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Frequently Asked Questions by Users

Please refer to the App Inventor Educators' FAQ for questions specifically related to education >

Why App Inventor?

We're seeing a fundamental shift in the way people are using their mobile devices. Smartphones, including Android devices and the iPhone, provide users with a fully-featured Internet in their pocket. As people become more comfortable accessing the mobile web, we want to enable them to create mobile services and applications that allow them to engage the mobile space as developers regardless of their computer programming knowledge. App Inventor for Android is an experimental program that allows us to do just that. For educators, App Inventor has become a powerful tool for exposing students to the world of computer programming and helping them become creators of technology rather than just consumers of it.

I downloaded the App Inventor Set Up Installer and ran it. Can I start using App Inventor right now?

Yes! We are excited to announce that App Inventor is available for anyone with a Google account. If you have a Google account follow the Set Up instructions and start building apps today!

I signed up for an invitation to use App Inventor. When will I get access?

We are excited to announce that App Inventor is available for anyone with a Google account. If you have a Google account follow the Set Up instructions and start building apps today!

I am an educator interested in using App Inventor. What resources are there for me?

Please read our Educators FAQ and join the App Inventor in Education Discussion Forum. Also, make sure to visit App Inventor's Teach site which has information specifically for educators.

Can I use App Inventor without a phone?

Yes. App Inventor includes an emulator for the phone. The emulator cant do everything the phone can. For example, you cant shake it but you can create apps and try them out. Once you've set up your computer the Hello Purr Emulator - Part 1 tutorial will show you how to build apps with the emulator.

Am I able to upload my app to Google Play (the Android Market)?

Yes, you can by following instructions here!

Do App Inventor users need to have Google accounts? Do they need be Gmail addresses?

App Inventor users need to have a Google Account. The login authentication and storage for App Inventor projects is linked to your Google Account. Sign up for a Google Account here. Users do not need Gmail addresses; any Google account will do. For example, students whose school system is using Google Apps for Education have working Google accounts which are not through Gmail.

Can I develop in App Inventor and export the source code to Eclipse or some other IDE to work on it further?

No, App Inventor does not generate Java source code.

Can I share project code with other App Inventor users?

Yes. To share a project, go to the My Projects page, select a project, then choose More Actions | Download Source. This will create a zip file that you can share with others. To upload a project, go to My Projects, choose More Actions | Upload Source, and choose a zip file previously downloaded from App Inventor. Note: The source code (.zip) files are not executable Android programs -- those are .apk files. The source code is also not Java SDK code -- it can only be loaded into App Inventor.

Is it possible to bring in multiple authors on a single project?

There is an experimental tool for merging two projects. You are welcome to try it out for sharing blocks between developers.

Can I share my apps with other Android users?

 Yes. To share an app, you first need to obtain an Android Package (.apk) file, which you can do by going to the My Projects page, clicking on the name of the app you want to share (which will take you to the Design page), and selecting Package for Phone | Download to this Computer. You can then email the app to your friends, who can install it by opening the email from their phone, or you can upload it to a website that both you and your friend can access. Note that they will need to change the settings of their phone to allow installation of non-Market applications.

Note: The Show Barcode option generates a barcode that will only work for the app creator because it is tied to his or her google account. To generate a barcode (actually, a QR code) that anyone can use to download the app, simply upload the .apk file to a public website and copy the URL of the location of the file. You can then use a QR code generator (available for free online) to generate a QR code that brings you to that URL.

Can I build multi-screen apps with App Inventor?

Yes, you can now build multi-screen apps with App Inventor! Building an app with multiple screens is a lot like creating several individual apps. Every screen that you create has its own components in the Designer window and blocks in the blocks editor. Please refer to the Colored Dots Tutorial for more information on how multi-screen works in App Inventor.

Is App Inventor only a toy language? Can I build sophisticated apps with it?

Though App Inventor has limitations, it can be used to build complex apps. The language provides programming constructs like foreach, while, and if-else, in visual (block) form. High-level components and operations (blocks) for some of the Android functionality exists, though not all of it. There are mechanisms for communicating with web services and databases. A component development kit is being considered. This will allow programmers to build App Inventor components with Java and expand the functionality of App Inventor.

Can I connect to web services from an app written in App Inventor?

You can connect App Inventor apps to the web using the TinyWebDB component. The TinyWebDB component can communicate with any service that conforms to a particular protocol. During our pilot, Dave Wolber from the University of San Francisco wrote some Android apps that talk to Amazon, San Francisco's NextMuni API for getting transit information, and Yahoo finance. See: Using TinyWebDB

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