Making “pretty” App Inventor user interface controls

In the real world, “user interfaces” look like electric light switches, push buttons or control knobs, temperature dials on ovens, volume controls on radios and so forth. We can mimic these types of controls for our touch screen Android apps. We do not have to rely on the boring desktop-like clickable button or checkboxes in the App Inventor user interface palette.

A previous tutorial showed a trick to make the color of a button vary continuously. This tutorial shows how to use our own images, instead of the boring button, together with a bit of code to bring these buttons to life.

User Interface View

Below is a sample “toggle switch”. Press the switch icon once and the toggle moves to the right; press it again and the toggle moves back to the left.

toggleswitch1

toggleswitch2

Here is a slide switch. Press the slide switch once and the switch position moves to the right and the switch illuminates in green. Press the slide switch again and the switch returns to the left.

switch1

switch3

Here is a concept for a raised momentary push button. Pressing the button changes the appearance of the button while your finger is on the button – to look like the button is pressed in.

UI1

UI2

The Designer View

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What if your App Inventor apps had cooler user interface controls?

How about this – a panel full of toggle switches! Tap a switch to flip the switch from On to Off!

Screenshot_20160118-164605I will soon post a tutorial on creating simpler interfaces than the above, but that will be followed by a tutorial to create the above “panel of toggle switches”.

I have ideas for many interesting interface components – I do not yet know if all of them can be built in App Inventor – but we will see!

appinventor.pevest.com server is back online, 18 Jan 2016

The server that hosts the appinventor.pevest.com virtual server suffered an outage late on January 17th, continuing into early January 18th. The Internet Service Provider that hosts the server has restored service. From their note to me, it seems there may have been a denial of service attack on their infrastructure.

I was in the midst of writing a new tutorial on creating “pretty user interface” components in App Inventor; that tutorial was lost in the outage. Not as bad as it sounds as the code and illustrations were all saved – I just need to rewrite the text.

Writing Android apps in Javascript

Another way to develop apps for Android is to write apps in the Javascript program scripting language (note – Javascript is not related to Java, in spite of the similar name). By using a special platform called Cordova, it is possible to package Javascript programs into a self contained Android .apk file that runs on the Android OS.

Even better – it is possible to package your Javascript app, using Cordova, into forms that run on iOS (iPhones and iPad) and Windows Phone too!

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Graphical programming and robotics-the tools get better and easier

MIT App Inventor is a “graphical programming language” in that we assemble programs by clicking and dragging symbols on screen, interactively, rather than writing our programs as text.

This weekend, FIRST Robotics kicks off its 2016 season. Students will design, construct, test and deploy a complex robotic system to meet the 2016 competition challenge (to be unveiled on Saturday).

The robot control system may be programmed in C++, Java, National Instrument’s LabView, RobotBuilder and/or GRIP.

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Interest in App Inventor continues to grow

The following chart comes from Google Trends, and reflects the growing interest in App Inventor, based on searches for “MIT App Inventor” on Google.

MITAppInventorTrend

Because App Inventor has been viewed as a training tool in K-12 level schools, and some introductory college courses, searches for App Inventor information have gone down during the northern hemisphere summer months, when school is not normally in session. This accounts for the up and down movement in the trend line.

This chart shows a relative level of interest for the top countries searching for “MIT App Inventor”.

Region