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August 5, 2012 / carlispina

Make An Android App Without Code Using The MIT App Inventor

MIT App InventorLearning the programming skills required to create native applications can be time consuming and complex, but options continue to emerge to enable users to design apps without programming skills. One such tool is the MIT App Inventor.

I’ve previously written about visual, drag-and-drop programming using Scratch and Google Blockly, and MIT App Inventor is based on the same concept. In this tool, the entire process of creating an Android app has been reduced to dragging and dropping elements on the screen. To create an app, users begin by dragging elements into the desired location on a representation of the Android screen. While this feature does not represent exactly how the final app will look, it does allow the user to specify the general layout of the app and also to create multiple pages for a single app.

Once this layout is in place, the user can open the Blocks Editor. In the Blocks Editor, users drag puzzle pieces much like those found in Scratch or Google Blockly onto the screen to create the underlying logic of the program. This is the place where the mechanics of the app can be created using puzzle pieces representing virtually all types of programming logic from if-then statements to mathematical operators. The pieces consist of both standard pieces of code and those that specifically reflect the elements that the user added to the app’s layout in the initial stage of the process. The available options allow users to create a wide range of very creative apps that make use of many of the best features of Android apps.

For those just getting started with this type of tool, the MIT App Inventor’s Learn tab offers a wide range of tutorials that walk users through the creation of several types of apps, including tours, games and quizzes, as well as fairly detailed documentation. And, to encourage teachers to use the tool in their courses, curriculum resources and teaching success stories are also provided.

While visual, drag-and-drop programming tools aren’t yet at the point of truly replacing code that is created by hand, they are a great option for those who want to create an Android app quickly, those who are just getting started and educators who want to painlessly introduce students to computer programming concepts. Because both Scratch and the App Inventor are supported by MIT, they both provide great resources for educators that would make them perfect options for teachers or librarians who are interested in offering computer programming classes. It is definitely worth a try for those interested in trying out app creation without investing the time needed to learn the necessary programming skills.

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