Android devs using Visual Studio now have an open source option

Newly open-sourced Android++ tool is aimed at C/C++ developers looking to deploy speedy code on Android

Android devs on Visual Studio now have an open source option

Android developers who use Microsoft Visual Studio now have more choice. They can opt for Microsoft's cross-platform toolset or use an Android development add-on recently released as open source.

Android++ was released as open source earlier this week under a highly liberal license that allows for commercial use. The major attraction of Android++ is that it's geared toward developers writing Android applications mainly in C/C++ using the Android NDK.

Android++ is "intended to support applications where performance is paramount -- like a game or simulation," writes Android++ developer Justin Webb. "It also manages the debugging of those native applications via GDB, which is controllable within the Visual Studio IDE as if you were debugging a Windows application."

Most applications do not benefit from being written in C/CC++ on Android, but the ones that do are usually either games or simulations, as Webb states, or applications that involve "signal processing" or "physics simulation," per Google on the Android NDK page.

Android++ distinguishes itself from similar projects by using MSBuild (also open source) rather than the Gradle build script system commonly used by Android developers. Android++ also lets developers opt for either the LLVM/Clang or GCC compiler, and it integrates with the GDB debugger.

Webb claims Android++ offers superior build performance compared to Visual Studio 2015. "This project was designed to help real-world C/C++ projects," he writes, "so there are various optimizations and unique approaches that are still of value (and worth sharing)."

One major and deliberate omission from the project is support for C# or .Net. For those environments, Webb advises using Xamarin or Mono. As yet there's no prebuilt binary for Visual Studio 2015, although Webb states that this will be forthcoming.

[An earlier version of this article mentioned Ant as the build system most commonly used by Android developers, rather than Gradle.]

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