Yesterday's Google I/O keynote gave an introduction to some of the great new improvements to Android Studio 2.2, but it only scratched the surface. Today, the Android Tools Team took to the stage again to detail even more about the things they've been doing to make work easier for developers. Topics ranged from new tools like the APK Analyzer and Espresso Test Recorder to big improvements in the code editor and inspectors. We can't cover everything, but here is a summary of the main topics presented today.
New Layout Editor
One of the two hot topics introduced during the keynote is a brand new layout editor.
Microsoft makes a lot of apps for multiple platforms. It also makes a lot of tools that are used by other developers to build apps for multiple platforms. It only makes sense then that the company would be interested in buying Xamarin, one of the leading platform providers for mobile app development.
While you may not have heard of Xamarin, its solution counts as one of the invisible threads that play a role in running the Internet nowadays. The platform helps developers use a shared codebase in C# to build, test, and monitor native apps for iOS, Android, and Windows, all with the same IDE, language, and APIs.
Game developers integrating with Google Play Games have seen a lot of improvements since the service was launched a year and a half ago at Google I/O 2013. There have been a lot of refinements to the experience for both players and developers, and new tools have made many of the tedious and time consuming chores much easier. Google has just launched a new Play Games Publishing API inspired by a similar interface that was added to the Play Store earlier this year. There is also a new Leaderboard feature that should help to prevent falsified scores. Finally, the Unity Plugin and C++ SDK have been updated to support more devices and add additional features.
Excitement over products like the Ouya, nVidia's Shield line, and even numerous gamepads proves that gaming on Android has entered the mainstream. Developers have been jumping at the opportunity to build games that work across many of the different operating systems; and thanks to the Cross-Platform SDK, they're able to integrate most of the Play Games services into their products on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Until now, this SDK has lagged behind the SDKs for Android and iOS on one specific feature: real-time multiplayer support. As of today, Google is rectifying this oversight and making a number of other improvements with updates to the Play Games SDKs, along with some new features in the Google Play Developer Console.
Today, in a post on the Android Developers Blog, Google announced two new tools that might be of interest to quite a few of the game developers out there. Among the releases is a new open-source 2D physics library called LiquidFun and a Unity plugin for adding Google Play Games support. These releases coincide with the news of additional game categories coming to the Play Store in February, which we covered earlier today.
LiquidFun is a rigid-body physics library that does particularly well with fluid mechanics. It's based on Box2D, a popular open-source 2D physics engine written in C++ that has found its way onto quite a few platforms and spawned a few similar engines over the years.
The majority of Android developers use Java to create their apps. While Java isn't the hardest programming language to learn, it's always best to get as many people developing as possible.... not that Android is hurting in that respect. Even so, a new way to create apps using Microsoft's familiar C# language is now available, by way of TallApplications BV's Dot42 - a tool that aims to accomplish this task without requiring something like mono.
The gist is simple: it's a compiler that will allow you to code apps in Visual Studio. You can use existing Android API libraries. There's even limited support for editing String and Menu resources in WYSIWIG.