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September 19, 2017
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Top Android IDEs for Developers

  • September 15, 2017
  • By Cynthia Harvey
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Mobile development represents a huge opportunity for developers, whether they work for large enterprises, small businesses, or are just hobbyists. According to App Annie's market forecast, consumers will likely spend $81 billion in mobile app stores this year, and that number could reach $139 billion by 2021.

Those high revenue numbers explain why so many developers have begun creating apps. In 2016, Evans Data reported that the worldwide mobile development population has exceeded 12 million. To put that in context, there are about 21 million developers in the world, so more than half of them are targeting mobile platforms.

Many of those developers find the Android platform particularly attractive for several reasons. First, Java is the native programming language for Android. Because Java is the world's most popular programming language, a lot of developers already know it. That means they don't have to acquire an entirely new skillset when writing Android apps.

Also, Android is the most popular mobile platform in the world. Recent data from NetMarketShare gives Android a 64.38 percent share of the market, compared to 33.09 percent for iOS. And, although Android has been less lucrative than iOS in the past, App Annie says that Google Play and third-party Android stores will generate $41 billion in 2017, compared to $40 billion for iOS.

For many developers, choosing to write Android apps is an easy decision, but choosing which integrated development environment (IDE) to use to write those apps is much more difficult. Even though Android Studio is Google's recommended option, it might not always be the best choice.

For example, if you want to write cross-platform apps that can run on iOS or another operating system as well as Android, it might be better to choose one of the cross-platform frameworks. If you already do a lot of development in a particular IDE that can also support Android, it might be more efficient to stick with the tool you already know instead of learning something new. And, if you are a brand new developer or want to develop from a mobile device, that might also influence your IDE selection.

The following list includes eleven of the most popular IDEs for Android development. To be included, a product had to be a full integrated development environment or a cross-platform development framework (not just a text editor), and it had to support the Android platform. Both open source and proprietary solutions are represented, and all of the Android development tools here come recommended by experts in the field.

Criteria Reviewed for Selecting Android IDEs

To determine which IDEs to include in the list, we reviewed several core areas, including the following:

  • Developer/owner of the Android IDE
  • Key features of the Android IDE
  • Programming languages supported
  • Targeted operating systems (in addition to Android)
  • Operating systems on which the IDE runs
  • System requirements for running the IDE
  • Target audience for the Android IDE
  • First production release of the Android IDE
  • Most recent update/stable release for the Android IDE
  • License (Open source, proprietary, freeware, and so forth)
  • Price for the Android IDE

Developer/Owner of the Android IDE

When choosing an Android IDE, developers should consider the organization in charge of maintaining it. Is it a for-profit company or a non-profit foundation? How long has the organization been in existence? Most importantly, is the organization likely to stay around for the foreseeable future and continue supporting the IDE?

Key Features of the Android IDE

For many mobile developers, the features of the IDE will be one of the most important considerations for deciding which IDE to use. It would be impossible to list all the features for each of the Android IDEs in this list, so the article calls out five to ten features that the IDE Web site highlights as being among the most important. Key feature considerations when selecting an Android IDE might include whether the IDE supports the other development tools you use, the usability of the interface, built-in emulator and testing capabilities, integrated build tools, and debugging capabilities.

Programming Languages Supported

Most developers prefer to stick with the programming languages they know. As such, knowing the supported languages for an IDE can be critical. Although Android originally had a large focus in the area of Java, a multitude of other languages are supported in today’s IDEs. Note that some of the IDEs support languages that cannot be used for Android development.

Targeted Operating Systems

To be included in this list, the IDE had to support Android, of course. However, many developers target other platforms in addition to Android. If that is your situation, you may prefer to use a cross-platform IDE or an IDE that supports other operating systems as well as Android.

Operating Systems on Which the IDE Runs

Most of the Android IDEs on the list support the three most popular operating systems—Windows, macOS, and Linux—but some do not. It's important to make sure the IDE you choose supports the operating system that you run on your PC.

System requirements for Running the IDE

If you have a fairly modern system, you should meet the hardware requirements for most of the Android IDEs on this list. Some of the IDEs also require installation of some additional software, such as the Java JDK.

Target Audience for the Android IDE

Students and first-time developers have very different needs than experienced programmers have. You'll want to make sure that you select an IDE that is suitable for your level of experience.

First Production Release of the Android IDE

If an IDE has been around for a long time, that might be a good indicator that its owners are likely to continue maintaining it. On the other hand, a younger IDE might be designed from the beginning to support more recent programming trends.

Most Recent Update/Stable Release for the Android IDE

Tto be included in this list, the IDE had to be updated on a regular basis. Beyond that, some IDEs get updated more frequently than others. Choosing between an IDE that gets new releases on a monthly or weekly basis or an IDE that gets a major overhaul once a year is a matter of developer preference.

License

With an open source IDE, you will be able to review the source code if you want, and it is usually fairly easy to write your own add-ons or extensions. On the other hand, commercial or proprietary IDEs might come with better support options.

Price for the Android IDE

If you work for a large company, the price of the IDE may not be a big consideration. But, if you are an independent developer or hobbyist, one of the many free IDEs may be more attractive. Remember, however, that it may not be as easy to get one-on-one help if you experience trouble with a free IDE.

  1. Android Studio: Google's official IDE for Android based on Intellij IDEA. Click to see the Android Studio IDE overview...
  2. Eclipse: This open source IDE is the second most popular in the world. It is more than just an IDE for Java desktop apps! Click to see the Eclipse IDE overview for Android ...
  3. Visual Studio (with Xamarin): Microsoft's flagship IDE comes in multiple versions, but when integrated with Xamarin (which Microsoft purchased last year), it enables cross-platform native development. Click to see the Visual Studio with Xamarin overview for Android Development...
  4. IntelliJ IDEA: IntelliJ IDEA is described as a "capable and ergonomic IDE for JVM." Click to see the IntelliJ IDEA IDE overview for Android ...
  5. NetBeans: NetBeans is known primarily as a Java IDE, but it also supports many other languages. It is the official IDE for Java 8 and boasts a large community of users, and works well for Android development. Click to see the Netbeans overview for Android ...
  6. Komodo: ActiveState’s Komodo humbly proclaims itself "the best IDE for Web and mobile app development." Click to see the Komodo IDE overview for Android ...
  7. Cordova: First developed by a company called Nitobi, Cordova was originally known as PhoneGap. Click to see the Cordova overview for Android ...
  8. PhoneGap: PhoneGap is Adobe's implementation of the Apache Cordova open source mobile development framework. Click to see the PhoneGap for Android overview...
  9. Appcelerator Titanium: Axway Appcelerator platform "powers mobility for 70 percent of the Fortune 100." Click to see the Appcelerator overview for Android development...
  10. App Inventor: App Inventor aims at helping students and other new developers create their first Android apps. Click to see the App Inventor overview for Android ...
  11. AIDE: AIDE allows you to develop Android apps or Web sites from your Android device. Click to see the AIDE overview ...

Android
Development IDEs

Languages

Target OS

Runs On

Audience

License

Price

Android Studio

Java
C
C++
Kotlin

Android

Windows
MacOS
Linux

Experienced

Freeware

Free

Eclipse

Java
C
C++
C#
JavaScript
Python
more


Android
iOS
Linux
MacOS
Windows

Any OS supporting Java

Professional Developers

Eclipse Public License

Free

Visual Studio (with Xamarin)

C++
C
C#
Visual Basic
PHP
JavaScript
more

Cross-Platform
Windows
Android
iOS
more

Windows
MacOS
Linux

Experienced

Proprietary, Visual Studio Code is Open Source MIT

Free to $2,999+

IntelligJ IDEA

Java
Scala
Groovy
Kotlin
JavaScript
TypeScript
SQL

Any OS supporting Java

Windows
MacOS
Linux

Professional Java Developers

Proprietary, Community Edition is
Apache 2.0 License

Free to $499/year

NetBeans

Java
C
C++
HTML
PHP
JavaScript
others

Cross-platform

Windows
MacOS
Linux
Solaris

Professional Developers

CDDL 1.0 and GPL2

Free

Komodo

Java
JavaScript
Python
PHP
HTML
Ruby
others

Cross-platform

Windows
MacOS
Linux

Professional Web and mobile
developers

Proprietary, Komodo Edit is Mozilla
Public License

Free to $394+

Cordova

HTML
CSS
JavaScript

Cross-platform
Android
Windows
iOS
MacOS
Ubuntu

Windows
MacOS
Linux

Experienced Web developers

Apache 2.0 License

Free

PhoneGap

HTML
CSS
JavaScript

Cross-platform
Android
iOS

Windows
MacOS
Linux
Android
Windows Phone

Web developers

Apache 2.0 License

Free

Appcelerator Titanium

JavaScript

iOS
Android
Windows

Windows
MacOS
Linux

JavaScript developers

Proprietary, Titanium alone is Apache 2.0 License

Free to $99+ per month

App Inventor

Kawa

Android

Windows
MacOS
Linux

Students and amateurs

MIT License

Free

AIDE

Java
C
C++
XML
HTML
CSS
JavaScript

Android
Web

Android

Amateurs or mobile professionals

Proprietary

Free with in-app purchases





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