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Google Releases Android Studio IDE 'Arctic Fox' to Beta with Jetpack Compose Integration

Google kicked off its 2021virtual I/O conference this week with a multiple-camera keynote staged outside on the Googleplex campus in Mountain View, CA, that included a number of announcements for developers.

Topping the list of dev-related announcements at this year's event: the latest version of the Android Studio IDE, Arctic Fox (2020.3.1), gets released to beta. Among the many updates and enhancements in this release, the standout is the integration of Google's native UI toolkit Jetpack Compose, the 1.0 release of which is due in July.

Jetpack Compose is a Kotlin-based declarative design framework for Android, desktop, and the web. (Desktop and web development is managed by the IntelliJ IDEA IDE.) It's used to create previews in different configurations and allows developers to navigate their code with Compose Preview, test it in isolation with Deploy Preview to Device, and inspect the complete app with Layout Inspector. Throughout iterations, devs can quickly edit strings and numbers and see immediate updates. Plus, with the Accessibility Scanner in Layout Editor, the View-based layouts are audited for accessibility problems. Jetpack Compose is designed to work with existing code and can be added to existing apps.

Google announced the alpha release if Jetpack Macrobenchmark, which helps developers analyze startup and animation lag in apps and pinpoint related issues.

Kotlin itself got a nod at the conference, including the announcement of a stable release of a new annotation processor API, called Kotlin Symbol Processing, which Google said should be as much two times faster than previous options, and generally more efficient. And the Kotlin DataStore, a Kotlin-first alternative to SharedPreferences, has entered beta.

The Arctic Fox release also adds support for Live Editing of literals, which means developers using Compose can edit literals (strings, numbers, Booleans) in their code and see the results immediately without needing to wait for compilation. "The goal of the feature is to increase your productivity by having code changes appear near instantaneously in the previews, emulator, or physical device," explained Paris Hsu, interaction designed from Google's Android product and design group, explained in a blog post.

There's also new support for Google's Wear OS, Google TV, and Android Auto via new emulators and system images, not to mention the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

And there's a list of new features and improvements in Arctic Fox that come with a major update of the IntelliJ IDEA IDE (v2020.3), which allows developers to test their apps with new features in Android 12, improve app performance with the updated UI for Memory Profiler, understand background task relationships with WorkManager Inspector (which allows devs to schedule deferrable, asynchronous tasks that must be run reliably), and use Non-Transitive R classes IDE Refactoring to increase build speed.

Speaking of IntelliJ, the Arctic Fox beta includes the IntelliJ 2020.3 platform release; you'll notice Arctic Fox 2020.3.1 employs a similar numbering system. Hsu explained in her post:

As we announced late last year, we've changed our version numbering scheme to match the number for the IntelliJ IDE that Android Studio is based on, 2020.3, plus our own patch number, as well as a handy code name to make it easier to remember and refer to. We'll be using code names in alphabetical order; the first is Arctic Fox, now in beta, and the next is Bumblebee, now in canary.

The beta of Android Studio Arctic Fox is available now for download, as is the canary build of Bumblee (2021.1.1) here.

Posted by John K. Waters on May 19, 2021