10 Android Studio features that Eclipse users will enjoy
To all Android developers still using Eclipse, there’s a better life out there, says Android Studio enthusiast Sebastian Guillen, who walks us through some efficiency-enhancing features that sealed the deal after moving from Eclipse.
Developers are lazy. And that’s a good thing. Because why do something with five mouse clicks when you can do it with three key presses? So if you’re strategically lazy, you might be interested in the Android Studio features that have the potential to make your life a hell of a lot easier.
In the Android world, we’ve all heard about Android Studio. And we’ve all considered making the switch from Eclipse with Android Development Tools (ADT). I’m not going to tell you “now is the time to switch.” Because it’s not. (It was time to switch one year ago.)
Now is the time to look at some of the little things that help you develop faster in Android studio. For all of you that are already using it, let this be a reminder of why you switched to Android Studio (apart from the fact that it’s the official Android development IDE).
For those of you that aren’t yet using it, take the step. Seriously. Do. It. Now. You will enjoy this article a thousand times more after the switch.
Before you switch
Once you make the move, there’s no turning back – but don’t worry, you won’t want to anyway.
You should know there are both advantages and some disadvantages. The project structure changes in a way that you won’t be able to develop it on both IDEs simultaneously. You will need time to get used to Gradle and to a different programming environment. You’ll need some work to get your project to compile and run. But now let’s look at the advantages.
0. Navigating to recently opened files super fast
This recently opened files shortcut (Win: CTRL+E; Mac: CMD+E) let’s you jump straight back to files that you opened recently. It also gives you the option to filter by name so you don’t even need your mouse – for pure, optimised laziness!
By default, all files are saved automatically after finishing typing. They also auto-refresh as soon as you add files outside of the IDE. And they even refresh after editing files in another editor! Someday, you might find yourself having to explain to your grandchildren what it meant to ‘save’ a file.
2. Preview Layout XMLs
You can see a preview of your XML changes side by side, while making them. There’s no need to switch tabs like in Eclipse.
3. Show file’s containing folder
In the project files explorer, you can right click a file to show it in your file explorer. This helpful feature is not available with a standard ADT installation.
4. Smart autocompletion
Autocompletion doesn’t just work with the first few letters of the field or method. For example, if you type “Text”, it shows “autoText” in the options by default, meaning you can basically search for any part of what you’re looking for. This also works with XML.
5. Generate commonly implemented Activities
Android Studio helps you to generate common Activity implementations, like login or Activity with fragments. This not only helps to save overhead time on setting up the Activity, but it also serves as good examples of common code structures in Android.
6. Typo checks
Eclipse users will be happy to see typo checks for any variable or method written in English. For example
thismethod() is underlined for the user, and the environment offers
thisMethod() as one of the fix suggestions.
7. Integrated command line in the IDE
The headline of this advantage says it all here. On top of that, with the current directory pointing to your project, you can run Gradle commands or other stuff there directly.
8. There’s a colour picker
You have a colour picker when viewing an image in the IDE – this is very helpful to get colour codes you might want to use. Also, you can choose a colour from a palette when putting colours into colors.xml, instead of figuring out the colour code by yourself.
9. Helpful VCS integration
Have you ever been frustrated using a Git plugin in Eclipse? The VCS integrated in Android Studio has some nice version control features, including Github integrations, such as the view file on Github option (up to the line of code – nice, huh?), and some helpful static code checks before committing.
From Eclipse to Android Studio
At this point you might be asking yourself why our list starts with zero. The answer is a counter-question: When was the last time you created an array of base 1?
Eclipse with the ADT plugin might have some of these functions hidden away, or maybe you can even find them in with another plugin. But the great thing about Android Studio is that they’re all there from the beginning. Right out of the box, easy to find, no plugins needed.
There’s also plenty more little surprises that Eclipse developers are likely to enjoy. Like for example, the IDE will show a warning when there are unused public methods or variables. In Eclipse you only had these type of warnings for private fields. You might also enjoy the decompiler, which is helpful whenever you need to get your hands dirty with external classes – not to mention some very nice IDE shortcuts.
All features described in this article can change over time. What are your experiences with this new IDE? Are there any awesome features missing? Anything that needs to be updated? Share your thoughts in the comments.