Google debuts faster, smarter Android Studio IDE

Android Studio 2.2 focuses on speed, smarts, and platform support

Google is offering a preview release of its Android Studio 2.2 IDE, with improvements in areas ranging from testing to build system and layout accommodations.

The enhancements focus on three areas: speed, smarts, and platform support, said Google's Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson, Android director of product management.

A feature called Espresso test recording makes it easier to conduct tests, automatically churning out code for tests as if the developers had written it themselves. If, for example, an application opens up Google Drive, creates a document, and shares text with someone, "Android Studio will generate the code that exactly mimics those actions," said Cuthbertson.

The IDE also gets a speed boost from faster synchronization with the Gradle build system used with Android development. Improvements in layout functionality, meanwhile, enable faster building of layouts, and the layouts themselves will run quicker.

Under the category of smart improvements, an Android Application Package analyzer reduces the size of the APK itself. Enhanced code analysis, meanwhile adds checks to cover Java 8, the support for which was added last month in Android Studio 2.1.  Version 2.2 also incorporates the latest version of JetBrains' IntelliJ Idea IDE, which forms the basis of Android Studio, including improved Java 8 backing, as well as enhancements for debugging, editing, and refactoring.

The Constraint Layout feature lets developers position widgets in applications and automatically resizes widgets for different Android screens and orientations. The IDE's layout inspector, meanwhile, helps debug application layouts.

For platform support, the Jack compiler in version 2.2 features annotation processing as well as reduced build times. For C++ development, the upgrade supports NDK (Native Development Kit) builds and CMake tools. Via a plug-in, developers can use the Firebase SDK, enabling synchronization between devices and the cloud. The IDE now has guides to make Firebase integration easier than it was before.

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