If you've been paying attention to the latest software craze, you know the next big programming platform is android, which has its sight set on taking down Apple's famous iphone family of devices. There are a couple of different programs and pieces of software that will allow you to make your own android applications with little or no actual knowledge of programming. These handy tools make it possible for those that do not speak code to produce a workable android app for their own use, sharing with friends or even for publishing on the android marketplace of official apps.

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In this article, however, we're going to focus on Google's official free android app maker which anyone can use. With the android platform set to become the operating system for a range of devices as diverse as smartphones, refridgerators and televisions, it's no wonder why so many are eager to join in the rush to develop the next great android app. Let's get started. 

What is the Android App Maker?

The android app maker is a web-based tool that runs entirely in your browser. This tool helps non-programmers to build and publish android apps that will run on any android-based mobile phone. Whereas professional android developers rely on a strong knowledge of coding languages which they can write out in order to achieve their exact desired effects, normal folks like you and I need help getting our ideas out of our heads and into some workable programming form. That's exactly what the free android app maker does.

To get started, you want to head on over to the app maker itself, which you can find here. You will be greeted by the first screen of the google app inventor, which features a handy getting started video to introduce you to the basic concept of the tool. In the video, in under a minute, a woman loads up the app inventor, mashes together a picture of her cat, a sound clip, and a few simple commands, all of which she can manipulate graphically (requiring no knowledge of coding) and finally downloads her program to her attached android phone. When she taps the picture of her cat on the screen, her phone plays a powerful "MEOW". This is the power of the app inventor at a glance.

The basic idea behind google's free android app maker tool is that there are plenty of good ideas for apps out there, and just because the people that come up with them can't code by hand isn't any reason for them to stagnate. If you can use a web browser and basic blogging sites or tools like blogger.com, you can pretty much learn to handle the free app maker and become your own android application developer (without even going back to school!).

google's free app inventor lets you develop your own android applications for free

How Does the Free Android App Inventor Work?

When you're using this special web tool to make your own programs, it is recommended that you have your own android device, like a smartphone, that you can attach to your computer while you work. The benefits of doing this are two-fold: for one thing, you will be able to see, in real-time, exactly how your program will look on your actual device's screen, allowing you to tweak and optimize your user experience. Secondly, you can catch any early bugs, allowing you to change things that might seem great on your computer but just don't translate well onto the smaller device itself. 

Of course, you don't have to have your own android device in order to use the app inventor and design your own programs, but it certainly helps a lot to be able to see how your applications function on your destination device while you're developing them. 

app inventor workspace for making your own android applications

Getting Google's App Inventor Up and Running

Aside from your own device, the app inventor requires that you install some emulator software on your computer. This is what allows the tool to translate your programs into usable pieces of code that your device, and other android devices in general, can interpret and execute. Currently, Mac, all modern Windows operating systems, and even Linux based systems like Ubuntu are supported by the inventor. 

setting up the app inventor on your computer to make android apps

You also need to be running a compatible browser: Mozilla firefox 3.6 or higher (must have noscript turned off!), Apple safari 5.0 or higher, google chrome 4.0 or higher, and Internet Explorer 7.0 or higher will all work. 

Next comes the Java test. Your browser should be running Java 6, which is also referred to as 1.6. You can perform a Java test here in order to ensure your browser will run the app inventor correctly. 

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Once you've checked that your system and your browser are compatible, it's time to download the app inventor software and install it. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and choose your operating system in order to begin installing the correct software for your computer. 

Now you're all set!