Android Studio dumps Eclipse for IntelliJ IDEA
Google forks Jetbrains development environment, adding live multi-device preview and Gradle support.
For Android developers, the biggest news out of Google I/O so far is a new IDE called “Android Studio”. Based on JetBrains’ open-source IntelliJ IDEA, it’s designed to replace the customised build of Eclipse currently distributed with the Android SDK, bringing with it IntelliJ’s distinct look and several new features. (You can download the “early access preview” now.)
Engineer Tor Norbye presented a live demo of Android Studio during the conference’s opening keynote, and drew applause with demonstrations of the IDE’s live preview abilities. Layouts can be previewed with different screen sizes, locales and platform versions side-by-side – updating in real time. Selecting UI elements with the mouse moves the cursor to the relevant XML tag, making it close to a WYSIWYG editor.
“We have big plans for Android Studio,” Norbye told the audience. “We plan to integrate more and more services into the IDE. For example, with a simple menu item, I can add a Google Cloud Messaging backend into my app,” he said, referring to the new service unveiled just a few minutes earlier that helps sync notifications between devices.
Android Studio also includes a new build system based on Gradle, as well as Android extensions of IntelliJ’s standout features, such as code refactoring and static code analysis.
Though developed commercially by JetBrains, the community edition of IntelliJ IDEA has been open source since 2009. This new fork is, according to JetBrains themselves, a collaboration between the two companies, and will be a separate, open-source project managed by Google.
It’s another blow to Eclipse, which continues to suffer from a public perception of being slow and ugly (despite recent speed boosts). Though Google promises to “continue to support Eclipse as a primary platform for development”, it seems likely that Android Studio will eventually become the recommended environment for app developers.
Aside from Android Studio, Google made several other announcements for app developers, including an improved developer console, new location APIs and Xbox Live-like social features for games.
According to Hugo Barra, VP of Android product management, the platform has recently reached 900 million activations. With the conference continuing throughout the rest of the week, expect more Android news to emerge.