Android App Inventor

Ever wanted to create an Android app but just don't have the coding skills? Google's just greatly lowered the barrier for entry with the Android App Inventor. It's akin to Palm's Ares system (and we presume other development platforms? Hey, we're not coders, either) in that it's basically drag-and-drop, what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Hit a few buttons, and out spits an app.

A couple of worries about this:

  1. The Android Market is already flooded with hundreds (and likely thousands) of crappy apps. Let's call them crapps. And this is going to make it easier to make more crapps.
  2. This is bound to upset already established developers, right? (Let us know in the comments, folks.)
  3. Again, crapps. There's been a lot of chatter over the weekend about how the Market's closing in on 100,000 apps (according to sites like Androlib, anyway). And we're repeat what we have to say every time these milestone stories come up: There are apps, and there are crapps. We'd rather have 10,000 quality apps than 100,000 crapps. (And never mind that the total includes ringtones, keyboards, wallpapers, etc.)

We go back to a question that asked (by yours truly) of the Android Leadership at Google IO: Is the Market ever going to curated up front? Or will it still be up to use to wade our way through the craps? Google being a search company (and the whole openness thing, too), you can imagine which way that went. But we digress.

Let's give Android App Inventor a shot and see where it goes. Certainly the idea is good, and it's worked out well for Palm with Ares. Hit up the source link to find out more, and there's a pretty video after the break, too. [Google App Inventor]

[YouTube link]

Reader comments

Google unveils Android App Inventor, no coding skill required


Do you have to do any coding at all? With Ares you still need to know how to code and make the objects interact with the user

Being not a coder (the last language I learned was LISP in 1992...yeah, don't laugh), this intrigues me greatly, as I see so much potential in widgets that just isn't being exploited so far.

Very similar situation here.
I know HTML/CSS... but Java... no way.

There's a monopoly over widgets right now.
I really wanted to make some widgets... because I know many android users want to spice up their homescreens.
One thing I wanted is more options for clocks. And not everyone has HTC so they can't have all the widget love that some people have.

I agree with the perspective on craps, but I think it would be cool to at least try to do some little apps for myself. I'd like to see what I can do to alter (for better or worse) my own user experience.

It shall henceforth be referred to as Crap-dom.

....and then maybe if they actually perform as intended they can be boosted out of 'Crap-dom' and into the real app world.

I think this is a great idea for getting people interested and educated on basic programming principles, but apps created through this system (in my opinion) should NOT be eligible for entry into the market. Yeah, make a cool app for you and your friends, you can pass the apk around or upload it to your angelfire website, but keep it off the market please!

I think they should build a "Community" section where people can upload their stuff too, keep the pros and the hobbyist programmers separate. That way if you're curious enough to try out different apps you can do so from the community section. Who knows, maybe that one great app may come from a community member who is willing to take the time to spend designing the app.

Just like Linux, there are different repositories you can load programs from.

i wish that instead of doing this they would create a better visual interface for creating guis for apps. right now editing the GUI is awful.. That would allow programmers to produce better and more useful apps... I think alot of the craps that come out are completely due to programmers struggling to work with the gui...

I will check this out. I hope it does have some sort of coding aspect tied to it... this would allow for ALOT of potential if it does otherwise be prepared for redundant, repetitive craps!

when I first saw this, that's exactly what I thought it was! a RAD (Rapid Application Development) app for android, where all you need to do is write the code that tells each element how it interacts. I wonder if there will be any facility to export the source for one of these apps. That would be a nice treat. That way real programmers could use it as a starting point, then write their OWN code to wire everything up.

Perhaps the term should be 'crapps'. But I think lowering the bar to entry may be a good thing for Android. I understand the fear or overwhelming the Market with sub-par apps would be disappointing, but that's what filtering is for. Google should use it's great skill at determining search intent to cleaning up the marketplace.

Even if Google drags its feet in cleaning up the Market, one of the great features of Android is its acceptance of alternative-markets for apps. There are already a handful of alternate sites that perform this function. They could distinguish themselves by featuring only high-quality apps or eliminating the Crapps.

I for one am excited to try building an app or two based on some ideas I've had. I have been very curious to learn how app development works, but don't have the Computer Science background to code by hand. Even if I don't submit them to the Market, I may build them just for the experience. And perhaps one of them may actually turn out to be pretty good.

Being an android developer, I believe that this is going to be very helpful. Sure, it will also mean there will be a lot more 'crapps' on the market, but it certainly is going to make things such as:

A. Prototyping an app
B. Building the apps UI

much easier than the mucking about in XML that we currently have to do. (Yes, ecplise did have a UI builder, but it was horrid).

I think us, the end users, can make or break this. I know there are a lot of people out there without the coding know-how that have some great ideas for apps. Hopefully this will provide the way for those with an idea.

It will be our responsibility as end users to find and promote the good ones. A separate section for Apps created using App Inventor could be detrimental to their success. Crap will fail on its own, the pain is sifting through it. Making a separate pile for these will move the craps, but it will also move the little gems this will generate.

Sites like Android Central have a huge opportunity here. Quick reviews will help us readers not have to sift through the craps. We all support and get behind the big developers, Cyanogen/Team Douche for example, we can do the same for, Jr. Developers for lack of a better term, that use this program to create apps. It can also give users that quietly sit in the shadow a chance to get in the Android community actively and contribute, not feel like they are in over their head.

I for one am excited to see where this goes. It can end up being an epic failure or a big hit. I think it depends on us.

I wonder how difficult it is to add advertising to the apps using this program. That will tell you how many crapps will be made and submitted to the market.

I think it's a fantastic idea and can't wait to try it. I'm really more interested in making apps for my own use rather than to add to the Market.

I agree that it will add more crapps to the market but hopefully the best will rise to the top through the ratings system. Wading through 100,000 apps isn't much different than wading through 200,000 apps. It's impossible to check out each one, so you rely on the ratings to help you decide. Of course, coming to the AndroidCentral Applications forum also helps you find great apps recommended by other forum members.

Such is the case with an open system like Android rather than that other platform where the apps are approved by one man. :)

To prevent the market from being flooded with apps being made with this software they should have an approval system of some sort. I know, that would be like Apple's app store, but Google need to have some sort of standards if their going to let amateurs create apps with this program and put them on the market.

Heck, I would rather experiment with this software, make my own apps, and put them ONLY on my phone. That way I don't flood the market with crapps, haha.

I believe this is an amazing tool for people who have ideas but cannot learn programming. I'm all for it open source is all about freedom sure there will be some crapps but who cares. This is just another innovation that makes Android better then Iphone. However I do believe that most of these crapps are easily avoided through just looking at reviews and testing. Even without this tool the market is already flooded with crapps so I say who cares, Give the newbs a chance!

Apple has 1000 apps and 199,000 crapps. And they say 200,000 apps and use it to say they are better then Android because they have more apps. So Android needs more Crapps to say they have as many Apps as Apple.

I think this is just like when web development moved on to WYSISYG with Dreamweaver, Frontpage, etc. You can create a website but you still need to have an eye for design and a technical understanding to make things work properly. I thin if anything this could be a big positive because would-be developers can create the apps and then up them up in Eclipse to see just how the coding process work. Slowly and surely building up their coding ability by having a working foundation to work from. This could actually allow for much better designed UI's as well. So many times I've come across great apps with horrible UI's.

It should also be noted that yes this will create a ton of crap but to really make good ones you'll need to know some element of programming to utilize API's and the such.

i agree 100%. this will help people learn how to write apps, and even hey if nothing else, it makes it a good hobby to see what you can do!

What Google really needs is a halfway decent desktop client to browse and install Apps or do what they do best is buy a company like doubletwist and tweak it..

I'm split with regard to how I feel about this.

As an Android user who wants quality apps, I'm a little concerned about the level of quality of apps being kept up to snuff. But, then again, being honest about it, MOST of the apps in the Android Market are, for lack of a better term, 'works in progress.'

As an Ipod Touch user, I can say pretty confidently that if you download an app from Itunes, said app WILL work as advertised each and every single time.

I cannot say that about every app I have ever downloaded from the Android Market, sadly.

Now, as a guy who has some pretty neat ideas regarding what I want my device to do, I think this is pretty freaking cool to be able to potentially write apps with no coding skill.

I have some knowledge of BASIC, Fortran and COBOL, but I am by no means a programmer. Still, it seems funny to me that so many people would be so upset about this. Android is about having the freedom to do whatever you want on your device. Now, ppl are becoming upset about non-coders having the freedom to potentially contribute to the Android Community.

My .02 cents and all, but cream always rises to the top. This isn't a big deal, but it is a very cool option for ppl who might want to try creating apps.

Yes, but there are very few hardware configurations to deal with. The less hardware configurations, the easier it is to program for. Apple is closed, Android is open. So more hardware.

I am not a developer by any means I have worked with the s60 sdk to create themes for touch screen devices and have had some very sucessfull theme downloads none I have charged for. But this kind of thing intrests me greatly and I love to try and create stuff for myself as an amiture I pride myself in only releasing stuff that I have tested over a period of time and am confident that it will work without a hitch. For me this is a hobby and I look forward to having a go myself. ;-) maybe when amitures become more proficiant the amount of "crapps" will deminish forums like xda allowing amitures access to the knowledge base of professionals can only be a good thing. Yes we are about to see a very large influx of soundboards but among all the apps created by amitures theres going to be a few that are wort our attention.

I agree with the "crap-ware" (I came up with that) :-) that this will spawn. With 4 apps in the Market doing well, I can't see how this can work with *no* programming skills. Simple things from a single activity, yes. Serious functionality, I don't see it. Explaining to a non-techie/never-programmed-a-thing-before-in-life is going to have a hard time understanding variables, passing them to new activities using putExtra not to mention data types.

From what I've read, the only redeeming factor is they don't show how to publish the app. As long as they can't do that, we might me safe.

From a developers perspective I'm interested in how this will work. The tools available to develop Android applications are way behind the curve compared to Apple. If this product allows me to easily layout my screens and then change the background code to do my bidding I'm happy.

You know, I think mostly we are talking only to ourselves in these comments, but unlike many comment threads, there are some really good ideas in here, even if presented with a wee bit of sarcasm, like segregating apps and giving app-buyers a vote in demoting / promoting them.
These capabilities have been available in windows for years, think powerbuilder.
There is some value here, if for nothing else being able to create a unique app for yourself. But they will almost always run slower than natively coded apps, as you have stuff built into the framework to take care of generic situations that can be left out in specifically coded apps; the more complex, or even elegant, the app, the slower it will be. But in an open source world, if someone builds something really nice with this non-skilled tool, a person with actual coding skills could redo the function outside of the framework, add a couple tweaks, and off you go. So there is some real possibility of creativity going up.

I was just thinking about this because I cannot find the medical apps I need that Palm offered a decade ago or what is available now only on iPhone, iPod Touch. I wonder if this will let me make a basic math calculator for iv medications. if one is out there for Android, I can't find it.

Why would someone not be able to produce a quality application with this? I do not understand all the negativity.

Everyone's gotta start somewhere when they're learning, this seems like good place to me.

I think the problem is there are already a lot of crappy apps made by people who hardly know what they're doing, and this will allow even more people who have no clue what so ever of what they're doing to try making their own apps.
I personally like the idea of having a better GUI editor that is WYSIWYG and not require me to code everything in xml, look at it in preview, go back and tweak it back in xml, look in preview, tweak in xml...

While I do worry about crapps, I am more concerned about the platform remaining open. Besides, the worst crapps are the ones that came with my phone since I can't (easily without rooting) delete those. I can always choose to keep or delete anything from the market.

I think people are looking at this a little back to front. This is meant as an educational tool to break the ice for people allowing them to become more interactive with their smartphones etc. I remember messing around with basic on a ZX 81 back in the day (I know I am old ...) and it gave me an in to understanding that I did not have to be a spoon fed consumer but could actually create things that worked as I intended them to (sometimes ;)).

This will allow children and non technical people to have that first wow moment that could lead to bigger and better things. I can also see this helping the platform in the longer term as people will feel more connected to it. There is a whole new generation who may be about to get excited about all the cool things they can do on Android (even if compared to professional apps they are crap ... they will be their own personal crap ;)).

On a slightly different tack, if this has enough power (or develops over time to be a more powerful Rapid Development Environment) then there are likely many small firms and groups that will be able to produce small, bespoke apps for their own niche operations that would be beyond their financial capacity to have developed professionally.

Personally I think this is a huge opportunity for Android and really a positive step.

Personally I love the idea of this (if I understood the description in the article correctly). I've always been good at coding, but never good at GUIs. I'm currently going to school for a CS major, and all of our programming classes have us either make a text based UI, or have drag and drop WYSIWYG (as are available in Netbeans or MS Visual Studio). I've already ALMOST written several apps. I have all the java code for doing all the work and calculations, I just don't have ANY of the GUIs made because I can't get what I type in the xml to look right.

More than the potential for 'crapps' what bothers me is the 'here we go again' with a 'Beta Invite'... Another case of 'here is a great new program', but 'oh, yeah, you have to wait to get invited to it'...

This I agree with. I downloaded everything, got my phone ready, and whoops - had to fill out a form and will be notified in the coming "weeks" if I can start fooling around with it. Why announce this at all if I can't get started immediately?

same here
Just went thru all the steps on the "Set up your computer and phone for App Inventor. " under Getting Started,only to hit the last page where it gives you an application to be informed later when its available... wasted my time....

Phil, Phil, Phil. First you ridicule any Android phone that isn't an envelope-pushing $200+ superphone, and now you're openly insulting the plebeian masses who can't code by insinuating that the only result of making application development easier will be "crapps." Where's Dieter to chime in and give you a reality check like he did on the podcast?

It's not that Phil is deliberately trying to insult the non-developer community. He says this because when the G1 was released, folks *IN* the developer community put out 2,000 flashlight apps (ok, I made that number up) and a bunch of other useless apps.

His point is: if you needed to know a little programming to put out some of the crap-ware that got into the market, imagine how many more who don't care about quality and integrity will put useless programs into the market when it's as easy as Google says App Inventor will be.

lol. Actually, I think calling non-coders "the plebeian masses" may be a bit pejorative. :p Ultimately (and this is echoed by a number of commenters here) the success or failure of something like the App Inventor will be on the shoulders of the people developing the apps. My glass is half full, but it's my job to see both sides.

As I understand it, these apps will NOT be in the marketplace as they are not native Android apps (they require the Appinventor run-time).

The point of this is NOT to make apps for distribution, but to easily make apps for your own use.

And to answer some previous questions, yes there is ZERO code in making an Appinventor app. You drag puzzle pieces together to add user interaction. So you create a Button, which can connect to a Click Action Piece which can in turn connect toa Play Audio File piece and so on.

I hope Kujako is right. If App Inventor is for non programmers to create apps for their own use, then I'm all for it. It fits in very well with the idea of open source. Apps created with App Inventor, however, should not be eligible for entry into the Market. Even more than "crapps," I am concerned about malware, keystroke loggers, etc. I think if you want entry into the Market, or you want your apps available for mass distribution, you ought to be willing to do the work necessary to earn that type of exposure. So, you want your apps in the Market, then learn programming, do the testing, work out all the glitches, be willing to stand behind your product, and provide technical support with program updates. On the other hand, if you use App Creator to make an app for yourself, and you have a great idea, maybe this program will inspire you to make an app that could become "market-ready."

Android is meant to be open.

Unlike another popular mobile OS and app system, Google isn't looking us down to only the apps of their choosing. If users don't like crapp, they should make use of the rating system and downrate apps they don't like and report anything malicious. I'd like to see apps from new devs, even if they are novice or inexperienced, in the market. Fresh perspective.

Google should do it's part in reorganizing the Market so it's easier for us, the users to have more control over it, so we can choose to filter things at, browse apps differently, provide feedback, etc.

What google needs to do to improve the UI for the app store is to implement something similar to what sony has for their playstation store. But add an additional category for developers to have their own page.

What google needs to do to improve the UI for the app store is to implement something similar to what sony has for their playstation store. But add an additional category for developers to have their own page. stuff.I like to build apps on my own.At first it was quite difficult to find low cost and effective web service for this aim as Im not a pro web developer. At last I've found one called Here even beginners in coding can be successful app makers.