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Best Libraries and Tools for Android Developers

Introduction

Android is one of the most popular mobile operating systems ever developed that boosts the market share of almost 80%. For a Mobile Operating System with such a large user base, it’s not a surprise that there would be thousands of developers and engineers having tremendous skills in Android application development.

Unfortunately, android application development is not as easy as it sounds. It requires a serious skillset and a dedicated team of engineers working around the clock to build something awesome that makes the lives of billions of smartphone users around the world easier.

Thanks to the tremendous advancement in technology, the technical world has arrived in such a condition that there now exist tons of libraries to solve any issue that a developer may face irrespective of the programming language used. Upon this plethora of libraries that have made programming really simple, we also have tons of tools and software that make programming even simpler and faster.

This particularly made Android development easier and gave developers the freedom not to reinvent the wheel, which leverages the usage of existing libraries to decrease the development time and increase the efficiency of the application being developed. This practice also enhances code re-use.

The following subsections cover the most used libraries and tools by Android developers worldwide.

Libraries

Retrofit

Retrofit is a type-safe REST client for Android and Java developed by Square. The library provides a powerful framework for authenticating and interacting with APIs, as well as sending network requests with OkHttp.

It helps the developer to get rid of boilerplate codes, which become really messy when the code size increases. Retrofit is an amazing library that makes calling RESTful APIs really simple. It is highly optimized, which increases app efficiency.

Another great networking library for Android is Volley, which is from Google, but most Android developers prefer Retrofit over volley for multiple reasons which include ease of use, efficiency, and boilerplate code reduction.

Another disadvantage of Volley is that it lacks built-in XML support, whereas Retrofit handles both XML and JSON seamlessly.

You can learn more about the Retrofit library here and about Volley here.

Glide

Glide is an image loader library for Android developed by bumptech. Glide is officially recommended by Google. Glide has been implemented in various top-rated android apps on Google Play and even in Google’s I/O Conference App.

Glide is a fast, efficient, and easy-to-use library that takes care of disk caching and memory management. Picasso and Fresco are other popular image loading libraries from Square and Facebook respectively. Fresco offers some extra features that Glide and Picasso yet do not have.

Some of these extra features include:

  • Images are stored in ashmem heap instead of Java heap. This leaves a lot more memory available for applications to use which reduces the risk of OutOfMemory Exceptions, leading to better performance.
  • Images can be cropped around any point, not just the center, unlike Picasso or glide.

You can learn more about implementing Glide on your application here.

ButterKnife

Butterknife is a popular view injection library for Android that motivates android MVVM patterns. ButterKnife uses annotation for its implementation, and it actually writes all the boilerplate view code’s for the developer. ButterKnife improves the application performance by using compile-time annotation, but it doesn’t create any runtime overhead.

ButterKnife is amazing in that it doesn’t depend on Java reflection, which might degrade the application performance.

Other popular libraries similar to ButterKnife are RoboGuice and Dagger. But, it is hard to start with them, hence, ButterKnife is preferred more over Dagger and RoboGuice.

You can learn more about the ButterKnife library here.

RxAndroid

RxAndroid is the Android Specific library of RxJava.

RxJava is described officially as, “a library for composing asynchronous and event-based programs by using observable sequences.” It makes use of the observer pattern, which makes event-driven programming a lot easier.

There are numerous benefits in using RxAndroid in your projects including:

  • Achieving Concurrency.
  • Minimal use of AsyncTasks.
  • Reducing the lines of code required.

You can learn more about RxAndroid here.

EventBus

EventBus is an open-source library for Android which is built on Publisher/Subscriber pattern that allows loose coupling of application components, which facilitates hassle-free communication between various application components.

One additional benefit of using this library is that it helps facilitate passing Java objects between Activities, Fragments, or Services. You don’t need to spend time serializing and deserializing data, which can often create tight bindings between these components. It also helps enforce more type-safety across complex Java objects.

You can learn more about the EventBus library here.

Tools

Library Method Count

Android libraries make the life of developers easier by implementing a common approach to a known problem, but they also create problems for the developers too. Android VM restricts the app from having more than 64K methods. This restriction is commonly known as the 64K method limit. 

With the latest version of Android, you can also overcome this restriction using multidex support. Read more about this here.

Android Debug Database

Android Debug Database is a powerful library for debugging databases and shared preferences in Android applications. It’s a very simple tool for viewing databases and shared preferences directly in your browser.

Find the Github link to Android Debug Database here.

Stetho

Stetho is a debug utility for Android applications created by Facebook. It can be easily integrated with the Chrome browser’s developer tools.

Stetho enables the developer to easily inspect the application, mainly the application’s network traffic. It also helps the developer to easily edit and inspect the SQLite Database and shared preferences.

Stetho should only be used in the debug build and not in the release build.

Find the Github Link to Stetho here.

LeakCanary

LeakCanary is an open-source library that is helpful in detecting memory leaks in Android. Finding and fixing memory leaks is a big headache. LeakCanary notifies the developer by inspecting the common cases that may lead to memory leaks in the application. LeakCanary should be used in the debug compile of the application. It thoroughly scans all the cases and notifies the developer if a leak occurs in the Application.

You can learn more about LeakCanary here.

Android Asset Studio

Android Asset Studio is an all-in-one tool for your project’s asset’s needs. It helps to create launcher icons, action bar icons, tab icons, and notification icons. It also supports the various levels of customization and enables the user to download the generated icons for various screen densities.

Find the Link to Android Asset Studio here.

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