlier, an Android developer requires a set of tools to develop, deploy, test, simulate, and improve his application. I recommend the following, especially if you are a beginner without prior programming experience:
### Step 1: Download Android Studio
You need a development environment to build applications. Android Studio is an official IDE, as it’s recommended by Google. It offers an entire set of tools that a developer would need, i.e. APK Analyzer, Visual Layout Editor, Fast Emulator, Intelligent Code Editor, Real-time profiler, and much more. Download it and you have your Android development toolbox ready.
Android Studio has an easy-to-follow installation wizard. Just follow the installation instructions and you will be done in no time. I recommend sticking to the default settings to start with — customizations can come later.
Keep in mind that having Java Development Kit is a prerequisite for Android Studio. Download JDK and follow simple installation instructions if you do not have it on your system already. I would recommend OpenJDK, particularly if you are a beginner.
All the magic happens inside an Android Studio project. A project contains all the components you need to get your Android app idea off the ground, up and running. Your workspace, source code, assets, test code, and other related configurations — everything is placed inside a project.
Once you complete your development process, all project contents are packaged into an APK (Android Application Package). Make sure you choose your project name wisely, as your package name (that would eventually go into Google’s Play Store) takes the format:
By now, you have done all the groundwork — you have acquired the skills and tools required for making your first Android app using Java. It is time to let your creativity take center stage. Android Studio workspace will show your directory structure, an Android phone with the words “Hello World” on its virtual screen. Let your programming skills bring your app idea alive!
Now that you know what you need to learn, it is time to choose where to learn it from.
CodeGym offers a practice-oriented Java course to make learning enjoyable and effective. The website is founded on the belief that everyone can be a programmer if guided correctly.. 80% of its Java course consists of hands-on exercises so what you learn in theory is promptly put to test. There are over 1200 tasks organized in order of increasing difficulty so that you keep learning and monitor your progress through a virtual mentor.
Javarevisited is an encyclopedia in itself on Java programming. It has tutorials, articles, practice problems, and tasks to give you everything you need to explore Java’s vast universe.
Other than systematically covering the nuances of Java, the site discusses innovative ideas that would be helpful to you throughout your career as an Android developer. It also points you to other useful online resources so that you keep learning.
Codecademy is a well-known educational website for learners looking for programming courses, tutorials, certifications, and much more. There are over 50 lectures and quizzes in Java and other programming languages to learn and test your knowledge. You can even get your code reviewed by one of the community experts.
The website lets you create your own learning schedule and test your understanding by solving problems so you are never out of practice.
It offers a different dimension to your experience of learning Java programming. It is not a conventional tutoring website. Rather, it is for the time when you want to break away from the monotonous tutorials and want to challenge yourself. Codewars has a repository of assignments in Java (and many other programming languages) that keep you glued. You can interact with a community of experienced developers who would analyze your codes in detail and provide thorough feedback so that you learn faster.
If you are not much of a theory person and grasp concepts better when they are exemplified, this is the portal tailor-made for you. GeeksforGeeks is a free resource that covers all aspects of computer science. It hosts an elaborate collection of Java resources and thoroughly covers the overview of libraries, collections, lists, queues, OOP, maps, etc.
Many learners I come across focus too much on syntax and libraries. They try to memorize these instead of focusing on the principles Java is built upon. Pluralsight introduces you to design patterns that help you code while keeping an eye on the big picture.
Take this course once you have completed core Java concepts and are ready to start coding. You would learn smart ways to write programs and organize your object according to their usage.
Programming is as much an art as it is science. You are bound to hit roadblocks — do not feel bad about seeking help whenever you need it. Java has a very helpful and active community spread across the world where experienced programmers would provide you critical feedback and solutions.
Here are some of the online forums I strongly recommend:
Now you have an organized roadmap to pursuing your goal of learning Java and developing Android apps. Get started today and get your hands dirty with codes as soon as you can — that is the best way to make progress. Do not feel shy about making mistakes or seeking help, as an expert programmer of today was once a beginner who refused to give up.
First published on JavaRevisited.