Android WYSIWYG UI

android.gifLast week I read an article by Roman Nurik on why Android doesn’t need WYSIWYG UI design and an opposing view by Reto Meier.

My personal view is that Roman and Reto are probably discussing the wrong issue. WYSIWYG isn’t really needed by developers such as myself. Instead we need a quick and easy way of creating UIs and initial skeleton code. More specifically, we need to be able to create UIs with code that handles commonly used events (menus etc).

Two good examples on other platforms are Nokia’s Carbide UI Designer for S60 and Visual Studio that allow me to quickly create skeleton apps. Incidentally, they also try to keep the generated code up to date while I edit within the code but for most non-trivial projects, this rarely works. Instead, I would advise just using the code generators to create an initial app upon which subsequent development is all done by hand.

Going back to Android, what’s needed is a plug-in for Eclipse that’s considerably better than the current visual editor that only manipulates XML. Instead, it needs more intelligence to allow richer creation of screens and the underlying code. And no, this isn’t App Inventor which I not only found to be woefully inadequate for professional development but also doesn’t allow you to edit the generated code.

A simpler solution might not need to be Eclipse based. It might be a ‘Wizard’ or web page that asks you what you want and creates generated code that can be imported as a project. If only I had more spare time…

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