Android Studio 2.2 has been available in preview form since May, but this week Google made the final version available to all developers. Android Studio is the integrated development environment that Android app writers use to work their magic in creating smartphone and tablet applications.
Google says Android Studio 2.2 focuses on improving three key areas: speed, smarts, and Android platform support. How does it do that?
The new Studio bakes in a Layout Editor and Constraint Layout to help developers construct the basic structure of their apps. A blueprint mode allows developers to craft their user interface and adjust visual elements of widgets in an expanded properties panel. The Constraint Layout is a flexible layout manager that lets developers create dynamic UIs without the need to nest multiple layout designs. Google says it is compatible back to Android API level 9 Gingerbread. The Constraint Layout was designed to work seamlessly with the Layout Editor.
Improved C++ support and the samples browser should help improve development times. For example, developers can now use CMake or ndk-build to compile C++ projects. Google says migrating projects from CMake to Android Studio should be seamless. The new project wizard in Android Studio has expanded C++ support, as well, and Google smoothed out the edit and debut tools. Finding sample code is much quicker thanks to a search tool in the code editor window.
Changes to Instant Run, the APK Analyzer, and build cache are meant to streamline the building process. Instant Run, which debuted in Android Studio 2.0, is more stable and reliable. Google says developers who disliked and disabled the feature in earlier versions of Android Studio should re-enable it and give Instant Run a second chance. The retooled APK Analyzer can better help developers inspect the content of their APKs and understand how each component adds to the app's overall size. Further, the analyzer lets developers compare two different versions of any given APK. The build cache, which is still experimental, is another tool to improve build speeds by reducing full and incremental build times.
Last are the new testing tools. The Android Emulator now offers virtual sensor controls, allowing developers to test how the accelerometer, magnetometer, and other sensors work against user interface controls. The Espresso Test Recorder lets developers create UI tests by recording interactions and then spitting out test code to see how UI elements function. FInally, the GPU debugger can capture OpenGL ES commands on Android devices and then replay it from inside Android Studio for analysis.
Chomping at the bit to put Android Studio 2.2 to use? Google says developers can check for updates in the stable channel from the Android Studio nav menu, or simply download Android Studio 2.2 from the Android developer Web site. Google says developers will also need to update to the Android Gradle plugin version 2.2.0.
The Studio is reaching its final version after the official debut of Android 7 Nougat, but ahead of the platform's broader release on mobile devices. Right now, only Nexus-branded smartphones and tablets are running Nougat. Expect more phones to run Nougat in the near future.