As we close out the year 2023, I would like to take a moment to celebrate the efforts of everyone in the App Inventor development community.
In this past year, we have open sourced our iOS implementation and made it available for the world. We also performed significant work on both the development user interface and the build server infrastructure to enable two future changes: a new user interface for app development and support for building iOS apps. Twenty two contributors from outside of the core MIT staff contributed to App Inventor through open source contributions, including 6 participants in this year’s Google Summer of Code. We also brought our first simultaneous Android and iOS release, which added the ChatBot and ImageBot components to let everyone use the power of generative artificial intelligence within their applications.
Looking ahead, there are a few major changes coming to App Inventor in 2024.
During the summer we will be rolling out our yearly Android compatibility update for the MIT App Inventor for Android app. This update will bring support for Android SDK 34 (Android 14). Also during the summer, for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be hosting an in-person summit at MIT.
As part of our annual Android compatibility update, we will be dropping support for Android versions prior to 4.0. Our team has invested a lot of effort over the years in supporting a breadth of Android versions. Currently we support back to Android 2.1, which was released in 2009, and so have managed to provide support for 15 years of Android development with a team of just 4 developers. However, we do not see any use of these earlier versions of Android except with our old emulator images, and we think it is best if we retire those older images to focus on energy on supporting newer Android versions. People can continue to use the old software but are highly encouraged to upgrade to the latest App Inventor setup tools package to get the new emulator package.
Another major updating coming your way is a refresh of our web development environment’s user interface. This UI has a more modern look and feel. It also supports dark mode for those developers who prefer that style of environment.
The next item on our list is support for iOS builds. We currently have a test server available at https://iosbuildservertest.appinventor.mit.edu that people interested in deploying their apps on iOS can use. We will continue fixing bugs reported by early testers of this service as we ramp up our backend hardware to release this feature to the App Inventor community at large.
Lastly, Mark Friedman (App Inventor Foundation), Beka Westberg (Google), and I have been working to update App Inventor to use the latest version of Google’s Blockly library. Blockly provides the functionality for App Inventor’s block programming environment (aside: it was originally built for App Inventor and is now used in many projects worldwide).
In closing, I just want to thank again everyone who works tirelessly to help support and expand App Inventor’s capabilities, from our core development team, our external contributors, the power users, our education team, and everyone out their who finds the tools we build help them make a difference. We look forward to continuing to serve this wonderful community in 2024.
Evan W. Patton, Ph.D.
Lead Software Engineer, MIT App Inventor