Gradle Brings Build Automation to Android
From lone workers in home offices to teams at large enterprises, Android developers are currently active on every scale. But with over 800 apps entering the Google Play store each day, the demand is growing for tool sets that can support this breakneck-production speed.
Gradle, which is described as the enterprise automation tool, could be the answer developers have been searching for. Gradle is designed to automate the build process by looking at the current state of a project and determining what needs to be done next. Although Gradle is still a work in progress, it promises to make enterprise-strength Android development faster and smoother.
As stated on its website, Gradle was designed to aid in every phase of the software development process, including the building, testing, publishing and deployment of apps, static web pages and many other mobile programs. Version 1.6 of the tool set was released last May, but the developers at Gradle are already fast at work on the next update.
Gradle was founded on the development philosophy of continuous integration, DevOps and, most broadly, agile development. The founders put their weight behind these guiding principles once they realized that the mobile world isn’t willing to sit around for the two-year development cycle of an earlier era. Software must constantly be evolving with hardware innovations and the public’s insatiable desire for the next best thing.
For industrial-strength mobile developers, Gradle offers some specific advantages. It makes it easier for development teams to provide variant versions of an app (free and paid, for example) or fitting different server configurations.
In particular, Gradle gives Android developers a set of capabilities already available through Xcode for iOS developers. This is an important consideration, since the mobile world will be co-dominated by Android and iOS for at least the next couple of years. That means that Android and iOS development teams will want to closely coordinate their efforts, a task that Gradle will make even easier on the Android side.
Tool sets in development
With the Android development world undergoing rapid evolution, no one should be surprised that development tools are following suit. This includes Gradle, which is searching for steadier footing in this torrent of innovation.
For example, Gradle still doesn’t support native development kits (NDK) for native-code language capabilities (such as C or C++). Many apps have no need for such capability, but it can be critical for those that do. Developers also hope that Gradle will be easily supported by continuous integration systems like Bamboo and Jenkins.
Despite its current pitfalls, enterprise Android developers are cheering Gradle across the finish line. Chances are, it’ll soon take the place of older development systems such as Ant, making industrial-strength development a smoother process. This has Android developers looking forward to the future, especially now that they have a build tool that can tell them what’s next.
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