Jul 02 2012

Android Development using the CommonsWare library

There has been talk recently about some Android work coming down the pipeline in the office, so in a bid to ensure I get on to an interesting project I’ve started to learn more about Android development.

When I have the time to actually sit down and learn something (rather than “we need this working today, I don’t care you’ve never seen it before”) I really prefer to find a good quality book to work through rather than picking up bits and pieces from the internet.

Now whilst I’m not a top class rock star developer (or insert whatever title is cool now) I am more than capable of bringing disparate tutorials, discussions and my brain together to create a working piece of software. However I really do appreciate the care and consistency you get from a well written, and edited book when trying to really learn a new technology/language/framework. It is my belief that the learning process has much more flow through the medium of a book than through any other.

There is always one big problem though with learning from a book: that it takes time to be written, proofread, edited, printed, and distributed. Technology moves fast and if the particular piece of interest is regularly updated a book can quickly become outdated.

With this in mind I was delighted to discover the CommonsWare Library. At this point it is a series of books about Android development (I don’t think it will ever cover anything else). The descriptions below are from the main website.

This book covers what you need to know to get started programming Android applications for mobile devices — everything from crafting GUIs to using GPS and accessing Web services, and more!

This book picks up where its predecessor left off, covering yet more topics of interest to the professional Android application developer. If you need to create reusable components, create home screen widgets, play back media, take pictures with the camera, or implement sophisticated services, this book will be a helpful guide.

The Android and Advanced Android books show you what you can do with Android — Android Programming Tutorials show you what you can do with Android, through a series of 28 individual exercises. Android Programming Tutorials gives you hands-on instruction in how to build sophisticated Android applications, using many of the technologies outlined in CommonsWare’s other Android books.

There is also a book on tuning Android applications and an omnibus which is made up of all 4 books edited together into one coherent package.

The books themselves from what I have read are well written and edited. I find myself enjoying working through the omnibus edition. However this is not the only thing that prompted this blog post, it is the unique (or at least under utilised) way you buy these books. You don’t just buy the current edition, you buy the current edition & a one year subscription to any updates, and there will be updates. This means you can pay now, secure in the knowledge that when Jelly Bean ( or whatever is next up by the time you read this) is released you’ll get access to a copy of the book updated to take account of any changes required, tweaks recommended, or removals advised, on the latest platform generation. Yes this is only available due to the distribution in e-book format but if you simply must have a paper book, they can be bought on Amazon, but to my mind lack the advantages of the e-book.

Forty dollars well spent in my opinion, and I’m sure it will only be reinforced over the coming 12 months.