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APK Azure: What is it and how to use it?
If you are an Android developer, you might be wondering what APK Azure is and how it can help you build, test, and deploy your apps. In this article, we will explain what APK Azure is, what are its benefits, and how to use it in your Android development workflow.
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Android apps are packaged as APK files, which are compressed archives that contain the app code, resources, and metadata. To run an Android app on a device or an emulator, you need to sign and align the APK file. Signing ensures that the app comes from a trusted source and has not been tampered with. Aligning optimizes the app for faster loading and lower memory consumption.
However, building, testing, and deploying Android apps can be a complex and time-consuming process. You need to use various tools and platforms, such as Gradle, GitHub, Android Studio, Firebase, Google Play Console, etc. You also need to manage different build variants, such as debug and release, and different signing configurations.
This is where APK Azure comes in. APK Azure is a combination of two services: Azure Mobile Apps and Azure Pipelines. Azure Mobile Apps is a mobile-application development platform that provides your app with cloud-based features, such as authentication, data synchronization, push notifications, offline access, etc. Azure Pipelines is a cloud-based service that automates your build, test, and deployment processes. By using APK Azure, you can simplify and streamline your Android development workflow and deliver high-quality apps faster.
How to use APK Azure
How to set up a pipeline for an Android app
A pipeline is a sequence of steps that automate your build, test, and deployment processes. You can use Azure Pipelines to create a pipeline for your Android app using YAML (a human-readable data format) or a graphical user interface. In this article, we will use YAML as an example.
Fork the sample repository
To get started, you need to fork the following repository to your GitHub account. This repository contains the code for a simple Android app that uses Azure Mobile Apps features.
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Create a pipeline in Azure DevOps
Next, you need to create a pipeline in Azure DevOps. Azure DevOps is a cloud-based platform that provides various services for software development teams, such as version control, project management, testing, etc. You can sign up for a free account here.
Once you have an account, follow these steps:
Sign in to your Azure DevOps organization and go to your project.
Select Pipelines > Create pipeline or New pipeline.
Select GitHub as the location of your source code. You might be redirected to GitHub to sign in. If so, enter your GitHub credentials.
Select the -android repository that you previously forked.
Select Approve and install on the screen that follows.
Azure Pipelines generates a YAML file for your pipeline. Select Run.
Commit directly to the main branch, and then choose Run again.
Wait for the run to finish.
You have a working YAML file ( azure-pipelines.yml) in your repository that's ready for you to customize.
Customize the YAML file
The YAML file defines the steps and tasks that your pipeline will perform. You can customize it to suit your needs and preferences. For example, you can add or remove steps, change the order of execution, specify the triggers and conditions, etc. You can also use variables, parameters, templates, and expressions to make your YAML file more dynamic and reusable.
For this article, we will make some changes to the YAML file to build an Android app with Gradle, sign and align the APK, and deploy it to Azure App Service. You can find the complete YAML file here.
How to build an Android app with Gradle
Gradle is a build automation tool that is widely used for Android development. It allows you to define your build configuration using a declarative DSL (domain-specific language) called Groovy. Gradle handles the dependencies, tasks, and outputs of your build process.
To build an Android app with Gradle, you need to use the Gradle Wrapper, which is a script that downloads and runs the correct version of Gradle for your project. You also need to specify the build path, the Gradle tasks, and the signing and aligning options.
Adjust the build path
The build path is the location of your app's source code and resources. By default, Azure Pipelines assumes that your app's code is in a folder named src in the root of your repository. However, if your app's code is in a different folder, you need to adjust the build path in the YAML file.
For example, if your app's code is in a folder named app in the root of your repository, you need to add the following line under variables:
variables: Build.SourcesDirectory: '$(System.DefaultWorkingDirectory)/app'
Adjust the Gradle tasks
The Gradle tasks are the actions that Gradle performs to build your app. You can specify the tasks that you want to run in the YAML file using the gradle task. For example, if you want to run the clean and assembleDebug tasks, you can use the following syntax:
- task: Gradle@2 inputs: workingDirectory: '$(Build.SourcesDirectory)' gradleWrapperFile: 'gradlew' gradleOptions: '-Xmx3072m' publishJUnitResults: false testResultsFiles: '/TEST-*.xml' tasks: 'clean assembleDebug'
You can also use variables or parameters to pass the tasks dynamically. For example, you can use $(GradleTasks) as a variable or $(gradleTasks) as a parameter.
Sign and align the APK
To sign and align the APK file, you need to use two tasks: AndroidSigning@3 and ZipAlign@1. The AndroidSigning task signs your APK file with a keystore file that contains a private key and a certificate. The ZipAlign task aligns your APK file on 4-byte boundaries for faster loading and lower memory consumption.
To use these tasks, you need to provide some inputs, such as the keystore file path, the keystore password, the alias name, the alias password, etc. You can store these inputs as secrets in Azure Key Vault or Azure DevOps and reference them in your YAML file using variables or parameters.
For example, you can use the following syntax to sign and align your APK file:
- task: AndroidSigning@3 inputs: apkFiles: '/*.apk' apksignerKeystoreFile: '$(keystoreFile)' apksignerKeystorePassword: '$(keystorePassword)' apksignerKeystoreAlias: '$(aliasName)' apksignerKeyPassword: '$(aliasPassword)' zipalign: true
How to deploy an Android app to Azure App Service
Azure App Service is a cloud-based service that allows you to host web apps, mobile apps, API apps, etc. You can use Azure App Service to host your Android app as a web app and access it from any browser or device.
To deploy an Android app to Azure App Service, you need to create an App Service plan and a web app in Azure Portal or using Azure CLI. Then, you need to configure some web app settings, such as enabling web sockets and setting up a custom domain name. Finally, you need to upload your APK file to the web app using FTP or Azure CLI.
Create an Create an App Service plan and web app
An App Service plan is a set of resources that defines the features, capacity, and pricing of your web app. You can choose from different tiers, such as free, basic, standard, premium, etc. depending on your needs and budget.
A web app is an instance of App Service that runs your app code and provides various features, such as scaling, logging, monitoring, etc. You can create multiple web apps in the same App Service plan or in different plans.
To create an App Service plan and a web app, you can use the Azure Portal or the Azure CLI. For example, you can use the following commands in Azure CLI:
az login # sign in to your Azure account az group create --name myResourceGroup --location westus # create a resource group az appservice plan create --name myAppServicePlan --resource-group myResourceGroup --sku FREE # create an App Service plan az webapp create --name myWebApp --resource-group myResourceGroup --plan myAppServicePlan # create a web app
Configure the we