Rapid Android Development with AML

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Rapid Android Development with AML

Postby jrowberg » Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:36 pm

Hey everyone,

I'm pretty new to Android development, and brand new to this board, but it looks like a great resource. I've already landed on a few threads while searching for answers during the last few days of learning and experimentation.

I'm looking for feedback on something I've begun to create though, specifically for my needs but definitely with potential for the general Android development community. It's a simple markup language that can designate layout and behavior for apps in a way that is very easy to write but directly uses the native UI. It's a set of template layout files (in /res/layout) and classes (in /src) that you include in your project to enable this functionality. The implementation code you have to write to use it is very, very simple.

I want to be able to have an app that is structurally built using native code, but where the content, layout, and behavior are controlled by an external source (a web service in my case). That way, the app behavior will change automatically as the web service is updated to include new features. I have seen tools like Rhomobile and Appcelerator, and while they are great for certain needs, they don't do what I'm looking for.

I've called the code library that I'm working on "AML", for App Markup Language. It's simple, structured XML that the code parses and dynamically builds layouts and views from. It's definitely still in its infancy; there are no specifications or documentation yet, and it is still missing a lot of important features (specifically, dealing with events and processing inputted data). But hey, for being only four days old, I'm really pleased with how it's come out so far.

For a few more details and some example code and screenshots, go here:
http://www.sectorfej.net/2010/07/10/rapid-android-development-with-aml/

A sample snippet of AML looks like this:

Syntax: [ Download ] [ Hide ]
Using xml Syntax Highlighting
  1. <aml>
  2.   <input type="button">Test Button</input>
  3.   <input type="checkbox">Test CheckBox</input>
  4.   <input type="togglebutton" checked="yes" />
  5.   <input type="imagebutton" image="drawable/icon" />
  6.   <input type="text">Test Text</input>
  7.   <input type="password">Test Password</input>
  8.   <radiogroup>
  9.     <input type="radiobutton" checked="yes">Radio Button 1</input>
  10.     <input type="radiobutton">Radio Button 2</input>
  11.     <input type="radiobutton">Radio Button 3</input>
  12.   </radiogroup>
  13. </aml>
Parsed in 0.003 seconds, using GeSHi 1.0.8.4


It's WAY simpler than the /res/layout XML you'd have to build (the linked page shows what it would look like there for comparison). It feels a lot like HTML, but it isn't quite the same. It is very simple and straightforward though, and supports features like font size and color, background colors, tables (with colspan), alignment and padding. I'm working on more critical features now, like specifying multiple activities and being able to switch between them.

I'm sure that AML can't solve every problem, and a lot of native code will still be required for certain kinds of applications. It isn't going to be able to simply everything you can do with Android (games come to mind). But for data-centric apps, or especially apps that need to interface with web services, it could be a huge help, especially as more features are added.

I have two questions for all of you here:

1. Would you use this for your own app?

2. What would it need to do in order to be most useful?

I usually only think of the features I need, but I know I'll be missing out on a lot if that's all I do. So please, feel free to give any feedback, comments, suggestions, or otherwise. If you know of another project that is doing something similar to this, I'd be really interested in it. I googled for a bit but didn't see anything like it.

Overall, I do have to say that coding for Android is a lot of fun. Seriously. I was a little worried a first, but not anymore.
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jrowberg
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Re: Rapid Android Development with AML

Postby jrowberg » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:18 am

Hello again everyone,

Due to the response I got from DZone, I've migrated my AML project to its own website, which you can find here:

http://www.amlcode.com

My quest for feedback and input from the Android development community is still going on though, so if anyone has any suggestions, ideas, criticism, anything at all, I'm wide open to what you have to say.
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