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Getting started: Building Android apps with Hudson

R. Tyler Croy
R. Tyler Croy
February 17, 2010

In this post I’ll show a very basic tips on how to compile an Android project using Hudson. Specifically how I use Hudson to create release versions of my apps.

Debug vs Release

I’m assuming that you are using Eclipse with the ADT plugin. During development you can test your app on the emulator or a device and resources like and aidl files are compiled for you automatically by the plugin. When it’s time to release your app, you’ll need to go through some steps:

  • You must sign your app using a certificate

  • You must update your AndroidManifest.xml to remove the android:debuggable attribute

  • Replace your Google Maps API debug key with the one belonging to your release certificate (if you are using a MapView)

  • Generate an apk package for the release and test it on a device or emulator

It would be nice to automate a few of these steps, and this is where Hudson comes in.

Automated builds: Ant

For automated builds the Android SDK uses Apache Ant, which Hudson has great support for. To generate a template build.xml you can use the android tool from the SDK using the following command:

android create project -n template -t android-7 -p template -k dummy.pkg -a Dummy

The target is specified as "android-7" meaning that we are building for Android 2.1. For apps that use MapView we would use "Google Inc.:Google APIs:7". It is a good idea to always target the latest SDK. From this template project we’ll grab the and the build.xml and copy those to the Android project that we want to build. Edit build.xml and set the project name to your Android project name.

The file contains the path to the SDK root and shouldn’t be checked in to version control. For our use we’ll set the properties that are in that file on the Hudson job configuration page.

Running the build in Hudson

This part is easy: create a new freestyle job and let it be build with ant. The targets that we want to execute are clean release. Release will compile, package and sign your apk. Now to get this working right, some custom properties should be set (use the Advanced button).

target=Google Inc.:Google APIs:7

The sdk.dir should point to the Android SDK root on your Hudson node. In my case I’m running Hudson locally on my machine. The target property refers to the SDK we want to use as mentioned earlier. The key. properties are related to signing of the apk. My strategy is to have a separate key store and private key for each application that I develop. I also check that keystore in to SVN. I also archive the -release.apk artifact so that I can download the latest release apk directly from Hudson. After completing these steps, you should be able to build your Android app with Hudson.

Updating the AndroidManifest for release

…​But we’re not done yet :) Remember what I said about updating the AndroidManifest.xml? For that we need to edit the build.xml, which by default contains nothing more then a <setup/> tag to pull in the Android SDK ant target definitions. For my Rainy Days application, I adjusted build.xml like this:

   <setup />
   <property environment="env"/>
   <target name="preprocess" if="env.BUILD_TAG">
      <echo>Removing debug attribute from AndroidManifest.xml</echo>
      <replaceregexp file="AndroidManifest.xml" match="android:debuggable=&quot;.*?&quot;" replace=""/>
      <echo>Setting release maps key</echo>
      <replaceregexp file="res/layout/maplayout.xml" match="android:apiKey=&quot;.*?&quot;" replace="android:apiKey=&quot;XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX&quot;"/>

   <!-- this target is only hooking release processing of the manifest -->
   <target name="-package-resources" depends="preprocess, android_rules.-package-resources">

What the above snippet does is removing the android:debuggable attribute from the AndroidManifest.xml and replacing the maps API key in res/layout/maplayout.xml with the correct key for release. The -package-resources target is pulled in from the Android android_rules.xml file.

Now when Hudson builds my app I get a ready to release apk that I can install on my device or emulator, which is pretty nice.

There is are some issues with this approach however. As you might have noticed:

  • Replacements are done in the workspace, we are not really building exactly what’s in svn

  • Each new build should start out fresh for that reason, for example by using the svn revert option.

Additionally I can not yet tag the release version with the updated files, because the subversion tagging plugin doesn’t support this by design. This could be worked around by adding svn statements in the build.xml however. For now I don’t really mind as I make minor changes to the resource files, but I’ll be looking at improving this situation.

Things to add: unit testing, coverage…​

One thing that I’d really like to add is unit testing. This is a little bit more complicated though, since unit tests require a running emulator and a running emulator requires a gui. The Hudson Xvnc plugin could be very helpful here.

The Android build scripts for test projects already include EMMA output, it shouldn’t be to hard to use the Hudson plugin for that.

When Hudson is running on a local machine, the Batch task plugin can automate installing the apk on a device to automate things further.


Building Android applications with Hudson is not that hard, since the builds are based on Ant. By hooking in to the standard Android build targets it’s easy to update files like AndroidManifest.xml which in turn makes sure the release process is controlled and predictable.
Android unit tests depend on the emulator which is a little bit more challenging to set up, but Hudson already has some plugins available to make this easier.

Editor’s Note: Hugo Visser is the developer of Rainy Days and Engine Watch for Android. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

About the author

R. Tyler Croy

R. Tyler Croy

R. Tyler Croy has been part of the Jenkins project for the past seven years. While avoiding contributing any Java code, Tyler is involved in many of the other aspects of the project which keep it running, such as this website, infrastructure, governance, etc.