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Gearing up for the Third Edition of Android Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide

Bill Phillips

Today’s the day: the schedule is clear, the agenda is set. It’s time to start work on a third edition of our Android book.

How did we get here? If this were a software project, we would be in something close to continuous delivery, continuing to issue new releases. And we do that for the book, too, to a certain degree—our book serves as our course materials, so we do some maintenance in between editions as necessary.

But a book like ours does’t work exactly that way. Not for us, at least. Our goal is to have a physical book on physical shelves all across the world. For as long as that edition is out, that book is our foothold for time on the world of Android development. We’re always aware of where that foothold is, and how it might need to change.

And one morning early this summer, we decided that our list of improvements had become a bit too long.

What Requires a New Edition?

Many changes happen in a new edition, but what really forces a new edition are topics that change the structure of what we lead you through, that alter your priorities as a learner. If we were only changing material at the back of the book, it wouldn’t be worth our effort or your money.

A good example of this is a new tool called ConstraintLayout. Ever since our first edition, we have focused on what we consider the three major layouts in Android: LinearLayout, FrameLayout, and RelativeLayout. GridLayout has been out there for a while, but we didn’t consider it essential enough to integrate into the book. In our view, you will be fine without it.

Not so with ConstraintLayout. ConstraintLayout is a supercharged replacement for RelativeLayout. For many layouts, ConstraintLayout should allow you to replace an entire view hierarchy with a single layout. Reducing the number of nested layouts has a big performance impact, so ConstraintLayout should have a real impact on performance for most apps.

For those reasons, we think that most developers will want to use ConstraintLayout as their go-to layout. That means that it needs to be the go-to layout choice in our book, too. And that’s a much bigger change than writing a new chapter and sticking it in there.

That’s just one example. You get the idea, though—the guide is a whole path, not a set of standalone topics.

What Goes Into a New Edition?

That’s not all that changes, though. With a new edition, we have an opportunity to clean up many smaller details we want to keep up to date:

  • The minSdkVersion. Time has moved on, so we’ll bump up our recommendation again in the third edition.
  • Rewrites. After we’ve had some experience in the classroom, we find that some chapters weren’t as good as we thought they were. The third edition won’t have as much of this as the second, but some chapters have been problematic for readers. They’ll probably be revisited and rewritten.
  • Make it better! This can be so many things, but today I happen to working on improving our solutions so that they’re more up-to-date and easier to import.
  • Address errata. This is also in the “make it better” category, but these are issues readers have reported to us.

We’ve Only Just Begun to Write

This is just the beginning, of course. We’ve got quite a lot of work ahead of us before the new book shows up on shelves. Keep an eye out for more updates!

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