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App Inventor for Android: Build Your Own Apps - No Experience Required! [Paperback]

Jason Tyler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)


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Book Description

April 25, 2011 1119991331 978-1119991335 1
Create Android mobile apps, no programming required!

Even with limited programming experience, you can easily learn to create apps for the Android platform with this complete guide to App Inventor for Android. App Inventor for Android is a visual language that relies on simple programming blocks that users can drag and drop to create apps. This handy book gives you a series of fully worked-out apps, complete with their programming blocks, which you can customize for your own use or use as a starting point for creating the next killer app. And it's all without writing a single line of code. Don't miss the book's special section on Apps Inventor Design Patterns, which explains computer terms in simple terms and is an invaluable basic reference.

  • Teaches programmers and non-programmers alike how to use App Inventor for Android to create Android apps
  • Provides a series of fully worked-out apps that you can customize, download, and use on your Android phone or use as a starting point for building the next great app
  • Includes a valuable reference section on App Inventor Design Patterns and general computer science concepts
  • Shows you how to create apps that take advantage of the Android smartphone?s handy features, such as GPS, messaging, contacts, and more

With App Inventor for Android and this complete guide, you'll soon be creating apps that incorporate all of the Android smartphone's fun features, such as the accelerometer, GPS, messaging, and more.


From the Author: Getting Data In and Out of App Inventor Apps

In today’s mobile world, applications are expected to not only provide functionality locally but also have up to date content and external awareness.

"How do I get all this data into App Inventor?" is one of the most frequently asked questions by new developers. Initially getting rows and columns of data into App Inventor was a kind of linear equation. You used the TinyWebDB or you turned to some of the third party hacks that are available.

The TinyWebDB component is still a possibility for volatile data that needs to be pulled from the internet and placed into App Inventor. It has the added benefit of being quick and allowing write to the web database. For getting rows and columns of data into App Inventor the algorithm would follow these steps:

1. Pull data from WebService and place in temporary variable.
2. Parse data into psuedo-array
3. Write data to a local TinyDB
This is still an option for getting tabular data into App Inventor. It has the advantage of being fast and stable. It has the disadvantage of needing the TinyWebDB service installed and running on a web server. Setting up and installing the TinyWebDB service can be complex and frustrating. There is the added complexity of needing a separate application to actually pre-populate TinyWebDB with data.

The App Inventor team recently released an update to App Inventor that includes functionality to allow access to the Google Fusion Tables. Google Fusion Tables is an online database solution that allows simple SQL like commands to be sent via HTTP to stored data. There is a nice back-end management solution that allows a user to pre-build and pre-populate data into created tables. All of the data lives in Google’s "cloud" service. The back-end management system will be very familiar to users of Google Docs or other Google cloud products.

The algorithm for getting tabular data into an App Inventor app using Fusion Tables will follow these steps:

1. Create the desired Fusion Table and populate the table with data using the Web backend.
2. The app will be "initialized" by pulling the data from a Fusion Table.
3. The app will store the returned Lists in a local TinyDB
The advantage of Fusion Tables is the ability to easily pre-populate the online data by hand entering or importing a spreadsheet of values. This will allow the developer to maintain the data that all the deployed apps consume. Thereby, fresh content and data could be added to applications by changing the data in the Fusion Table.

The disadvantage of Fusion Tables is the data retrieval method. When the data is pulled from the Fusion Table the application stops while displaying a notification that it is pulling data from a Fusion Table. Which appears a little bit hokey on a professional level application. It is also linear and fairly slow. In other words you will not likely be repeatedly and frequently pulling data from a Fusion table in the same App session. Instead, an application would likely pull data once when the application starts and then only when specifically refreshed.

The options and power that are given to developers with the new Fusion Table has yet to be fully explored and I look forward to some exciting uses of Fusion Tables. (Hint: Someone should use this for a text based MMORPG ... the possibilities are endless. ) The newest version of App Inventor released by the incredible rock stars on the Google App Inventor developer team includes the long awaited Holy Grail. I am, of course, talking about the "WebComponent". Now the web component as it currently exists is a little bit limited and not easy to implement. However, it is REALLY powerful even in its current iteration. It has the power to send HTTP formatted requests to existing web services and web sites and then store and manipulate the returned data. It combines the speed of the TinyWebDB service requests and the flexibility of using existing data like with the Fusion Tables. The web component brings the ability to use HTTP POST and GET commands which are the foundation of most simple web services. The algorithm for using the WebComponent would (or at least could) follow these steps:

1. Establish (or use existing) web service that will respond to GET/POST.
2. Use the WebComponent to send a GET request to the service.
3. Use the Text parsing blocks to parse out the tabular data sent by the web service.
The advantage of using GET/POST commands is the speed with which they can be used inline with programmatic functions in an application. Another advantage is the flexibility of using existing data and or maintaining external data in a database behind your webservice. The WebComponent opens up App Inventor to REAL web service and interactive internet services development.

I am excited about the direction the App Inventor team is taking this awesome product and look forward to an even more mature Rapid Application Development framework.



Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Build your own Android Apps - piece by piece! App Inventor for Android is a complete, hands-on -guide to creating your own apps with Google's App Inventor -a powerful tool that allows even non-programmers to create mobile applications for Android-powered devices. Inside, you will learn programming and mobile OS concepts while creating fully functional, useful, and fun applications for the Android platform.
Using App Inventor's drag-and-drop interface, you will create apps that take advantage of Android device features including the accelerometer, GPS, messaging, contacts, the Web, and more.
Insider you will learn how to
  • Set up App Inventor and connect your phone or emulator
  • Use the App Inventor Designer to create your app's look and feel
  • Work with the App Inventor Blocks Editor to ass functionality to your app
  • Build a chat client using App Inventor's Bluetooth capability
  • Create your own games
  • Design your own Twitter app
App Inventor for Android shows you to create fully-functional apps that you can build, download, and use on your Android phone right away. Best of all, the apps come with complete source blocks, fully explained in easy-to-understand terms, which you can customize or use as a model  for building your own Android applications.
Please visit wiley.com/go/appinventorandroid to download project files.

About the Author

Jason Tyler is passionate about technology and people. Jason teaches technology professionally to help people achieve their goals using the power of technology. He plays with technology because he loves the empowerment that technology can bring, and also because he is attracted to anything shiny.

Jason is a lifetime student who considers a day wasted if he is not awed by something. His passion for technology has lead him to hold multiple certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, CompTIA, and ITIL. His passion for people led him to seek a B. A. in theology.

Jason is an avid and dedicated photographer, sailor, and gamer. Of all the things he is, Jason is proudest to be the husband of Rebecca and the father of Liam and Declan.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1119991331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1119991335
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 7.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For many people wrestling an idea for an app into an actual wokring app is daunting. There are issues of setting up a development environment, learning the way the device you are making an app for wants you to code for it, deciphering the vectors and hooks into the device's layers and then crafting your idea thru all those processes into something you can see and touch on the screen of your device. With this book as my guide I was able to get through these processes in a near painless manner.

Each process was laid out before me in easy to understand steps and many of the stumbles I made were addressed before I was about to make them. What problems I did come across where not as problematic thanks to the way the author organized his book. The pacing of the examples were perfect, I felt like I was getting a solid payoff after working thru each chapter. With the completion of each chapter I also felt a little more confident that I would be able to take my ideas for apps and make them actual working apps. After the twitter chapter I was near giddy with accomplishment; I played the proud parent as I showed off the app to those folks I was able to pin down. The bonus online chapter was the perfect reward for finishing up the book. What was even better was finding all the video tutorials on the authors web site, truly an amazing set of learning that just keeps on getting better over time.

The only downside to going thru the book, bonus chapters and web site is I now have more, and more complex, app project ideas that I want to find time to work on. This book was truly empowering as well as educational.

The other unforeseen outcome of going thru the author's works is that my 8 year old son now wants to work on some apps with me.
Read more ›
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Glad to See this Book April 28, 2011
By NM
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was so glad to see this book. It seems to be the first book out on Google's App Inventor for Android. Jason Tyler is an excellent teacher. I have completed three chapters of the book so far and find his style perfect for the amateur app inventor programmer. Concepts are clearly presented, things are well illustrated, snags are anticipated and explained. If you have struggled with App Inventor and appreciate an experienced teacher, this is the book for you.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was very impressed May 17, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Google App Inventor is a very powerful/simple tool and this book is a great to make it easy to use. It helps that I know how to program so this was a breeze. I recommend this book if you have little or no programming experience. Even if you do have programming experience like myself, I would still recommend this book because this will get you started in mobile apps (which in my opinion has a very bright future).
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not supported anymore. January 20, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I purchased the kindle version (thank goodness), then went to google's site only to find out that google cancelled their program and turned it over to MIT, who plans on introducing a new version sometime in the first quarter of 2012. I am disappointed that this has not been noted in the book description on Amazon.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First To Read The Book (author's wife) April 29, 2011
Format:Paperback
As a very untechnical person, I approached the idea of creating my own applications with fear and trembling. However, very quickly I had actually made applications of my own and found the experience very empowering and exciting. The book makes application development very approachable. If I can benefit from this book, anyone can! (even if he didn't use my sketches - lol)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book for App Inventor May 17, 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
App inventor is a set of visual tools by Google (which they stopped supporting) that allow you to build an Android App and put it on your Android device.

This is a cool, Lego-block like system for technically savvy non-programmers. Programmers are better off building apps in Java using Eclipse.

It's not simple, you can't just pop into the toolset and build something robust. Google's help is poor (just like with most of their products). So this book bridges that gap and helps you to get some Apps up and running and get them on your phone.

You're not going to build the next Instagram with this, but it is a fun way to get into building a custom app for personal use.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's pretty alright. April 20, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
See, App Inventor is a good program, and this book is a good book. But MIT took back/took over the project and now a lot of the links are broken in the book. The projects work just fine when you can set everything up, but if you're a total beginner and expect this book to do everything for you, you're gonna have a bad time. Find your phone/tablet drivers, and install them while your phone/tablet is not plugged in. Next, install the appropriate version of Java (probably 64 bit if you're running with 4 GB of RAM or more), and then install the Java SDK. Next, you'll want to follow these instructions: [...]. They have an installer so that you can use the code window, and it can interact with your phone. Finally, go to [...] to actually use the program.

Hope this helps,

- Zak

EDIT: Apparently, Amazon doesn't like it when I write links. I'm really sorry about that - it's not that hard to figure out if you look hard enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just What I Needed After the On-Line Tutorials August 7, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Google provides some great beginner tutorials to introduce you to App Inventor, but the tutorials are limited and only cover some of the major features available. I suggest taking the tutorials provided by Google, and then using this book to further learn how to become an expert at App Inventor. However, the Google tutorials are not necessary, as the author provides beginner through expert lessons of his own.
This book is easy enough for anyone to follow to make apps very simply for the Android. The author takes you step by step through his own tutorials, which are laid out better than those provided by Google.
I haven't yet completed all of the lessons in the book, but I plan to, as each one demonstrates different features available to the app inventor. This book covers a broad spectrum of features available.
Also, the author provides the project files (which is very helpful) and a bonus chapter available for downloading.
This well written book is essential for anyone that wants to learn how to make apps for the Android!

By the way, the one negative review listed has nothing to do with the book, but with Google's App Inventor itself. You can absolutely put up apps that you create with App Inventor on the market, you just need to follow some guidelines, which can be found at this link:
[...]
So, learning how to use this great App Inventor tool is not a waste of your time. I hope this helps you in deciding whether or not to purchase this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful
a good and useful guide. any problem you face is actually due to errors in App Inventor, which is far from being perfect. Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. ALJUNAIDI
1.0 out of 5 stars NEEDS updated edition
This book was written for Google App Inventor 1 (AI1), which has since been updated to MIT App Inventor 2 (AI2). Read more
Published 4 months ago by Tim Q
2.0 out of 5 stars Save your money
I wanted to learn how to design and build Android apps. Based on the high review scores I choose this book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by T. Rutter
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
This book was very easy to follow and the examples were great. I didn't finish it since I have since switched to an iPhone 5 but it was a great learning experience and well... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Craig
4.0 out of 5 stars A little out-of-date, but still good
Even though Google no longer hosts the App Inventor (it's done by MIT) and some functions have changed slightly in the two years since this book was published, it is still a very... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful for Beginners
Easy to follow. Excellent examples. i recommend this book without hesitation. Great work Jason. Keep it coming. Thank you sir.
Published 14 months ago by COP287
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book that leans towards non-programmers
I have a few decades of programming under my belt, so it's sometimes difficult for me to gauge whether a book like this would make sense to a non-programmer. Read more
Published on June 22, 2012 by Carel Miske
5.0 out of 5 stars Create Your Own Apps
I am a programmer. So when someone tells me I can write code for my smart phone, it's very exciting. Imagine making your phone do something that only you could conceive! Read more
Published on February 28, 2012 by Paul M. Provencher
5.0 out of 5 stars Great way to start using more your Android phone
Great book for those that are taking the steps in programing...very easy to follow and understand! So farI'm loving it! I recommend!
Published on November 15, 2011 by Str0b
5.0 out of 5 stars great how-to guide
i am not a programmer, but i wanted to create an app that i had an idea for.

great.

how do i do THAT?

well, for one thing i got this book. Read more
Published on October 20, 2011 by kre8iv1
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The App Inventor has been taken down ....
The app inventor is now run by MIT. The actual app inventor can be accessed at http://beta.appinventor.mit.edu/. You can access tutorials and videos about the app inventor by starting from here : http://beta.appinventor.mit.edu/about/.
Jul 17, 2012 by Pepper K. |  See all 3 posts
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