Aug 10 AT 4:31 PM Sean Riley 8 Comments

Android App Inventor dragged and dropped by Google


Google is preparing to disband Google Labs in the near future and, in the process, some of its projects are getting called up to the majors while others will be given their walking papers.

Among the projects falling into the latter category is Android App Inventor. We were introduced to App Inventor a little over a year ago and told it would bring Android development to the coding illiterate. It offered a simple WYSIWYG interface that allowed you to drag-and-drop blocks around the screen to create whatever your heart desired with nary a bit of Java code in sight. I played around with App Inventor briefly myself. But Clark, as the resident AAM expert, took the time to guide you all through the process of creating a Twitter app.

People were pretty interested in App Inventor when it first hit the scene, so what went wrong? For one, App Inventor apps could never be uploaded to the Android Market, which was a disappointment to many potential users. I understand a flood of completely amateurish apps in the Market wasn’t in Android’s best interest, but some support for sharing the apps you made might have contributed to more community interest in the project. Not being able to create a custom icon for your app was yet another indication that this tool was basically designed for just mucking about on your own rather than creating something for others (this issue was corrected in a later update). And that significantly narrows the audience.

While App Inventor didn’t ever really catch on with mainstream users, it did establish a foothold in the education market–something that was often readily apparent if you followed the App Inventor Google Group. Many instructors saw App Inventor as a gateway drug for students that might have been intimidated by the prospect of coding. Once seeing a piece of software they created actually running on a phone, they could be inspired to get their hands dirty with Java or (god forbid) Objective-C.

As for what the future holds? Google will no longer be the caretaker for App Inventor. But they are “exploring opportunities to support the educational use of App Inventor on an open source platform.” Based on the feedback I’ve seen from educators in the App Inventor Google Group, I hope it does find a home somewhere as it certainly has a strong–if not ultimately huge–core audience.

Did any of you use App Inventor? What was your experience with it? Where would you like to see it go if it is taken up as an open-source project?

P.S. If you are interested in drag-and-drop software creation there is also an interesting program called Illumination Software Creator from Radical Breeze that will let you build apps for Android, among others. Unlike App Inventor it provides the full Java code in a format that can be exported to Eclipse and should, therefore, be able to be uploaded to the Android Market. The catch is that it is $49.95, but the guy behind it seems quite active and is definitely constantly updating the program.

Via: Hack Education

Source: Google Labs

Sean has been with Android and Me for over 8 years and covering mobile for the last 9. He occasionally muses about gadgets and tech outside of the Android universe at Techgasms.

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  • live2ski

    It was a fun tool to make a simple app relatively quickly. I made a couple of apps which were either for my own use or I gave to friends. My 8 yr old son also loved making small apps for the phone.

    I can understand not publishing directly to the market as it would have caused a flood of hello world apps. But it would have been nice to be able to export it into eclipse and re-compile it for the market.

    Also, they did fix the custom app icon in a later release.

    I hope it will live on and be maintained somewhere….

    • Sean Riley

      Thanks for the correction on the custom icon, I missed that.

  • Piotr

    It’s not true that it’s not possible to upload App Inventor apps to Android Market. There are third party (not developed by Google) free tools to do so, the most popular one called Marketizer, and people have uploaded many apps.

    It is really shame that Google has abandoned the project as it has a huge potentiall. It is a mistake to see it as a toy only. With some relatively simple changes to its visual language and a framework/API to develop custom components in Java that could be a very powerful programming environment.

    I really hope the project lives on for longer, it is truly exceptional stuff.

  • Rulob

    I made an app with it as a valentine gift to my girlfriend :) nothing fancy but it did the job

  • luiek20

    I made the test apps I really wished it waould have caught on more

  • Anthony Domanico

    I remember getting so excited to try app inventor out, but then never actually used it. ha

  • Thomas Edison

    I got invited to a Kansas City Java User’s Group meeting once via e-mail. The invite told how someone was going to show how to build Android apps. I didn’t go, but later found out the guy had used App Inventor in his presentation instead of showing how it’s really done. LOL. That’s kind of like a cooking class where someone shows you how to make a pizza with $16 and a telephone.

  • Chandrajit Rudra

    If you have lately gone through kickstarter, you could find Jimu which is one of the best upcoming Android App development tools.. and what I found best about it was that there was no need to know a bit of coding even… it should be great.. the following is my better understaing of Jimu funded by Kickstarter –