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What’s new for text in Android P

Posted by Florina Muntenescu, Developer Advocate & Siyamed Sinir Android Text Technical Lead

In “What’s new in Android P Beta” we mentioned two of the new text features in Android.. Now that Android P Beta 2 and the final APIs are here, it’s time to dive deeper into what’s new for text. We know that TextView is one of the most critical components of the Android view system. This is why we continue to invest in both developer- and user-facing features and API improvements.

PrecomputedText

Displaying text can be complex, encompassing features like multiple fonts, line spacing, letter spacing, text direction, line breaking, hyphenation and more. TextView has to do a lot of work to measure and lay out the given text: reading the font file, finding a glyph, decide the shape, measure the bounding box, and caching the word in an internal word cache. What’s more, all of this work takes place on the UI thread, where it could potentially cause your app to drop frames.

We found that measuring text can take up to 90% of the time required to set the text. To solve this problem, in Android P and as part of Jetpack, we introduced a new API: PrecomputedText. This API is available as far back as API 14 via PrecomputedTextCompat.

PrecomputedText enables an app to perform the most time-consuming parts of text layout beforehand, even on a background thread, caching the layout result and returning valuable measurement data. The result of PrecomputedText.create(CharSequence, params) can then be set on a TextView. With this, only about 10% of the work remains to be done by the TextView.

Percentage of time taken to measure and layout text

Percentage of time taken to measure and layout text

// UI thread
val params: PrecomputedText.Params = textView.getTextMetricsParams()
val ref = WeakReference(textView)
executor.execute {
    // background thread
    val text = PrecomputedText.create("Hello", params)
    val textView = ref.get()
    textView?.post {
        // UI thread
        val textViewRef = ref.get()
        textViewRef?.text = text
    }
}

Magnifier

Even with features like Smart Text Selection, precisely selecting text can be challenging. Android P introduces the text Magnifier to improve the user experience of selecting text. The magnifier helps users precisely position the cursor or the text selection handles by viewing magnified text through a pane that can be dragged over the text.

Magnifying text in Android P

Magnifying text in Android P

We wanted users to have the same experience across all apps, whether in custom widgets or during custom text-rendering, so we provided a Magnifier widget that can be applied to any view that is attached to a window. The Magnifier widget can provide a zoomed-in version of any view or surface, not just text.

The Magnifier has 3 main methods: show, update and dismiss. For example, you could call these methods when implementing onTouchEvent-handling for your custom view. This would cause the Magnifier to follow the user’s finger along the screen.

fun onTouchEvent(event: MotionEvent): Boolean {
    when (event.actionMasked) {
        MotionEvent.ACTION_DOWN -> 
              magnifier.show(event.x, event.y)
        MotionEvent.ACTION_MOVE -> 
             magnifier.show(event.x, event.y)
        MotionEvent.ACTION_UP -> 
             magnifier.dismiss()
    }
}

Smart Linkify

The Linkify class, which has existed since API 1, allows adding links to text using regexes. On top of that, finding physical addresses spins up a WebView instance to produce the results, which can degrade the performance of the app requesting links. To make link resolution more accurate, especially for internationalized text, and to mitigate the performance degradation caused by the WebView, we created Smart Linkify. Smart Linkify can be accessed using TextClassifier API.

Smart Linkify uses machine-learning algorithms and models to recognize entities in text. This improves the reliability of the entities recognized. Smart Linkify can, based on entity type,suggest actions that the user can perform. For example, if Smart Linkify recognizes a phone number, the API suggests actions such as sending a text message, making a call, or adding to contacts.

Smart Linkify in Android P

Smart Linkify in Android P

To improve the performance of your app, move the work of generating and applying links to a background thread.

// UI thread
val text: Spannable = ...
val request = TextLinks.Request.Builder(text)
val ref = WeakReference(textView)
executor.execute {
    // background thread
    TextClassifier.generateLinks(request).apply(text)
    val textView = ref.get()
    textView?.post {
        // UI thread
        val textViewRef = ref.get()
        textViewRef?.text = text
    }
}

Line Height and Baseline Text Alignment

Designers sometimes provide layout specifications to developers that do not match existing TextView attributes perfectly. On Android P and in Jetpack we added three attributes, together with their corresponding functions, to help bridge this gap between how designers and developers work.

Setting line height

Before Android P, the spacing between lines could be controlled using the lineSpacingExtra and lineSpacingMultiplier attributes. However, designers will commonly provide these values as a simple line height, instead. For this reason, on Android P, we added the lineHeight attribute to set the line height of the text: that is, the distance between the top and bottom of a line (or distance between subsequent baselines). Under the hood, this attribute actually uses and modifies the existing lineSpacingExtra and lineSpacingMultiplier attributes.

Size of line height and font size

Size of line height and font size

<TextView
    android:layout_height="wrap_content"
    android:layout_width="match_parent"
    android:text="Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet"
    app:lineHeight="50sp"/>

// or in code
TextView.setLineHeight(@Px int)

Setting the baseline text alignment

To control the distances of the first and last baselines from the view boundaries, we added two new attributes: firstBaselineToTopHeight and lastBaselineToBottomHeight.

firstBaselineToTopHeight: Sets the distance between the TextView’s top boundary and the baseline of the first line of the TextView. Under the hood this attribute updates the top padding.

lastBaselineToBottomHeight: Sets the distance between the TextView’s bottom boundary and the baseline of the last line of the TextView. Under the hood, this attribute actually updates the bottom padding.

Distances between first base line to top and last baseline to bottom

Distances between first base line to top and last baseline to bottom

<TextView
    android:layout_height="wrap_content"
    android:layout_width="match_parent"
    android:text="Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet"
    app:firstBaselineToTopHeight="28sp"
    app:lastBaselineToBottomHeight="20sp"/>

// or in code
TextView.setFirstBaselineToTopHeight(@Px int)
TextView.setLastBaselineToBottomHeight(@Px int)

Text plays an important role in a vast majority of apps – it’s a crucial part of an app’s design language. Text is consumed by users, and it even renders emoji 😎. We’re continuing to invest in text, improving the experience of both app users and developers.

To learn more about working with text APIs and what’s new in Android P for text, check out the Google I/O 2018 talk on “Best practices with text”:

Congrats to the new Android Excellence apps and games on Google Play

Posted by Kacey Fahey, Developer Marketing, Google Play

Join us in congratulating the latest apps and games entering the Android Excellence program on Google Play. This diverse group of apps and games is recognized for their high quality, great user experience, and strong technical performance. Whether you’re interested in learning meditation or a new language, or are looking for a game about butterflies or warships, we’re excited to dive in to these new collections.

Winning apps image

Check out a few of our highlighted apps.

  • Beelinguapp: Learn a new language with this unique app. Read and listen to stories with side by side text of the language you’re learning, while following along with your language as a reference.
  • Fortune City: If you’re looking for a fun app to help manage your personal finances, learn how Fortune City teaches good budgeting habits as you build a prospering metropolis.
  • ShareTheMeal: Feed a child in need with one tap on your phone, or create a team to fight hunger together with your friends, using this app by the World Food Programme.

Test your skills with these highlighted games.

  • Animal Crossing™: Pocket Camp: Take on the role of campsite manager as you collect items to decorate and build your ultimate dream campsite. Meet animals, build friendships and invite your favorite animals over for a fun time.
  • Cash, Inc.: Be the big boss of your business empire in this fun game. Work your way up to join a community of business elites and become the most famous money tycoon.
  • Shadowgun Legends: Save humanity from an alien invader in an epic Story Campaign spanning over 200+ mission on 4 diverse planets. Along the way, customize your character, team up with friends, and become a celebrity of the Shadowgun Universe.

See the full list of Android Excellence apps and games.

New Android Excellence apps New Android Excellence games
Beelinguapp

BTFIT

Fortune City

Letras.mus.br

LingoDeer

Memrise

PicsArt

Pocket Casts

ShareTheMeal

The Mindfulness App

Tokopedia

Trello

VivaReal

Wynk Music
Animal Crossing™: Pocket Camp

Cash, Inc.

Flutter: Starlight

Shadow Fight 3

Shadowgun Legends

War Heroes

World of Warships Blitz

Explore other great apps and games in the Editors’ Choice section on Google Play and discover best practices to help you build quality apps and games.

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5 of the Best Employee Timesheet Software Reviewed

Timesheets have played an important role in the workplace for a long time. For instance, in the 1950s, they were used by law firms to charge their clients an appropriate amount of money. Lawyers started tracking time shortly after the American Bar Association noticed that income for lawyers was falling behind income for doctors and dentists. The…

The post 5 of the Best Employee Timesheet Software Reviewed appeared first on Remote Team Management, Startup Marketing & Growth Blog by Hubstaff.

Android P Beta 3 is now available

Posted by Dave Burke, VP of Engineering

Android P logo

Today we’re rolling out Beta 3 of Android P, our next milestone in this year’s Android P developer preview. With the developer APIs already finalized in the previous update, Beta 3 now takes us very close to what you’ll see in the final version of Android P, due later this summer.

Android P Beta 3 includes the latest bug fixes and optimizations for stability and polish, together with the July 2018 security updates. It’s a great way to test your apps now to make sure they are ready before the final release. Give Beta 3 a try and let us know what you think!

You can get Android P Beta 3 on Pixel devices by enrolling here. If you’re already enrolled and received the Android P Beta 2 on your Pixel device, you’ll automatically get the update to Beta 3. Partners who are participating in the Android P Beta program will also be updating their devices to Beta 3 over the coming weeks.

What’s in this update?

Today’s preview update includes the Beta 3 system images for Pixel devices and the Android Emulator, as well as an update to the Android Studio build tools to include D8 as an independent tool. Beta 3 is an early release candidate build of Android with near-final system behaviors and the official Android P APIs (API level 28).

With the Beta 3 system images and updated build tools, you’ve got everything you need to test your apps or extend them with Android P features like multi-camera support, display cutout, enhanced notifications, ImageDecoder, TextClassifier, and many others. In your testing, make sure to account for App standby buckets, privacy restrictions, and restrictions on non-SDK interfaces.

Get started in a few simple steps

Android P preview

First, make your app compatible and give your users a seamless transition to Android P. Just install your current app from Google Play on an Android P Beta device or emulator and test — the app should run and look great, and handle the Android P behavior changes properly. After you’ve made any necessary updates, we recommend publishing to Google Play right away without changing the app’s platform targeting.

If you don’t have a supported device, remember that you can instead set up an Android Virtual Device on the Android Emulator for your test environment. If you haven’t tried the emulator recently, you’ll find that it’s incredibly fast, boots in under 6 seconds, and even lets you model next-gen screens — such as long screens and screens with a display cutout.

Next, update your app’s targetSdkVersion to 28 as soon as possible, so Android P users of your app can benefit from the platform’s latest security, performance, and stability features. If your app is already targeting API 26+ in line with Google Play’s upcoming policies, then changing to target API 28 should be a small jump. When you change your targeting, make sure your app supports all of the applicable behavior changes.

It’s also important to test your apps for uses of non-SDK interfaces and reduce your reliance on them. As noted recently, Android P restricts access to selected non-SDK interfaces. Watch for logcat warnings that highlight direct uses of restricted non-SDK interfaces and try the new StrictMode method detectNonSdkApiUsage() to catch accesses programmatically. Where possible, you should move to using public equivalents from the Android SDK or NDK. If there’s no public API that meets your use-case, please let us know.

When you’re ready, dive into Android P and learn about the new features and APIs that you can use in your apps. To build with the new APIs, just download the official API 28 SDK and tools into Android Studio 3.1, or use the latest version of Android Studio 3.2. Then update your project’s compileSdkVersion and targetSdkVersion to API 28.

Visit the Developer Preview site for details and documentation. Also check out this video and the Google I/O Android playlist for more on what’s new in Android P for developers.

Publish to Google Play alpha, beta, or production channels

As soon as you’re ready, publish your APK updates that are compiled against, or optionally targeting, API 28. Publishing an update to Google Play during the preview lets you push updates to existing users to test compatibility on their devices.

To make sure that your updated app runs well on Android P as well as older versions, a common strategy is to use Google Play’s beta testing feature. With beta testing you can get early feedback from a small group of users — including Beta 3 users — and then do a staged rollout to production.

What’s next?

Thanks for all of your feedback so far. Please continue to share feedback or requests as we work towards the consumer release later this summer. Feel free to use our hotlists for platform issues, app compatibility issues, and third-party SDK issues.

Also, the Android engineering team will host a Reddit AMA on r/androiddev to answer your technical questions about Android P on July 19 from 11:30-1 PM (Pacific Time). Look out for an announcement on r/androiddev in the coming weeks. We look forward to addressing your questions!

Improving discovery of quality apps and games on the Play Store

Posted by Paul Bankhead, Director, Product Management, Google Play

Every day, millions of people come to the Play Store to discover the best apps and games. As part of our continued effort to deliver great experiences to our users, we regularly upd…

A New Universal Music Player

Posted by
Nicole Borrelli, Android Developer, Programs Engineer

The Universal Android Music Player (or “UAMP”) is a favorite on GitHub for music app developers with over 9,500 stars and 3,000 forks. Since UAMP was first released, Android dev…

Automating your app releases with Google Play

Posted by Nicholas Lativy, Software Engineer

At Google I/O we shared how Google’s own apps make use of Google Play for successful launches and updates and introduced the new Google Play Developer Publishing API Version 3.

The Publishing API enables you to integrate publishing operations into your existing release process or automated workflows by providing the ability to upload APKs and roll out releases. Here’s an overview of some of the improvements you can now take advantage of in Version 3 of the API.

Releases in the API

The Publishing API now uses the release model you are familiar with from the Play Console.

{
  "track": "production",
  "releases": [
    {
      "name": "Release One", 
      "versionCodes": ["100"],
      "status": "completed"
    }
  ]
}

This gives you full control over releases via the API allowing a number of operations which were previously available only in the Play Console. For example, you can now control the name of releases created via the API, and we have now relaxed the constraints on what can be rolled out via the API to match the Play Console.

Additional testing tracks

The API now supports releasing to any of the testing tracks you have configured for your application as well as the production track. This makes it possible to configure your continuous integration system to push a new build to your internal test track as soon as it’s ready for QA.

Staged rollout

Staged rollouts are the recommended way to deploy new versions of your app. They allow you to make your new release available to a small percentage of users and gradually increase this percentage as your confidence in the release grows.

Staged rollouts are now represented directly in the API as inProgress releases.

{
  "track": "production",
  "releases": [
    {
      "versionCodes": ["100"],
      "status": "completed"
    },
    {
      "versionCodes": ["200"],
      "status": "inProgress",
      "userFraction": 0.1
    }
  ]
}

You can now halt a staged rollout via the API by changing its status to halted. This makes it possible to automatically respond to any problems you detect while performing a rollout. If it turns out to be a false alarm, the API now also allows you to resume a halted release by changing its status back to inProgress.

Release notes

Release notes are a useful way to communicate to users new features you have added in a release. In V3 we have simplified how these are specified via the API by adding the releaseNotes field to release.

{
  "track": "production",
  "releases": [
    {
      "versionCodes": ["100"],
      "status": "completed",
      "releaseNotes": [
        {
          "language": "en-US",
          "text": "Now it's easier to specify release notes."
        },
        {
           "language": "it-IT",
           "text": "Ora è più semplice specificare le note sulla versione."
        }
    }
  ]
}

Draft releases

We know that while many developers are comfortable deploying test builds automatically, they like using the Play Console when rolling out to production.

So, in the V3 API we have added the ability to create and manage Draft Releases.

{
  "track": "production",
  "releases": [
    {
      "name": "Big Launch",
      "versionCodes": ["200"],
      "status": "draft"
    }
  ]
}

This allows you to upload APKs or App Bundles and create a draft release from your continuous integration system, and then have your product manager log in, check that everything looks good, and hit “Confirm and Rollout”.

We hope you find these features useful and take advantage of them for successful launches and updates with Google Play. If you’re interested in some of the other great tools for distributing your apps, check out the I/O sessions which have now been posted to the Android Developers YouTube Channel.

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