What can we find in version 4.0?
Android Studio 4.0 was released today, May 28, 2020, into the stable channel. That means it’s available for anyone to download and use, without major problems. This is a major release since Android Studio 3.6, which I also reviewed back then. You can take a look at the official documentation if you want to know every detail, but the intention of this post is to summarize in an easier way the main features of it.
Visually it didn’t change much, the only thing that comes to sight is the update of typography.
The layout editor defaults to code, which is something people were requesting a lot in Android Studio 3.6.
This feature looks really cool at first sight. In the launch videos and documentation they have several demos about it, one of the images found there is the following:
They make it seem really easy and like it’s something you can drag and drop like you make it with other Android elements. Truth is, it’s not as easy. I tried to see if I could do a quick test and ended up finding out it required quite a lot of steps to follow, which are documented in here.
Anyway this feature is a great progress in animation, there is increasing interest from companies into having apps with animation and sometimes they can turn complex, so having a preview may be useful.
Live Layout Inspector
This feature is presented as something new and innovative, but if you have developed in iOS, you probably know it’s nothing new. I remember this feature available in Xcode for quite some time, not sure what’s the date, but I found a post in Stack Overflow from 2011 where they already used layout inspector.
Anyway, on the bright side of things, it’s great that they made it available. But apparently it doesn’t work as straightforward as they say. I’m getting an error:
No renderer supporting SKP version 73 found. Rotation Disabled.
Apparently I’m not the only one as there is already a question in StackOverflow, so far, disappointed as I was not able to try it.
Also note that you can’t directly preview the render in the design editor, you need to run the app and select tools > Layout editor.
Build Speed Window
This feature was a good thing to try (finally), it’s easy to access it and understandable. Just build your app, click on Build, at the bottom panel, and you will see a new tab called build analyzer. Just running the blank template of Android Studio gave me a look into this:
Layout Multi Preview
This feature also reminds me of something available in Xcode for quite some time. Not trying to favor iOS development, but it doesn’t sound like anything new.
Something that catches my attention is that this layout validation pane is separate from the Design pane of the XML, see Image 4 below. I was trying to find it inside the design screen and it took me a while to find where to use it.
After trying it, it looks promising, with so many devices in Android it’s hard to debug UIs and catch possible errors. I’m sure this will be helpful during development.
Kotlin DSL script files
Build Scripts in Kotlin are an important part of Android development right now. It’s good those files are now supported in Android Studio. There is not a lot to say about this, but that it’s great for the community, and it will make many lives easier.
Smart Editor for R8 rules
R8 is a code shrinker from Google, you can read more about it in here. It was introduced as a beta feature in Android Studio 3.3. In short it helps you to get smaller APKs, and thus deliver better apps. The incorporation of a smart editor for it makes it “more” official, and we may start seeing it more often in the future.
Honestly, trying Android Studio 4.0 got me a bit frustrated. But I think as developers we should be empathetic with other developers. We have all been there, shipping something to production and seeing it broken by users. I hope it gets better with time.
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See you next time!
Evana Margain Puig