New Google tool lets anyone become an Android developer

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google's launched a new software tool that it says allows anybody to become an Android developer.

The company says that App Inventor - which goes into beta today - allows the creation of apps from simple games to class quizzes: 'just about any app you can imagine,' says the company.

App Inventor gives access to a GPS location sensor, for example, allowing a dozy user to create an app to help find their car in a busy parking lot. The company also suggests an app that will automatically respond to texts received while driving with an automated message.

App Inventor was developed through research with users that have no programming skills, from sixth graders to nursing students.

"To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer," says Google. "App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app's behavior."

Google says it has created drag-and-drop blocks of code for just about everything you can do with an Android phone, and there are blocks to store information, repeat actions and perform actions under pre-set conditions. Even a Twitter block is included.

The blocks editor uses the Open Blocks Java library from MIT for creating visual blocks programming languages. The compiler that translates the visual blocks language for implementation on Android uses the Kawa Language Framework and Kawa's dialect of the Scheme programming language, distributed as part of the Gnu Operating System by the Free Software Foundation.

The release marks a clear difference in policy between Google and Apple, which keeps a tight rein on app development, to say the least. It has yet to be seen how many of the apps created through App Inventor make it off their creator's phone and into the outside world.

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