Block editor

I'm not an emotional guy, and I understand that tech comes and goes at a jackrabbit pace.  When I found out last night that Google was saying goodbye to App Inventor, I was sad inside.  Not because of how great it was, or the fabulous apps that could be made with it, but the idea behind it is something we need to see more of, not less.  App Inventor was by no means easy to use to make anything more than very simple apps.  In fact, if you argued that using Eclipse and learning Java was just as easy as figuring out the blocks editor, I wouldn't say you were wrong.  But there is a huge difference -- App Inventor would allow someone with absolutely zero programming experience (hi, Phil!) to write an application that worked.  It's a special feeling watching your kids or other loved ones sit down and make something silly, but have a load of fun doing it.  And believe it or not, App Inventor is an excellent introduction to logic and more advanced programming techniques.  My wife built an app that sends a short text to me whenever she hits an icon.  It's very simple, and took her a full evening to figure out -- but she did it.  She is proud of her silly little app, as am I.  The countless little apps that play a sound when you push a button, or even just say "Hello, world!" are each tied to someone who is just as proud, because they made it work.  You just don't often see this sort effort by a company as big as Google, who spent a ton of man-hours focused on teaching people how to be a geek.  And now it's going away, taking a small bit of fun from the programmers-in-training out there.

Yes, the project is being open-sourced, and for that I'm happy.  I hope other folks who build these sort of projects (yes, there are others, and a lot of them are also done really well) pick through the code and use it to improve what they're offering.  I'm afraid that it will only end up being used for projects designed to strip apart and re-assemble the work of others, but I'm a cynic.  Someone please prove me wrong.

In any case, I will have to sit down and finish up all my assorted silly time-wasting projects sitting half done in my App Inventor console.  And so will you.  If you haven't even started looking at App Inventor, but always wanted to, get on it while you still can, you have about 90 days to have some fun. 


Reader comments

Editorial: Farewell App Inventor, we barely knew you


man i wish i knew about this earlier. i am interested in getting into programming my time with android has really really opened a new love. what other programs like this are out there like the article mentions.

AppInventor looked like a great learning resource for programming newbies. But for someone like me with some programming experience, I found the whole block construction process a bit frustrating, and the limitations on access to all Android functions annoying. Just the other day, found this link to Basic 4 Android, a VB-like programming environment for Android:

You have to pay for it, but in the long run it looks like a better development environment for those with some programming experience, but who don't know Java.

:( I feel really guilty that I never really took the time to sit down and get to know AppInventor.. I started to tinker last night and will continue to do so for the next 90 days while I can.

Didn't use it a lot, but I kind of hate to see it go. It was a learning site, and you could actually do something without having to go through the entire programming language curve.

Noooo! I needed this! This was part of my midrange plan! What are some other alternatives for non-programmy noobs?

I agree Jerry. A bit sad, but it can still be had. Just not as open and easy. Maybe they are working on a better one? Though I know, we will not find it in Lab's anymore. : - (

"App Inventor is an excellent introduction to logic and more advanced programming techniques"

I disagree. It just covers the very basics. To someone with no programming knowledge it may seem to get pretty intense, but without pointers or just a way to control them, there are no data structures.

Once it is open-sourced, can it be easily hosted by us non-programmey noobs? I would be happy to put it on my server for my students if it worked. How can we continue to use it?