New eBook – Google App Inventor
I was given a nice opportunity recently to have a look at a review copy of a new book on Google App Inventor that Pakt Publishing kindly provided. The book, Google App Inventor by Ralph Roberts, is deadly serious about teaching you just about everything there is to be known about Android development using Google App Inventor.
The book weighs in at 356 pages for the PDF version (ePub and print also available), so although it’s a beginner’s guide it takes you pretty far down the path.
Last year, I posted my take on the App Inventor beta. A lot has happened in a year with App Inventor, but first the book…
In The Beginning
The book starts out with the obligatory installation sections. However, the level of detail is excruciating, so there is absolutely no chance that you won’t be able to install the App Inventor applications on your computer. It’s also refreshing to see that all three of the major platforms are given equal footing (I admit that some of my own stuff may be a bit Mac/Linux centric).
Moving on, the basics of blocks and the available components are presented. There is definitely no glossing over subjects, so the introductory chapters will give the reader a firm grounding in what you can do with the App Inventor environment. It even has a “Not Ready for Prime Time” section to tell you what parts of App Inventor may not yet be fully baked.
In the Part Just After the Beginning but Not Quite the End
From there, the author divides the topics up by flavors of app, which I quite liked. Those are…
- Apps that Communicate
- Apps that Remember
- Apps that Surf the Web
- Apps that Know Where They Are
- and finally Games and Animation
If I had written this book there would also be an “Apps that Mysteriously Crash” section. Fortunately I didn’t.
In these chapters, the reader is guided through building apps that fall into these categories. For example, an “App that Surfs the Web” that is built is an eBay link app which shows how to use App Inventor to fetch and present web content. Although a specific example is presented in each of these chapters, they are great examples of the techniques to use in each specific problem domain.
The problem with books is that inevitably when you publish them, something changes. Packt and the author were not shy about tacking this late breaking information onto the book to ensure that it’s as complete as possible. There are also pointers to a load of resources for the aspiring App Inventor guru in the appendices.
But didn’t Google Kill App Inventor?
Nope. It’s true that under Larry Page’s new regime Google is cleaning house and ridding themselves of products which are not core to where they want to go (wherever that is). Yes, App Inventor is one of those, however Google did not shut App Inventor down. Instead they handed stewardship of App Inventor to the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab. That’s a good place for it. The center is brand, spanking new having been launched in August of 2011.
The book includes this late breaking tidbit in the “Final Last Minute Update” appendix (not to be confused with the earlier “Last Minute Update” appendix and presented the full text of the App Inventor news from Google, which I also received as an App Inventor developer. Here it is.
Dear App Inventor User,
As a result of the recent changes to Google Labs and App Inventor, effective immediately, the URL for App Inventor will change from appinventor.googlelabs.com to appinventorbeta.com. This URL change will not have an impact on your projects stored in App Inventor. All data that you see in your appinventor.googlelabs.com account, as well as documentation and e-mail forums, will be available at appinventorbeta.com.
As we announced on the App Inventor Announcement Forum, Google will end support for App Inventor and open source the code base at the end of this year. Additionally, in order to ensure the future success of App Inventor, Google has funded the establishment of a Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab, where MIT will be actively engaged in studying and extending App Inventor. This transition will happen at the end of 2011. At that time, you will need to download your data from appinventorbeta.com in order to continue working with it in the open source instance of App Inventor. In the coming months, we will send
you detailed instructions on how to download your data. Please visit the App Inventor user forums to get future updates on App Inventor.
The App Inventor Team
I’m pretty sure App Inventor will find a good home at MIT.
My previous stand on App Inventor hasn’t changed. I think it’s a great platform for learning programming and getting into Android development. As a teaching tool, it illustrates flow control and other aspects of programming logic without the burden of having to choose and learn a specific language. I still prefer the ancient ways of typing in code, however for those willing to embrace the new and shiny, this book is probably the most thorough grounding in App Inventor available.