What’s new in Android Studio 1.4

Google just released Android Studio 1.4 and it’s more than just a minor update. Although a lot has changed under the hood, these improvements will not be directly visible to developers, except perhaps in performance improvements. However, Google has added new features in three key areas: design tools, performance monitoring, and developer services.

Design tools

One of the new features that appeared in Android 5.0 Lollipop (i.e. API 21) was Vector drawings for image elements. A major advantage of vector drawables, rather than raster-like images, is that they help to reduce the number of density-dependent drawables you need to maintain, as vector drawables can adapt well to different screen densities . With Android Studio 1.4, Google has greatly simplified the process of importing SVG images or Material icons.

But what’s even more interesting is that Android Studio 1.4 now offers some backward compatibility for vector assets. The new software will now automatically generate raster PNG images for API level 20 and below during construction. This means you can safely switch to using vector graphics (where available) and Android Studio will handle the image conversion process for pre-Lollipop versions of Android!

Google also added two other new design-related features. First, there’s the new Theme Editor to help you manage your app’s theme and style. This first preview version of the theme editor allows you to change and update the material theme colors (colors.xml) for your application. Google plans to cover more application attributes in future versions of the tool. You’ll find the editor under Tools → Android → Theme Editor.

android-studio-1.4-studio_templates

The other change concerns the New Project wizard. Google has added app templates for Android design support library and the AppCompat support library. Google has also reintroduced the empty app model for those who want minimal code generation when adding a new activity to your project. Also to coincide with the release of the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, Android Studio 1.4 lets you validate your apps against the new Nexus screen sizes.

Performance monitoring

Tuning application performance is always an important part of the development cycle, especially for games or any application that performs intensive tasks. To that end, Google has added new performance monitoring features to Android Studio 1.4.

It is now possible to quickly inspect the GPU rendering performance of your application. To enable GPU monitoring, you need to enable monitoring for your hardware device or Android emulator under Settings → Developer options → Profile GPU rendering. GPU profiling is a complex subject, but luckily Google has plenty of GPU profiling documentation.

Android-Studio-1.4-Network-Monitor

For apps that rely heavily on the cloud, you can now monitor your app’s network usage. With the monitor, you can track your application’s transmit and receive rates over time.

Developer Services

Speaking of cloud, with Android Studio 1.4, Google has made it even easier to add a fire base mobile backend to your Android application. Firebase is a platform for building cloud-dependent applications. It includes data storage, user authentication, static hosting, etc. Firebase is a platform for building cloud-dependent applications. A Firebase database is stored in JSON format and synchronized in real time with each connected client, via the cloud. It’s cross-platform and all your clients share a Firebase database and automatically receive updates with the latest data. To access this feature, navigate to File → Project Structure → Cloud. If you want to learn more, Google has a tutorial on how to use firebase and google app engine in android app.

Wrap

One last thing to note, if you want to use some of these new features (like vector assets), you need to use Gradle Plugin 1.4 for your app project. the beta version of the Gradle plugin (1.4.0-beta3) is available today on jcenter and Google specifies that the final version will be released in the coming weeks.

To update your version of Android Studio, you can check for updates from the navigation menu (Help → Check for updates [Windows/Linux] Android Studio → Check for updates [OS X]).

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